Is it okay to compare your music to others?

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estevan carlos benson
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Is it okay to compare your music to others?

Post by estevan carlos benson » Mon Sep 05, 2011 6:47 pm

I've been in a music bubble for some years now. I've stopped listening to electronic music for the most part even though that's the primary genre I work in. I've also been too busy for the past several years to even write enough music. Anyway, it has to change now but I find myself apprehensive to listen to my contemporaries. I find myself nervous to take on influences and I'm nervous to compare my work to theirs. What do I mean by that? I think I'm insecure about my work and I'm not sure I want to hear how much better my peers are. Maybe that's stupid.

I believe there's a lot to be said about influences, stealing, borrowing and being in a creative "bubble". I've had the conversation with friends before. I lean towards the bubble mentality however now I wonder if someone can list good reasons for embracing influences, borrowing and stealing. Right now I'm in L.A. and the scene is defined by Low End Theory (a venue) and Flying Lotus. I had lunch with my musical hero last year and he even asked me about Flying Lotus. I had nothing to say though because I wasn't too familiar with his work. My girlfriend would even prefer that I do more of that style...

Anyway, what are your thoughts on comparing your work to others? Comparing it for the sake of recognizing competition, trends, analyzing (copying) style and techniques or just trying to make sure your work is at least comparable in production quality to theirs?

Is it useful? Is it problematic?
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3dot...
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Re: Is it okay to compare your music to others?

Post by 3dot... » Mon Sep 05, 2011 7:00 pm

as long as it isn't freakishly small.. yes..
what are we talking about again ?
:?
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Angstrom
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Re: Is it okay to compare your music to others?

Post by Angstrom » Mon Sep 05, 2011 7:14 pm

I think it's safe to listen to contemporaries if you are worried about copying them, or worried about being overly influenced by them. The very fact that you have that worry means you wont be overly influenced by them.

it's obligatory for all nervous creatives to vehemently claim that their work is truly original, individual and isolated from all outside influences. This is bollocks of course, but it it's supposed to give your work more validity, as it must have sprung fully formed from the mind of a genius!

In reality - any music that is 100% original, personal and innovative is very likely to be unloved by anyone else. The listeners are (to some degree) conservative in their tastes, and they require some elements of familiarity to be present alongside the original components in order to understand what musicians are giving them. I'd guess that 30% originality is quite a strong brew for most people.

People with very strong need for ego validation will try and stake a firm claim to their work, but often that conceptual rigidity undermines a freedom of exploration which is what truly makes music enjoyable. Sometimes it's better to just loosen your grip on the work a bit and see what happens.

If you made it, you made it.
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3dot...
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Re: Is it okay to compare your music to others?

Post by 3dot... » Mon Sep 05, 2011 7:32 pm

no. imo do your own thing. it's art. comparing can do bad things..
compare only when you get to the technical parts..

once you're back on the bus.. 'adopting' (tech)niques will come naturally..
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estevan carlos benson
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Re: Is it okay to compare your music to others?

Post by estevan carlos benson » Mon Sep 05, 2011 7:38 pm

Angstrom wrote:I think it's safe to listen to contemporaries if you are worried about copying them, or worried about being overly influenced by them. The very fact that you have that worry means you wont be overly influenced by them.

it's obligatory for all nervous creatives to vehemently claim that their work is truly original, individual and isolated from all outside influences. This is bollocks of course, but it it's supposed to give your work more validity, as it must have sprung fully formed from the mind of a genius!

In reality - any music that is 100% original, personal and innovative is very likely to be unloved by anyone else. The listeners are (to some degree) conservative in their tastes, and they require some elements of familiarity to be present alongside the original components in order to understand what musicians are giving them. I'd guess that 30% originality is quite a strong brew for most people.

People with very strong need for ego validation will try and stake a firm claim to their work, but often that conceptual rigidity undermines a freedom of exploration which is what truly makes music enjoyable. Sometimes it's better to just loosen your grip on the work a bit and see what happens.

If you made it, you made it.
That's all there is to it
I think for a long time my work bordered on the stubbornly individualistic to the point where... yeah, no one really liked. So I kept it to myself. I'm in a "frustrated artist mode™" right now coming to terms with the fact that if i want an actual audience, i need to fit in more with my contemporaries. Something that sounds awfully uninteresting to me.
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abl385
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Re: Is it okay to compare your music to others?

