Why it Pays to be Unique

In 2019 there is literally no logical reason why a musician should sound like everybody else. I hear it constantly from electronic music, hip hop, rock, and every other weird and obtuse music genre that exists. I used to think that it was greedy music executives, who plotted and schemed to make music sound as bland as possible. Boy, was I wrong!

You can hear it in nearly every Soundcloud artist, who so desperately want to hop onboard whatever is popular at that moment. They do everything in their power to polish their sounds to a pristine mediocre copy. And guess what? 99.99999% of all of them are going to fail.

So what proof do I have? Well, let’s take a look at investing. A good investor always looks out for blue water. Blue water is basically the untapped market. The fresh original ideas that nobody has discovered yet. It’s where we get products like Apple, Walmart, Ford, McDonald’s, etc. If you notice that I chose all huge corporate conglomerates, there is a reason for that. It’s because they all became successful by doing something that nobody else was doing. Or better yet, if you don’t believe me then watch the video below.

Now notice that this guy, who is worth 2.3 billion dollars, who should be the very definition of an out of touch rich guy, is advocating originality. If a billionaire is telling you that being original is a wise market decision, then please for the sake of God listen to his advice.

But let’s say you don’t follow my advice. You got your plan down to a T. You know exactly how you’re going to climb that imaginary ladder to superstardom. Then I have to ask a few questions.

Do you come from a wealthy background?

Because if you don’t, then doing the whole starving artist thing is really, really, going to suck. Even Vincent Van Gogh, the epitome of the starving artist archetype, was given money by his brother Theo Van Gogh. Not only that, but do you know that one person in your graduating class? You know, the person who seems to be traveling all over the world, doing crazy shit, clubbing every night, and you just know that the only reason they’re doing it is because Mommy and Daddy are paying for it. Well guess what? That is going to be EVERYBODY from your graduating class. We can romanticize being a starving artist all we want, but the bottom line is being poor just fucking sucks.

Let’s not even look to High School, let’s go to your peers. If everybody is using the exact same techniques, the exact same rhythm, the exact same notes, the exact same formula, then who do you think is going to make it? It’s not going to be the guy who is working a double shift at Wendy’s passing out his mixtape. It’s going to be the guy who can afford to travel across the country, who can afford to buy the latest and greatest gear, who can afford to pay a studio to mix his single, it’s going to be the guy with the most cash. Yeah, it sucks but that’s the world we live in.

Are you incredibly attractive?

This is going to piss a lot of people off, but the fact of the matter is looks do count. You can always with almost 100% pinpoint accuracy tell when a music genre is beginning to die, by the amount of pretty boys there are in it. The fact of the matter is, when your music sounds like everybody else’s then what else do you have to offer? Because you’re not saying anything new, you’re not making anything that changes our perception of music, and you’re not doing anything that’s interesting. So then what do you have to offer? This can go from the Harvey Weinstein’s to the crowd of screaming girls, but all of that isn’t because of your music. It’s because of your looks. And unless you are a 10/10, one in a million faces, then you just aren’t going to get that recognition.

Do you have any connections?

This is self explanatory, yet it has to be said. That unless you got some connections, you aren’t going to make it, making unoriginal music. Now I don’t mean those kind of organic connections that every artist wets themselves over. You know the ones, “Oh, I was doing my Uber shift, when all of a sudden I pick up this guy. And do you know who he was? He was Rick Ross! So I played some of my music, and he liked it…” and blah blah blah. You get the idea.

No what I’m talking about is, your Dad was a tour manager for Led Zeppelin. You were one of Post Malone’s best friends growing up. Your Mom was a groupie, and you’re the progeny of some great rockstar. Kanye West is your Godfather. Etc. Unless you have one of those one in a million freak accidents, where somehow you know somebody who can hook you up, it just ain’t going to happen.

