In fifteen years writing songs and aspiring to become a ‘successful’ musician, there has barely been a single day without feeling at least slightly (if not completely) lost in one way or another.
Perception is everything. We are all trained to keep a lid on self-doubt and failures, and hide away the unfinished or unpackaged, with the fear that our ‘one chance at a good first impression’ might pass us by. Of course, the quality of the music is always the most important thing – but how we present it can be, we are told, the difference between a springboard into a successful music career and a life of artistic obscurity.
This worry – about the need to maintain a good image – can also seep into our artistic process: ‘Will this song interest people enough?’ ‘Is indie-folk popular at the moment?’ ‘What if I send this to blogs and radio stations and they all hate it?’ The pure, creative part of our musical career, the reason we came into this in the first place, the thing that was previously untouched, is no longer free of this anxiety around how we will be received.
We should say at this point: these might sound like the words of a bitter and ‘unsuccessful’ songwriter, but actually we consider ourselves extremely lucky to live in a time when opportunities and wide exposure are available to anyone, even those on shoestring budgets. Ned, for example, has received lots of advice and support from a range of people in the industry and, with the band he formed at university (August and After) in a few short years and relatively little financial investment, was able to play paid gigs around Europe and see their songs get several million plays online across various platforms, earning back the (relatively small) investment they made into recording and then some.
Moreover, the industry is opening up to the mental health challenges – everywhere, people are acknowledging the need to lift the stigma around issues such as ‘anxiety’ and ‘failure’ and see songwriters and musicians as human beings, not megastars or generators of income for someone else.
But what we still have now is a situation where the playing field is more level than it has ever been – aspiring musicians can no longer blame a ‘closed music industry’ for their lack of success. This blame, it seems, has to go somewhere, hence the anxiety around a lack of progress. ‘It must be something I’m doing wrong, or not doing…’
Yes, there is a wealth of information on the internet; possibly too much as you sift through the superficial or irrelevant to find the answer to that one question you want.
Which brings us to the point – why have we created The Emerging Artist?
Ned was recently speaking to the owner of a London management company at a music networking event, showing him his Spotify streaming numbers. The manager asked how Ned’s band had succeeded in getting onto a particular playlist called Your Coffee Break and Ned replied that he didn’t know – it just happened. ‘Everyone says that’, the manager replied darkly.
We thus wanted to create a comprehensive, open, and honest guide about every aspect of our experiences and process towards getting several million streams online. It includes ‘failures’ [read: opportunities to learn] as well as successes, the questions we kept asking ourselves along the way, and what we plan to do with all this information.
Why? We’ve spent fifteen years of our life on a quest to reach a global audience with our music. That journey has created a lot of baggage – some of it good, some less good. By collecting all of it together in one place, we can take the useful parts for the future, and get some closure on the things we regret or misunderstood in the past. And if even one person finds our work and uses it to build a happier music career for themselves, it will have been more than a good use of time!
Thanks for reading – and if you have any thoughts or experiences you want to share, or even questions you have, please feel like you can email me and we promise we will reply.