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Resist the Downsides of the Music Industry

Mixing desk

It’s easy to feel small and insignificant when you view the vast vista of the music industry; both its beauty and its ugliness – says Dr Dan.

There is so much to love about the music industry. Musicians bring so much joy, comfort and energy to those that listen (and watch). The overwhelming volume of musical art being created by passionate and devoted people is staggering in both its scale and devotion. The music industry is a beautiful thing.

You might then ask why I chose to use the word, ‘ugliness’ to sit alongside ‘beauty’ when describing the industry that I love.

SIGH… because there is an ugliness that forms in the shadows of our creativity. Our personal insecurities give rise to artistic jealousies that, in turn, express themselves in several sinister ways. But not all is lost.

Consider the following points for your personal reflection and our collective action:

Stay true to the message

Many of us have lost the clarity of our communication. The role of a musical artist in society is not merely to entertain.

Our high and noble task is to challenge the status quo of society. It is our job to hold a mirror up to society, reflecting the present-day image to provoke contemplation and review.

Artists like David Bowie, Midnight Oil and Pussy Riot show us how to stand on a platform of principles and sometimes even under threat of personal harm, cause the social order to consider its current position. May we all be so brave.

Drop the façade

Personally, I find that beauty abounds in nature, so I loathe, for example, the glamour industry’s improper use of Photoshop to re-create women and men into plastic impossibilities. And in recent years, I have gained a similar mistrust for our industry’s overuse of technologies such as auto-tune.

Similarly, our over-employment of post-production polish has created an unsustainable expectation of perfection. Audiences, en masse, can no longer tolerate imperfect music in their diet, but the audient is not to blame. It is us.

We need to start weaning our listeners off the sugary pleasure of perfect vocals and return them to the sustenance of narrative driven singing that is void of pleasure-inducing preservatives. May we all be so brave.

The love of money

…is the root of all evil; an old proverb that still applies today. Notice that it is the ‘love’ of money, not the money itself that is the cause of so much pain.

I must admit that money often captivates me with its promise of security and ease. When an artist becomes enamored with the pursuit of riches, they will do almost anything to collect more wealth.

The responsibility of message and the self-secure presentation of an imperfect-self are often lost to the insatiable desire to be rich. The antidote to money’s allure is a life of moderation, generosity and humility. May we all be so brave.

The wisdom of age

Whitney said it best, “I believe the children are our future…” Our young people have so much enthusiasm and excitement to offer; not to mention talent.

Sadly though, we, as an industry, have become captivated by the cult of youth. In doing so, a disquieting cultural shift sidelining artists who stand outside the ‘acceptable age’ of today’s performer has emerged.

Of course, we can all point to Bruce Springsteen and Celine Dion (among others) as admirable examples of artists who continue to perform into their later years successfully. I would, however, counter that these shining examples all commenced their careers in their youth, continuing their performance through to the present day.

I am keen to encourage older singers, amateur and professional alike, people in their fifties, sixties and seventies to bring their wisdom of age to the stage.

Elders, your message is rich with life experience that our young people have yet to gain. As we enter our later years, may we all be so brave?

I am not so naïve as to believe that any of the issues that I have raised in today’s article are easily accounted for with simple solutions, but individuals can make very real differences, however so small and seemingly insignificant. May we all be so brave.

Daniel Robinson Dr Daniel Robinson is a freelance artist and educator. He is the principal Singing Voice Specialist for Djarts and presents workshops to singers across Australia and abroad. He has served as National Vice President (2009–11) and National Secretary for the Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing (2006–11) and currently sits on the national board of the Australian Voice Association. Over the past two decades, while maintaining his performance career, Daniel has instructed thousands of voices. This vast experience enables Daniel to effortlessly work with voices of all skill levels: beginners to professionals. You can join Dr Dan every Tuesday on his YouTube Channel: Dr Dan’s Voice EssentialsDr Dan is also the creator of 7 Days to a Better Voice: a FREE one-week technical detox for your voice.

  • Bartek Pekala

    Great article. The Great Canyon was made by single drops of water. Seemingly powerless and meaning nothing. Yet with iron consequence and with the time passing, they have forged one of the most incredible masterpieces of nature. Just fot this reason we should never neglect our impact on the surrounding us world. Also art itself has always had a huge influence on the whole human history. Art has always shaken the walls. Is there a better way to shake the walls than doing so with music? With perfectly articulated sound wave full of stunning message?
    Thank you for this sharing. It really triggers off reflections

  • Michael Vaughn

    I think the various heads of our “industry” should read this article. If record companies (whatever is left of them) would actually take chances on something new and different, instead of just finding the next cookie-cutter pop star, that would take care of most of the issues raised in this article.

  • Yes Bartek. Our art is a powerful medium for change…when used expertly and with wisdom!

  • Sadly, Michael, I believe my thoughts might prove too much for some…including ‘some’ of those who sit at the wheel of record companies. But this should not cause us to shy away from the task that sits before us as individuals. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Don C

    There is something to be said for believing in your message as much as yourself. Some singers only believe in themselves- they hide an inflated ego behind a glitzy image and ultimately are disappointed with the resulting shallowness that their legacy created. Other singers only believe in their message, letting go of their image and ego enough that they never attract a mainstream following because they place more value in their sound and personal ideals than maintaining an artificial stage presence.

    You kind of have to do both- believe in yourself (by dressing the part) and what you are singing (by singing it with conviction). That’s the real formula for enduring success, not mathematical hooks or software plugins to smooth over the warts and zits of recording that are revealed and made obvious in live performances.

    Attracting a following is like finding a life mate, and an imbalance of either the self or the message can be the undoing of both.