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When I was 13, I would come home every day from school and turn on the computer, just like most other kids my age.
Except I would take out my guitar, and make music the entire evening. I used to use a cracked version of this software called FL Studio. The process I followed was that I’d imagine what I wanted my song to sound like, and I would aim to get there using YouTube to help. I did this for months, writing and finishing a couple of songs on the way, making me incredibly proud and pleased with myself.
Eventually, I had a wild idea — what if I released a music CD? Wouldn’t that be so cool? Imagine telling all my friends and the girls I had a crush on (there were always a few) that I had a music CD — damn, I’d be such a badass.
It was decided: I was going to make a music CD.
Where would I sell it? At school.
Whom would I sell it to? My school mates.
It would be my debut album. And I would self-release it and be the child prodigy I was destined to be.
I painstakingly wrote and recorded 8 songs, one of them even featuring a fellow musician friend, and made a master copy.
Next step: making cover art.
I did a little photo shoot in my neighbourhood with the help of my friend, and edited the photos using an online tool — I remember it was called PicMonkey.
I learnt a lot about photo editing through this process of creating album art. In fact, that’s probably how I got into photography.
Album art, done.
Now was the tricky part. Getting CDs made.
I was 13 years old and on a budget. I called up 5 different suppliers in Bangalore and negotiated rates.
I found this manufacturer called Avishkar Techno Solutions and first ordered 20 copies, and then ordered 30 more because I was so confident I'd sell them all. I spent Rs. 3000 of my pocket money (€50 at the time).
Because you gotta invest, right?
My idea was that I'd sell each of them for Rs. 150 (€2.5) and make Rs. 90 (€1.5) in profit. If I sold all of them, I'd be making Rs. 4500 (€75).
It sounded neat.
Business plan and manufacturing, done.
Now I had to figure out distribution.
I’d decided that I would sell my CDs in school first. I’d built up a bunch of hype, started a Facebook page and it had 200 likes on it, and people were looking forward to the release of my CD.
I had a bunch of people that were already ready to buy. I just needed to release the thing.
And then I spoke with my school principal, and she told me that the school could help me promote my CD to students as well, I just needed to push the release a little bit.
Closer to release day…
I never heard back from my principal about this, and she’d always postpone our meetings. Eventually she backed out, saying that they can’t help me anymore.
I decided to launch it myself anyway. That’s when I bought 30 more copies as I mentioned previously.
I built up a LOT of hype around this release — I was talking about it with everyone, posting about it on Facebook, I was part of the school band at the time, so we were going to different school fests and playing, and I was spreading the word every chance I got.
I ended up getting quite a bit of attention around this, at least within my school. Everyone knew that Mayank was working on an album, Mayank was part of the school band, he’s gonna launch something and sell it.
It was gonna be my big success.
And so I launched. And I completed tanked. The album sold 7 copies before I realised no one else was going to buy them.
I didn't even break even.
Even though I built up a lot of hype at school and people were excited, on release day it was... crickets.
A couple of things happened.
I ended up becoming overconfident and arrogant with all the attention I got. It went to my head. And as a result, I lost friends. It was probably also why I didn’t sell more copies. Because let’s face it — no one was really buying it for the music. They bought it to support me. And no one wants to support an arrogant kid.
My confidence was crushed, partially for good reason. I’d gotten way too ahead of myself, and this brought me back down.
I realised that my music was actually… not good. It wasn’t bad for a 13 year old who just started, but not good enough for people to enjoy. Heck, I myself didn’t enjoy listening to it all that much.
Yeah… I had no idea that what started as a unique hobby would lead to this. Not what I signed up for at all. I just wanted to make music and sell some CDs.
It was my first real big bad failure.
There were actually two failures. One in not being able to sell CDs and even break even.
The other, more real failure was in letting attention get to my head. In forgetting to be humble. In not stopping to check whether I’m doing this for the right reasons. In basically being, let’s face it, an ass to people around me.
What I learnt after
I promised to myself to never let attention get to my head. To always be humble, and keep checking myself if I feel like I’m going down an arrogant path again. I promised to never feel “above” anyone because of anything I achieved or did. To just generally be a nicer, more grateful person.
The best part about not feeling “above” anyone is that you also don’t feel “below” anyone — my realisation while writing this, just now.
Instead of stopping music production, I gave myself another chance to make and release music. I went 3x as hard, learnt a lot more, practiced a lot, and finally started releasing things I was actually proud of.
And some if not all of those things are actually still up on the Internet. I ended up releasing an 8-track album/EP in the summer of 2014, and I literally didn’t care how many people listened to it or downloaded it. I think I got like… 100 downloads? I was so happy for even that.
Today, whenever I listen to that album, I feel happy and proud. Because that album to me is the product of my growing up as a person, as well as a creator.
I also decided I wouldn’t ever sell music again. Every single song I put out after, I gave it out for free. Free to listen, free to download. I’d rather have even a few hundred or thousand people listen to my music than to earn a few thousand rupees and be heard by like… 20 people.
I realised that I genuinely liked creating. I wasn’t doing it for the money or for the attention. And once I removed those considerations, I started enjoying creating and putting myself out there a LOT more.
I realised the potential of personal branding and putting myself out there, and how it can literally shape my life into either something I hate or something I love.
Looking back, I’m now incredibly grateful for this experience. This real big bad failure was what set me on the path towards where I am today, career-wise as well as personally. And I think it was necessary for me.
Thanks for your support
This post was honestly a bit hard for me to write, but I wanted to get this out there and share it with you. And I’m glad I did.
As always, thanks immensely for your support all this while. My apologies for not being more regular with this newsletter, but I try.
I hope you’re doing great wherever you are :)
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That shows incredible personal growth and realisation Mayank. I'm sure it must've been a difficult time, but I'm so happy for you and for where you are as a content creator!