In the wake of the launch of “Tidal” (a new music streaming service without a free tier and offering lossless audio) there’s been a general buzz around the internet regarding music and art and what artists should get and whether musicians deserve to eat and the like. I thought that I’d just offer up a few basic thoughts since they were running around in my head anyway.
First off, I think it is vital to understand that I was raised by artists (specializing in drama and music) and I was raised with art in my life (drama, music, museums, literature, etc.) but I was also raised to think that you should get a sensible job/career in order to feed your family.
This last point I have raised as total bullshit and noted that it wrecked me artistically for a long time, thanks. One way to break a creative kid? Tell them that being creative isn’t viable.
This feeds into the whole Tidal thing, and if musicians (artists) deserve to make their livelihood from their art.
Hell. Fucking. Yes.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I am not suggesting that merely the act of being creative be somehow automagically rewarded with a living. That’s not it at all.
What I am saying is that our world should put a value on creativity which allows room for those with the ability to be fairly compensated for the time and energy they put into their art. I’m saying that someone who works at their music eighty hours a week should be compensated with more than coffee money. I am saying that a poet who dedicates their nights to expounding upon the ephemeral beauty of urban life be given more than applause and free cover.
I live in the real world as much as anyone else. I am aware of the fact that some people do not value art, and that as such we have to contend with their dismissal of the very real need to maintain a connection to culture. I’ve experienced resistance to art in ways which range from simple matters of taste to all out disdain for anything that’s not directly about a physical, tangible, “useful” product.
The reasons people question if artists deserve to make a living doing what they do are manifold.
Should anyone get paid to do what they love? (Well, yes? There are people who legitimately love selling cars. I know people who enjoy fixing computers. The fact that artists like what they do doesn’t make them unique.)
What about how easy it is to create “art”? I mean, after all, it’s such a broad thing that you can call anything “art” so why does something that takes so little effort deserve compensation? While the truth may be that you can take $5 worth of paint and throw it on an $8 canvas using a 2$ brush and call it art, the actual ability to do so isn’t just physical. I absolutely agree 100% that anyone can write a novel. NaNoWriMo is predicated on that theory, and they prove it time and again: anyone can get the words down. But doing a thing and doing a thing well and thus crafting it into actual art are two entirely different things. The relative ease of painting my bedroom myself doesn’t change the art in what a decorator does any more than the ability to write a grocery list makes me a poet.
Should any “product” that doesn’t “do” something be paid for? Given how many crappy products are out there being made and sold by the same people who suggest that art isn’t “doing” anything, this one is pretty hypocritical, no? Art absolutely does things. Music conveys mood. Paintings express emotion. Stories ignite the imagination.
These thing (and more) always crop up around discussions of art, and probably always will. “What good will some sculptures in the park do?” some city councilman might complain. “It will cost us over a thousand dollars to pay the artist for them!” I can give you the answer to that in real life stories. We live in an area where there are a number of sculptures down in the heart of our city. Every single time we drive by our children light up and wave to all of the different sculptures.
Yes, part of that is the fact that we have instilled respect for art in them. But you know what? Part of it is just the fact that art makes things better.
Just like when a song comes on that they like, they spontaneously start to dance—and have since before they were old enough to be told what music was.
Art of all kinds is what many of us we live for, even if we don’t have a hand in creating it. Art is our relaxation. It is our comfort. It is our escape.
I am proud to work (and it is work, and it’s taken me half a lifetime to get even a little bit good enough, so it’s no quick path) on creating the kinds of things we live to experience, and I fully support the idea that everyone who works hard on their art deserves the chance to be compensated fairly. The Tidal launch simply shines another light on how poorly musicians are doing in the world of art, and I think it’s probably worth talking about that.