Person or Product?
Have you a penny for my thoughts?
I’ve been thinking lately about this idea that as artists, we have to market ourselves in a way that makes us accessible to the consumer. This is how every business is. It’s how you generate income. You create your product, you decide your market, you figure out the trends surrounding your demographic and then you advertise directly to them.
Isn’t there something so clinical about this? So dishonest?
I struggle to understand why we literally buy into this ideal. I can see the positives too, I say this as I type on a laptop that the internet suggested for me to purchase. A quick search on google and I knew which was the best laptop to suit my needs. But why do I need this laptop? Why do I have to be online to be connected?
Like everyone, I’ve had to isolate myself and during this time I’ve turned inward, asking “Is this how I feel, is this what I think – or is this how I’ve been programmed to think?”
As an artist, I understand that there are certain things I shouldn’t say; certain things I shouldn’t do in order to preserve the integrity of my music – but what about my own integrity? What does it say about me if I censor who I am, in order to be ‘free’ creatively? I don’t think this problem is consumer-created, rather an intricate design of society that is almost impossible to exist outside of.
Why can’t we separate the artist from the art? Why can’t we appreciate the talent of someone that we might not necessarily agree with? Why aren’t we asking more questions instead of shouting answers that nobody asked for? Why do we value the product over the person? Isn’t interpretation far more enjoyable than an answer you don’t like? When I listen to music, I don’t wonder about the artists view on world politics or global warming. I listen to the words, the music and what that evokes within me. When I write music, I don’t worry about how I’ll be interpreted by an outside listener, I worry about whether I’m speaking my truth.
Here’s the tricky part.
My truth yesterday, may not be my truth today. I am ever-evolving, continuously learning and changing my mind as my perspective grows. So how do you market that? The way I see it, is either you follow a path of shaping yourself to fit a marketable narrative, or you walk a lonely path of people misunderstanding that honesty and evolution. Is there an in-between? Can you be both?
Maybe now is a time of people being their most authentic selves, regardless of consequence. If you truly do not intend to hurt someone, why can’t you disagree? Imagine the art and the music that would come out of someone who is nurtured and encouraged to speak their truth. To ask questions without fear of ridicule, shame or abuse? Without fear of losing their career by having an opinion that may later turn out to be incorrect. To take opportunities that you may not understand, that they may not understand?
What often happens, is the person creates a ‘persona’, a ‘get out of jail free’ card. This ‘persona’ allows the person to say things they wouldn’t normally feel comfortable saying in public. This can be beneficial as it can protect the sense of self, if they don’t like you it’s okay, they don’t like your persona. Imagine the opposite, “nobody likes me, they just like who I pretend to be.” This kind of device is an ugly thing to be encouraging in people and when you discourage conversation, you encourage isolation.
Art was created to bring beauty and joy into the world, a sense of expression, so why do we use it as a punching bag for judgement? We don’t fund it and we don’t support it. We think we could live without it and yet we cannot. Art is, in its truest form, open to interpretation. The person who created the art is not. That person is a human being, not a product. It is not their job to be what you believe they should be. It is not their job to measure up to the expectation of them, you have created in your head. Maybe this is why we have so many artists bullied online right now? Maybe this is why people feel they have a right to join a keyboard warrior mob and viciously attack someone’s character? Are people unable to separate the person and the product? In the last few weeks, I have witnessed Irish artists I massively respect be subject to abuse online. It’s an insult to the work and talent those artists have, only to be reduced to fodder for internet bullies. It’s an insult to humanity that some people exist only to be cruel.
Some venues and promoters are guilty of this. The inclination is that the artist is lucky to be there. We know we’re lucky to be there, we had to work very hard to be there. Some are unnecessarily rude and will call you unprofessional if you call it out. How did we allow that to be the case? How did we allow our fellow musicians and artists to be undervalued this much?
Maybe I’m just down a rabbit hole right now and completely over exaggerating, but I don’t think I am.
Don’t get me wrong, most venues and promoters are awesome and there for the right reasons, some are not. This is apparent in most businesses for sure, however, in this particular industry, I do not think it needs to be – especially now. Now we are online, our industry is uncertain and now is the time to call this shit out. If you work hard and have the stuff to back it up, then you deserve to be treated as a professional, you deserve to be paid and you deserve to be treated with respect. Respect from venues, promoters and the general public. Nobody else has the right to determine your worth as an artist or a person.
I don’t know what it is! Is it a sense of ownership because they have bought into your art? Is it just that some people are nasty? And if so, why do the kind people have to tolerate the nastiness?