Digital originals and digital copies. Well-presented physicals, and copies of those. Compressed, NFT’d, and Streamed. If marketed the right way these can help build some relevancy and buzz around your name (insert eye-roll emoji). The trends that everyone swarms towards don’t always bear the fruit promised. Unless you’re lucky, and still, the risk remains.
Here’s the catch. Even though everyone understands the risk, no one wants to be in a bad position. I mean that’s the goal, right? To put in all the work, finesse the algorithms, and get all the chips. I get it, we all want to be the winner.
Who’s in the middle though? Who’s laying the foundation for the “winners”? The ones who are content with thriving. Those whose idea of winning looks a little different than the ones winning. They make it seem like everyone wants to be on top. Rarely is the light shone on those who set the bar for what the top looks like by playing the middle.
I hear the reason everyone wants to be on top is the fear of being lost in obscurity. For your name not to be remembered among the greats. We have this obsession with living forever in the west. Like it’s even really possible. The fact is even the “greats” were influenced by someone you’ve never heard of. Someone who stood out in the middle. Made their impact in the shadows unbeknownst to you. Succeeding in a space most feared, and in that space becoming an inspiration to the greats. Keeping some semblance of a soul. Yet still having an impact on your favorite, whoever that may be.
There are those of us who would rather be great amongst the obscure, instead of obscure among the greats. Lost among the ones who won the popularity contest but fell short in integrity.
I love my old sayings, and there’s one that is just as relevant today as the day it was created. “Everything that glitters ain’t always gold.” The things that seem the brightest, the most sought after are sometimes just shiny rocks.
As advanced as we are as a species, we still have a long way to go. Speaking both literally and figuratively of course. I mean where are the flying cars anyway? Didn’t Blade Runner take place in 2019? There is this utopian or dystopian (depending on who you ask) future that we are supposed be living in. Yet here we are riding in cars with 100 year old combustion engine technology and an infrastructure that is not all equipped to handle our modest technological needs. To be honest the tech may be the easy part to fix. The deep rooted cultural constructs always continue to resurface no matter how many times movements arise to “address” societies ills. These constructs and preconceived notions of what we are supposed to be seem inescapable. Tribalism and stereo types have a way of seeping into movements and dividing them.
The same can be said for art, music, and fashion. There is this need to place finite definitions of what, who, or it should be. Progress is a slow behemoth whose movements can’t be detected by the human eye. So while things are getting better, there is still enough room for those constructs to pop up again. To show us that with a culture that should be unified there is still division. This new found freedom on display these days often shows us exactly how deep we will have to dig to shake the false expectations we place on ourselves. Everyone wants to feel important, but that should not be at the expense of some else’s importance. The word inclusion is thrown around quite a bit, and yet the true meaning of the word is often ignored. Clicks and circles operate binary. Orbiting one another but never touching. Never connecting or giving a chance to bond. It’s like in horror movies there is the dark side and the light side. In these movies everything good is in the light and everything bad is in the dark. In these social circles they are the light and everything is sometimes dark. To preserve their importance they stay in the light and everything else is the dark. Unseen in the blackness.
Black is the culmination of every color in the spectrum. It is all encompassing and all inclusive, but made to seem negative. The shades, colors, and nuances that make up black are no different than the diversity that exists in us all. There would be no greens, no orange if not for yellow. Just like there would be no black if not for all the colors in the spectrum. Diversity is the catalyst for growth and evolution. To not nurture and appreciate diversity could slow down the behemoth. Progress could cease, and the norms would become more boring than they already are. The rainbow is beautiful but it would not exist if not for the black. The dark parts of the spectrum we try to hide. Not all differences are bad and not everything black is negative. Differences are important.
You know the buzz word. That word that everyone is trying to leverage their popularity for. That word that adds value to any online content. If you don’t then that word is “Monetization.” The idea that you can push and market yourself to the point where you are paid for who you are is not a new concept. What was new, and has become somewhat of a norm however is the accessibility of that idea to anyone. What I mean is if you have the drive and focus, you or ANYONE can be paid for who they are. What happened to the artists, musicians, etc. Whom that is not what drives their creative process. There has to obviously be more to it all right? There has to be some sort other reason, something bigger.