But for argument’s sake let’s say you do have that connection? What then? Well look at celebrity’s kids. Look at Miley Cyrus, Jaden Smith, Paris Hilton, etc. Look at how many people hate them. I mean, I’m guilty of it too. Whenever I hear about some celebrity’s kid doing something, I instantly want to vomit. Because I know that for some reason, celebrity kids have the reverse Midas touch, where everything they touch turns to shit. Where they think that just because their Dad is Will Smith, they can make an ear rape song about their hair. Yet there are those people, myself included, who think “Oh man, I really like so-and-so, and their kid is making music/movies/whatever so I’ll go check that out.” It’s such a large expectation to live up to, and when you make generic shitty music, people are going to be pissed at you. And why shouldn’t they? You had every tool at your disposal and you squandered it.

Do you have an interesting backstory?

Now I don’t mean some, “Man I was really struggling, I had to sell my guitar and amp just to have electricity” kind of story. That’s nearly every artist. Shit, that’s nearly every average Joe Shmoe. I mean the kind of backstory that could almost be a superhero origin story. You have to be missing arms, legs, be blind, deaf, dumb, get shot, have your wife murdered, your village raided, and your father’s sword stolen from you. Okay, I am being a bit hyperbolic, but the point still stands. Unless you have some incredible life story, that is so incredible that the audience feels sorry to boo you for your generic music. Then you aren’t going to make it.

Everybody loves an underdog story, because every single one of us see ourselves as the underdog. To have that catharsis, that all the struggle, all the pain, is worth it–because this one guy was able to make it despite the odds, means that we too can make it. It’s Joel Olsteen level marketing for musicians. Yes, it sounds like a cruel interpretation, but when you are doing what everybody else is doing; your life story is a marketing tool. It becomes a gimmick. And really, who wants their lives condensed to a such a finite point, only to sell tickets?

Are you successful in a different entertainment field?

Are you a popular youtuber? Did you write a popular T.V. show? Are you an actor? Were you a reality T.V. star? This goes back to the “Having connections” shtick but the fact of the matter is unless you have a built in fanbase who will follow you wherever you go, you aren’t going to make it. I will give Filthy Frank several listens, I will listen to Donald Glover, and I will even watch a Pewdiepie music video. Why? Well one, because I’m curious. And two, it’s the cult of celebrity. I don’t particularly like or dislike any of the artists above, but because they have brand recognition, I am at the very least curious as to what they are making.

I could say this is an American problem, but it’s not it’s become a Global phenomena. Where it doesn’t matter how shitty a person is, how terrible they are in their new field, the cult of celebrity is far stronger than any mediocre music that they make. And let’s be real if you are reading this blog, you haven’t got that hit of celebrity yet. Because if you did, we’d already be hearing about it.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that it is far too risky to follow genre rules, to stay in your lane, and to follow what everyone else is doing. Nearly every musician seems to be diving straight in the area with most competition, where they are competing against people who HAVE connections, who ARE more attractive, who HAVE a tragic life backstory, who ARE celebrities, and who HAVE more wealth. And if you are playing that much of a rigged game, then why play the game?

Now I’m not dismissing artists who self identify as a trap artist, an electronic artist, a rock musicians, etc. What I¬† am saying is that if you are within a genre, DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT! Think outside the box. If your music genre is too simple, then apply some music theory, and become the Bach of Trap. If your music genre is too complex, make it fun, strip it down, and let it all hang loose.

But these are all superficial answers, because the bottom line is, you started making music, not because you wanted to be famous, not because you wanted to be rich, but because you wanted to express yourself. Ignore that desire for fame, ignore that desire for wealth, and focus on that singular goal. To make music that shows the world who you are. That maybe somewhere out there, there is some other wayward soul like yours, who feels the same way as you do. And maybe, just maybe, by writing that song, baring your soul to the world to see. You gave that person hope, that maybe, just maybe, they’re not alone as they thought they were.

 

To Buy or not to Buy? A Realist’s Guide to Gear

cropped-fc_550x550_white-3.jpgI’m probably not the best person to write this. After all, I am basking in the twilight of my Man Child years. That point in time where people no longer lecture you about your decisions, because you’re now just “That Guy.”

