I have always supported independent artists, but that support has not often been reciprocated. This bothers me.
[Caveat: I’ll apologize in advance if this one sounds a little bitchy. That isn’t my intent, but I know people don’t always hear what I think I’m saying.]
Ever since we started this blog in 2007, and really for a good number of years before that via different media, I have done all I could to support the efforts of artists I found worthy, especially the seemingly numberless independent artists out there who are being all kinds of brilliant without much help from mainstream media or the industry institutions that dominate the areas in which they work. Music, visual arts, photography, literature, you name it – if you’re like me you run across a lot of fantastic creative work, and if you’re like me you want everyone else to appreciate it as much as you do.
This is just who I am. It is who I have always been.
This has taken the form of your basic word of mouth – if you know me personally, you have almost certainly been cornered by me so I can turn you on to this amazing fucking band I just discovered.
It has involved social media: my friends and followers get a steady dose of what I love in my Facebook and Twitter streams. It happens here, on Scholars & Rogues, and on my personal blog, Lullaby Pit. I have written more reviews and articles and drive-bys than I can readily recall, and have also featured these talented people on Saturday Video Roundup. And my support has been financial. I have a lot of work by these people. Sometimes I have gotten review copies, and I always appreciate the hell out of that because stuff isn’t free. But not always, by a long shot.
In other words, when I support an artist, I damned well support that artist with an investment of time and money. Sadly, I haven’t made anyone rich or famous yet, and I feel badly that after all these years of trying to cultivate an audience I’m not in a position to make a more meaningful impact on their behalf.
But goddamnit, I have tried.
But. You knew there was a but.
I’m an artist, too. For decades I was a writer and for the past four-plus years I have been working hard to become a decent photographer.
What is frustrating is that I have never really enjoyed the kind of support that I have hoped for. It would be wonderful if I posted a great photo and every Facebook friend I have shared it and all of a sudden I was this grassroots viral sensation. Realistic? Maybe not. But a boy can dream.
I get that my work isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, and if you don’t like it, that’s fine. I absolutely get and respect that. But I do shows and people pay me for my photos, so I know I’m not completely dog-butt.
This tendency is especially hard to make peace with when you aren’t being supported by the people you have worked so hard to help, though. Hundreds of photo posts, probably. Maybe a handful of likes. There may have been a share or two but none come to mind. And certainly no sales.
I don’t want to sound entitled, nor do I like sounding mercenary, but we’re all independent artists. We’re a community. Mainstream, corporate culture wants no part of us, and if we can’t support each other who can we count on, right? In this spirit of a shared independent creative condition, I just feel like I ought to do what I can to call your attention to the brilliant people I know, and I feel like they should be motivated to do the same for the talented artists they know.
That’s just how it seems to me.
When I think on this too long I get a little depressed. It’s a lonely feeling, and at some point it’s inevitable that I would begin asking why I should dedicate my valuable time and energy (and money) to those who see support as a one-way street. I feel like I’m being punked, even.
I won’t make this a crusade, and I will accept whatever people choose to do in support of me, even if it’s nothing. But in truth, there have been times when I was acting out of love and others when that love may have been tainted with obligation (a feeling that’s significantly enhanced when said artist “reminds” me repeatedly that the review isn’t up yet, btw). Even my favorite indie artists produce things that aren’t as awesome as their best work. Sometimes I’m busy as hell. Sometimes my head just isn’t there, for whatever reason. But I have always bucked up and soldiered out some sort of hopefully meaningful support.
In 2017 and beyond, I resolve never again to act out of obligation. And if I take note of who has stood behind me in deciding how to deal with another independent artist, I’m not going to feel bad about it.
I don’t want to go all tit for tat on it, but I have always done the best I could for artists I admire and respect. I hope I’m not out of line in wishing the respect were mutual.