Sometimes the reason is simply just because. The reasons we do what we do are not always for some value or great meaning. At times the reason or drive behind creating is just because. Just because it gives you peace, or you find solace in those private moments. The fact that that creation just so happens to draw a certain feeling from others is more just an added benefit, rather than an actual intention. Sometimes it’s those works, created in the moment that become the more important ones. That unintentional impact, that random connect is a value in and of itself. Value and creation do not always need to be paired together constantly. While I understand how business (if it is in fact your business) works. I also understand that impact can add value later. So it may not be the best idea to decide value out the gate.
Like with wine, time matters. Time to let it breath and flavors be developed. I’ve heard albums that I remembered feeling a way about it when it first came out. Then years later when I revisited the project it hit differently. It’s as though some things aren’t meant to be understood until a certain time, if that makes any sense. Sometimes art or expression is not meant to have a dollar value. Maybe it’s existence is just to be experienced. Like I said, that’s a value unto itself. Time to breath and allow the audience to grow and experience it differently, if that makes any sense.
History is written by the victors, or so I’ve been told. I’m not sure how much you might agree with this sentiment though. Because it may have been true once upon a time, but not anymore. History is sculpted to your algorithm now. Then told to you exactly how you want to hear it. There was a time when you could only hear one side of conflicts. We often hear about the brutal atrocities on the opposing side, but the allies committed them too. Those fellow champions who helped us to defeat our collective foe. All we’re told is that conflict can be ugly. Nevermind who did what. What matters is who won, right?
2020 has been quite the story to be told. As does every year, but this one hit different. Isolated, with most things remote. What is being experienced is being documented now by more than the victors. The people in the middle who don’t have a steak in either side can tell a more objective story. As story tellers creatives have an important role in today’s history. If that makes sense.
Creatives, are in some circles more trusted than the media. That’s a responsibility that we shouldn’t ignore. A responsibility to maybe show the flaw in the entire conflict rather than just one side. So history doesn’t repeat, and real change can occur. Before the stories get tainted with a hint of tribalism, as empires rise and fall. We have a unique opportunity to contribute more than just more of the same old tales. The idea of the historian is changing, just like so many other things going on in the volatile world. Change is coming. Change is good, and changing the way history is documented would be great.
Besides, what we post online will be saved and documented regardless. We might as well get more control of the narrative. The new historians, the creatives have to navigate it all. Charting ones course all while intelligently narrating the present, so others can get a glimpse of the view from the middle. That unbiased part of history where the full experience can be felt. Where you can catch a glimpse of the bigger picture, not just a small window. It’s the job of the creative to show that unique perspective. After all they’re documenting is all regardless. Might as well get a hold of that narrative before the victors only tell you about their glory.
One of the most sacred tenets in art is to be original and true to one’s own vision. This unspoken rule in the lawless lands of creative expression is one kept close to the heart. However as time goes on and technology makes the world smaller, trends become more valuable than originality. That intrinsic value is not lost in the abstract of personal worth. It has a cash, take it to the bank value.
Matter of fact you don’t even have to go to the bank. They’ll transfer the funds directly to the account of your choice. The ease of the easy income has made it that much more logical to just mimic, rebrand, and find an audience that will still invest in your brand. No matter how similar or flat out identical it is to another creatives work. To put it frankly, the shit still sells. Identical sells. Familiar sells more so now than ever. Making mimicry a business, a big business at that. The tenets of creative expression have changed it would seem. I understand that mimicry and flat out copying has always existed, but in the creative space, the way it is being done now is new.
The “mimicers” have become savvy with their marketing. So the originals have to be a tad more strategic. A tad more resourceful. Careful that their ideas won’t get over shadowed by the well marketed recreation. As tech and perspective changes the way we do everything, including marketing ourselves has to change. In the wild animals evolve over time to adapt to their environment. The rate of evolution in this modern space has to be at a faster rate than most artists are used to. There isn’t much of a grace period anymore. The opportunity to profit is almost immediate.
You have to respect it though. There is an art to it, to being able to mimic something in a way that allows you to stand out. The wild part is there is room for everyone. To quote a favorite movie of mine, “everybody eats b!” Everyone can eat. Everyone can make some money out here. Everyone can thrive. There would have been a time where I’d have been salty about someone rehashing an idea to suit them, but that’s just what is done now.