We’ve moved on to the digital age, and there’s a reason why Amazon has taken over nearly every aspect of our lives. You could blame it purely on capitalism. Yet that doesn’t stop me from buying some weird ass candy from Japan because somebody told me that it was the greatest thing ever.

We’re neck deep in this gluttony, and it’s over extending to our creative lives as well. I know SO MANY artists who are in this cycle of constantly buying shit that they don’t need. Whether it’s a $700 synth, a saxophone, a cello, a bass guitar, new plugins, a midi keyboard, etc. You get the idea. If you’re reading this, you’ve either done it, or you’re about to do it.

For me personally it was plug ins, and guitar pedals. Every single time I’d pay $60 dollars for a new pedal, thinking it was going to dramatically change my sound. That I’d be able to explore whole entire new landscapes–only to revert back to Fruity loops. Then the plugins I actually bought, one was The Sounds of India. And I have to ask, does any of my music sound anything like Indian music? The answer is no.

Why did I do it? Because I was really into the Blank Banshee song Cerulean. I thought the sitar that blended into the guitar in that track, was so fucking fantastic that I bought a $60 plugin that I never used. Then I remembered all The Beatles documentaries I’d watched where they went to India and how all of a sudden their music got all psychedelic from the Western/Eastern music fusion.

IF only my music could sound like THAT.

And that’s where the problem lies. Most of the time when somebody has a hankering for a new piece of gear 99.9999% of the time it’s because they want to sound like somebody else.

When I released my album, it was poorly received. One internet reviewer (who I paid) gave it a 1 out of 5 review. Which I agree with now in retrospect. Yet that review hurt so much at the time. That coupled with the fact I was ordered to go to rehab for my drinking, it was not the best time in my life.

In my therapy group there was one guy who took an interest in my music, and he listened to the whole album. He said he enjoyed it, all though he felt I hadn’t found my sound yet. And how could I have? I was buying stupid plugins trying to sound like every other person, when I had an entire DAW at my fingertips.

So when I quit buying plugins, started to explore the tools at my disposal–surprise I began to have a more coherent sound. A sound that was unique. A sound that was my own.

So before you buy that new piece of equipment, I have to ask: Have you explored all the possibilities your instrument provides? Did you try to write a song in a different key? Did you try to learn how to play it better? Is there a way to replicate the sound you want without needing to buy something?

And most importantly. Are you trying to sound like someone else?

There’s a reason popular genres always get stale. First there are the innovators, then there are the imitators, and then there are the record deals. It’s why music tourism is a thing. Why delve deep into a music genre when everybody is trying to sound the same? Why give that underground artist a chance when their music sounds like every other persons?

So for the answer to whether you should buy that gear or not. No. Not until you know every single nook and cranny in the gear you got. Not until you’ve worked on that piece of equipment for so long, that you are sicked and tired of looking at it. Because rock bands have been around forever and they’ve been doing just fine with a guitar, bass, and drums. If you can’t do more with an entire electronic orchestra at your fingertips–then I have two words for you.

Git Gud.

To Pay or not to Pay? A Realist’s guide to Soundcloud

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So a really quick question; say that you have a tinder, and somehow you get over 1000 matches–yet none of them respond to your messages–are you successful in getting laid? No. If you use Tinder just to get validation that you’re pretty, then you were successful in your goal, but most people use Tinder to get laid. Likewise the same principle can apply to Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Spotify etc.

So why not spend money on promotion or fake plays? Why not make yourself appear popular? And my retort to that is; did you start making music to appear to be a musician? Or did you make music to be a musician?

“Well nobody listens to my music! So I gotta get promotion somehow!” Which is a very valid response, and common problem that most people face. So I’ll breakdown what works and what doesn’t work. Because I’m in the same boat as you. I’m not a success story, but I’ve failed enough to know what doesn’t work.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

SOCIAL MEDIA ADVERTISING

Never do. Firstly it costs wayyyyy too much. Secondly who clicks on ads on facebook? Serious question, have you, any of your friends, or people who might be interested in your music ever clicked on a facebook add? No. The same applies to twitter, reddit, etc. The only people who may click on an add are boomers. And guess what? Boomers aren’t going to be really interested in anything that’s not Hotel California. So unless you’re making some good ole Dad rock, you’re not going to see a real return in investment. So DO NOT pay for social media advertising.

