The Start of Something Good

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with social media, Twitter especially. Using it as a way to get news updates and keep an eye on topics I’m interested in was appealing to me. Using it to communicate and interact with others? Not so much. You could say I was a lot more invested in the “media” side of “social media”.

When I started making vocal synth music, it was as a fun, new project. I had never written lyrics before in my life, but I wanted to try. So I bought a copy of the Synthesizer V Editor and made a little song. It was fun! I enjoyed it immensely and wanted to do it again, so I kept at it. After I finished another song, I decided to put them on YouTube. I thought it would be a good way for more people to find my music, but having fun and trying new things was still my main goal.

Things Begin To Change

However, that started to change once the Miku Expo Song Contest was announced. I knew my chances of winning were next to zero, but it would be a good chance to finally use Hatsune Miku in a song for the first time. As expected, my song was not the winner. But to my surprise, it got a lot of positive feedback, more than any of my songs had ever received. My attempts to get involved in the online vocal synth community grew. More tweets were written and more forum threads were read. I was seeing what other people were doing, and it was amazing!

While following others on social media was helping my music’s reach, I think it also planted a seed that’s affected me in a negative way. A few days after releasing “Maybe” to the world, I noticed how poorly it was doing compared to my other songs. Looking at it now, I think there are a number of reasons, but back then I wasn’t sure. Unfortunately, I let it eat at me more than I should’ve. My focus went from “What can I do next to make my songs better?” to “What can I do next to get more views?”. How far this gradual shift in mindset took me is clear when I think of the process behind making “Sirius”. I remember being very proud of the song while working on it, especially since I was using two popular, well-known voices. I remember feeling so excited when Amelia finished the fantastic artwork. I remember thinking it would be the song that would put me on the map.

It only got worse once I started working on “Trojan Horses”. That song was originally going to be the lead track on a 4-song EP, which would be available on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Monetizing my music was something that I wrestled with for weeks, unsure if I wanted to go through the hassle. In the end, I thought if I wanted to grow my audience, I should do bigger projects and get them out to as many people as possible. The EDM-style of that song was chosen almost no other reason other than that’s what everyone else was doing. I switched the song’s vocalist to Hatsune Miku because of her fame (it was originally going to be someone else). While the 4-track EP was scrapped in favor of releasing each song individually, I told myself everything else was worth it. I could almost see my subscriber count skyrocketing.

None of those things happened.

After Trojan Horses was released, I was completely burned out on music production. Both my physical and mental health were suffering. The indicator of my own self-worth had become my YouTube subscriber count. Every time I opened the Internet, my brain interpreted what I saw as “You’re not good enough.” Instead of being happy for my fellow producers being recognized, I was just jealous of them, wondering why it wasn’t me. All the while, I had lost sight of why I started doing this in the first place: because it was fun. Once it was about gaining a following (and trying to monetize the content), it wasn’t fun anymore. It felt like a job that I thought about constantly. Finally, it reached a point where I thought about deleting my YouTube channel entirely, so I wouldn’t have to think about it anymore.

Getting Back To Where I Started

Instead of taking the nuclear option, I took a break. I logged out of Twitter and told myself I would only log in to share something when it was finished. I dropped out of a community project I had been involved in. I left all the vocal synth Discords I had previously joined. Trojan Horses was pulled from streaming services. I left it all behind to refocus, and the impact has been tremendous. My health has improved, both physically and mentally. Stepping back from everything has reminded me of what I’ve really been able to accomplish. It’s not about the numbers. It’s about making something you enjoy, and if other people enjoy it too, that’s just a bonus. (I had other reasons for leaving, too, but I don’t want to go into any detail here.)

There’s been a lot of talk about how social media sites are engineered to addict you, and personally speaking, I believe it. I have seen that effect on myself. There were days where I would open Twitter over and over again, hoping to see that notification icon. I had the YouTube dashboard open constantly, begging the subscriber number to be bigger than it was last time I checked it. It was all very unhealthy, and for me, the best cure was to quit. I wouldn’t be surprised if I come back to making music later, because I know how much fun it can be when you aren’t expecting yourself to be the next great producer. Social media, though, doesn’t give enough benefit to me anymore. There’s still a lot of improvement to be made, but I think I’m slowly getting there.