Artists, you’ve heard the disconcerting rumors about your stuff: nobody cares.
And you know what? There might be a grain of truth to the rumors.
Aside from your friends and family (or that stalker-ish guy who sits in the front row at all your shows), the masses might not be knocking down the doors for your masterpiece. They might not be enamored of your tireless self-promotion on Facebook, either.
Yeah, it hurts a little.
This is the era in which everyone has a bullhorn, so relatively speaking, when you do the math… no one has a bullhorn. Pleas for attention are a dime a dozen. And they are just about as compelling.
But it isn’t you, intrepid artist. It’s all of us.
Why do artists find it so difficult to generate a sustainable income from their art? Well, here is a short list of players in the arts that no longer support a sustainable marketplace: record labels, book publishers, radio stations, music video channels, arts magazines, publicists, public relations firms, advertisers. Remember photographers? Graphic artists? Web designers? Studio engineers? They used to make a living wage doing creative work. Now they’re scratching for coins on Fiverr.
How’s that “sharing economy” working out for you?
The collapse of sustainability in art isn’t about technology. Tech has done more good for art than bad. No, the collapse is about our valuation of convenience over content. What matters more on a rainy Monday morning, after all, to most music fans — supporting artists financially or having instant, affordable access to music on their phones? We know that answer because we are all fans.
So what does that mean for you?
As Kris Kristofferson put it, “freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” When the prospects for making a traditional living as an artist — one that supports esoteric things like health insurance — disappear into the smoke over your campfire, the truth is plain: you don’t have to answer to your benefactors anymore. Because they aren’t really doing anything for you.
And you’re not just “free.” You’re free.
Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waitin’ for a train
And I’s feelin’ near as faded as my jeans
Bobby thumbed a diesel down, just before it rained
It rode us all the way to New Orleans
I pulled my harpoon out of my dirty red bandana
I was playin’ soft while Bobby sang the blues
Windshield wipers slappin’ time, I was holdin’ Bobby’s hand in mine
We sang every song that driver knew
Welcome to the world of options. Greater risk, greater freedom. Greater terror and reward.
And greater possibility?
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