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Guest Ralph Nolte

Making Electronic Music in 2017 and Beyond - WHY?

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so does that mean from this point forward we will no longer have artists who are able to devote full time to their art and thereby reach a deep level of artistry and move their art form forward? instead all artists will just be hobbyists who are able to create only when not working for the man all day? depressing to think about.

 

VHS Head has a day job - he's a builder.

 

Regardless of whether you like his sound or not, you cannot deny that he has attained a deep level of artistry.

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so does that mean from this point forward we will no longer have artists who are able to devote full time to their art and thereby reach a deep level of artistry and move their art form forward? instead all artists will just be hobbyists who are able to create only when not working for the man all day? depressing to think about.

 

VHS Head has a day job - he's a builder.

 

Regardless of whether you like his sound or not, you cannot deny that he has attained a deep level of artistry.

 

 

true. and i love his music.

 

...but how much better would his stuff be if he didn't have the day job? and how much more of it would he have released?

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so does that mean from this point forward we will no longer have artists who are able to devote full time to their art and thereby reach a deep level of artistry and move their art form forward? instead all artists will just be hobbyists who are able to create only when not working for the man all day? depressing to think about.

 

VHS Head has a day job - he's a builder.

 

Regardless of whether you like his sound or not, you cannot deny that he has attained a deep level of artistry.

 

 

true. and i love his music.

 

...but how much better would his stuff be if he didn't have the day job? and how much more of it would he have released?

 

 

I don't think quality or quantity of output can be attributed simply to whether you have your whole time devoted to making music.

 

Many people actually need a balance between 'work' and 'pleasure', and for many, being creative is their 'pleasure'. I'm one of those weird people that, if I were able to get actual paid work doing photography for instance, it would then become a chore and no longer something I enjoy.

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Why do artists make art? Really?  :cerious:

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Why do artists make art? Really?  :cerious:

Why doesn't art make art? Is it too lazy?

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Guest bitroast

 

anyone who goes into making electronic music in 2017 and beyond, with the sole purpose of making lots of money and to be successful ... is probably delusional.

 

people make music cos they wanna :^) 

lol great avatar choice.

 

 

right back at you. nice to see the two johns together again at last.

 

;^) 

:emotawesomepm9:

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Why do artists make art? Really? :cerious:

Why doesn't art make art? Is it too lazy?
:cerious:

But really. Get with it artificial intelligence. We're sick of working to get art. It's 2017!!

Edited by auxien

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Why do artists make art? Really? :cerious:

Why doesn't art make art? Is it too lazy?
:cerious:

But really. Get with it artificial intelligence. We're sick of working to get art. It's 2017!!

 

 

 

 

soon

 

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so does that mean from this point forward we will no longer have artists who are able to devote full time to their art and thereby reach a deep level of artistry and move their art form forward? instead all artists will just be hobbyists who are able to create only when not working for the man all day? depressing to think about.

 

VHS Head has a day job - he's a builder.

 

Regardless of whether you like his sound or not, you cannot deny that he has attained a deep level of artistry.

 

Why are IDM and architecture so related?

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does anybody here live off electronic music? hope so, cause i can tell you that it's impossible to live off electronic music in croatia. it's probably much much easier in germany or uk. here you can live normally only if you have a college (or better two) and one or two phds. builders? those ppl are hungry in croatia. how can one think about art with an empty stomach

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Hey everyone, greetings from Southern Africa and Happy 2017!
But enough with the pleasantries, let me get to the point...
 
Serious musicians, studio owners, established artists, bedroom producers, hobbyists, enthusiasts, freelancers, pro, amateur - whatever you call yourself, how do you see ANY kind of future creating electronic music for anything else than "for the love of it" going forward?
 
CDs are dead, digital (paid) downloads are dying, streaming is paying less than peanuts, vinyl is just a fad and "going on tour / playing live" is not a practical option for everyone. Maybe if you've been working in a field like TV, film or advertising you might make some money - but for everyone else, especially those starting out from scratch? What's the point - except to be able to say "I've made some tracks and they're available on the interwebs"...?
 
Let's assume you're fine with not actually earning anything from your work - what would be the rewards, the payoff for you? And how do you go about just establishing an appreciative audience for your music? I know this has been discussed previously here at WATMM and on other forums, but what still worked a couple of years ago might no longer be feasible right now. I know the mantras of putting your stuff on SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube, etc. and working social media to grow your supposed fanbase - but in the end it seems only luck really determines if any significant number of people find (let alone "support") your music... I know, I know, there have always been struggling musicians who couldn't make a living with their art and still toiled in obscurity - but is this where we are basically still stuck in this day and age? Are the only people making money in music today those who run the music schools, produce DAW tutorials/courses, program plugins or presets, compile "sound packs", write/produce for mainstream mass-media, work for / are shareholders in one of the big labels or who specialize in copyright lawsuits - with actual creatives existing on the fringes of all this.
 
