I am writing this article to announce publicly a decision I made regarding my solo music project: I am ending it without plans to return.
The cause of this decision is multilayered and I pretend with the rest of this article to explain it the best I can.
2005: I started playing guitar.
2008-2012: a time of fruitful creative activity, when I worked on a lot of my music ideas.
2012: I released the album The Darkest Strings.
The Project’s Objective
The objective was always aligned with that one of the so called digital musician, never being my priority to take it into the physical realm through concerts. That would only happen if my main objective were to be attained: the creation of a genuine online community surrounding my work. This is a common trajectory for the solo musician of the digital age.
But, like many other musicians and artists with similar goals, that ended up never happening, receiving instead, at best, a lukewarm applause for the effort:
Decoding the Failure
After the release of the album The Darkest Strings, I tried to understand what had gone wrong:
1. Was it the music that was not good enough?
2. Was it the mixing that was not professional enough?
I was convinced that the explanation resided in a combination of those two factors. Mathematically speaking, that meant a total of 22 possible combinations:
That explains why, in 2011, I released a first version of “The Darkest Strings”, and then in 2012 I launched a second one with some of the songs modified: because I had determined that the problem was the quality of the compositions.
That also explains why I mentioned releasing the album a third time, now re-mixed. I was eliminating variables. Luckily, I never did it. It wouldn’t have made any difference and I would’ve only ending up wasting more of my time.
Simultaneously, I started to realize that, maybe, I was analyzing the situation too simplistically. Maybe, to that combination of two questions, I needed to add many more: Was I promoting my music the right way? Was the artwork good enough? Maybe the market is simply too saturated for new music? Maybe my music genre is really out of date? After ten questions you’d end up with a combination of 210 factors. That’s 1024 possibilities. It’s too much to test.
But eventually, I didn’t need to. All I had to accept was a simple truth.
The Ronaldos of Music
I have a lot of reasons not to consider myself a real musician. I’m not going to talk about them except the most important one. But before that, what do I mean by real musician?
Take the difference between a typical soccer player and the top players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and so on. Both know how to play, both know the rules of the game but not everyone can make a difference in a game.
In music it’s the same thing. We have real musicians and then we have the other people who happen to know how to make music. Both understand the rules of the game. But only the former know how to make real music.
If we analyze some top Internet solo artists , we can find examples of musicians that got where they got because they make real music, music that the listeners in that music genre genuinely want to hear. Because what they do scores points in all fronts: it’s high quality, it’s fresh, it’s actual, it’s relevant.
That brings me to the next point
Art vs Entertainment
It seems to me that you can only succeed as a musician on the Internet in two way: you are either a real musician or you are an entertainer.
A real musician is able to find success relying on his music alone, without the need of resorting to monkey business. This can be proven by looking at the artists I previously mentioned.
The entertainers are everyone else. They are the regular soccer players. They are the Salieris. These are the musicians that know the rules of the game but are not really that good (or relevant) that their music can stand on its own. The only way for them to have success online is to create entertainment videos, where the music is secondary, its function being to to support the entertainment itself. It’s like making the dog eating the medicine by mixing it in its food.
The entertainer that tries to choose the path of the real musician is destined to fail. In my case, the only video that ever gathered the level of attention and interest that I envisioned for my project was Eu Gosto Muito Das Minhas Músicas. Coincidentally, this was the only entertainment video I did. Its good reception wasn’t a coincidence: it was simply me finding success in the habitat that was naturally reserved for me: the one of being an entertainer.
But I never wanted to be an entertainer. I wanted my music to be taken seriously. And there lies the root of my failure, I didn’t accept the destiny that was reserved for me.
The Creative Juice
After 2012, maybe because my music’s reception didn’t even fulfill my most conservative expectations, the time of spontaneous creativity and effortless will to compose music ended.
In 2014, I started working on my second album but since I wasn’t as driven as I once had been, I ended up not even finishing it.
In 2015-2018 I released two new songs, both heavily influenced on pre-existing ideas: Homem Só had been almost entirely written in 2010-2012; The Richest Man in Babylon had been written 60% in 2008-2014.
What I’m trying to say is this: the time of me being driven to write new music is long gone, and all the new music I’ve been releasing is based on old ideas. Like an orange whose juice has been squeezed out, my creative juice has already been transformed in music a long time ago. The burning desire of artistic expression is no longer present in me.
There’s another thing too.
I don’t like to play guitar that much anymore
When I was 17, I used to play guitar all the time. Now it’s a rare impulse. Much due to the same motives that led my decline in interest for writing music.
