Ben Folds: “You Can’t Make People Like You” And Other Advice To Aspiring Musicians

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On April 28, 2012 Ben Folds was on a flight to Boston when he decided to write some advice to aspiring musicians on his Facebook wall. Folds pokes fun at himself for being “immature” enough to try and give good advice on his Facebook wall while on a plane, but his wisdom is surprising insightful and genuine.

HereĀ are some of the highlights:

On the most important part of being a musician, and the part you should be the most concerned with:

“It may become important for you to be savvy about distribution and promotion, but it won’t do you any good if you’re not making music first…I do believe that if you’re not ready musically, the best opportunity in the world isn’t even an opportunity.”

Describing the long, awkward journey to “find your voice”:

“We have to learn that we have no control over who are we musically but we do have the choice to be that or to try and be some other motherf*cker. The latter is a lot of work.”

About proper music “technique”:

“Be schooled in form and technique as much as you can swallow and abandon it when you feel it’s nearly killed you. Know how people did it before you. Play covers and have respect for the mastery of what came before. It will make you suck for a while…you can expect to play and write like a goober for a while when digesting concepts. Then it sinks in and you come out of the haze, stronger with a broader palette, sharper pen and more confidence.”

Why you’re allowed to change musically:

“You’re not a politician, you’re an artist. We break artistic promises constantly because every moment is different and new and the job of the artist is to surf that. We change our minds. You’re allowed. David Bowie was allowed. Madonna was allowed. We are a profession of flip floppers. Ch-ch-ch change when you feel it.

“You can’t make people like you. You just can’t. You can’t make people who won’t understand your music, understand your music. Effort spent trying to win votes steals from energy needed for pure expression…Promotion is not about swaying people’s musical taste, or altering your music to fit a theoretical audience. It’s about taking the music you naturally make and finding its home.”

How to keep the artistic spirit alive after achieving some success:

“Be willing to release your audience and yourself. Don’t try actively to do evolve, just be willing. Some are going to like the way you did it yesterday but they can always relive the magic by listening to your old recordings. When you made those recordings you were likely discovering something in the process. Doing it again is the empty repetition void of discovery. Charting new territory often sounds more like the ‘old you’ simply because it has the element of discovery. The style may be quite different.”

On the artist being a symbol for others:

“An artist on any level is a symbol to people who will never know them personally. Human nature is to express who we are by sometimes exalting or trashing an artist. Being [a] symbol is a service so just appreciate that someone is working their little thing out somewhere by taking it out on the symbol that is you or your music crap. Punching bags probably keep people off meds.”

You can read the whole thing here.

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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