Is it easier or harder to make it now compared to the past or just different?

By Beverley Knight

Share: Share:

When you find a welcoming musical community, in person or online, hold on to it. Most artists feel connected to others experiencing the same trials and tribulations of the industry. However, areas across the globe have varied takes on emerging creative landscapes. London is a vibrant place artistically, and indie folk artist Erinn McDonnell says, “The city accepts all musical styles, from the heartfelt acoustic scene to the famous punk scene of Camden.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the norm. Phosphoros, a metal guitarist, lives in Puglia, Italy. The scene isn’t the best, especially for anyone daring to play unconventional music. Most musicians earn their keep by playing in tribute or wedding bands. He says, “They are the only ones who can guarantee a solid income without putting too much effort into it.”

Mallorca in Spain is famed for tourism and the party culture associated with the Balearic islands. There are endless amounts of DJs and EDM Music. Pau Walters, an experimental and hip-hop artist, wishes there was something more for creatives trying to make alternative things and not just club-friendly music. “I respect it, but we have a lot of original music on the Island. It seems nearly impossible to grow a fanbase as we don’t have help from local promoters, booking agents or the media.”

The human touch seems to be getting harder to navigate. Phosphoros and Pau cannot find a musical scene to belong to. Open mic sessions, where many rock stars cut their teeth, don’t exist in some places. The only option is to arrange events yourself. And what creative soul wants the responsibility of that? It needs a different skill set altogether.

Erinn’s slowly dipping her toe into physical scenes. She noticed the more out there your music is, the more supportive the community is. With fierce competition in some styles like pop, camaraderie can suffer. Erin says, “In sub-genres like prog rock or folk, people seem to appreciate the art a lot more; there is space to develop a message behind lyrics instead of pushing out as much as possible.”

Southeast Londoner Kv_official7 invests in the physical scene of rap, looking to boost his presence with others. He gets his music out and about by interacting with locals. He says, “I head into the community with DIY flyers and QR codes linking to my music. I distribute them to the young generation interested in my style.”

So, it’s inevitable. For all its problems and tensions, the internet and social media are essential to budding artists. It’s the main way to spread the word about music for most musicians, especially if you’re new to the game. Listeners of Phosphoros’ music are from a different part of Italy and are more keen on metal. “People where I live have biases that block everyone from expressing their true potential. The instrumental metal scene isn’t nearby. Thanks to the online community, distance is not a big issue issue like it would have been years ago.”

Online can be an ‘interesting’ place. Erinn knows it’s the best tool to get your art across and build audiences, but how do you catch people’s eye? “Musicians seem to be doing the same things, like covers and short-form video, so it’s hard to stand out.” In the olden days, it wasn’t easy either. You had to drop CDs to labels in person if you got past the front desk first. she kind of wishes things were still like that.

For the type of music she’s making and her position, Erinn relies on her online presence to grow, especially when some judge her purely on that. It’s all about gaining attention; everyone is fighting for it. But the flip side of being active is linking with like-minded people and internet pals. Pau uses Discord servers and social media to find new artists to collaborate with.

There’s a hunger for rap music that Kv_official7 sees. Younger generations who relate to lyrics search for new releases. He’s eager to use their appetite to his advantage. “It’s important to have an online presence because fans play a vital role in success. The biggest challenge I face is delivering to listeners. They can’t listen or discover me if they don’t know about me,” he says.

Advice from people in the game varies, but one word keeps cropping up: consistency. We have to be in it to win it, but some people aren’t natural online when the focus should be on making music, not content. It’s essential to reach the right audience and to create a solid base with engaging posts. Phosphoros says, “Constantly pushing out the right content on social media is key for keeping on a roll.”

Do we wish to go back in time? It’s impossible to think of the music industry with social media. Life before must’ve been tough for upcoming artists. Erin has nostalgia for 70s culture: the fashion, the vibes. It was. a simpler time in many ways, but she’s grateful for what we have now. “I can produce and master a track on a single laptop, which is pretty insane. But in terms of it being easier or harder to make it now compared to then, I don’t know. It’s just different.”

Phosphoros thinks Italy is tough to break for any musician. He’s glad of social platforms. “Music is my way of communicating. I want to make it my full-time occupation, but it’s not easy.” Kv_official7 thinks things would be ten times harder if we didn’t use the internet. “It could lead to some artist giving up and terminating their careers,” he says.

Producing engaging content to meet commercial expectations can water down talent. “Living in the social media era has made many artists influencers instead of being about their music,” says Pau. “Trying to build an audience and make a living as a musician is easier than ever. “You can literally reach the whole world from your phone. It’s an advantage.”

Follow Erinn McDonnell
Follow Phosphoros
Follow Pau Walters
Follow Kv_offcial7

Cover photo: Pau Walters