Warhol, Basquiat, Haring… Countless pioneers of their respected styles, all mimicked. These masters of mimicry manage to exist undetected and even tolerated. Free to profit off a style that is not their own. These are the times we are in. So grow adapt and learn quickly. Refine your style, and hope yours is dope enough to be paid the tribute of mimicry.
Welp… I think it’s about time for a little honesty and vulnerability here. In that vein I can admit that my creative life has been riddled with bouts of depression. Often diluted with chemicals and escapism in its many forms. This after all is the only life I’ve ever known, and the only life I’ve ever seen creatives I’ve looked up to live. A constant battle between being genius and being defeated by life’s adversities. It would seem that sometimes the turmoil within has a greater impact than the external, and the artists life is often spent looking inward.
The life of a creative is a tough one after all. Often thankless, and the lows seem to outweigh the highs. I think the saying is art immitates life. Well in this case the creatives life more often parallels the life of the “common man.” Rightfully so since most creatives are essentially common men/women that somehow find it within themselves to convey a vision and pursue a dream. It’s that pursuit that makes them uncommon. The anomalies, the people who chose to sacrifice and endure in an already difficult existence.
It’s not that the creative is more or less depressed. It’s that being a creative almost requires some intense reflecting and introversion. That combination can force you to face the darkness within. That darkness the rest of us numb ourselves to with various distractions. The artists, musicians, and writers (and any other creatives I forgot to mention) are in a way reporters of the intangible. Of emotion and other abstract subtle concepts that are part of the human condition. The parts we run from, in alot of cases the creative has to face. On a canvas, a recording, or however they choose to create. In those mediums we sometimes face our demons.
Beauty is often created when those demons rear their heads, but the damage can be irreparable. A rapper named El-P had an album called Fantastic Damage released years ago. It’s hard to find it on some platforms, but I recommend you give it a listen. To me it’s kind of a story of triumph. Like we all endure life and all that comes with it. We are all products of some “fantastic damage,” but we persevere. Inspite of the scars & memories that burden us. Those same experiences helped mold us into the people we are. Does that mean we need to just accept the way things are and deal with them how our predecessors always have? I say no.
The old way or the way my idols seemed to deal with it all was not the way I think we should do it today. To internalize all the hurt and pain only to lash out is not the move. Whether that be creatively or in a destructive manner isn’t the way anymore. It’s time for a new way. A more productive one that let’s us grow as people. People who can still face it all and let it mold us. Yet also letting ourselves heal. Legacies of pain make for great stories but leave a path of “fantastic damage” in their wake. A path so many have followed to no avail. I dont have the solutions, but I know there’s got to be a better way.
So recently we’ve been kinda low-key. Trying to figure some things out. Ok maybe not so low key. Just basically having important discussions about growth and our plans for the future. Many conversations have been had on this articles topic. You know how random conversations sometimes occur. Nothing crazy deep but just expounding on what it means to grow. So the theory is that in order to improve you can’t remain stagnant. Kinda obvious right? In one way or another challenge usually leads to improvement, or at the least some sort of insight. Now what that challenge may be? Well that’s really up to the individual more or less. In the choices we make and the environment we place ourselves. Ok, ok. Tangent done…
Still as creators\creatives we can challenge ourselves by choice in order to further broaden our respective skill sets. To quote Ginni Rometty, “Growth and comfort do not coexist.” In music we tire of bands that stay the same their whole career, and on TV we tire of onesided actors. My favorite actors tend to be the ones that play characters that seem outside their role spectrum. If that even made sense. Still all in all being stagnant or comfortable does not seem to be the formula for longevity.
Its a theme that has been on alot of the podcasts I’ve been listening to. I mean rightfully so. Especially since growth & productivity are common themes I research in my personal and professional worlds. The path to betterment encompasses it all. You cannot expect to improve without nurturing growth and development. Utilizing resources and learning new ideas can help us avoid stagnation. The only constant in life is change after all. Adapting to that change is a big part of our lives. So we ultimately decide how monotonous we want our lives to be. Stagnation is not conducive to growing as a creative or growing your brand.
