Posted: May 30, 2008 in Uncategorized

What defines success? Is it based on merit or achievement? Is it based on accomplishing a series of tasks? Is success determined by financial avatars, or is success something deeper that stems from a personal drive to be all that one can be, and to strive for the highest quality of personal satisfaction?
I believe that many people equate success with financial or commercial success. These are the people that need the vindication of society’s status quota to validate to them whether talent measures up to success. This yardstick has traditionally been used by our consumer-driven society with the idea that the money-makers must have something worth selling. It is typical for most people to acquiesce success only to those who are acknowledged by society’s standards. But does lack of recognition by the greater part of society change who a person is or what they are capable of achieving?
To the passive observer, art (including music and other genres), is merely another form of entertainment to which the consumer expects to be “serviced” by the entertainer(s). The obscure, self-driven artists who devote themselves to their craft simply because they can, regardless of stature, money, or prestige, are mostly marginalized by the louder, more pervasive consumer-driven machine, which pontificates to the world what is art.
We live in a society where art has become industrialized. With the rise of Mp3 technology and the widening scope of apparent talent, industry giants have tightened up considerably. CD sales have noticeably dropped, leading the major labels to lower percentage points and perks for artists. The days of primadonna big band extravagance are over. Music labels have traded talent scouts for accountants, implementing a more corporately-based structure of discovering and marketing new talent. This trend has led to the surge of formulaic, pre-fabricated “boy bands,” “teenage divas,” and scores of forgettable rock bands that have been carefully molded and funded by their corporate sponsors. The past decade is rife with examples of these mostly performance-driven, musically mediocre acts. The line between musicianship and showmanship has become blurred, and the largely aloof consumer audience has accepted this form of forced-fed entertainment. Like Jon-boy states during a mock pundit show in the movie EDtv:

“… it used to be that people were famous for being special. Now they’re considered special, merely, for being famous. Fame has become a moral good. It is its own virtue.”

Most people are willing to accept the idea that if a band is featured on the radio, then they are successful and worthy of a listening audience. The music is driven into the consciousness by persistent repetition, almost to the point of absurdity. It’s like George W. Bush stated, speaking at a New York middle/high school, posted May 24th, 2005:

“See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”

This is how hits are made in contemporary radio culture. Music has become weaponized by corporate conglomerates and their clients to help sell products and keep this titanic industry afloat. But much like the ill-fated maiden voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic, the record industry is doomed to founder.
Fortunately, with the advent and rise of digital technology, and the growing availability of recording technology to the common-person, a fatal blow has been dealt to the recording industry. The market has become flooded with independent artists who have successfully found ways around the old paradigms set by the music industry, creating an industry all unto themselves. This movement has risen so suddenly and dramatically, that the recording industry has failed to adapt adequately to the desires of the consumers. Now that people realize that there is a virtual plethora of musical choices to be had, they can afford to be more selective and flex the almighty consumer muscle. This saturation of new and valid musical voices, coupled with the industry’s apparent lack of anticipation to evolve with the consumers will hopefully set a new standard as to how far self-motivated musicians can go with their talent.
Success, like many other things, is in the eye of the beholder, and has a deeply personal meaning to each person. The mistake, I believe, is in letting other peoples’ ideas of what success should be, cloud our own judgement, hindering the visions we have for ourselves.

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