The MakeMusic Blog is a place for all new related to the development and growth of Juxtapus Muse, which is an intelligent music production app. This blog’s regular contributors are Thoko and Clara.
I’ve been making music for two decades. Most of that music was made in bedroom where I spent hours on my computer working on a digital audio tool called FruityLoops (now known as FL Studio). Making music has always been an avenue for emotional expression for me and when I started it was mostly just a lot of fun. I shared my music with my friends and performed on stage at school, but it took ten years before I noticed a shift.
After a decade of honing my craft, I began scoring paid gigs and gathering real fans. Instead of a bunch of friends showing up out of obligation, I started drawing crowds of people who genuinely liked my music. It was a thrilling achievement but I gradually began to realise there was an enormous commercial compromise that had to take place.
Despite people enjoying my music, a pressure began to seep in. Pressure to do things a particular way, to follow trends and to stay out of certain people’s way. There’s an unwritten rule at gigs that says you can’t embarrass the headline DJ by playing better music. I was being forced to reduce myself just to make other musicians feel better about themselves. It was absurd.
I began to refuse to give into this pressure. This worked for a while and I became quite successful. However, as I began the process of hiring a manager my business was taken over and I was extorted. It felt like I was the target of a mob racket where the mafia causes problems for you and you have to pay them to protect you. The new manager told me that if I wanted their support, I would have to finally give in and do what the industry wanted. There were many reasons why I could not accept that.
It was a horrifically toxic industry and in the end I had to get out. I stopped performing music and shut down my business. It wasn’t easy to escape and the harassment continued. It felt a lot like leaving a cult and I was thankful to get help from the police and the courts. I decided that I lost the battle, but I would never give up on the war against the horrors of the industry.
The irony of it all was that I began making music to express myself and have creative autonomy, however I felt a stronger sense of freedom in my regular day jobs. I had more scope to make my own decisions in these roles, as opposed to the music industry which was bent on taking full control over my whole image and life.
One of the worst parts was that my friends and fans took this manufactured image as my personal choice and as a reflection of who I was. In the film industry, your role doesn’t reflect your image. Nobody looks at Johnny Depp and thinks he must really like being a pirate. They know that Jack Sparrow is just a character he played. The music industry doesn’t have that sense of separation between a musician and the image or character they’re being told to play. I want to change that.
I want there to be greater independence in the music industry. I’m tired of the industry pretending to embrace diversity whilst simultaneously forcing artists to suppress the unique personalities and perspectives that stem from our diverse backgrounds. Music should be fun and expressive and we shouldn’t have to make so many compromises to be successful. Most importantly, it is my goal to create a situation where artists don’t feel like they’re backed into a corner and forced to endure the many abusive practises plaguing the entertainment industry.
And so, I created the Juxtapus company to achieve that goal. I am still a musician, but now I am also a computer programmer, and inventor.