Comes before attention.
Once everybody’s paying attention you can’t walk back your personality, you can’t undo the changes, whore yourself out to get noticed and that will be an imprimatur upon your “brand” forevermore.
But maybe you don’t care.
Kind of like Kim Kardashian and the rest of the influencers. Sure, they’ve got legions of followers. But it’s truly about fashion, style, something evanescent, skin-deep at best, which has no meaning.
But Bob Dylan and Eddie Vedder have authenticity.
What does authentic mean?
You can look it up in the Oxford Dictionary and find it’s “of undisputed origin; genuine,” but really it’s something you feel, it’s a resonance, deep inside, that what you’re encountering is human, albeit more successful, that the authentic person is making the same choices you are or would, or is more experienced and more informed and therefore you can learn from their work.
That went out the window in pop culture long ago. Hell, just look at the movies! It’s been proven that fame attracts acolytes. But that’s very different from the flies drawn to the light of authenticity.
Authenticity means focusing on the art first. Even if it’s uncommercial.
Authenticity means saying no to that which does not feel right, which is evidence of your privilege. Kurt Cobain famously wouldn’t take a limo in South America, because he thought it wasn’t “punk.” He hated fakeness, he didn’t want to be that person either. He wanted his life to be a living badge of who he was. Unlike Bruce Springsteen, seen frolicking on David Geffen’s yacht. Geffen is rich, smart and connected. But sometimes you have to say no, because it doesn’t square with your fan base. Or make fun of it, kind of like Grace Slick planning to go to a school reunion at the White House to drop acid in the punch.
Now before you can become authentic you must become an artist.
An artist has chops and inspiration. No one emerges fully-formed, everybody woodsheds, and not only do they get better, they discover the path they want to go down. That’s the great thing about art, it’s not zeros and ones, it’s more free-form, you can make it up as you go, go your own way. As for inspiration… Talk to any creator, the irony is you’ve got to live a life to be inspired. If you’re on the computer 24/7 you’ll get little inspiration. You’ve got to go old school, experience the great outdoors, read a book, make a phone call. One of the greatest halls of inspiration is the shower. Some of my best ideas are hatched there. And they come from thin air, they’re not business plans built brick by brick, they emerge intact.
And then you’ve got to lay down your art when lightning strikes in an unfiltered way. There are always excuses not to work. You’ve got to get up early, you’ve got commitments, but artists know inspiration is fleeting, you’ve got to nail it while the thought is hot.
And you can’t self-edit. That’s death. That’s the antithesis of authenticity. Once you’re worried about the audience you’re inhibited, vast plains of creativity are no longer reachable. And contrary to what wankers say, much great work flows directly from the brain and requires little editing, it’s the editing that kills it.
Right now we’ve got music made by committee that fits a formula. It’s sleek and it shines and it sells.
But what we’re looking for is something with rougher edges, that captures the zeitgeist. You know it when you make it and people know it when they hear it but the truth is you can achieve these goals only on rare occasions, the rest of your work is not of the same caliber, it’s the filler between the hits.
But the people are drawn to the hits.
And by “hits” I don’t mean radio-fodder, just something you’ve got to hear again and again, see again and again, that you can’t get out of your mind, that you can’t stop talking about.
But in this internet era everything’s become quantified, we’re data-rich and content poor. Social media is about image as opposed to truth. But truth resonates.
And authenticity is just an element of the package. Wrapped up with talent, dedication, inspiration and creation. But it’s the conscience you must pay attention to if you want to stand out, if you want to be different, if you want to last.
Everybody’s telling you to take the money, to do it their way.
But the only way out is to do it your way.
Discover your way and stick to it.