THE TEMPTATION PARADOX
(My thoughts on the faustian music industry)
During one of my many walks through the woods, the new habitat where I have found my tranquility, I’ve been letting my thoughts run loose on the bizarre concept of the music industry, and their destructive mechanisms I refer to as ‘The Temptation Paradox’. If you take an objective look at the music industry you can’t deny how incredibly toxic and self-destructive it actually is and always has been. An industry I was part of for nearly two decades and can say from first hand experience how incredibly damaging it has been physically and mentally if you fall prey to the tricksters game.
There is therefore a reason I am referring to Faust in the sub title of this blog post, as everything in the music industry does indeed fall back to that wonderful cliché… ‘selling your soul to the devil’.
The Faustian bargain lies at the core of the music industry, a feeding mechanism for egoism and narcissism, and easy prey to the immature and to the ones prone to temptations. Fame, wealth and glory are in most cases the first lurings from this faustian calling, with false promises of success, excesses of hedonism and a lifestyle that sucks away your energy like the greatest of vampires. A lot of work for no pay with little guarantees of success or security, and a minimum chance of longstanding (financial and/or creative) stability.
One wonders then why it remains such an attractive industry for so many, while in any other situation this would be seen as a completely unhealthy and dysfunctional system, let alone a complete waste of time and energy to even invest a day into. And this… is where the Faustian bargain comes into play… revealing a psychological dynamic in the form of a little devil on our shoulder that whispers pots of gold at the end of rainbows, awaiting, down a path of (self) destruction, which obviously is conveniently left out of his magnificent proposal.
Rock ’n Roll : The first toxic dynamic is that of the relationship between the artist and his fan(s). The fan feeds the artist with an unhealthy diet of narcissism, which becomes a catalyser for the artist’s ego, nourishing the darker side of the psyche. In return the artist provides the fan the fantasy of the rockstar life, a reason for admiration and look up to someone or something they will never be able to manifest, thus also creating an subconscious sense of envy and jealousy which simultaneously acknowledges their own (creative) limitations. The fan watches from afar at the thing they will never be able to achieve, although enabling the fan to mirror and admire the artist in the safety of anonymity and away from the toxic temptations. Because these are the established safety boundaries for the fan, their limitations are also their protection to the self destructive dynamics which are part of the artists domain. And for some strange reason fans can develop a weird sadistic pleasure of seeing artists suffer when they fall off their pedestal, or on the flip side of the coin the fan is able to express an immense level of empathy and compassion towards someone they greatly admire, seemingly never having met them in real life, nor of which they know any their potential dark or hidden secrets.
Sex : The groupy phenomenon is the sexually charged extension of the toxic artist/fan dynamic. I see these dynamics having dualistic properties, where the artist can acquire or exploit a more sexually charged symbiosis with the fan, and where the fan/groupy manages to reach a much more intimate (physical) contact and exchange with the artist they so admire. A toxic win/win so to say.
Speaking as an artist I think you can split the artist/groupy dynamic into more or less two categories: The artists that ‘fill the hole’ and the ones that ‘fill the void’. The first category sounding somewhat crude, is meant to sound that way as it symbolises that particular artist that needs to feed their sexual and egocentric cravings. There are surely underlying issues and traumas regarding lack of self esteem and related psychological issues part of this particular artists psyche. The other are the artists who participate in these specific sexual dynamics in order to fill an emptiness they already have inside of them. To mask feelings of loneliness, depression and solitude. A short fix of a sexual exchange to camouflage their own ongoing suffering.
The groupy, in general, is hungry for recognition and attention from the artist and for this is willing and prepared to exchange these for sexual interactions. For the groupy it can inflate their ego and boost their status if they have one night stands to brag about to their peers, shallow as this sounds. it is also clear that the groupies have their own underlying psychological issues and trauma, usually low self-esteem, abandonment and are seeking surrogate forms of love and praise. In both cases the symbiosis is a hollow one, and can and does, in many cases lead to advantages being taken. It’s interesting how the artist/groupy dynamic has evolved in these new times, the #metoo era has made the artist/groupy dynamic change drastically and many a past artist would not have continued their career if todays standards would be implemented on the past eras.
My opinion regarding these dynamics are in most cases toxic, the temptations come from both sides and different angles, feeding the destructive mechanism of the music industry, in this case with physical and mental repercussions.
Drugs : Self-destruction is an inherent result for many artists who pursue the lifestyle that tears down your physical and mental reserves. In my case I found my escape in drugs, to a point where the combination of alcohol and drugs became a necessary mix in order for me to perform and push me through the misery of the lifestyle of the performing artist. Gradually realising that this lethal cocktail was affecting my mental and physical being.
Not only are the chemicals toxic to your body, the over usage of hard drugs also strongly affects your mental state; increasing unreliability, egocentricity, concentration, discipline, etc. That obviously will also have a toll on your physical capacities, creating a spiralling dynamic breaking down your personal foundations.
I have nonetheless had some incredibly memorable Bukowski-esque times which I will savour forever, and even the incredible downs that came with the towering peaks have been part of a journey I would never ever change if I could. As in life, some or most of us, need to go through certain storms in order to realise how we sail best through the calm waters to come.
To conclude, these thoughts are why is see this toxic environment of the music industry as a ‘Temptation Paradox’. At first glance the temptations that are offered are that of great success, creative acknowledgement, fame and fortune and fans admiring your persona… but the real temptations are those Faustian bargains that follow once you have taken that particular path past the crossroad to the many toxic dynamics leading to mental and/or physical harm.
I find strange that after decades of the music industry being an integral part of our culture there is so little information or guidance provided to (young) beginning artists regarding the dangers that lie on the path ahead. There are many tips found on how to manoeuvre through issues regarding contracts, labels and performing, but finding some on a safe and healthy career are very hard to find. Let's hope that these issues get some more attention in the future.
One institution that I found regarding this topic can be found here :
For if you know someone who could use some help or support.