• Thomas Plater

Musical Perfection and Social Media Post #2

Welcome to Post #2! I'm definitely going to attempt to write one of these every week now, but I don't want to write for the sake of writing a blog, I figure if I'm going to write about a topic, I should have a different or passionate view on it, otherwise there seems to be no point to writing about it.

That said, this week I struggled with a topic until yesterday, when I was in the recording studio, recording a new work by Graham Fitkin called Wiring, which you can see below, plug plug plug... (This actually fits quite nicely into a topic I'm going to cover slightly later, so stay tuned for that.)

As the recording was for some competitions, it had to be a single take and herein lies the problem. I'm a perfectionist, and that video isn't perfect. Sure it's about 95%~ there, and I'm proud of being able to get that close, but in the few dropped high E's and the one passage that didn't quite work out I have a sense of deflation about the whole thing....

In this world we're bombarded by perfection all around us. In magazines and other literature and on social media everything is perfect, from the perfect looking people, to the perfectly sounding music videos, to the person who took that one perfect photo. This takes a grand toll on a creative persons mental health, and all of the above creates a false impression.

The person who took that one photo actually took 100 photos to find the one, the perfect sounding 5 minute music video was edited to the teeth, and the person behind it took a whole day to record it, and the perfect looking people spent more time on photoshop than I took to write this post. But it doesn't matter, because the public don't see that, they only see the end product and this is creating a crisis.

The crisis is as such, to become a successful entrepreneurial musician in this day and age, you need to have a handle on social media, otherwise you will not "make it" as a freelancer. Social Media is a fantastic too, as you can put up videos and promotion to the whole world, and create an audience much wider than any generation of musicians has been able to before, but it comes with a catch:

You see everything that everyone else is doing too.

As we said above, people are unlikely to market things on social media that they are not happy with, and so you only ever see the best things that people are doing, and the most exciting things that are happening in their lives (and I am absolutely at fault to blame for this as well.) This again perpetuates the idea of the perfect musician who is doing all the best gigs, and having the time of their life, which for the most part just isn't true. Everyone is doing jobs they're not particularly happy with to make ends meet, and maybe you didn't do as well as you wanted to in that competition or performance... were all human and it happens that even the 'best' players of their instrument have off-days, but you never see it.

This in turn creates a mental-health crisis among students, as they see these musicians on Social Media and are led to believe that is the perfect life, and if they achieve anything less then they are a failure. This is perpetuated to a large extent by the Conservatoire establishment too. Very rarely will you see a Conservatoire promoting an Alumni outside of high-level performance or Composition. There are those that run successful business, do amazing work in Music Therapy, or become fantastic teachers. But these people do not matter in the slightest as the idea of the Conservatoire (and it's mythical foundation) is based on producing the highest level performers (even though that is not the case for the majority of the people who go there). And whilst it's good to have that dream, if and when you realise that dream is not for you, then you are on your own, with limited careers advice and help, because immediately your story runs against the narrative.

So what's the fix? A pessimist would tell you there isn't one, that the sector is too set in it's ways, but I think I'd disagree with that assessment. Whilst it needs to get much better, the amount of support available at institutions like these for Careers Advice and Mental Health is always on the rise and they are becoming much more attuned to the modern world. However, treating the symptoms is only a short-term fix, and until Conservatoires begin to actively promote alumni in other musical fields, as well as high-level performance and composition- I really can't see a change being meaningful, or benefitting the thousands of students who will make their way through the system over the next 10 years in any way, shape or form.

We shall see.

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