Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Woes of independent artists

Last night, Hillary Went to a show of three local independent musicians at Workplay and it sparked some thoughts she wanted to share about being an independent artist:

Last night, I was sitting at Workplay, my favorite local venue for music, waiting on a show involving three alabama musical acts. At about 20 minutes past when the show was supposed to start, I started looking around and said to my husband "everyone who's here except us has a beer but no wristband", which means one thing: they were all either band members, band crew or friends and family of band members. I felt really bad for the bands, but I've been here before, and everyone has to go through events like this. Every visual artist has probably had at least one opening where no one showed up except mom, every band has to go through at least a few shows that are only them and the five friends they could manage to get to give up thier other saturday night activities, and every craft artist has sat through shows where they sell $20 worth of stuff and see 10 people all day.

As an artist of sorts, I get the cruddy position they were in. They probably didn't get gas money for the night, and might even be in debt due to paying for a venue they didn't come close to filling. It would be tempting as a band member in this situation to suggest that we not go on, or that we do 2 or three songs and go home. Believe me, during the bad craft shows, I often want to go home before lunch, but I usually stay at least until other people start breaking. Surprisingly, it has paid off quite a few times. I have had days where I did horribly before lunch and made 2/3's of my sales between 1 and 3 and managed to pull down a decent amount. If I had left, I would have missed the money, but also the opportunity to speak to people who appreciate my work and the opportunity to network with other crafters. A slow day is great day to go introduce yourself to other artists and share ideas.

Luckily for us, the bands all did a decent length set, and luckily for them, we saw a few more people with wristbands toward the end. They still probably didn't get much more than gas money, but they got to play music they love, and they got a little more exposure for hanging in there and doing the right thing. This is the only way any artist, be it a musician, an artisan jeweler, a sculptor or a performance artist, gets anywhere. You have to stick to your guns and keep going even if you go through several events with no response. This is sometimes really hard to do, because artists want a connection. Of course, we want a paycheck, but what we really want is to connect with people who appreciate what we do. Which, unfortunately, we often have to do a handful of people at a time.

In my opinion, the 2 best things people can do for an artist are 1. try to make a connection with them, even if it's just a simple "wow that's really unique", and 2. tell other people about the artist. I didn't actually go speak to the band, but I absolutely applauded, I'm going to leave a comment on their myspace pages and I'm absolutely going to tell people about it:

Daikaiju was absolutely amazing. I don't know how a group of musicians can possibly get that talented and go mostly unnoticed. The best way I could describe their sound is "hardcore surf fusion". That was some of the fastest and most skillfull guitar bass and drum playing I have ever seen. Please check them out, and tell other people if you like them. If you don't, find someone you do like and tell your friends about them. Artists need the love, but we know not everyone loves the same thing.

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