Are You A Sellout?

Sellout feature

By Johnny Dwinell

What is the tribal dynamic that we encounter when other artists and purists admire a great artist (and for that matter great art) upon discovery and reject them (or at least get sour) after the work ascends into the stratosphere of pop culture and begins making pant-loads of money?

Should You Sellout?

Why is there an implication that this kind of popularity somehow degrades the quality of the art and artist?  How exactly does this kind of regard or esteem for a certain piece of work really make the artist “less of an artist”?

Sellout Neon sign imageIs this because a mass audience cannot truly experience the same art in the same way with the equal intensity as a fellow artist and/or “original fan” would?

Who cares?  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  As an enthusiast, I only need to be concerned with the fact that I LIKE the art, not how or why other people like the same art and certainly not how many other people like the same art.  I would also need to consider the fact that If I was an artist with my finger on the pulse of the community, or if I was an original fan, I was simply EXPOSED to the brilliant work earlier than everyone else; after all, if it’s REALLY good it’s REALLY good, why wouldn’t I expect everyone else to react in a similar fashion?

Is there some kind of grief, sorrow, or sense of loss that arrives when “too many” people join a group or tribal experience that we like to associate with?  Is there a psychological dilution of perceived value (or ownership) in this artwork to the (early) beholder when mass quantities of people are exposed to it and hop on the bandwagon?

I know that I feel the closest to God when I’m creating, so as an artist, I would define “Heaven” as the ability to create whenever the muse arrives unencumbered by monetary responsibility.  In plain English, man, I wanna create when I wanna create and not have to worry about paying the bills.

But wait…

Make a Living Creating

The only way to really accomplish this (my) idea of Heaven is to actually make a living creating; otherwise the production has to wait until I’m done with my crappy job and any other hurdles, challenges, and/or speed bumps that life is going to throw my way today.

An artist’s job is to create, emote, and continually improve the quality of the works, right?  By this definition then, an artist is truly improving everyday they are making a living at it.  My artist experience was GREATLY improved and elevated the very first time I went on the road.  Up until this point we had lots of rehearsals and maybe 1 or 2 gigs a week at the most.  Then, BOOM, we did 28 shows in 28 days.  WOW, we were a different band after that run, truly professional because we had the luxury of applying any knowledge, mistakes, epiphanies, and creativity to the very next performance which was happening today!  That was an artistically amazing growth experience.

I would argue then, that If the ultimate purpose of art is communication, and artistic communication is derived from the sharing of said art, then isn’t an artist becoming “more of an artist” the more people are exposed to the art?

More exposure means more communication is happening, right?Sellout exposure image

More exposure means more people are being moved by a brilliant piece of work, right?

How then is someone who wants to make money as an artist, presumably constructing an environment allowing them to grow into a better artist, to be considered a sellout?

Is it jealousy amongst the “have-nots”?

Thou Shalt Not Covet!

On the inside here in Nashville, I can tell you the true artists understand the ups and downs of an entertainment career.  They understand that there are fluctuations in success AFTER they begin having hits, AFTER their mainstream career has diminished and thus, appreciate any successes of any artist because they know it’s special when it happens.  I also feel this is good karma, man.

I get that some artists get to that elite top-tier status and begin creating art to satisfy the pressure from the suits (and ultimately their own spending habits); thus, making art for the purpose of making money.  I agree this degrades the quality and intent of the art.  But that’s their trip, not ours.  As artists, we alone are responsible for, and therefore must control the quality of our art.

Extraordinary art is a gift!

I propose we all take a breath and just experience the art in front of you.  Open up to it.  Learn from it.  Feel it.  Grow from it.  And keep the negativity to yourself.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

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2 replies
  1. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Wow, you hit the proverbial nail on the head again. Cannot find any negativity or fault in what you say. Thanks again for sharing you experience and knowledge with those of us still climbing the ladder Jonathan


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