BLOGS

This post is ironic, since I run a music review blog, and I’m telling you that blogs are a waste of time. Yet I gotta be real with you. I’ve been featured so far on 6 blogs, most of them are podunk websites, but I haven’t seen any real plays come from any of those blogs. Here it maybe different since I do try to actually to write up a decent review of an album–and people have told me that this site has made them want to check out new artists–but the proof is in the pudding. If you don’t see an increase in plays, it’s generally because that’s how music blogs are. Yet people clamor all over each other on twitter and everywhere else, and EVEN PAY MONEY just to get featured on a blog. Don’t waste your money on blogs, especially sites like Submithub. I write this blog as a side project, and it’s not that hard to do. So if someone believes that they NEED YOUR MONEY to review your music, then they’re just garbage people.

REDDIT

Unless you somehow have gotten a foothold in a certain type of subreddit, you’re not going to have much luck getting your music listened to on Reddit. I’ve seen plenty of extremely talented artists shill their music on Reddit just to be down-voted into oblivion. Why? Because of other musicians who just posted their music 5 minutes ago, who want to be the top song in the past 24 hours. If there is a more counter-productive system of shilling music, then I don’t know what is.

The second reason is because Redditors tend not to listen to something that’s not already popular. Because of how Reddit operates, it relies on appealing to authority–to appealing to the masses–through their upvote system. Think about it, if you see something with 5000 upvotes you’re immediately going to think it’s quality, regardless of whether it is or not. Just like if someone says, “statistics show”, or “scientists say.” I’m not going to check that shit out. I’ll usually take their word for it. Everybody does it, don’t try to be a contrarian and say that you don’t. So unless you’re doing a cover of an already popular song, making meme music, or doing something weird or quirky–you’re not going to get that many plays relying on Reddit.

FRIENDS AND FAMILY

Unless you got relatives in the music business, you’re not going to get many plays from your friends or family. Why? Think about it, what makes social media such a depressing place? Because people post all their success, and it causes people to feel depressed about themselves. You can have the most solid group of friends to ever exist. You can have, let’s say, 500 friends who are rooting for you–who share your music every chance they get. Let’s say that they have 10 really good friends who will check out everything they do. That’s only 5k plays at most. But the fact of the matter is, most people don’t have that loyal of friends. Plus let’s say you are killing it, how is that going to make people feel? It’s going to make them jealous, or it’s going to bum them out that they aren’t living their lives up to it’s fullest potential. So unless it’s memeable, funny, or lighthearted most people aren’t going to be checking your music out.

ONLINE RADIO SHOWS

I drive an old car, so I don’t have an aux cable. So I usually listen to whatever is on the radio. So when this song, Despacito came out, I enjoyed it. Now did I know that it was Justin Bieber singing it? No. Not once. Because anytime I heard anything that wasn’t music, I changed the station. It was only after one of my coworkers told me, that I realized that I was enjoying a Justin Bieber song. I only listen to Mainstream radio because my car is old; why would anybody listen to radio, when there is Spotify, Soundcloud, Pandora, etc.? Unless you got the most charismatic, funny, personable DJ on planet earth most people aren’t going to listen to Online Radio shows. And even if they do, how sure are you that they’ll remember your name? Or have a reliable link to your music? Just questions I ask…

SPAMMING

Just don’t. If you approach me, with no context, and start telling me to listen to your music; I won’t. Why? It’s like going up to somebody who is lifting weights–then midway through their set–you take their weights and start asking them to check you out. Why would I listen to your music, when you didn’t even listen to mine? I’ve literally gotten hundreds of people who’ve spammed their music to me, without any context, and I’ve ignored each one. If you are somebody who spams music without listening to the other person’s music or trying to start a dialogue with another musician, then you’re just a douchebag. So let’s go back to the gym analogy: say someone is lifting weights has bad form and you offer them advice, they get stuck on the bench press and you offer to spot them, or you even asked them to spot you. It’s a much better experience. Why? Because it’s two people working towards a similar goal. Likewise when interacting with people online to promote your music, it should be to help each other, not to shamelessly self-promote yourself.

