Five New Year’s Resolutions That Are Actually Worth a Damn
We’re now entering that time of year where we’re expected to reflect on the year that’s ended and focus on how to better ourselves in the coming year. This is mostly done to attempt to make ourselves feel like we’re atoning for however we fucked up our lives previously, and to delude ourselves that a change in numbers will somehow give us absolution — a clean slate.
Resolutions vary from person to person, but generally they’re lofty goals, like losing 30 pounds by Lee-Jackson Day (which is a real thing I’ve learned since moving south) or ceasing one's drinking or drug use, or resisting the urge to wave a dick at a school bus — that sort of thing. And this shit is generally forgotten and broken by the second week of January, because instead of using moderation to enact life changes, people tend to go for broke and end up, well, breaking. You could start by just eating better and exercising, switching from cocaine to a cheaper alternative, like crack, and wearing your pants backwards, so it’s difficult to get them down in time — but it’s your life.
What does this have to do with music? Resolutions are meant to help curb bad behavior, and musicians are notorious ne’er-do-wells who sometimes need some guidance. So, in the spirit of the season, I’ve decided to jot down some resolutions that bands should consider in order to help them embrace 2017 and make the most of what is probably the last few months of American history.
1) Stop spamming your social media “friends” with your band page
Social media has enabled people to reach out and connect with other like-minded people floating around the world. It helps people expose others to their art, writing and music. It’s a wonderful concept. It’s also a self-centered, prick-waving contest, because we can’t have anything nice. People are so intensely concentrated on trying to get people to dig whatever they’re doing that they forget basic rules of social interaction. It’s not a crime to invite people to like your music pages, much like masturbation is not a crime. But if you send repeated requests, or you message people asking them to check out your music, you’re basically jerking off in public. Double deduction if you send strangers friend requests, then sit and wait for them to accept so you can send a request to them without even introducing yourself. It’s obnoxious, and I don’t know anyone who actually goes to check out someone’s music because they got hit with a “like” request 15 seconds into a new online relationship. For me, personally, I will actively go out of my way NOT to listen to your music under any circumstance that my own free will allows. It’s annoying and ego-feeding; knock that shit off in 2017. “Likes” are worthless, anyway, if people don’t actually care about what you’re doing.
2) Stop oversharing
Look, I would never discourage anyone from making a go at something creative, even if the results turn out like an epileptic beaver at a logjam rave (I’ll take my Arts & Letters certificate now, thanks), but there are those out there who never learned self-control and find the need to share every note they work on, regardless of quality, or if it’s even close to being ready to come out of the oven. The amount of bandwidth wasted on YouTube from people posting 30-second videos of some guitar idea they had borders on a national emergency. Not every moment of your creative life needs to be publicly documented. On the off chance that someone besides your parents are actually interested, you’re diminishing those returns, because by the time you actually create a finished product, there’s not going to nearly be as much interest, because you’ve oversaturated them. There’s something to be said about creating anticipation through withholding; old couples do that shit all the time. George Carlin had a line that I think is applicable here: “Not every ejaculation deserves a name.”
3) Stop overcharging
I saw some “neofolk” project on Bandcamp that had a digital download of their demo for $8. A demo. A FUCKING DEMO. There was no corresponding physical release with it. I later saw the same artist complaining that they were broke and no one was buying their digital download. This display of critical thinking isn’t uncommon; there’s plenty of bands out there selling high and complaining low. I know being in a band is expensive and every bit of income helps, but — especially if you’re just starting out — if you’re interested in spreading your music, maybe dial the greed aspect back a bit. It’s a poor look. And speaking of delusional ambitions ...
4) Stop asking people to fund your lifestyle
Unless your father is Joe Jackson, no one is forcing you into a life of music. And if you’re truly dedicated to music because you love to create and express yourself, you should also have been introduced to the reality that doing what you love doesn’t always work out, and most of the time will not pay the bills. While I appreciate the concept of crowdsourcing in order to help finish recording a record, I think the idea of trying to have your fans pay for your tours beyond whatever shitty deal the agent you already pay too much has secured for you is the very definition of suspended adolescence. Art requires sacrifice, and I don’t mean putting yourself on the fucking cross, so much as the very real understanding that sometimes things don’t work out, and you may need to restructure how you’re doing things. Resolve to build this yourself and be self-reliant, or fuck off in 2017.
5) Stop masking capitalism as activism
This is a slippery one, so please read it carefully before you tell me what an asshole I am, okay? Thanks. Okay, so we’re obviously in a very volatile climate these days because the world seems to be getting shittier every time we make the mistake of getting out of bed. And there’s a lot of musicians out there who use times such as these to express their points of view on politics and social issues. This is as old as music itself, and, regardless of your taste for it, is not going to go anywhere anytime soon. During turbulent times, you’ll see bands attach themselves to activist causes and imagery. Why is this bad? On the surface, it’s not, but you need to dig a bit deeper. How many bands who use anti-Trump imagery are donating the proceeds of this suspiciously timely merchandising trend to charities that defend ideas and rights that Trump is probably going to try to take away? And how many are just doing it because it’s going to sell a lot of shirts and patches? The perception of nobility is a sham if it’s only going towards self-enrichment. By the same token, bands should also resolve to stop breaking their arms jerking each other off because they’re donating towards good causes. That shit reeks of asking for a gold star, and is profiting from charity just as much as the capitalists I mentioned earlier — albeit in an entirely different way. Make a difference to make a difference, not to be lauded for it.
I’m sure I could come up with more, but like I said earlier, the best way to keep resolutions is to give yourself attainable goals. Myself, I always resolve to read more every year and make less cheap phallic jokes when I write so that I have at least a 50 percent success ratio. And like those resolutions you stick to and actually see positive change from, these are some simple ideas, which — if you follow through — could yield some rewards in your artistic life. You might even be perceived as less of a shallow and self-centered asshole. And that opens up your world to infinite new possibilities to fuck up and have people hate you, but at least they’ll be for new reasons, and life is an adventure. Happy New Year!