It's obviously the best of times to be a consumer of music - as you can get basically everything for free with just a bit of googling or youtubing. But even so, how is the current situation sustainable? People still enjoy the experience of music, but mostly won't pay for it. And many (possibly crazy) people still love creating music - maybe getting an upvote or nice comment here & there - but have no realistic hope of ever making a cent out of it all...
 
Thoughts?

 

 

I'm not really sure I see the problem?

No one has been making any real money off of their albums for the last 6-7 years. Unless you sell hundreds of thousands and millions of copies of your album then fuckit. People make money off of concerts and licensing or custom made tunes for commercials, movies etc. So putting out an album is the best way of letting people know, "Hey, I'm still alive and I'm still doing my thing". You might say that it's the best kind of marketing there is for a musician. By releasing new music you're also letting companies, who might be interested in using your music or having you make music for one of their products (movies, videos, commercials, brand films etc.), know that you're still active and that keeps you in their line of sight the next time they need something.

 

I think it's the same when an illustrator gets asked to draw a puppy. But when he/she gets home it's all about drawing badass robots who murder puppies or something.

 

If you want to make a living by doing what you like then make sure you don't put your profession on a pedestal because that'll only make you feel miserable about not being able to cash in your IDM checks in the bank.

 

...or something. I dunno?

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does anybody here live off electronic music? hope so, cause i can tell you that it's impossible to live off electronic music in croatia. it's probably much much easier in germany or uk. here you can live normally only if you have a college (or better two) and one or two phds. builders? those ppl are hungry in croatia. how can one think about art with an empty stomach

not directly. I sell my music apps and live from that, but I get along with little income. Can pay the rent and buy food etc and do some basic fun things but I'm on the low end of the wealth spectrum.

 

Still, from my perspective, electronic producers are consumers of music gear and software and potential customers.

 

And I believe this is a general trend. Making some money with music is very tough, but making stuff for musicians works, there's ever more people getting into that since there's so many options to get started... so I agree with OP. Make sample packs or basically whatever you can do for other musicians and they'll maybe buy it. Obviously the more rare yet useful your stuff is the more likely it is that it will sell some.. recordings of pots & pans probably won't cut it.....

 

For music, you'd have to spend like 90% of your time on marketing and really have to MEAN IT with that.. Will this improve your tracks? Likely not...

 

I dunno, around here pretty much everyone is a DJ of sorts, some see it as a profession, but personally I don't know anyone who doesn't have some other job.. this dream is reserved for superstars..

 

So imo best to do one thing for money and one thing for fun imho

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Working in the world feeds into the artistic process.

 

Name a canonical writer who didn't have a day job or trade skill. Go ahead, I'll wait.

 

Its a recent fantasy of the snowflake generation to focus on art full time, has to do with delusions of self import. The work is what makes you important. Not the other way around.

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i don't even like music. everything i make is entirely by accident.

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Acidental Acid

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Guest Ralph Nolte
Thanks everyone - lots of very valid points and I'd like to reply to some individually.

(I'll copy-paste sections with the poster's name in order to keep it all in this one post)

 

Alan Ord:

"How does anyone establish an audience? Create some fucking great work and share it. If you create something undeniably amazing you won't struggle for listeners or money (probably...)"

That would be the ideal, but I think in a practical sense it's not so simple. Lots of well-known music is undeniably crappy - and plenty of amazing work is virtually unknown. I also read the other day that it can cost a music label $500 000 to $2 million in promotion & marketing to "break" a signed artist into a major market... =(

 

ignatius:

"if your goal is to make money then pick a different job. get into banking or real estate speculation. make a bunch of money then retire young and enjoy your hobbies."

Incidentally, the last "real job" I had was in the marketing department of a major bank... The money was good, but it was soul-destroying office work and I quit after a few months - to go back to doing something creative (which turned out to be electronic music).

 

digit:

"do you think autechre would be at the level they are at creatively if they had instead just been making music in their spare time outside of their day jobs? no way."

I happen to be a huge Autechre fan (it's what brought me to WATMM years ago) and I totally agree with you on this. Also, how would a hypothetical Ae start out as unknowns and get that far as part-time musicians today? I remember what first brought them to my attention was an MTV interview back in 1994 (I still have it on VHS tape) - how often does one now see a band like that introduced and interviewed on a mainstream TV channel?

