Popularity vs Progress for aspirants & students

Popularity is an important initial (certainly not the final) step in the lives of those passionate about contributing widely and effectively.  Personal success in the eyes of many can certainly enable one to make a positive impact on so many lives, if used unselfishly. Let me hasten to add that numerous people have contributed before or even without getting popular during their lifetimes. 

But a popular person can influence and inspire numerous people even without specifically setting out to do much for others - as shown by great legends in almost every era and arena.  With serious intent, a popular person so inclined can catalyse a lot of good things. 

Popularity can be a tool that can enable one ability to popularise rare things of beauty or things of rare beauty; or create a whole system of values that can raise standards all around.  Take the case of sitar maestro Pt Ravi Shankar whose popularity not only enabled him to influence his chosen Hindustani classical but also had a positive impact on Jazz, Rock, Pop and World Music.

However it has been long understood by thinking individuals that popularity is a multi-edged sword.

Organic vs Organised popularity

It would be ideal to work passionately without an agenda to gain popularity and yet become popular because of innate or justly earned excellence.  There is nothing wrong with being flooded by fame though one needs to still take care to stay above it and not get drowned by it.  However, history has shown that only 1/1000 manage this and current trends seem to take it to almost 1/10000 what with preoccupation to obsession with micro-stardom in social media measured by Facebook likes or YouTube views - which by themselves are not unhealthy, if one can manage to strive constantly towards one's long term goals with clear-headedness.

But organised popularity in the Social Media context has grown to a mega-level subject where synthetic success is able to occupy the same time-space as real class albeit for such brief periods - at times merely a few minutes - until the next like sensation ousts it from Trending Top-spot.  Students must take care to not let popularity become an addiction that defies detoxification.

Responsibilities and risks of Popularity
Popularity is a responsibility towards oneself and others which, if not taken seriously, can result in substantial under-achievement at best and complete loss of direction at worst.  Music is no exception to this and musicians must take care to not cease looking inwards all the time, despite the ensnaring - and enslaving - nature of popularity, if they wish to progress.

Popularity is a plateau that often prevents those perched on it from looking at peaks simply because the worldview down below is so enchanting. One can easily stagnate or even slide down without realizing it.

Popularity is a whirlpool that can suck one deep under unless one has the skill set and tools to avoid its pitfalls even while being fascinated by its inexorably compelling beauty.

Popularity is like a credit card that gives one loads of perks - as long as one has the ability to be saving more than the cost of maintaining it through constantly re-inventing oneself through introspection with a positive approach.

Popularity as a shaping tool

Specifically the quality of popularity has the power to shape an individual's life graph.  Popularity can become a trap that can bog down a person intent to just maintaining status quo.  Popularity among general listeners forces the musician to live upto their expectations by choosing cliche'd songs or ragas or phrases within them, even if the artist wants to explore greater depths or scale greater heights.

Does it mean that one has to be scared of popularity or one should consciously avoid popularity? Absolutely not.  If one can remember that the popularity of all the hottest stars that lived, that are living and those yet to arrive combined is dwarfed by the enormity of the field they pursue, one will be able to accept popularity with grace and humility and yet keep striving to better oneself all the time. This awareness and approach will act as a teflon shield against the sticky negative effects of popularity.

All the above holds good for those who court notoriety as well...


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