Soul vs Ego: Where is Our Music Coming From?

We see this a lot in todays music, the collective mindset of a competition to decide whose music is better than another’s. In a sense it’s always been this way but has it gone too far in a certain way in which music is not created from the soul but from the ego?

I myself can see the point in having favorite artists and discussing with other people why you favor certain artists more than others. I see no problem with this as long as it’s done in a sane manner.

But with so much emphasis now on record sales and youtube views and a whole gauntlet of other means of measuring “success” have artists and fans alike lost touch with the soul of music.

Is being considered a great musician more important than actually making great music?

These two things are not the same. One may have all the technical skill and marketability that is now required almost, yet they may only be concerned with record sales as apposed to the quality of the record.

I know music for the most part is subjective, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So it’s not that any particular genre of music is bad or anything, it’s that we are too caught up in the ‘success’ of the record and not the essence of the record.

It always boils down to where is the music coming from the majority of the time. I’m not saying don’t take into account your audience and what might make your music popular. I’m just saying that you want the majority of your sound to come more from the soul than the ego.

Some of us may be caught up in a vicious cycle that has artists catering to fans and fans catering to artists. A broad example can be an artists gets on with a major label and publishing company and with those kind of resources they plan on selling millions of records and making even more on the money side.

Well, an artist must produce material that will appeal to enough people to pull off those sales. Therefore, the artist is creating music that might not be from the soul but from an appeal to the masses way of creating. The fans in turn buy the music and the cycle is complete.

I know everyone knows this already but it gets back to my main point. Has competition replaced musical integrity, and does it trickle over even to parts of music that pride themselves on not being in the mainstream. The effect of this to me is a sad one.

Is it hard now for artists to really support other artists? Is it impossible for the fanbase of one act to support another when so much of it is seen as competition now?

My biggest question concerning this is: “What has all this done to music in general.”

If an artist has to dig deep within themselves to create meaningful music, but at the same time make music that can compete with the rest of the world, are we getting music that is conflicted?

As artists and fans of music have we become jaded?

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with making music that will reach the most amount of people. In fact I think it’s a great thing to want to influence as many as possible.

But are you doing it with your soul or ego?

I think artists should support other artists, and fans to do the same. If this was more of the attitude, I think we would see more heartfelt songs being made that might even surprise the artist themselves, if they feel they are not in competition to the level it’s gotten to.

  • lemgenovese

    Honing the craft of writing, arranging and recording is one thing. Being able to push one’s self to constantly improve in all facets of tuning, timing, tempo, technique and taste is a lifelong process. A very minute segment of the music community gets to a level of national recognition. Never confuse quality with commercial success. Sometimes they are compatible and sometimes it gets embarrassing.

  • NigelMusicNZ

    Hmmm. IMHO music needs to come from the heart and soul to have heart and soul – which is not to say that much airplay music has it. I recall an interview with Huey Lewis and the News where he said they spent years trying to be really popular and getting nowhere. Then they went back to just making the @@@@ kicking music they loved and ‘boom’ they found heaps of people who loved it too.

    On another point; My last album had a few lessons and one was that the track radio picked up and played most would not have been my pick as representative of the CD or my music, but it was the most up tempo and easily accessible.

  • I can’t create music from anywhere else but my heart and soul. If you can’t feel it, how can you create it? And i can’t make people like my creations either. It’s, like you say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think, like we do here, that supporting one another really helps with making us feel important. There is no competition here, but respect for what we all create irregardless of genre. I remember in the past when ego got in the way of so much. I’m glad that is no longer an issue with me,

  • Folkwood

    This is definitely an idea I’ve been sharing, for a few years, when I stopped being involved with band competitions.

    I believe ego is vital to creation, otherwise one wouldn’t be able to ‘say’ anything in the music one writes/performs. The term ‘ego’ has taken on a negative connotation, ‘bad ego’. But a good ego, in comparison, is when the ego is tempered by the soulful qualities of empathy, compassion, forgiveness and love. This is what is behind good music, in my opinion.

    Competition, can have good egos involved. With good egos involved, it’s more of an encouragement to be the best one can be, as opposed to being better than others. But because the soulful qualities are not well taught and shared with others, in most culture, today, competition is filled with bad egos, mostly.

    In art, competition is an even more delicate affair, because unlike more utilitarian products, art is a personal experience that is difficult to make broad statements of value on.

    In response to bad, or needlessly repetitive music, I like to see them like sweet food – okay to enjoy once in awhile, but there is not much nutrition in it. I don’t see them bad, in general. Continuing with the food analogy, the more deep the art of the song, the more nutritious it is. I like bubble gum, for awhile. Then I really crave some good veggies, and a bit of meat. 🙂

    And, not to confuse things, by adding another analogy, but when teens really like a simpler song, it’s the simplicity that they’re after. Children’s toys are things and ideas, broken down to very simple terms. A toy car has wheels and the basic shape of a car. It allows the young mind to grasp the basic concepts that are required to live and thrive, on this earth. As they get older, the toys get more complex; and ultimately become actual useful, productive items.

    Children’s songs are simple, teen songs begin to introduce a bit of emotion, such as ‘I like her’, Or ‘I feel confused’, or simple emotions of ability, ‘I can do this well.’ Then, as an adult, music becomes complex mixtures of emotion and philosophical meanings, as experiences begin to show much deeper, complex understandings.

    In the past, recorded and live music was primarily for adults. So the quality was deeper, and more soulful. Then it became more available, and they were able to access older teens interests. A little simpler, but still a bit of depth. But as the advent of access to young teens became more available, and the buyers market of our cultures encouraged young teens and kids to beg their parents to supply their musical tastes, sugary pop gained a bigger support. Simple, repetitive music.

    Adults making teen music, can skew the nature of these songs. Especially with the advent of adults not having in-depth understandings of the nature and spirit of life, crassness and vulgarity slowly crept into teen music. This, in particular, is what I distaste in pop music. Not really the music, itself.

    You have all kinds of music out there. There are an endless amount of all types, it seems, but the ease of teens to spend a lot of time on music (and adults are busy working and exploring many facets of life, not just music), their tastes kind of dominate the market.

    I find endless, really good music on soundcloud, earbits, twitter, specialty radio, etc. It’s not dead. It’s just buried a little deeper, and requires a little more effort to discover.

    As a side note: more adults should be willing to support these artists, because it is the adults that need to put their money where their musical tastes are.

    • Loved your comment, specially your take on ego. Much great art was created from a feeling of competition, such as between the Beatles and the Beach Boys, and even between the beatles themselves (specially, of course, Lennon and McCartney).

      It’s also undeniable how infantilized as a global culture we are, so much so that it’s hard not to agree with Craig Ferguson when he said it was totally deliberate. But still, there are plenty of people who long for something deeper – and, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with some bubble gum for a while, as you beautifully said. But if that’s all there is, the tendency is that we’ll worry about trivialities most of the time.

      • Folkwood

        Thank you. It is deliberate, because it takes less effort, and brings in more money to offer less, yet still sell more. excellent observation! 🙂

  • JJ, I think that there ARE many heartfelt songs being written, and some are being recorded. But the singing competitions like Idol and Voice focus only on the performance, and radio airplay focuses only on songs that are so shallow you can “get” them in the first thirty seconds and so repetitive that they get stuck in your head after the first minute. Songs that would rip your heart out and got great airplay 30+ years ago won’t even get on the radio today, because 12-year olds don’t “get them” on the first hearing. But they’re still being written. Some are being played on NPR affiliate stations and maybe even finding their way to Roundhouse or other tiny distribution channels. Maybe internet channels willing to play independently-recorded, well-written songs will surface eventually?