 

digit:

"so does that mean from this point forward we will no longer have artists who are able to devote full time to their art and thereby reach a deep level of artistry and move their art form forward? instead all artists will just be hobbyists who are able to create only when not working for the man all day? depressing to think about."

This really gets to the heart of what I was on about in my original post. The prospects seem pretty dismal at this point...

 

oscillik:

"I'm one of those weird people that, if I were able to get actual paid work doing photography for instance, it would then become a chore and no longer something I enjoy."

I can relate to that. For several years I had a day job in broadcast advertising, while my hobby was SLR photography (at one time I even developed and printed my own B&W photos). I put my portfolio online to try and earn money with it when the Internet took off. Eventually, the e-commerce side of things took over all my time and I ended up never going back to photography again... :(

 

osobjornmedved:

"I make music I want to hear. I don't really care if other people like it. I listen to my own music often. My music consists of happy accidents shaped by my taste, and my taste is a distillation of all the other music I've heard. I have no hopes of ever being a well-known musician, but I will probably never quit making music. I've tried quitting a few times when I got frustrated, but I always resumed it within a few weeks or months."

That pretty much sums up my own situation over the past couple of years!

 

xox:

"how can one think about art with an empty stomach"

Some people seem to think that "high art" and "making money" are not compatible. But not every artist is/was a penniless Van Gogh. Many painters of previous centuries fulfilled the role that photo-journalists do today. And Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was a commission he most certainly didn't do for free.

 

Squee:

"I think it's the same when an illustrator gets asked to draw a puppy. But when he/she gets home it's all about drawing badass robots who murder puppies or something."

True: I worked as a graphic designer early in my career and my own "creativity" was always subservient to the client's wishes - so I drew comics in my spare time (and even got some of it published).

 

phling:

"Still, from my perspective, electronic producers are consumers of music gear and software and potential customers."

So the situation is similar to suppliers of paint, canvas & brushes earning an income from artists who can't get anyone to buy their paintings...

 

phling:

"I dunno, around here pretty much everyone is a DJ of sorts, some see it as a profession, but personally I don't know anyone who doesn't have some other job.. this dream is reserved for superstars.."

I think that even "superstars" in the sphere of music will become few and far between - they're already complaining about the royalties they get from streaming and many are getting too old to go on yet another "revival tour".

 

 

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Bit of an old man rant incoming but I'm not really sure myself anymore.

 

For production, its never been a better time to get into music. You can download a couple of programs and make very high quality tracks with rudimentary knowledge of computers and be able to make something audible. You don't have to scour pawn shops for cheap keyboards and youtube tutorials have made month-long struggles of experimentation and trial-and-error tests to get a particular quality or texture of sound a thing in the past. Even the speed of computers have made latency and CPU resources for audio signal generation have eased a lot of the suffering that musicians had to endure through the 90's. Technology wise its expanding and growing very rapidly.

 

On the human side of things though music has become too conservative, cheap to manufacture and plays too much safe. Moby was kind of the front-runner on this but many of the differences are coming from the hardware that people showcase, playing on familiarity, revivals and "renaissances" and I feel that it's missing the point. It's not controversial or radical in its focus or message anymore, nor is it counter-culture or a revolt against the mainstream; It *is* the mainstream now with things like Mike Posner's Ibiza track filling the radiowaves rather than the four-man pop band stuff. There is no focus on what is being said in a song, but more on how its being said (which is getting louder and noisier). We're making tracks by machines, for machines, and it's all throw-a-way gimmick crap like the stuff that fills up Steam's indie catalogs. If soundcloud were to be deleted the following day and everything lost I'd interpret it as 'cleaning out the clutter' rather than a cultural loss.

 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that we're turning into Chinese factories: existing to make cheap, disposable junk in hopes that something becomes marketable enough to roll bank on.

Edited by Entorwellian

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ae said that if they had to start today they doubt they would succeed in the same way, or even at all

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xox:
"how can one think about art with an empty stomach"
Some people seem to think that "high art" and "making money" are not compatible. But not every artist is/was a penniless Van Gogh. Many painters of previous centuries fulfilled the role that photo-journalists do today. And Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was a commission he most certainly didn't do for free.
 

 

 

"I am a soldier so my children can be farmers so their children can be poets."

 

- John Adams

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Has dude even read the rules yet?

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um. You should be making music for yourself. Then it's just a plus if others fancy it.

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how is the current situation sustainable?

