Year 1950: Meet Todd McKid. Todd was eight years old and lived in suburban America. When he grew up, Todd wanted to be in a rock band. When Todd was 10, his dad told him there was no money in music, and he should go into engineering instead. Todd listened to his dad and found a new passion in engineering. Now, Todd makes $100,000 per year and lives comfortably in a gorgeous house with an even more gorgeous family.
Year 2014: Meet Tim McKid. Tim is eight years old and lives in suburban America. When he grows up, he wants to be in a rock band. When Todd is 10, his father will encourage him to follow his dreams, no matter how big. Tim will listen to his dad, drop out of school, and make several lackluster rock albums, none of which will garner him any money or attention due to the huge number of musicians doing the same thing. Tim will then work as an assistant manager at a local Chili’s, earning $20,000 per year and driving the same ’95 Volvo he did in high school.
The growing sense of post-modernist individualism that has slowly tightened its grip on modern Americans’ way of thought has yielded many spectacular results: new forms of art, the progression of human rights, a more diversified sense of culture, etc. As long as we feel that something is the right thing to do, then it’s the right thing to do.
However, this way of life has a substantial negative side, as exemplified by Todd and Tim. In the past, the general consensus was to sacrifice your dreams in order to make more money.
Many young people dream of more career-oriented work, such as engineering or teaching, and this column isn’t questioning them. They’re already on the right track. This column is questioning the ones pursuing an ‘artistic’ medium as a career.
Now, as our country has adapted to a more individualistic mindset, we are told to follow our dreams, no matter what the cost. And while it will inevitably work out for a few, many dream chasers will come up empty-handed.
Many of these dream chasers are musicians.
Though the music industry has always been challenging to break into, it may now be harder than ever. While you might get discovered, the chances of making a living through music are slim-to-none. Unfortunately, the industry is only lucrative for the best of the best, making the term “starving artist” more and more prevalent today.
The “follow your dreams” philosophy isn’t only affecting artists, though. With thousands of musicians putting out albums every day, it forces us to reanalyze the way we approach music.
A society with a “surplus of art” has never been seriously suggested before, but look at these numbers.
Even with the huge number of music consumers in the world, there are simply too many tunes for us to pay attention to. As a result, millions of subpar songs plague the market, and they’re starting to bring down the overall quality and expectation of the music industry as a whole. It’s safe to say we officially have too much music.
In classic finger-pointing fashion, I’ve identified a problem but don’t have a solution. Maybe we need to change the way we think about how our individualism affects our career choices. Maybe the media needs to portray a more accurate depiction of what it means to be an artist, no longer exclusively showcasing the lifestyles of the most successful. Maybe we just need to have different dreams.
Whatever the solution might be, for the sake of the music industry and yourself, please don’t go the route of Tim McKid just because you can’t see yourself with a day job.