Post by abl385 » Mon Sep 05, 2011 7:52 pm

Do you make music for yourself or for others?

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Re: Is it okay to compare your music to others?

Post by synnack » Mon Sep 05, 2011 8:22 pm

If you don't know what your contemporaries sound like, how do you know you don't already sound like them?
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The Carpet Cleaner
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Re: Is it okay to compare your music to others?

Post by The Carpet Cleaner » Mon Sep 05, 2011 8:32 pm

On one hand, do your own thing, yes. It s art, you want to express yourself. You don't care about other.

On the other hand, you "might" also want to entertain people, be heard, share your music with the world. So you cannot ignore the other music in the world. And then you can take example on people who are successful or that you admire.

At the end, nothing is created, everything transform. So you have to get your inspiration from somewhere.

And theere is the balance, be yourself while being accessible.

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Re: Is it okay to compare your music to others?

Post by Cool Character » Mon Sep 05, 2011 8:36 pm

You don't necessarily have to fit in squarely with your contemporaries, but your music does have to speak a language the audience understands.

Put it like this, your music aesthetics tell people who you are and the music you like. If your music says "I don't like anything you like," it's essentially saying "I don't like anything about you." Or at best "we don't have anything in common." If you want your music to be a conversation with an audience, you have to either be responsive or reactive to something they expect or enjoy, but you can't just outright ignore them. And it might be worth exploring the idea that maybe you do dislike the people in the crowd. Maybe they are Wal-Mart shopping, McDonald's eating idiots, and maybe you don't identify with that.

Either way, you're an artist because you have some insight to offer people. Being able to respond to or react against certain trends does give you some latitude to express your own point of view, but I think you're on point with the idea that you should have some unique aspect at the core of your music. I'd really hate to see someone who values their personal sense of beauty become a slave to trends. And I don't think you have to do that to stay relevant as a musician.

Uh. I did have some reason for this rant.
Oh right. "Paying attention to your contemporaries" doesn't have to just mean "be like them."
You could show that you're listening by contrasting something they do, or mocking it, or obviously dancing around it. Or embracing it. Or only partially embracing.
But on some level if you want people to feel involved, you've got to involve them. That's all I'm saying.

One more thing. About how all of SoCal is on FlyLo.
Imagine if FlyLo himself had their consultative point of view. Imagine if he was just trying to be what's hot in LA.
This is art, and you gotta be true to yourself. And don't let anyone make you feel different.

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Re: Is it okay to compare your music to others?

Post by estevan carlos benson » Mon Sep 05, 2011 8:39 pm

tempus3r wrote:If you don't know what your contemporaries sound like, how do you know you don't already sound like them?
I would say it's only recently that I hear more of my contemporaries. My girlfriend plays a lot of their music. Tells me what she likes and doesn't. However, I was definitely in a ambiguous point for a while where I had no clue what anyone else was up to.
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estevan carlos benson
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Re: Is it okay to compare your music to others?

Post by estevan carlos benson » Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:35 pm

Cool Character wrote:You don't necessarily have to fit in squarely with your contemporaries, but your music does have to speak a language the audience understands.

Put it like this, your music aesthetics tell people who you are and the music you like. If your music says "I don't like anything you like," it's essentially saying "I don't like anything about you." Or at best "we don't have anything in common." If you want your music to be a conversation with an audience, you have to either be responsive or reactive to something they expect or enjoy, but you can't just outright ignore them. And it might be worth exploring the idea that maybe you do dislike the people in the crowd. Maybe they are Wal-Mart shopping, McDonald's eating idiots, and maybe you don't identify with that.

Either way, you're an artist because you have some insight to offer people. Being able to respond to or react against certain trends does give you some latitude to express your own point of view, but I think you're on point with the idea that you should have some unique aspect at the core of your music. I'd really hate to see someone who values their personal sense of beauty become a slave to trends. And I don't think you have to do that to stay relevant as a musician.