 

 

 

It isn't, in the broadest possible sense.  The entire economic model of the 20th century Western world has been built on maintaining the illusion if indefinite growth ever since things fell apart in the late 1920s, but it's all just a big series of feedback loops that has no real connection to the actual, physical reality of production and consumption, and it is on the way out for better or worse.

 

Music is about a decade ahead of the curve but it's only a matter of a few years before a whole lot of other professions are going to be in the same situation. 

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Here is a bit of a dreamtime wander (there is no TL;DR for this subject matter):

 

It is very difficult these days to make a living from music. However it is also important to understand that it has always been difficult to make a living from music throughout the entirety of music history. Countless creators have had their work go unheard, unseen or unread, and very likely may have never been experienced by more than those closest to them. Yet… those unknown lights still chose to create those unknown delights.

 

Even more difficult right now is coming to the surface as a new musician/producer (as AE hinted at). There is a veritable ocean of noise and thus your signal must be strong, promising, and consistent - a good attitude is also a prime asset. But most of all, you must make music that is outside of time and unrelated to any fad. If you come up with a fad and stick with that fad, your place in music will go as fast as it arrived. If you create something that is singular - yours alone (no trifle of a task) - you stand to leave a lasting impression on at least someone, and they will return for more.

 

Very few creators end up being well known and receive accolades for their work - the latter is strictly a bonus and never to be expected in any form. The dynamics involved in how these creators end up being so well known is extremely intricate and there is a lot of ‘dumb luck’ and pixie dust involved. The old idiom “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is very true in music and indeed all of the arts. People sometimes climb over one another if they have lost sight of what is truly important in creating and sharing something with meaning - grasping for the light of a star that has already faded, only to be buried under the weight of all the others climbing for that same mirage.

 

So why do music in 2017, or at any time? It is a tremendous cliche (cliches are cliches for a reason!) but you must first and foremost do it because you feel it is your calling. The reality for most creators these days is that we have to have multiple sources of income. With musicians it is highly unlikely that most will end up getting to a point where they will be able to live off of it for an extended period of time (even fewer of the ‘well known’ musicians have ‘careers’ that span a full lifetime into their middle and old age).

 

Because of this it is important that your work come from your heart. There is no other reason more important to any form of art than that it comes from an authentic place/fire/spark/whatever-you-want-to-call-it within you. A communion with whatever force or Mind you do or do not believe in. This reason is the very fuel that allows you to get through the day when you end up having to do non-creative work that is less than satisfying or interesting to your heart and mind. 

 

The smile that is visible in someone’s eyes who has just felt something of meaning in your work, something they hear that they now know is a part of themselves because they have felt it - the story that one person tells you of how your work took the edge off of a serious situation in their life. One tiny drop of that makes it worth it.

 

If you don’t love creating more than anything, but still expect something out of it and feel that you are somehow owed, it will eventually devour you from the inside out, corroding your entire life to the very seams of your existence. The creative fields are the very worst to have high expectations in, so one must never externalize or desire. Expectation is a curse of all curses. Expectation in the music ‘business’ is the eternally hollow vampire that will ceaselessly suck the marrow from your soul until nothing is left but an evaporating puddle of liquid one-was-human.

 

When you are creating first and foremost because you love it - adoring it beyond all else - it doesn’t matter if you become known or not - that barely crosses your mind - it is about the activity of creating, the doing, the translating of the ephemeral into something you can share with an audience (no matter the size - it might even be yourself alone sometimes - not all things are meant to be shared after all). To me it is always astonishing that we humble, tiny, things, are able to even touch, however briefly, what comes through us in our work - the thing that exists beyond us, beyond the music. It is something I never take for granted.

 

I’d also like to add that I concur with Entorwellian’s thoughts; there has indeed been no better time than now than to get into creating music. The means to do so have never been more accessible than they are now. There are so many options and pathways to take for very minimal expenditure.

 

I began creating music around 1997/1998 when I tried out a demo of ReBirth 338 1.0 that was on a disc attached to a copy of Future Music magazine. [Musically, it was godawful, but I enjoyed the rush of experimentation]. I had loved music since I was a young child in the late 80s and early 90s, but this was the first time I had really started to experiment.

 

Since that time I cannot describe how quickly and exponentially the possibilities have expanded both with software and hardware. One might say there are almost too many options - an enormous and rich valley of option paralysis. As far as I am concerned, the more creators this world has, the better. Not all will be good, some will be terrible, and some will be great beyond words, but at least they are all creating - no matter who may or may not experience their work. Whether it is professional or just for fun it is all worthwhile as an act of ‘doing’, as this act of doing benefits other aspects of one’s life, not just in music or art.

