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The Problems Musicians Face and How To Solve Them, Pt. 1

(Hypebot) – Written by Tommy Darker, originally published in The Musicpreneur.

Travelling the world and chatting with fellow aspiring artists reveals astounding insights about the future of music. Here’s the deal: we think we all face different problems, but the reality reveals the opposite. I will share one of these insights, explaining what it means for the way we work as musicians and how to move in the future.


If you ask a musician in London what their main struggle is, they will tell you that venue promoters don’t treat them fairly and they don’t pay much. Like in Los Angeles.

If you ask a musician in Argentina ‘how’s business?’, they will tell you that the main way to make money is still through selling CDs and performing — probably because they’re not exposed to creative ideas and because they’re not confident about trying something new. However, they don’t know that the same applies in Philippines.

In a conversation with a Ukrainian artist on why people attend to their free pub shows but do not attend or buy when there’s an entrance fee, she had no feasible answer. Musicians in Italy and Greece are baffled as well.

The list goes on. What’s happening here?

Let’s not cast our focus on the individual problems. Instead, let’s think about the pattern of problems, which sketches a wider phenomenon.

“Musicians around the world must be thriving. Except for us.”

Humans love giving explanations.

We all want to explain why various phenomena occur, such as the lack of financial success for individual musicians or a local music scene as a collective. At the same time, we often hear news about success stories and viral campaigns from all around the world.

We urge to explain why this happens to them, but not us. And it’s a reasonable thing to ask.

First things first, the urge to explain seems to be ingrained in our culture; we make snap judgements of people’s appearance, so that we can protect ourselves from potential harmful encounters. It works like some kind of survival mechanism. It seems that giving an explanation is helpful in these cases.

Once the snap explanation has been given, we proceed to the rationalization process; we protect ourselves from any argument which deviates us from our explanations. We seek signs of confirmation, while anything that opposes to our views is off the radar.

After all, we’re humans. We love giving explanations for everything, even when we don’t have enough data to make an informed decision. We’ve been doing this throughout our whole lives.

An explanation is nothing but a decision-making tool: it possibly it helps us follow our dreams, keep track of our progress and survive dangerous strangers. But uninformed explanations keep us from objectively seeing reality — bringing all the consequences such self deception brings.

Why is this reference here?

Because I’ve noticed a common pattern in people’s perception around the world, a stereotypical notion that is allegedly accepted as true, even if it has not been researched so far. I’ve explored the online libraries for related research without merit.

It has long been thought that musicians face problems merely because of their flawed local music scene.

It is believed, in other words, that there’s something wrong with the local musicians, audience and system, while other cities, countries and cultures must be doing alright. This would simply explain why there’s still so much music being recorded daily.
This belief is far from reality…

Because of my projects, I travel a lot and visit culturally diverse music scenes. I also love discussing with musicians and hearing their stories. After numerous conversations with local musicians, it is undeniable to me that the majority faces the same problems. A local musician in Philippines is hit by the same problems as one in Los Angeles. Ukrainian and UK artists mostly struggle with the same basic issues.

We reckon we’re different, but in reality we’re more homogeneous than we think.

What do musicians actually believe that their main problems are? I can tell you, because I asked them.

Stay tuned for Part 2

Tommy Darker is the writing alter ego of an imaginative independent musician and thinker about the future of the music industry. His vision is to simplify scalable concepts and make them work for independent musicians.

He is a writer about the movement of the #Musicpreneur and founder of Darker Music Talks, a global series of discussions between experts and musicians. Him and his work have been featured in Berklee, TEDx, Berlin Music Week, Midem, SAE Institute, Hypebot and Topspin Media. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

This research and essay is proudly patronized by its readers.