There’s not an artist alive who prefers money to reach. Unless that person was never an artist to begin with, or is so far over the hill that they’ve got nothing to say. That’s why you become an artist, to have your message heard by the most people possible. Then again, with all this focus on cash in the media and MTV “Cribs” it’s no wonder the younger generations have the wrong idea, they never grew up in an era where music changed the culture, when it was the most impactful art form, when music led instead of followed, when Warner Music built Warner Cable. You HAD to have the record. Politicians utilized performers to garner big bucks, because the performers were more authentic than they were, garnered more attention and adulation, people just wanted to get closer to them, whereas today Jerry Brown is bigger than anybody in Hollywood, because he got something done. Furthermore, if you’ve got reach there are a zillion ways to monetize. Remember when acts refused to do things because it would hurt their image? When you take money from the man your message is compromised. You sacrifice some of your truth, and all you’re selling is truth if you’re doing it right. The audience wants to believe you dug down deep to extricate these feelings and listeners are privy to your unadulterated personality and thoughts, which is why your star starts to rise in the first place. By being everyman, by having people identify with you and your message, you rise above. Which is why writing songs by committee does not work, you may repeat the formula and make money, but there is no message and you have no impact, and that’s anathema in art, especially music, where truth pays dividends for decades. Movies are one and done, musical careers when done right go on forever.
Then again, most people don’t know any artists. Or judge someone negatively if they are not rich. They impose their feelings on performers, where it used to be the other way around. Anybody can make money, not anybody can make art.
And you know if you’re an artist. And sure, you’d like to pay the bills, but what truly gets you off is when a fan testifies to you, how they relate, how you saved their life. And when you reach so many people so not only can you sell out arenas but impact the culture, then you’ve really won. Don’t listen to Gene Simmons, who says it’s all about the money. Tell him his songs suck and no one wants to see him anymore and you’ll get a rise out of him. Yes, he too is an artist, because he had a vision. Aided by Bill Aucoin and Bob Ezrin, you cannot do it all by your lonesome, but would Kiss have become so big without the makeup, without the theatrics? They were the first to do it, they deserve credit. And the penumbra of money-making ventures never would have come to pass if it weren’t for their audience.
Sure, we all complain about money when we can’t pay the bills, but if an artist is solvent, an ongoing venture, he or she should pat themselves on the back. And figure out a way to expand their reach. Which is my problem with Patreon. Big deal that you can dun your fans to keep you alive. BUT IT’S SO FEW FANS! It’s meaningless in impact. No band, no album ever broke from Kickstarter, never mind Patreon. The question is how do you reach those who are not already addicted. And when you do, there’s no better feeling… When someone quotes you to you, sings your song to you.
So let’s get our priorities straight. Sure, there’s commerce. But the reason this business went nuclear is because the Beatles broke the rules and became about message, they literally moved the culture. It was about playing to everybody as opposed to somebody. They wanted it all, not just cash. And we all bought instruments to play along, and just playing the songs was enough. And just being in a sea of Deadheads was enough when the band was on stage.
It’s kind of like politics. It wasn’t until Trump and 2016 until we learned, until the press learned, that we weren’t one big happy family getting along. And now the country is in turmoil, which is scary, but it’s a process we must go through to get to the other side. The music business is anti-turmoil, but that’s what we need, that’s what made it peak. Not only business turmoil, but artistic turmoil. There was always some new thing scraping away the old, and we came to like the new thing, and now we haven’t had a new thing this century!
But we will. Because those with different values, who are about the work as opposed to the money, are grinding it out as we speak. They’re not manipulating Spotify playlists, not tricking people online, just playing. They are on a journey. But that journey is gonna explode, just you wait. We’ll all want in. It’s fun to be a member of the group, it’s fun to be first, and then we’ll go in search of the next thing. That’s what an audience does, focus on the art, not the money. The cash is a byproduct, never forget it.