Why your YouTube community might just be your greatest artistic muse
Nov 14, 2022 – minute read
Nov 14, 2022 – minute read
Everyone has heard of a “sell out.” It’s a cliché across many industries, and a term I’ve heard used quite frequently with regards to music. It means writing music not for the sake of the art itself, but rather for mass or commercial appeal. And because it’s intended to make money, it’s shunned upon by many people who consider themselves to be “true artists.” Those who hang onto the most honest expression of their craft — even at the cost of their own comfort and livelihood — are often lauded for this commitment after they pass (the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach, songwriter Elliot Smith, and artist Vincent Van Gogh come to mind, among so many others).
In fact, I’d be willing to bet that if you’re an artist, you’ve wrestled with this question: How much of your artistic “pride” or honesty are you willing to sacrifice to increase your chances of making more money or achieving fame? I’ve asked myself that question many, many times, and even created music with that very goal in mind. That question can nag at us, influencing us to make changes to our art for the wrong reasons.
How much of your artistic 'pride' or honesty are you willing to sacrifice to increase your chances of making more money or achieving fame?”
Although individual artists have much more power and agency over their careers in today’s modern industry than they have arguably ever have had before, there are undeniable walls that we come up against, incentives that drive us to play, produce, write, draw and just generally create art that fits the mold most likely to be successful. The only real difference from the musical standpoint is now, instead of focusing primarily on selling records, musicians are creating songs to best fit the mold of a large playlist or please an algorithm that favors very specific user behaviors— like a shocking hook or a viral factor, as opposed to a subtle expression of genuine emotion.
Now, I’m not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing —I certainly don’t have the authority to make such a judgment. I’m not even against “selling out” in principle. My point is, pleasing an algorithm is in many ways the modern equivalent of selling out— i.e., letting our music’s character be informed by its algorithmic viability.
Thankfully, if you’re a YouTube creator, there’s a good chance that you have the complete freedom and luxury of deciding what type of art you’d like to create without having to feel pressured to cater it to social media or streaming algorithms and playlists.
Because as YouTube creators, we get to connect directly to our community, building real relationships, trust and even friendships. We get to do it with potentially thousands or even millions of people all across the world.
If you have earned the trust and gratitude of your community by providing them with value, they will support your artistic endeavors, giving you the freedom to freely express yourself without being afraid that no one will like the result.
Because YouTube has provided a platform for fostering a community that already knows and trusts you for your consistent dedication to good content— people will support you, your art and your endeavors. For me, knowing I have this wonderful community of like-minded people takes off all the pressures that used to stop me from being creative: the pressure of making something others will like, something that will fit the mold of a playlist or shock someone into consuming my content, something that will be blog-worthy or attention-grabbing. That community is something that can never be replaced by having your songs being part of a widespread playlist or a trending internet challenge.
I’m also not ashamed to admit that I very quickly ran out of video ideas that I could just pull out of thin air. I’m willing to bet most creators can relate. So, I had to start learning and constantly improving myself in order to teach others.
As I release my first single (TODAY!) off of my long-time-a-coming debut album Dream Cycles, I find it fascinating to contemplate just how much my YouTube career has directly influenced my music for the better. Teaching about other composers and pianists has been one of the best educations of my life. I’m always learning so that I can teach others, and in teaching others, I craft my own understanding of creativity.
Many of my compositional choices are a result of the inspiration I have gathered through internalizing other composers’ styles in order to teach them to my YouTube audience.
But it’s also more than that —
The entire aesthetic of my album is deeply influenced by the very pianists, composers and musical topics that I have studied, listened to and researched for my audience!
Instead of catering my music to others, my music has become an honest reflection of my own expression with my community’s tastes. In a strange but tangible way, because this album is a direct product of my entire community, I’d inadvertently catered to them naturally and unconsciously.
What I’m trying to impart here is that your YouTube community can easily become so much more than you could ever imagine — they might (or probably will) have an undeniable effect on your own creativity and therefore your life. So if you’re going to sell out, sell out to the people that matter— the ones who are already there for you, loving your content.
Value them as they value you.