Privilege and nepotism in the music industry


We’re in an era where all our new celebrities seem to be the children of the brightest stars of the ‘90s, whether it’s Kaia Gerber, the daughter of Cindy Crawford, or Maya Hawke, the daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman. 

But does having connections in the industry make or break your fame in the long run and are all connections equal? 

This question was played out on Twitter after Finneas O’Connell, a 22-year-old singer, songwriter and producer recently sparked debate about privilege and nepotism in the music industry. 

Finneas tweeted the following advice on February 23rd: “A piece of advice to young creatives. ‘Shooting your shot’ is promoted widely and I think honestly, it’s a little overrated. Work super hard alone or with [your] closest friends. Make shit so good it speaks for itself. Don’t pester people to work with you, let them come to you”. 

This sparked a debate on Twitter largely because Finneas, along with his sister and frequent collaborator Billie Eilish, are from Los Angeles. Their parents Maggie Baird and Patrick O’Connell are actors who encouraged their children to be creative. 

Finneas and Billie were both homeschooled and had recording studios in their rooms so they could make music whenever they desired. 

Both Maggie and Patrick were working actors who appeared in some episodes of popular television shows such as Bones and The X Files, and did voice-overs. 

The knowledge of Finneas’ early life prompted many people to criticize him for being overly privileged and blind to the struggle of others who do not have the money or the resources to wait for music industry officials to find them. 

Finneas responded to the criticism on Twitter by stating his parents did not make enough money through their acting to afford living just on acting alone. 

They also had other jobs, his mom was a teacher and his dad also worked construction. 

Finneas did ultimately thank those who called him out, apologizing for his statement coming from a place of arrogance and privilege. 

While there is no denying Finneas’ comments came from a place of privilege; as someone who succeeded in the music industry at a fairly young age and always had support from his parents and the ability to record music, does that mean his success is all attributed to nepotism? 

Nepotism is the act of those with power or influence favouring relatives or friends by giving them jobs. There does not seem to be any obvious music industry connections in Finneas’ life, unless encouraging parents with moderate success in a similar entertainment field constitutes nepotism. 

While Finneas did likely have more time and accessible tools to focus on his music than others with the same goals as him, at the end of the day, if his music was not good or if he were not talented, nothing would have worked out for him. 

One can have all the wealth in the world and not be talented, which is why not every successful person in the music industry came from a wealthy family, and hence the prevalent struggling artist stereotype. 

In an age of prevalent nepotism, it should be noted that there is a difference between the child of a celebrity being a famous model simply because they had the connections to do so, and someone who grew up in Los Angeles with parents whose claim to fame are one-offs on sci-fi shows. 

Honestly, nepotism might be why we’re all in university and not on the cover of vogue promoting our new album, movie or some other venture. 

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