Sara Landry is an intoxicating powerhouse, a self-taught producer, audio engineer, and DJ known for her dark and driving atmospheric techno. Her rising popularity sees no end as fans come out in drones to her performances. This past RE/FORM party Sara Landry literally packed the room she played in with avid fans. She graciously guest posts for 6AM on her thoughts about social media and it’s affects on society, producers, and fans alike.
Guest Post from Sara Landry, techno DJ and producer:
I’m quite sure that, in the year of “Our Lord 2022”, I don’t need to explain to anyone what a double edged sword social media platforms have become. No one can deny that social media has changed the world in the 15+ years since its inception, and now, after many years (and a few “illegal” data leaks), we are forced to ask ourselves if social media has actually changed the world for the better. Is the pursuit of “engagement” worth the stress and damage that social media causes?
Let’s face it: social media is, at its core, a marketing and psyops tool. Was that the initial intention? Probably a little bit. Is that the result? Absolutely yes. Anyone with a Netflix account who’s seen the documentary “The Social Dilemma” knows this to be true: social media apps and algorithms are deliberately designed to hook the user, to encourage infinite scroll, and to only show you more of the content that results in you spending the most possible time (and therefore seeing the most ads) on the apps. Of course, it all used to be harmless fun, a way to keep up with friends and kill time while waiting for a flight or a doctor’s appointment. Now, though, we are addicted to the infinite scroll. We are addicted to the feelings of validation we get from engagement and to the feeling of being a part of the group who’s in on the joke. This addiction, this desire for the instant hit of dopamine that is validation and the associated desire to always stay on-trend and up-to-date has shortened our attention spans and subsequently fostered an environment that has devalued art, warped our perceptions of ourselves, and in many cases, increased our anxiety.
As any artist will tell you, it’s nearly impossible to market yourself in the modern world without having a social media presence. Social media plays an integral role in fan engagement, marketing for shows, and sharing upcoming projects, but as time has passed, the attention span of the general public has gotten shorter and shorter- which in turn results in artists having to do more on social media to stay relevant and keep their fan bases “engaged.” In the past, any given track or release might be good for a few months of promotion, but now that we are all functionally goldfish, things only feel fresh for a fraction of that time (about a week unless it goes viral), with microtrends exploding and fizzing out quickly (see: the entirety of TikTok). An artist used to be able to put out 2-3 releases a year and have that feel more than adequate (and even 2-3 releases is a lot of work), but now it feels like you have to drop something once a month to even stay relevant enough to be able to tour.
The expected increase in musical output isn’t sustainable on any sort of touring schedule either, as both touring and creation are very energetically draining activities that require real rest to “recharge” from. For me, a track takes around 10 hours (which I’ve been told is fast), so a 4 track EP is about 40 hours of work if I’m fully “recharged” and focused (50 if I’m a little less structured). That’s equivalent to a week at a corporate job in the US, an amount of time which most touring acts don’t even have available every week if they’re playing 2-3 shows a weekend (and then taking a day to recharge from tour). With that much time required to accomplish one release (that the public will likely forget about fairly quickly) plus touring, where does one find the time to dig for tracks, to enjoy time with loved ones, to exercise, to cook, to heal the body and decompress from the demands of touring? In many cases we don’t, and often run on fumes until we burn out.
“This addiction, this desire for the instant hit of dopamine that is validation and the associated desire to always stay on-trend and up-to-date has shortened our attention spans and subsequently fostered an environment that has devalued art, warped our perceptions of ourselves, and in many cases, increased our anxiety.”
Sara Landry on social media’s affect on society
The other problem with the tyranny of the algorithm is that it seems to disincentivize innovation while favoring “tried and true” ideas, and I have personally noticed that the music that people are making of late seems to be less focused on individual creative expression/boundary pushing and more focused on “hacking the algorithm” or trying to make something that will go viral on TikTok (which is where 60% of music discovery happens). Now, I am not here to judge anyone’s creative motivations, but I am a risk taker at heart and I can’t help but notice that music created specifically to fill one capitalistic end inevitably loses a lot of emotion and authenticity, which in turn results in everything sounding the same. I can hear this when I shop for music or listen to demos; everyone trying to sound like each other, everyone trying to jump on the latest bandwagon in the hopes that they will “make it” from just one hit (which doesn’t even happen anymore), everyone seeing the innovation of one artist and replicating it over and over until the listeners can’t possibly bear to hear yet another goddamn one-note rave track. Is this a sustainable model that fosters innovation and ground-breaking ideas? No, it is not. So where do we go from here?
“… I am a risk taker at heart and I can’t help but notice that music created specifically to fill one capitalistic end inevitably loses a lot of emotion and authenticity, which in turn results in everything sounding the same.”
Sara Landry’s take on art for the sake of trends
Now, humans are herd animals. We all want to fit in and be accepted by the group; that desire is biologically coded into us, and it is very rare and takes a lot of work to break free from it. But if you spend all your time trying to sound like someone else, are you even your own artist anymore? Are you offering anything of value and substance, or just adding noise and eating up headroom? It’s important to remember that while things that come in hot tend to flare out quickly, leaning into your weird and being authentic to yourself is a much smarter and more sustainable path, since you are the only you there is. Will it take longer to build a full-time career on the front-end? Yeah, probably. But if you are someone who truly wants to innovate, that is something you can only find within; all the algorithms will show you is what has already been done before. So if you’re an artist who feels daunted by the pressures of social media, try your best to tune it out and just make music that is unique to you. Build it and they will come, and additionally, for the sake of your mental health, set boundaries on social media use or delegate posting to someone else entirely. Freedom is a key ingredient in good art and good art is about feeling; do yourself the favor of setting yourself free from pandering to an algorithm that removes human emotion and connection from the equation entirely.