But another motive is more physical: I’m not 17 anymore and my body stopped liking to play guitar. If I don’t take the appropriate measures, I end up easily injuring the involved tendons, hand and neck articulations and so on.
These would be things that could be ignored (or rather, carefully and intelligently kept under control as they have been up until now) if there was an important thing that motivated it. But what I’ve been trying to tell up to this point is that there isn’t, which makes my predisposition to pick up the guitar much lower than what it used to be.
Why Sharing this Publicly?
If I am determined to quit my solo project, why not just do it? Why the public announcement? Is this attention seeking behaviour, hoping that people arrive in droves begging me not to quit?
No. In fact, don’t even try. Or try but knowing that I will consider such comments simply as trap-compliments. It’s a term I use to call those genuine and well intentioned compliments (and the more they are the more dangerous) that motivates someone to pursue an irrelevant goal. We all know how the road to Hell is paved with.
And to answer the question: why share this publicly?
1) For the same reasons everyone else shares their goals and decisions online: to make them as definite as possible. I have been considering this since 2012. I’ve thought about this for a long time. If the same idea remains in your head for seven years, you should probably do something definite about it, I think.
2) Because my conscience asked me to: I won’t try to fully understand the reason behind this but the fact is this: I tried to keep this decision and information private for some time but my conscience kept bugging me about it. I decided to stop questioning it.
Isn’t it dangerous and irresponsible to make this public announcement?
I don’t ask this because I overestimate my influence in society, but because I know the impact decisions like these can have on others, based on my personal experiences: similar decisions made by people I only knew peripherally (or didn’t know at all) have remained marked in my mind as relevant events. Still to this day I can remember every single individual story regarding people who’ve given up on Music or their instrument. If that’s the case, it’s because there’s something important in the act and its impact to those around me shouldn’t be ignored.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a good solution to the problem.
I should clarify, though, that I don’t feel the need to assume complete responsibility for possible consequences of what I’m 1) writing (sharing a tough worldview of how things work) and 2) doing (quitting my solo project) because:
1) What I’m writing is my own personal perspective and interpretation of how things are and should not be taken as an attempt to portray itself as an universal law. It could be wrong. Maybe be world isn’t divided into Mozarts and Salieris. Maybe anyone can achieve real success simply by working hard and smart. Maybe I just wasn’t too good at that. In this regard, it is the reader that has full control over what to do with the information that reaches his mind and must, therefore, take full responsibility for it. Don’t accept what I’m saying without, first, gathering proof yourself.
2) Regarding what I’m doing, it’s much tougher because that’s where the problem lies – that of someone giving up on his dream after being involved in it so many years. It’s hardly something inspiring to others. And everyone knows that a puppy dies every time someone gives up on his dreams. As I said, I don’t have a good answer to that problem. And I know that invoking that previous argument – asking the reader to take responsibility for the information that reaches his mind – isn’t effective enough in this case because now we’re dealing with actions and not theory. Actions have a stronger punch. The only thing I can say about this is that technically I’m not giving up on Music or the guitar, because both are still useful to me in other contexts.
Is this really necessary?
To finish I’ll answer the question: is all this really necessary? I think so.
I already said that this idea has lived in my mind for seven years. What is my conscience trying to say?
In 2018 I released the music The Richest Man in Babylon. I gave my best: the best I could compose and the best I could mix (skills which were now superior in 2018 compared to 2012). The objective of this music was to clear up, once and for all, my initial doubts: is a music composed and mixed at the top of my skills good enough to interest listeners in a way that the previous works weren’t able to? The answer revealed itself to be no.
And then my journey ended. I had all my answers. I can listen to my conscience now.
The abrupt decision I’m making is important. More important than to simply let the decision manifest itself in my life through a slow and gradual parting from my project.
No. A firm decision must be taken because of its psychological benefits. The idea that habits my mind for seven years has revealed itself under the shape of, mainly, frustration. Running like a software, sometimes in the foreground, but sometimes in the background too, consuming the system’s resources, slowly but surely.
It is necessary to eradicate that idea once and for all. The price to pay is, of course, to accept that I failed in a definite way in something important.
Is that an acceptable price to pay? In 2019, yes. Because the importance of this goal has been gradually declining since 2012, having been replaced by other goals.
Why not make a definite decision, accept my failure, erase old frustrations and allocate those mental resources to something else?
Professor Jordan Peterson says we should burn of our insufficiencies like deadwood to make room for a better self. I believe him. And I think I am in good hands.
With this piece of wisdom I say goodbye for now.
See you later,