Do you want to make art or do you want to be a famous lifestyle brand?
Are the two mutually exclusive?
This is a question I have been considering within a larger conversation about collaboration. There is no right or wrong here, but I do think the distinction is important. I also think if you are an artist it would be worth considering your answer to this question.
According to google a lifestyle brand is:
A lifestyle brand is a brand that attempts to embody the values, aspirations, interests, attitudes, or opinions of a group or a culture for marketing purposes. Lifestyle brands seek to inspire, guide, and motivate people, with the goal of their products contributing to the definition of the consumer's way of life.
I would consider Taylor Swift, Drake, Beyonce, Jay Z, One Direction, Justin Bieber, *insert other famous top 1% artist* all lifestyle brands. They are also all artists but I do not think they are in the business of making art or that that is their primary objective.
Brands are inherently exclusionary. They exclude people who don’t share the same values, attitudes, looks, sounds, etc… I’ve been excluded from music collaborations because of questions about branding and consistency. This was hurtful but also I get it. We can’t include everyone in what we build, but we can consider who we hurt and exclude along the way.
I don’t know much about being a lifestyle brand but I do know a lot about making art. I want to make art. I want to make a lot of art. I love creating. It’s what I want to do. I don’t want to be famous on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or TikTok. I don’t want to spend my time creating “content”. I want to spend my time creating art.
Back to that conversation about collaboration. If the goal is to make art here’s my thought: collaboration can be a tool that helps you make more and better art. You can make cool music on your own and many have. However, I do think we limit ourselves in isolation. You are the biggest bottleneck for your music. Your songs will only be as good as you are good at performing, writing, arranging, etc… The best work I have ever done I did not do alone. The art I am most proud of I did not do alone.
I understand the music making process fairly well. Honesty, there are things I suck at in that process. I can give it an honest attempt, but I am happier and thrive when I stick to my talents and outsource my weaknesses.
So if it is a primary goal in your life right now to make art then I would strongly encourage you to collaborate more. Find a team of people who are better than you at parts of the process and make music together.
What if our lifestyle brand was one of collaboration and support for one another? Artists helping artists. Artists sharing songs with artists. Artists sharing opportunity with other artists. I foresee a lot of beautiful art down that path.
Zach Hughes is the founder of Lost Harbor Music. Zach is an independent music producer & recording engineer based out of Nashville, TN.