Musicians as Authors: AKA Performance isn’t everything

This will be one of the most controversial posts I’ll make on this page, but it’s an argument that needs to be made. But before I do that, I have a confession to make: I hate going to concerts.

I’ve been uncomfortable in nearly every concert I’ve ever been to. Whether it’s when an all white audience moves their hands in the air, like a scene in 8 Mile. The constant standing, the one drunk dude who tries to fight you if you bump into him, and of course that particular annoyance of idol worship. Where the musician is Holier than thou, and every thing that they say whips the crowd into this amorous frenzy. Even though the object of their desire are at best 10 yards away from you.

Everybody always seems more into the particular artist than I do. Everybody dresses to the nines in weird little get ups for that particular artist, for that particular scene, and you never know whether they do it for appearance or to express some sincere form of fandom. It’s a social event for an individualistic experience, that being, your musical preferences.

Yet it’s weird that music seems to be built around this foundation of expression. Imagine if novels never existed. That in order to to make any work of fiction you had to make a play, act in it, and then be judged on how charismatic you were on stage. Imagine all the great novelists Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Hemingway, Dickens, Lovecraft, etc. If all of their art was considered moot all because they didn’t have a stage presence? That’s idiotic right?

But music is TRADITIONALLY a social event. You had to form a band, get many different people to play many different instruments, you had to actually play live to be heard, you had to tour to promote your album–you get the picture.

Yet times have changed. I literally have an entire electronic orchestra at my fingertips, I don’t need to get other people involved if I don’t want to, in other words I am in a way an author of sonic soundscapes. Which is why when Deadmau5 says all DJs just press play and every single journalist, musical purist, armchair rockstar, all got in arms–seems to me to be completely idiotic.

Say for a moment that was the case, how does that invalidate the art form? He made all of the music, even though he couldn’t physically play it. It would be like somebody reading a book and saying that it was terrible because the author couldn’t build a set to it. It doesn’t make sense. Not only does it not make sense but it also stifles the creativity of an artist.

Now obviously there are cases when a band’s live show does spectacularly well. Where you have to go to see them live just to feel the energy of the crowd, see the amazing special effects and stage props, feel the bass thumping deep in your chest, meet some cool and interesting people. I will begrudgingly admit that to be one of the major benefits to going to a live concert.

Yet at the same time when a show doesn’t have a live show, doesn’t perform, and you only judge them by their music–it can be, for me at least, a much more rewarding experience. You use your own imagination, picture your own fantastical world to explore in, and that’s why for me live concerts always leave something more to be desired. Because let’s face it, the book is almost always better than the movie.

So when I hear up and coming artists struggle with stage fright, have terrible stage presence, and aren’t social butterflies–I always want to tell them that it doesn’t have to be this way. But because in our cultural imagination we have it ingrained that not only must an artist, write, compose, sing, but also perform. Which speaks volumes to the amount of talent to the artists who can do all of these things. Yet at the same time artists should not beat themselves up, if they fail to perform.

We as musicians take so much for granted, we literally can achieve studio quality music from the sanctity of our bedrooms, we don’t have to have record label executives telling us how an album should sound, we don’t have to tour across country to promote our new material, we have complete creative control. And yet we will beat ourselves up for having so much freedom.

So if you are a struggling musician trying to make it big, there are many different avenues for many different types of people. If you don’t have to perform, you don’t have to. If you would rather perform, then by all means go. Yet it has to be known that there are more ways than one to become a successful musician.

One thought on “Musicians as Authors: AKA Performance isn’t everything”

  1. Wow, I thought I was the only one who dislikes going to concerts. Exceptions aside, I usually prefer listening to a cd, rather than attend a live show. I believe that the sound quality on a hi-fi at home is way better and more detailed. I’m often disappointed in the venue’s sound quality, due to its acoustics. In my experience, nasty resonances and reverbs are always blurring the intended sound. Furthermore, artists have limited time and technical resources to express their ideas on stage, whereas in a studio, they have a full potential to sculpt their intentions.

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