In some ways, this is the classic "I don't care about popularity, I'm an artist" post that you always see. In a lot of ways, though, it isn't.
I'm practical. Popularity matters. I want to BE an artist, and to do that to the fullest extent, I have to be able to live off of my craft. So, in that respect, play numbers are important. They help with label deals, they help with collaborations; they pay out at a few different levels.
I feel that I am on the opposite end of the stereotypical complaints that come from starving hipster artists (many of whom are incredible and are right in their indignation) and a complaint that I myself have voiced in the past.
"'Bad' songs oftentimes get more exposure than 'great' songs simply because of luck/marketing/fanbases/public ignorance/etc."
Navigator (my debut single that I put out alongside MOONZz & Opia) is doing relatively well on Spotify: nearly 2.5 million streams at the time of this writing, and that's only a few months after the initial release.
I'll be the first to admit: a lot of this has to do with luck. We got solid playlisting from the crew at Spotify, and people seemed to respond well to the track, so the playlisting continued. In this day and age, that's how you rack up huge streaming numbers on platforms like Spotify, and that's how we did it with Navigator. SoundCloud, in comparison, has us sitting at only a little bit over 100k.
It all feels rather empty.
Some of my favorite songs of all time? They've got fewer plays. Some have less than half, others have one tenth or less.
In my own opinion, Navigator is worse than these songs.
So why don't I care about play numbers anymore? Easy: since songs that are better than Navigator exist with fewer plays, my improvement will not necessarily lead to increased success in the quantitative realm of streaming. And my goal isn't to get more streams, my goal is to improve. To become the artist that I can see myself becoming.
Navigator is a good song, and Molly/Cole/DJ (MOONZz/Opia) did excellent work on it. That isn't what this is about. This isn't even about Navigator. This is about me creating music that encompasses everything I am and putting that out into the world.
Spotify has Bon Iver pegged at 394th in the world right now. Why would I bet that he can outsell at least half of those other artists on a headlining tour? Because Bon Iver is authentic. He's genuine. He tells a story and creates music with DEPTH. People don't passively listen to Bon Iver; people engage and dive into the world that he creates. He's one of a kind.
SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Music, etc. (i.e. the internet) have created the phenomenon of "fake hits" (not my term, so don't quote me). Artists are getting millions of streams and then flopping on tours. For me, that means one thing: take the focus off of the numbers and put it back on the music. The story. The experience. That resonates with people on a deeper level than a catchy tune or a well-made beat (both things that can and should be integrated into the larger picture, but that should not attempt to stand alone).
Everything that comes next is on a spectrum of progression: each piece of music under the Restless Modern name is getting closer and closer to representing who I am and what I want to make. I've always produced my own stuff, but now I'm writing it. I'm singing it. I'm living it. That's always been the goal, but it takes time.
I've always believed that you shouldn't care about an artist's music simply because they care about it. Artists write posts explaining how much a song means to them or how much effort they have put into making it. At the end of the day, the song finds much of its value in how you as a listener invest into it emotionally.
I do, however, believe this: the more that an artist puts into a work, the more the listener can put into it.
And I'm doing my best to create those pieces of content; songs that you can latch emotions onto and reference for years to come. I might not be there yet, but I'm working on it.
And I'm closer than ever.