If you’ve read my about page, you know that before I started this blog, I did some music.
Everything I did then was based on a specific motive: “One song. That one song that’s going to blow up the charts is all I need.”
This became the set standard for every single release.
Of course, none of them ever matched up. Every time I looked at the statistics, my stomach turned and my saliva became bitter. The numbers were never even close to my perception of the worst-case scenario.
I loathed every release day. Every time I put out something new, I felt more and more depressed than the last time. It was hopeless.
As mentally and as financially draining as it was though, I was still lucky to be one of 100 artists in Africa to get funding for my music. This was through an initiative built for the sole purpose of “empowering” independent artists. You can read all about that here.
My time had finally come. I fancied it coming a bit earlier but I guess you take what you get. I took part and they took care of every expense on my next release – marketing included.
It did well. Really well. Miles better than anything I would’ve released on my own.
But through all the attention and praise I thought I wanted (and dreaded now that I was getting it), I still managed to feel more empty than I had ever felt before.
So I quit pursuing a career in music.
The main motive in play when I had “going viral” as my main goal was the lack of selflessness. Or, in simple terms, selfishness.
It was all about me. Never about my audience, never about value, and even at times, never about the music.
And it crushed me.
One of the differences between a future successful artist and one that’s never going to make it is that one is generous with her art and is driven by a deeper purpose behind it. No catch, no gimmick, nothing. She wants to build emotional connections with people and maybe one day, she can make someone’s life a tiny bit better.
The motives behind our goals explain a lot about whether or not we’re going to achieve them.
The struggling artist might also be trying to provide value by being generous with her art – but her purpose might be similar to mine. I wanted to fulfill my desire of being known. To increase the chances of my music being popular for the sake of being popular (and for the money that comes with it).
Selfish marketing doesn’t have its place. Instead, generosity, honesty, and true relationship-building are the features of a brand set to build a loyal following.
So instead of focusing on goals that have no real motives behind them, take a step back and ask if you’re really on the right track.
If you are, stay consistent with what you do. Show up when your audience expects you to. And most of all, do it all for the purpose of changing someone’s life.
Don’t be like past Leroy 🙂
If you enjoyed the read, check out some of the resources below.
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Why you don’t want to go viral – Tom Scott
Tom is a Youtuber whose content makes you think something along the lines of, “I’ve never thought of that before.” The above video is the last of a three-part series titled “how to be popular on the internet” and the post you’ve just read was inspired by it.
His entire series expounds on his history on the internet from the days before smartphones, to how he’s grown an audience of over a million subscribers.
Seth’s take on the above topic is more of a TLDR version of it. 64 words, but more value than you would expect.
I’m a big fan of Matthew Inman’s comics. And in this particular one, Matt has a funny take on the balance between making art, and making money through your art.
As much as it’s about giving value, you’d still want to make a living doing what you love most. And in ‘The Business of Art,’ Matt shares one of eight lessons he’s learned, 10 years after founding The Oatmeal.