While revisiting this Steve Albini “ask me anything” Reddit thread, I came across a GREAT back-and-forth between him and J Mark Inman, a guy who sang a terrible version of Radiohead’s “Creep” on X-Factor.
Inman doesn’t beat around the bush — he starts out asking Albini if he’ll produce his next record and help him get signed and mentions he was that guy on X-Factor. Albini’s response:
I’m not going to listen to that. By telling me you were on X Factor you’ve outed yourself as a vain douchebag who wanted to leapfrog into showbusiness stardom, and there’s nothing I can do to help you in that regard. Continue singing in front of your mirror holding a hairbrush with my best wishes for continued success.
That would be enough to shut me up forever, but Inman says that Albini doesn’t know him and how hard he’s worked, to which Albini responds (all emphasis mine):
I was being rude but your grasping aspirations are an affront to the millions of dedicated musicians who ply their art without crying about it. You tried a shortcut and it didn’t work. They rarely do. Now you get to have the selfsame experience you tried to avoid, that being building a following by actually working on your music, then putting yourself in front of audiences and performing. You say you have no industry support. Boo hoo. Neither does anybody else. There’s no industry.
Do what everybody else does, get a job and work on your music in your spare time. Work on music you’re passionate about and want to make for its own sake. If your music resonates with other people then your music will eventually earn you something, but if not you’re still doing something you enjoy.
Singing is like dancing or playing chess or fishing or tennis. If you love it you’ll feel rewarded just by the act of doing it, and bully for you. That’s an awesome thing, to do something you love. But in all those enterprises only a vanishingly small number of people ever get to do them professionally, and if that’s the only way you can appreciate music then you’re not a musician, you’re a wannabe fantasy case and you need to get out.
Inman still won’t given up — he goes into a lengthy explanation of his history and claims that his trouble is that he doesn’t have “connections.” Albini:
Connections don’t mean shit. I’ve never had any connections that weren’t a natural outgrowth of doing things I was doing anyway. Additionally, the people you might make connections with who work in the industry and value connections themselves, all those people are clueless assholes with no clout anyhow. You can tell because they think they can get somewhere with connections and spend their energy trying to make connections rather than being good at things, and being good at things is the only thing that earns you clout or connections.
It’s a myth that you can get anywhere in music through connections. The guy on the other end of the connection has to be into what you’re doing, and if you’re doing it publicly and he’s receptive, he probably hears about it on his own.
Don’t worry about anything but making music you like. Everything else is bullshit.
Inman continues, and finally, Alibi responds:
Oh for fuck’s sake. I give up.
And there you have it — so many times in these situations aspiring artists are looking for some kind of magic formula or secret handshake for success, and the truth is what they know, but don’t want to believe: you’re just not good enough yet. You still need to work and work and work, and even then, you still might not be good enough.
cf. Steve Martin, Trent Reznor