A dear friend once described being in the music business to me using this analogy.
The person in the music business is a big fat seal on a rock, happily basking in the sun. Sometimes they can stay in the sun all day and be warm and content. Other times, they know they have to jump into that icy cold water and find a fish to eat because, to put it simply, they'll starve if they don't. They dread jumping in, and when they finally do, it’s definitely awful. It’s icy cold and numbing to the body - and completely the opposite of that warm roost on the rock’s surface. But sooner rather than later, their body adjusts. They acclimate to the water and it stings less. They swim around in it for awhile until they get what they need. Then they can come back up on the rock and bask awhile longer. The surface of the rock is the joy of making music - the blithe naiveté from our youth which allows us to stay eternally in love. The icy cold water is the business of making music. The reality is that we are the seals and we can’t live without either.
ART IS WORK.
Society needs to stop treating artists like lazy beggars who are always asking for handouts. We are back in the classical period again, except the marketplace is online. Like Mozart, we are trudging uphill and having to sell ourselves, angling from whichever way we can, to literally be able to eat and have a roof over our heads. Patronage, exclusive record deals, and blanket publishing contracts don't exist any more. In order for artists to make the videos, tracks and other content which then get freely streamed on social media (more often with little or no proper compensation for the creators), it takes time and learned skills. It takes practice. They don't just snap their fingers and produce that work. They have to continue playing the game while making creative work at the same time and often facing intense public scrutiny and sometimes disapproval of what came out of their minds and hearts. Artists are punished for their openness and benevolence to society more than any other profession. Their personal lives are constantly in the limelight. They are the eternal proverbial "stepchild."
Remember that the next time you're consuming art: watching YouTube or listening to Spotify or dancing at the club with your friends, or watching a movie, or humming the theme song from your favorite podcast because it's stuck in your ear. Then do something very simple:
Reach out to any artist in your life and just tell them you love them and you'd like to understand more about what they do and what their life is like.