I appreciate the point you’re trying to make, but I disagree strongly.
It’s not a case of ‘having to’, but a case of knowing where my ‘strengths’ and interests are, in relation to the various parts of creating a musical product (for consumption and enjoyment by others).
Currently, my strengths, interests and enjoyment are in the musical ideas, writing and composition; not in the sound engineering parts. I don’t enjoy the M&M part. Never have.
This is not to say that I don’t touch those parts. It’s possible that listeners hear my SC tracks and think they’re perfectly fine. The gap between what I’m outputting and what I’m aiming for might be smaller than I think.
I’m hoping that running a couple of tracks through pro M&M, and ending up with some tracks that, imo, sound great from an M&M perspective, will help show how close I am. Then I’ll decide whether I have enough interest in closing any gap myself.
As mentioned, it might turn out that the pro M&M can’t turn my tracks into my idea of great sounding. Which means the problem isn’t really the M&M. Then I’ll know that I need to go back and look again at things like sound design, structuring, layering, etc… which I am interested enough in to do more in.
(I suspect part of that will mean stepping beyond Auxy more than I currently do.)
If better quality M&M can make all the difference, but the gap is huge, then tbh, I’m not sure I’ll ever want to develop those skills enough to do everything myself. I’d rather focus my energy on composing, writing, constructing better music.
Whether or not any of that makes me less of a “real artist”, well I’m not sure it really matters or that I care. The music industry, including the audio engineering industry seem supportive of the idea that you don’t need to M&M your own stuff to be “a real artist”. Audiences certainly don’t care.
It’s likely that a large portion of your favourite songs were made with the assistance of dedicated M&M engineers. So, it might matter less to you in reality than you realise.
Still, if doing it all on your own is something that matters to you, that’s all fine and cool
Whether that makes you more of a “real artist” than [insert name of any top-tier recording artist of the last 100 years], then I think that would be an interesting case for you to make.