Music As One or As A Group

So far we’ve covered various genres, finding your creative source, differences between an agent and a manager, and creating an image for yourself as an artist. The topic I’ve chosen for this article is a tricky one, and it’s one that should be addressed earlier instead of later.

Can You Do This Alone?

There have been so many great musical acts throughout the years, from boy bands to pairs to rock bands. Simon & Garfunkel, 98 Degrees, Hall & Oates, The Temptations, Queen, The Beach Boys, U2, The Supremes, Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC are just a few of the most famous, chart-topping bands.

Though people often talk about how quickly groups like this can fall apart or disband, there are many examples of groups that have stayed together and remained successful throughout their careers.

Even if some of the groups I’ve listed above haven’t stayed together (I’m looking at you, *NYSNC), reunion tours or performances are a great way to relive the glory days without committing to another five to ten years as a band. It doesn’t have to be a life-long commitment, like marriage, but it should be taken just as seriously.

Just like relationship commitments, you shouldn’t rush into anything you’re not ready for. You should know your bandmates well enough to write, create, and perform with them. They should be people you are comfortable with, since beginning bands have to spend a lot of quality time with one another on the road and in recording studios. 

Two’s (or Three’s) a Crowd

Perhaps you’re not someone who works well with others. Or maybe you just don’t want to spend all your free time sharing the spotlight. You can pull a Beyoncé, split from your group of three (Destiny’s Child) and become 1000 times more successful as a solo artist. Or you can start off by yourself from the very beginning.

However working alone does not mean you will work entirely alone. With musicians, there are producers, co-writers, agents, managers (some of these should look familiar), etc. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase: “It takes a village.” The same can be said of musicians, solo artists or group artists.

Of course, there is a happy medium for those of you who work better alone, but enjoy occasional teamwork with other artists. Artists like Macklemore produce a large percentage of their own work, but every so often they’ll release a song where they’ve teamed up with an artist or two to produce a collaboration of sounds.

Collaboration is key to being an artist. Without it, we would not to be encouraged, challenged, or inspired by someone besides our own inner artists. When considering our own work, we artists tend to overthink, overanalyze, and pick apart. We’ll try too hard to come up with new ideas and eventually end up forcing a project for the sake of getting it done. That is why we need other people to encourage us and inspire us, and when we should just take a step back from the task.

Sometimes, you gain the best creative inspiration from someone who is not an artist. Most of the time, you’ll find your inspiration exists in the world around you. Collaboration doesn’t have to be just with other artists or other people. Collaboration means being willing to work with whatever and whoever. Sometimes that means paying attention to our surroundings and finding the art there.

Art is not something that can be forced, or on a time table because that’s just now how art works. A common misconception about art is that a painter will spend hours staring at his canvas until inspiration strikes or a musician will strum the same three chords until the sound inspires him to create a unique combination of his own. In some cases, sure. But that’s not how it works for everyone.

I prefer to go about my daily routine: hang out with my friends, call my mom, clean my room, eat dinner, go for a walk, etc. Inspiration will find me no matter where I am, and it can come from almost any source. A phone call, the local laundromat, the sound of running water, a story my friend told me, 

All of that to say: as an artist, you cannot isolate yourself. When you’re an artist, you’ll notice the extraordinary in the most ordinary circumstances. That is where inspiration will be. You’ll see beauty where others see filth. That is where your inspiration will be. You’ll hear a new tune where people just hear the wind rustling the leaves on a tree. That is where your inspiration will be. If you locked yourself up in your room to stare at your wall until a new idea appeared, you would not grow up and develop as an artist. But most importantly, you would not create. Sure, most of an artist’s creativity comes from their own mind and they are inspired by their own thoughts. But if you’re not feeding or stimulating that source by getting fresh air, meeting with your loved ones, or exposing yourself to other art, then eventually those ideas will stop coming and your resources will have dried up and run out.

That is why we should depend on collaboration as artists. Without, we cannot create, we cannot grow, and we cannot develop as artists and as people.

So surround yourself with people you love, who care about you, and who love you, too. Walk to the local coffee shop, buy a newspaper, smile at someone new, and go to the local art exhibit. Allow yourself to just be, and that’s when the ideas will come and the creativity will flow.

Now that I’ve thoroughly ranted about being an artist and what that means to me, I’ll wrap this up. I’m sure you’re thinking: “What should I take away from this rant?”

Figure out if you’re someone who should be a part of a group or not. If you want to be a part of a group, find those people and learn how to trust them and create with them. If you want to go at it alone, know that you will still have to work with other artists. The last thing to take away from this article is: collaboration is key if you’re an artist.