Postmodern Depression: My Struggles as an Artist In the Digital Age

Singer-songwriter Marc E Bassy pens a guest editorial about navigating the music industry in 2019, and the focusing on artistic and personal growth through live performances.
Publish date:
Marc E Bassy, 2019

This is a guest editorial by Marc E Bassy, the San Francisco-born singer-songwriter behind the platinum single “You & Me” featuring rapper and fellow Bay Area native, G-Eazy. Marc recently released his sophomore album, PMD, and launched his own independent label, New Gold Medal Records.

Postmodern depression is an idea I originally came up with as a result of my battles with mental health. As an artist, I’ve been blessed to travel the world and do what I love, but I haven’t broken through. This result has caused me a lot of frustration and angst. Despite my ongoing struggles, I’ve been able to combat these feelings by getting back to my roots and creating music that truly expresses who I am.

With that, “postmodern depression” became the title of my newly-released album, abbreviated PMD. Even more, it’s the title of the age we’re living in. We are the generation that is “always connected,” but we’re also the age of anxiety, the generation of depression, the opioid crisis, and so much more.

We’re living in a time where there are more opportunities to make connections, yet, we’re lonelier than ever before. Not only do we have an auxiliary brain that we can pull infinite information from—aka the internet—but we use social media to find a sense of community. This culture of comparison often negatively affects our mental health. We’re living on “likes.”

Consequently, self-consciousness has become our most valuable attribute. Being accepted by the rest of the world is now more important than accepting ourselves. Through social media, we remove ourselves from our real lives and provide others a highlight reel of what we deem cool or even perfect. Our avatar is more important than its creator. We maneuver through this technicolor jungle, desperately seeking validation. We must be adored.

Marc E Bassy, 2019

When I first started in music in 2010, being an artist meant starting from the bottom with little-to-nothing. I remember living on the fringes—sleeping in rehearsal spaces, friends’ couches, and in cars, just for the opportunity to play at the local lounge.

My band at the time, 2AM CLUB, gave everything for the chance to participate in the energy exchange between a group authentically vulnerable on stage and the fans in the crowd. Social media and having an online fan base had so little to do with that energy. Now, my team and I are debating if we should spend money on TikTok influencers; if we need to hire a social media manager to post content strategically and interact with my fans.

As I was working on new material, I started to feel disconnected from my music and lost touch with the career for which I had worked so hard. I have always cared about the music, and I remember what it was like to make it in this industry before fans could listen to your work instantly. Most of the content we produce now as artists is instantly re-contextualized in the palm of the listener’s hand. They get to decide if they’re going to “like it” or keep scrolling. That’s the most challenging part about being an artist: The dedication doesn’t equal the appreciation, and the art gets sacrificed for a hit. For “likes.”

When it comes to music, one of the last things I still have control over is my live performance. My old band and I rehearse for upwards of eight hours a day. But with social media and artists’ careers living so heavily online, it’s harder for us to quantify genuine growth. Is it based on followers? Chart position? It’s not based on the craft and artistry alone. Tying our self-worth to things we have no control over is crazy. It’s a trap I’ve fallen into a lot.

I still struggle with assessing my personal growth as an artist, and social media adds a lot of pressure to that. To me, it’s less about likes and streams and more about connecting with my fans directly at my shows, merch pop-ups, and meet-and-greets. It’s so much more fulfilling because it’s visceral and human.

Since deciding to part ways with the major label system earlier this year and launching my independent label, New Gold Medal, I’ve taken back creative control of my career. My goal now is to reconnect with my fans and share with them the feeling that first inspired me to make music. It’s a feeling I hold on to, keeping me motivated and inspired.