No one knows it all. No one has all the answers. That being said we can still learn from others. You can’t learn from others without being a student. A student of life or a student of business, but always a student. All of the education we receive on our path help us grow and become better. Better artist, creators, and people. All of whom have an impact on the world we live in. It’s up to us to decide the lessons we will pass on and the examples we will set.
All it takes is a little learning and a little action.
It seems as if there are these lines drawn. Certain things are regarded as cool, hip, “socially acceptable.” Sometimes words like opinion, perspective, and judgement are thrown in to send the point home. The unspoken rules and hierarchies still seem to dictate the standards of today.
Let’s be honest here. Deciding what’s really “cool” is a slippery slope. Now more than ever there is a safe space for people to maintain their individuality, but still be “cool.” Yet still, we are all products of the tribalism engrained in our society and respective subcultures. In layman’s terms. What you think is cool still might not be “cool.” There is no formula apparently. Either you are or you aren’t.
That being said, there’s still a grey area. The area of cool decided by the work you put in. The relevancy you maintain by being seen. Either online or in person all plays a part to your “cool.” As the picture implies at the top of this article. Inspite of those predisposed definitions of “cool.” We decide what is popping.
It’s that time of year again… Probably not the time of year you thought I was talking about, but still the time is upon us… That time when everyone wants to condense and simplify what’s good or not in a top or best of “category… List…” If it’s done by the numbers I would have less of an argument than if this was compiled based on ones taste alone.
Numbers of views and clicks matter, which is why these lists are becoming more common. The validity in the list themselves is irrelevant. Mainly because the whole intent is to get numbers. So what’s really the point? There is so much amazing art, music, photography, culture available to us. So many talented voices all trying to be heard. Anything and everything is done in abundance these days. We’re having a sort of Renaissance right now. New perspectives and ideas are being shared and appreciated. So why put limits on what is good or great based on a list? Why not nurture the differences and diversity by being more open. To put it simply… It’s a numbers game.
That whole train of thought used to be reserved for companies focused on their bottom lines. Now that every creator is a company or brand they see the importance of numbers as well. It’s a blessing and a curse. A mixed bag of fickle intentions and motives. It’s a new year. Let’s try to look at things in a new and open way. I mean we control cool after all…
Not quite the future they talked about in sci-fi movies, but an impressive presence non the less. Technology has for the most part become an integral part of our lives. A permanent installment in our ever growing tech dependent society. Sometimes its easier to connect with the digital world rather than to face what’s outside. There’s this shift in priority. From face to face interaction to relying on social media for human contact. Most people get more exposure to art through mobile devices than they do in person. So what about the art? What about the galleries, or museums? The easy answer… Adapt. The tough answer… Persevere.
Though these times seem like a low point in history it’s actually quite the opposite. Artists and creatives have a better chance then ever to gain an audience and increase exposure. The opportunities to market ones self is easier than ever. The hard part is getting that audience to show up when it counts. So the better question. Is technology making it easier or more difficult on the artist? The short answer… Both. It’s really entirely up to the creative, and his/her ability to market themselves. We can’t deny that money doesn’t help, but it’s not a deal breaker. Technology levels the playing field somewhat. There’s at least room for the driven self starter to maneuver and make a name. To have a voice and allow that voice to reach places difficult to reach some years ago.
The future seems optimistic for everyone. Well everyone with the tenacity to push past limitations, but that’s the case in any of our pursuits. In this case however technology can be a leg up, verses the obstascles we creatives are all to familiar with. Things like distance and finances will still be hurdles to cross. Still an easier to jump with the leg up tech provides. Times are going to change as do the mediums we use to create. Does accessibility cheapen creative contributions? Did your favorite book impact you less in a digital format? No matter the medium art is still art. Human expression does not lose value when there is an abundance of it. It looses value when it lacks creativity or originality.
Tech will not devalue art. The uninventive creative will. Though tech makes mimicry easier, originality will always have worth. The task isn’t to hold on to an old mind set, but to put value in unique content. To be an individual in a sea of individuals… The biggest challenge will be evolution and growth all while nurturing originality. In other words the future lies with individual. Stand out or drown in that sea.