 

Entorwellian’s second point is also something I agree with wholeheartedly. Music has indeed become far too conservative - stripped of its heart. Why is this? There are a number of reasons - again the dynamics of how this came to be are intricate - but one of the key reasons is that both labels and the music press (what is left of it) are not willing to take very many risks at all. They are stuck in a feedback loop with one another that they both enable and cannot seem to let go of.

 

The music press these days is, sadly, a total write-off - reading announcements and reviews is a headache inducing task and seems more akin to reading tabloid fodder these days - and ‘think pieces’ are no more than shoddily written OpEds with nary a meaningful or constructive thought behind them. As an example, I am sure you have all seen vile and cynical articles of late such as FACT’s attack on what they call ‘Lo Fi House’ recently - it had the exact impact of a slowly, wheezingly, deflating, stray birthday balloon that had fallen from the sky into an empty field of weeds - longingly begging to be forgotten. They write of these utter trivialities and non-issues purely because it generates clicks and therefore ad revenue. Goodness knows what strange validation that sort of non-writing would bring to one’s ego. (However, I digress, and I should not be so venomous… alas).

 

As for labels, because of the risky nature of the music business these days (financially), they tend to stick to what they know has worked in the past; or what is working presently as a hype riding or hype generating fad. The only problem with this is that music doesn’t naturally want to stay in the past, it wants to progress and it wants to synthesize into new and novel forms - and fads, well, they never last more than a handful of years at most.

 

So because of this A&R / PR feedback loop, we end up with a whole lot of ever more watered down, meaningless, garbage that is used to generate plays and clicks rather than generating extra beats in one’s heart or hairs standing on end on ones skin. In nature, change and evolution is always occurring - it is only we humans who often seek to stay where we are and put on our shrouds of timidity to hide from what we really seek to do and know. [i do wonder though, about the lowest common denominator, and what mindset, what kind of people, allow this empty calorie music to survive].

 

I am, at my core, an optimist and see potential for great progress in music, however, at my core I know that one must have a certain madness and undying love for the act of creating itself that is one’s prime drive. The idea of the starving artist is certainly an ironic one, as you cannot eat the notes that float through the air as pressure waves. But on the other end of that spectrum, why eat at all if you haven’t got the drive inside to do something of meaning in this life?

 

There is very little that one could consider practical about creating music, or creating at all - it is messy, it often fucks you up in beautiful and terrible ways - but for all the hassle that it involves, my god is the rush of experiencing one microsecond of the act of translating true cosmic beauty worth it. In my experience, nothing else that is ‘human’ has even come close to that feeling. After so many times experiencing it, it becomes your siren, always singing for you to join it in the deep, and you simply cannot do anything but heed its call. If you know what that feels like, you know this is not hyperbole - you will do whatever it takes to bathe in that pool even for the briefest of moments.

 

At first, for me, it is a selfish urge, to follow my siren. Nothing else matters in those moments than taking the dive into another world. After the first act of creation is complete, and I resurface, then comes the second act and I want for others to feel their own version of that feeling when they listen - from a different perspective, but no less touching. I do my best to make sure that my translation of the ‘otherness’ is as precise and accurate as I can make it, so that it can be understood by those who seek whatever that ‘otherness’ is. I value the audience’s attention and see it as sacred - it is never to be taken for granted.

 

For one reason or another, those who came before you helped to give you this life you dedicate to creating - you have an invisible hand that reaches into the ‘beyonds’ of these other beings you share this planet with, and you caress them in ways that most people cannot begin to contemplate. You start to view your output as something to be responsible with - with this invisible hand you don’t want to manipulate or poison them, you want to nourish them somehow - to show someone a mirror that shows them something that has already been within them for so long, but that they may not have noticed before, what an immense honour to share that moment with another beating heart, someone you may never even meet in your entire lifetime. This is where things become ‘Pure Fucking Magic’ and it makes every bit of the struggle worth it.

 

How utterly dull and pallid - flaccid, waning, barren - the human world would be without music, electronic or otherwise. We would be like flies crawling up the wallpaper to the ceiling, hoping to find the sweetest of delights, but only inhaling starved air. A world without music/art would be a world of burned and faded wallflowers whose only hearts’ desire; ‘to survive’ off of an endlessly dry and cracked salt basin of ‘work’. Drudgery. Sadness. Skyless. Grey.

 

No thanks - I’d like to be a part of the infinite auroric meadow, the sheathes of colour, that enfold the heart of even just one person if it helps to prevent the sickening, Greying, of Earth.

 

 

*That* is why I am still making music in 2017 :)

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Winner take all economy

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