5 Bitter Truths

Being an artist doesn’t pay—up front anyway.  You should have a good day job, one you can tolerate and that will allow you the freedom you need to pursue your art.  Because you’re going to have to put up with crappy turnouts, non-existent sales, and people always wanting something for nothing.

Let’s go over several Bitter Truths that an artist has to swallow to still hold the ol’ head up in society.

  1. Life owes you nothing. Work hard and do your very best even when no one appreciates your efforts.
  2. People only like you if you can do something for them. If you aren’t adding value to someone’s life, then they aren’t going to pay you mind, give you time, or shell out their hard earned dollar.
  3. People want you to let them in for free, give them a free copy, take them to dinner, and tell them what wonderful fans/promoters/producers/et al. they are.
  4. If you want to play at a venue, have a signing at a bookstore, hang your art in a gallery, or whatever, you’re going to have to shell out the cash to make it happen. Even if the promoter thinks you’re cool.

And if you don’t believe me about #4 then read this: How Much Does It Cost To Make A Hit Song?

Sometimes, it really does feel like this is an artist’s target audience…

Hard to swallow, isn’t it? But I think it’s always been this way underneath the surface. This is why sheer talent isn’t always an indication of stardom. Some people are wildly talented and never go anywhere, at least not until after they die. Some people are talentless to the point that they are anti-talent, but they are wildly successful while still alive.

Is it a matter of wanting it more? Yes, but that isn’t the whole of it. Some people are so charismatic, so cunning, and have just enough talent that it becomes a winning combination. Madonna comes to mind. There isn’t one way of doing this, but you have to ask yourself, is it the process or the end result that matters most to you?

If it’s the process, then you can’t help but make art. You will be making art until death puts you in the ground. It’s like a fever inside. Even if you aren’t generating the physical product, you will always be creating.

If it’s the end result, then you will be promoting yourself. You create to have something to promote and that too is its own fever. You may not have talent, but you know a lot of people and you can get the money you need to fund your projects.

If it’s both, that’s where I think the winning combination is. I’ve heard too many artists who are more process-oriented complain about the promotion necessary to get the work to the public. I’ve seen too many artists who are more end-result-oriented unable to generate truly moving creations. You have to have both fevers to be successful and even then:

Bitter Truth #5:  Success Isn’t Guaranteed

Do You Have What It Takes?

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