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The perils of marketing the self

Honest question, folks. When you're all on your own, and would rather spend your days writing the kind of music that moves hearts, then what kind of marketing would not cheapen it?

I recently watched the videos about the Kardashians that were produced by the YouTube channel Cruel World Happy Mind, and these videos prompted this post. The vast majority of us are not masters of clickbait or outrage marketing. I would argue that this same majority knows just how perilous the whole idea of "self as brand" is.

Because, let's be real: when we're thinking of our musicianship, many of us are thinking about how it relates to us, and to the people who do stop by and listen. We're not thinking of people as numbers, as statistics to manipulate. We may like it when the number goes up, but that's true for us human beings generally. The thought of pulling the proverbial strings to get people to listen to our stuff is just horrifying. It's even more horrifying when we treat our songs and our craft as mere products to sell, rather than heartfelt expressions of things we've endured or seen.

Music speaks differently to us than... if I'm honest, anything out there. It speaks to at least some of us on deeply personal levels. This is also true for video game music -- there is something to be said about the childlike wonder and attraction to the music of the games we played, that a number of us have had growing up. And if I'm honest, I feel like speaking about such a powerful thing in corporatese just cheapens it -- whether that corporatese applies to the social media marketing aspect of it, or anything else about it.

At the time of writing, I recently managed to get some traction by sharing a short drum video of one of my more recent releases, MÉTÉORE, on socials, and by posting a poll about an honest question about whether it is familiarity or a good beat that gets people dancing to a song (a subject, which, by the way, I need to write on; posts are being worked on for this blog at the minute and these may take some time). But these videos won't always surface. Opportunities to ask genuine, salient questions which are not clickbaity or dramatically divisive won't always arise.

I don't want to give musicians something I'm not. I don't think the majority of musicians want to do that to the people who listen to our music. People know when something's staged or fake and it is not disclosed as such. People know when they're being sold to, especially aggressively. I've previously written on this blog about emotional authenticity and emotional literacy; these are things I want to keep following through with.

And these are things that don't seem to mesh with the idea of posting to socials frequently. It feels... disingenuous somehow?

Add to that the constant struggle that many of us indie creatives undergo when trying to find work. Some of us who have left Twitter due to the recent upticks of hatred and mismanagement, myself included, have had to return there to keep our options open when finding work. It gets tiring, maintaining several different sites, trying to post on every single one of them frequently in order to reach different audiences to hopefully, maybe, find work.

For my part, I make my living wearing several hats -- I am variously a composer, a drummer, a keyboardist, a vocalist, an artist, a writer, a voice actor -- so the diversification has somewhat helped me financially, but it takes A LOT of investment of time and money, especially the former. It helps that much of my work is in music, which gives me a plethora of experiences which I can write about here. With all the time spent pursuing all these different avenues, trying to find leads in all of them, it leaves little time for socials, and we only have so many hours in a day. And that's just me. For others, there could be people working a full-time job, or multiple jobs, to make ends meet. Their hours are already reduced as is!

And why do we crave, demand, extra marketing and content from the indie creatives who are already struggling? Is it perhaps because we're subconsciously pitting ourselves against conglomerates who have dedicated marketing teams, and who aggressively put out content? Is it because there's a sea of us tiny fish that could easily get lost, and we're trying desperately to not get lost?

There is a humility in putting out our stuff to be shared, perhaps, but let's not kid ourselves over the fact that it's going to be difficult to strike the balance between getting eyeballs on our work, and switching off socials just to focus on ourselves or our work or other things. Many of us wish we could have managers, but one, we wouldn't know quite where to find them (especially non-scammy ones), and two, we wouldn't be able to afford them if we could find them. As creatives, marketing to creatives and non-creatives are two completely different things, and those of us on the ground with fewer resources at hand are expected to master all of these arts, or hope and pray that a thing we do goes viral.

And after a while, we end up switching off from the process because it feels repetitive and pointless. We don't want fake hustle culture, and neither do our listeners. We want to give them songs that come from the heart, or songs that are born out of the experiences of those around us. Then the posting bug comes back again, but by that point, we'll have lost a bunch of followers because we've not been heard from in a while.

Music has always been a fickle industry, for however long it has existed. And, truthfully, all the talk of "self-care" and "switching off from socials" means nothing to creatives who may be struggling to make ends meet. Some of us just may not have that option, at least not in the near future. We may find ourselves trapped in this endless cycle of seemingly posting fruitless posts.

I feel that the important thing to take away from all of this is that no situation lasts forever. In life, we are constantly in a state of movement, for better or for worse. The same, I believe, is true for marketing. The fact that no situation is perpetually sustainable is perhaps scant comfort when many of us indie creatives are struggling, but I'm taking what comfort I can get here. Whether it's the happenstance of being in the right place at the right time after earning enough to get to something like EGX or Develop: Brighton, or the happenstance of having our songs listened to by enough people or simply the right people online, marketing for indie creatives is about scattering seeds to the wind and hoping that some of them land on fertile soil. And we need to be mindful that constantly scattering seeds will cause them to not grow as well. We need to water them now and then, and we need to leave them space to soak up the sunlight.

It's not a perfect, or full, answer to the question with which I began this post. But it's all I have, in an effort to try and keep it as genuine as I possibly can. That answer gives me the detachment I try and have when I post things on socials. Literally the best thing we can do is keep doing what we can, in little bits at a time, I feel.

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