PROFESSIONAL VIDEOS/PHOTOSHOOTS

This one is controversial, but I have my reasons for it. As an amateur musician you are in the underground, whether you like it or not. Paying money for a music video, or a photoshoot, is like putting the cart before the horse. Most people who are willing to shoot music videos for money are professional enough to know how to make something “look polished” but not creative enough to make it into art. The simple reason is, if they were able to make really great music videos then they wouldn’t be filming you. Sorry, but it’s true.

Paying for photoshoots on the other hand is just retarded. Why? Because if you have a soundcloud you probably have a camera. “But I want my music to seem professional!” Are you a professional? Are you getting paid? If not, then you’re not a professional. You’re an amateur, and until you start making that bread then you better not waste money on somebody to do a photoshoot with you.

But if you really want to make a music video, or really want to do a photoshoot, then NETWORK! Do you know how many photographers there are that are dying to build up their portfolio? Do you know how many film school graduates would love the chance to make a music video? Yeah, it requires you to make friends. But trust me, working with other people to a common goal is always better, than paying someone to do it for you. Plus not only are you promoting your music, but they’re promoting their directing ability on a music video, how well they can edit, how adept they are at photoshop, how well they can do lighting, their visual style etc. It’s a win-win. Plus who hasn’t fantasized about being Stanley Kubrick? Shit is just too enjoyable to pass up.

Final thoughts

So really all it boils down to is networking or more specifically working towards a common goal. If you and a bunch of other group of people are passionate about art, then you won’t need to pay each other. Plus it’s more fun, and if you don’t find the hustle fun, then make music for yourself. There’s a reason why the starving artist stereotype is a thing, but with this advice hopefully you can save money instead of wasting it on pipe dreams. Plus who knows? Maybe one hustle will turn into a passion, you never know…

Basic Genre Introductions (Part one): Vaporwave

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Most of the time any serious music fan discussing their favorite genre, usually ends up looking like a crazy person. So here at recclective we’re going to give you the smooth sailing, easy to understand, breakdown of each genre. To accomplish this we’re going to be bringing in documentaries, albums, articles, and interviews to highlight each genre.

First up is vaporwave. Even though it seems to be a dying genre that’s being quickly overtaken by lofi hip hop, it’s still worth looking up. If you’ve ever heard this song then you’ve heard vaporwave. If that particular song isn’t your cup of tea then I’d recommend Vaporwave: A Brief History by Wolfenstein OS X, and Vaporwave: Genre Redifined by Mr. Amazing.

Vaporwave: A Brief history is more of a documentary goes over it’s beginnings, main genre troupes, aesthetics, and notable artists in the vaporwave community. While Vaporwave: A Brief History is more of a love letter to a genre Mr. Amazing had previously dismissed.

 

 

Wolfenstein OS X, and Mr. Amazing briefly touches on the origin of the name, and the original article posted Dummy Mag provides good insight into the artistic statements that vaporwave began with. If the message of Vaporwave¬† touched on by Wolfenstein OS X and Mr. Amazing interests you, then I’d highly recommend you read it.

So now you’ve listened to some artists, watched the documentary, and read the article–and now you want to start making your own style of vaporwave, or even just incorporate some of it’s aesthetics into your own music. Then I’d suggest watching Adam Neely’s breakdown of the music theory of vaporwave. Adam Neely, generally speaking, is an excellent source of music knowledge and watching any of his videos, makes music theory a lot easier to digest and understand.

 

So there you have it an introductory course to vaporwave.