Uh. I did have some reason for this rant.
Oh right. "Paying attention to your contemporaries" doesn't have to just mean "be like them."
You could show that you're listening by contrasting something they do, or mocking it, or obviously dancing around it. Or embracing it. Or only partially embracing.
But on some level if you want people to feel involved, you've got to involve them. That's all I'm saying.

One more thing. About how all of SoCal is on FlyLo.
Imagine if FlyLo himself had their consultative point of view. Imagine if he was just trying to be what's hot in LA.
This is art, and you gotta be true to yourself. And don't let anyone make you feel different.
Yeah, I understand all your points. Valid points. I suppose the issue then becomes, who do we, as artists, want to have conversations with? If you're as unsocial as I am, it's a confusing question. I've been having conversations with myself for so long now... I'm just not sure who interested in listening to the topics I want to discuss.
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Re: Is it okay to compare your music to others?

Post by Angstrom » Mon Sep 05, 2011 10:23 pm

estevan carlos benson wrote:
Cool Character wrote:<snip> ( lots of valid points)
Yeah, I understand all your points. Valid points. I suppose the issue then becomes, who do we, as artists, want to have conversations with? If you're as unsocial as I am, it's a confusing question. I've been having conversations with myself for so long now... I'm just not sure who interested in listening to the topics I want to discuss.
I think that is definitely the problem.
there is an unfortunate truism that an artist must please themselves first in order to make valid art, but this flat statement fails to take into the account that musicians often love the process of music making.
If you are making music whose theme is 'the pleasure of solitary technological music making', then you should not be surprised with an audience of one. or at least, an audience of similar people.

I often find myself in social situations, usually clubs, where the music does not match I would want it to be. I usually think "I wish this music was dirtier, more expressive, more individual, more funky" (etc)
It is that imaginary music which I later try to reproduce. Music which fits a certain sitation.

It seems to go counter to the "make music for yourself" dictum, but really - this 'social' music is for yourself. It benefits your self if you make some music which is liked by people. especially if those people are hot young sleazy tattooed women.

Or perhaps that's just my motivation ;)

Try a thought experiment: imagine yourself in the best social situation you can, you've had a few drinks / whatever is your poison, and you are surrounded by your kind of people. This is a great night.
Some music is coming on, it is perfectly fitting to your mood: What is the music ?
Make that music.

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Re: Is it okay to compare your music to others?

Post by HorusProject » Mon Sep 05, 2011 10:43 pm

Angstrom wrote: Try a thought experiment: imagine yourself in the best social situation you can, you've had a few drinks / whatever is your poison, and you are surrounded by your kind of people. This is a great night.
Some music is coming on, it is perfectly fitting to your mood: What is the music ?
Make that music.
I like it! Great advice... gonna get my head into this space next time i sit to write some beats :D

thanks Angstrom this made a lot of sense!
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Re: Is it okay to compare your music to others?

Post by djpad » Mon Sep 05, 2011 10:57 pm

wow very good thread this is those topics I was thinking in the last months. And I like your advice Angstrom too :P
I'm the kind of artist which has something like a overproducing syndrome and a high tendency to experiment. During a certain period of time I had produced mostly only for myself without taking cares of contemporary artists the result was something really strange. But then the same questions you have came to my mind and I began to make more influenced/standard music because of the listening of music in the style I tend to produce that's it you can't avoid it. But you can always keep some distance to contemporary music and make something personal, like others says not too much if you want to make "social music" (even if you are unsocial, I'm like you on this point estevan carlos benson).
(For now the question I have in my mind is why I'm still producing tracks over and over, sharing every bit (I have more than 8 hours on my soundcloud...) and not really trying to make some business but this is another problem.)
And I think comparison is useful only if it not become something which consume all your energy

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Re: Is it okay to compare your music to others?

Post by distaudio » Mon Sep 05, 2011 11:14 pm

If you like the music you are making chances are there is going to be an audience for that.
Of course if you only listen to one type of music you are going to be heavily influenced by that and will no doubt make something that has already been done before.

There are lots of styles of music that I appreciated for particular elements. I may not like the songs of that genre as a whole but I might like specifically the sound design, the programming etc. If you draw influences from them you can definitely forge your own unique style (perhaps not genre) which people will relate to and enjoy.

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