Tag Archive for: community

The feeling of being behind: competition in music

cover photo by Emma Simpson

It’s interesting that somehow, music making has become a competition. If you think about competition in music and take the time to really examine this viewpoint objectively, this trend seems quite ironic. Before I debunk this common musical syndrome I often see in people I work with, I’d like to explain where I think it comes from.

One of the most common pitfalls of music making is comparing yourself to others. This is one of the most self-destructive things that can happen to a musician, but it’s so common that I sometimes feel like I need to de-brainwash people when they sit down with me to work on music.

Why comparing yourself is pointless.

Artists you’re comparing yourself with aren’t in the same category as you are. I’m not even talking about talent here, or gear; I’m talking about goals and needs. Similarly, the people who are usually using as your references for comparison were once in your shoes, but have evolved from there and are probably now making a living from music. Turning your hobby to a job requires huge changes to your music making process because you’re then dipping your toes in the business side of music, where your decisions are now in part based upon how it can generate some sort of “gain” for your career; financial or otherwise.  In other words, if you were in a car race, it would be like comparing your Jetta to a Ferrari driven by a pro driver.

I often hear this:

“I see this guy/girl making a track I can easily do but still I can’t get bookings or signed to labels.”

The truth is, it doesn’t work that way. You’re not less good or less qualified than him – you just don’t have the network he/she has.

You are comparing yourself to others because you have specific goals and needs you want to achieve. This is what you need to know.   

Your goals.

Are you aware of what your goals are? Knowing what you’re chasing will be a very helpful in terms of what exactly you need to do to achieve them. Some examples of goals in music might be:

  • Recognition: You want to be seen as someone talented for what you do and you feel that if you prove that you have skills, this will come by itself.
  • Gigs, bookings, money: Some people believe if they don’t have gigs, it means their music isn’t good or there’s something not good going on.
  • Be part of a community: If your music is good enough, you’ll be accepted and seen as important.

Your needs can be satisfied in many others ways and falling victim to musical competition by believing you’re behind might actually be the wrong way to think about it. Are you really behind others? or are you just in a different position?

Since I’m not alien to that feeling myself, I’ve often battled my inner dialogue about the competitive aspects of being a musician. I came up with a very solid way to calm myself down by reminding myself of the following points:

  • Your tastes > technical skills. No matter where you stand in terms of what you know, your tastes will always be your primary sense to help you find good ideas. Great songs are amazing because of the content they have; they are rarely good for their technical bravado. Sometimes, I find that overly produced music sounds cold and soulless. If you have great ideas, you can find people or resources online to help you consolidate it into something polished.
  • Distractions are disruptive. If your eyes and ears are looking/listening some place other than your music and the music you love, you have lost your focus. Spending time on magazines and social media make you lose track of what you’re doing. I’d rather be in my bubble until a song/album is completed than be distracted by the noise and lose my flow. For example, seeing your friends be signed a label or playing an event while you aren’t doesn’t mean anything at all; the good side of something like this is that your free time can be used in creating more music.
  • Is your network solid? Do you have supportive friends for what you do? Many people end up to having to change their “listening circle” and decide who they share their music with. If you understand that each time you send your music to X, he always bring you down, it’s definitely not someone reliable. Pick people who want to listen to your music, who have the same tastes as you do and give them feedback too.
  • How many projects do you have on the go? Crucial point here. I always encourage people to try to make music everyday, start many, many new projects and then surf around them to find the ones that are working best to push forward. It’s more important to get things done than for them all to be perfect.

The ego that loves to let itself drift into competition, once pushed aside, has a lot of room for creativity. But you must learn to understand when the ego takes over.


SEE ALSO :  Where to Get Fresh New Ideas for Tracks 

Are online communities replacing labels?

I’ve recently been wondering what will be the future for labels. Are streaming services replacing labels? Or are other communities? I’ve been running my label Archipel since 2004 and I’ve never really made money from it, if you discount using it as a business card for gigs and contacts. The money and time invested in Archipel have been very high, so it’s hard to say if it’s been good on for ROI. The further and faster the digital music world develops, it seems less and less obvious what roles labels will play for artists. Streaming platforms like Spotify give little to no importance to labels, and since basically anyone can start one, running one nowadays doesn’t have the same aura it once did.

In mid 2016, I offered free coaching to everyone who joined my mailing list, and while this turned out to be a success which I didn’t expect, I had to put it on hold until I could find someone who could help manage the work involved. In the meantime, I created a Facebook group for people I’d worked with to join so I could provide them with feedback and support. There are many Facebook and social media groups for producers out there and many have themes and rules. I’m part of a few that I enjoy; I’ve used them to learn tricks and something get informed of certain music related news. So, for me creating a group was an opportunity to give people a place to feel open to share what they’re working on, to get feedback, and provide words of encouragement to anyone else.

The great thing about this initiative was that people started to really participate and interact, even more than I thought they would. It was pretty amazing to see some people join forces and collaborate, and to see others help out by giving advice with regards to where to send music to get signed. This community has become autonomous; it’s doing what I was doing myself before, through email. I’ve been thrilled by it!

Somehow, when I was running my label, I was hoping to create that same sort of synergy, but for some reason it never came. My label manager and I posted regularly through Archipel, trying to come up with ideas, proposals, concepts…but it was pretty much always the same guys that were interested. That was cool, but it was also puzzling me to have such a huge line up of artists (Archipel has almost 200 people who collaborated through years!) but that only 5-6 people were really into it.

I fundamentally believe that most people want to join a specific label to be part of its community and get closer to the artists they’ve worked with.

Of course, the exposure and networking from a label also play an important role in an artist’s motivation to get signed, but the community is another major part of this motivation.

As it stands, I think these types of online groups like the one I’ve described could be as beneficial as a label because:

  • You have people active in the groups whom most likely the same goals, motivations and tastes.
  • It’s much easier to connect with DJs who can play your music.
  • People are open to communication and giving & receiving feedback.


Your music has an impact. A major issue with the current music business is that there’s a huge feeling of hopelessness in the air, which can drain out all the juice we have as artists and creators. Most artists have the energy to build projects or beautiful products, but will their work be something that will remain hidden away on the “bookshelves” of the internet because it doesn’t sell? Are all songs worth being turned into records? Is there that much of a demand to keep working so hard creating?

The ego plays tricks on us. One of the biggest is to believe that our music is worth more attention than it is, in reality. Many artists feel anxious and depressed because of this reality check. We want to share the music but the low hits are depressing us. That said, this major issue can be addressed by being in a community: one of any types of communities that are seemingly replacing labels.

Personally, after years of releasing countless albums and EPs, I’m now more excited to know if my five closest and most trusted friends like my newest song. I know for sure they will listen to it and provide feedback. I’ve decided to share my work with a selective number of people who can echo back the energy I put in it. I’m fed up of running after people and saying, in essence, “listen to my song bro! you’ll like it! leave me feedback!

Labels won’t be replaced as long as the music industry need representatives for the artists. Every artists dreams to be able to live off music full time but it is becoming clear that it’s not once central thing as a label who will make it happen.

This spammy approach does nothing at all for all parties involved. But sharing your music with five people who care is worth 1,500 who were more or less not into it. I really believe that approach as stopped me from crashing into obscure thoughts.

SEE ALSO :  The Changing Dos and Don’ts of Contacting Record Labels