When you listen to a great song you listen to it alone, no matter how many people are in the room. To hell with a sense of community… to hell with revolution… and to hell with music being the food of love. Music is monstrous, manipulative and maddening. It is as big as a plague and as small as a germ.
Music is the only secret you’ll ever possess that can be both kept and told.
So thousands of people cram themselves into an arena and sing along to the same tune. Those people are not sharing that tune. If you share a meal with someone you only get half but when I hear a great song the whole thing belongs to me.
Some artists can capture the hearts of millions simultaneously, but they never do it by appealing to a multitude, they do it by appealing to individuals with individual ideas and individual interpretations. All crowds are made up of individuals and once those people stop being individuals they are nothing more than a mob. And we all know there is no reasoning with a mob. No one was ever loved by a mob.
For the last four years I have manned the email address of a record label. What an education it has been. During this time I have been privy to the dreams of countless young hopefuls, most of whom clearly have no idea what they actually want. I get the impression a lot of them think there is some great subterfuge going on in which the truly gifted are stifled by “the industry” and that mediocrity is prized above originality. But these frustrations are not part of a conspiracy, just part of business. That’s the boring thing about the “Music Business” – “music” only makes up half of it.
Why do so many bands aspire to being loved by everyone? Have you met everyone? Everyone doesn’t exist except to get in the way or provide excuses. Traffic jams are when everyone is on the road. Everyone is who disapproving aunts quote when they talk of family scandals. No one alive has ever been everyone. You’d be a fool to make art for everyone, it’d be like trying to make art for bacteria or tectonic plates or prevailing winds or moss.
I’ve come to believe that the greatest enemy to most artists is themselves. Indeed, for the majority the word “artist” is a grossly deformed title – so naked and bloated are their second-hand ambitions, so infertile their desperate imaginings. Why are these people asking for permission to make art? Artists don’t ask permission. What on earth would a label want with their miserable potential when there is an abundance of ripe heroic terrifying visionary unapologetic inspired bold innovative seductive angry beautiful fruits already dangling from the boughs waiting to be picked? “We are a band with x-amount of fans and need help to get to the next level” they whimper. No, you don’t need help – you need to go away and make something so spectacular it looms into view out of nowhere, casts a shadow over my life and makes me wonder how I ever survived without it. And don’t make it for anyone except yourselves. Art does not appeal to everyone.
Originally published in NARC magazine, March 2013