Years ago artists understood that if you were an independent artist your budget was either limited, or cero. The priority, if you were a musician, was to pay for production of a track or EP so you could then save enough to get it into a record for you to sell along with your merchandise in whatever gig you could find. If your art had to do with plastic arts, painting, sculpting, or something of that sort; you had to invest your time, resources, and talents trying to win over someone in an art gallery. If you were an actor, your money went into photoshoots and castings, as well as anything you had to do to get your body to fit the standards of casting agencies and what the media looks for.
Now we are trapped in between, and we are becoming the victims of apparent “overnight success”.
We heard that social media was the new magic key to open the doors of success, and we fell for it. Artists started developing spaces and contents online. And two things happened… For the sake of some views, likes or followers, artists sometimes let go of their true passions or talents. Social media can become that hateful record label that told you you had to sound “commercial”. Social media can also be that art gallery that said you should try another theme. It is hard not to make the mistake of substituting one limiting force for another one. We forgot this was about building communities, relationships, and channels where your audience truly connects with your work.
The second consequence was that social media allowed for many artists to reach their audience and get income from their art, perhaps in many cases leaving aside those filters and people who would have gotten in their way otherwise. Sure, that’s what most people think, and that’s partly right. However, the missing pieces, that may be agents, curators, A&Rs, are essential for artists. These missing pieces are essential to guide artists into investing in the most productive areas they might need. They can also lead artists into developing their strengths, alliances, and help them see the big picture; something, very few artists can do on their own.
The impact on the independent industry is that artists waste whatever income, investment, or funding that they may find paying for things that are not essential.
Many artists keep trying to fund videos or songs that would get them to be played in radio or TV, but once they get that to happen, they do not have follow up in their careers. Some others invest a lot of money in publicity or producing events, plays, or renting locals; when they could invest much less money in developing an online presence and hiring a media agency or PR specialist.
The fact that everyone and anyone can now share their work online poses a new challenge. There are far too many options and offers all around us. The idea that anyone can become the next big thing is making that very few artists get to stand out or develop a true brand name.
Nowadays, even more than before, it is essential that every artist within their craft, becomes a brand.
You do not need to copy others or conform to certain standards. Now more than ever, you need to stay true to yourself and share your truth. You need to identify your strengths, your traits, the things you are really willing to defend on every piece you perform or create. Now put that in a package, with a font, with a color, with your face or your logo in it.
You are a product. Your creativity like Van Gogh’s or Beethoven’s is a brand. Your name, like Prince’s, Madonna’s, or Picasso’s is a brand. Your style like Cindy Lauper’s, Luciano Pavarotti’s, or Dali’s is a brand. Your brand may be very down to earth, and as organic as jeans and a t-shirt with a messy hairstyle, or super complex Björk-like instruments and outfits. The point is: it has to be true to you. And though it may evolve constantly, it is to always always represent who you are and what you do.
Now is no time to disregard little details. You cannot have one thing in your contents and something else in your promo. Regardless of whether you are promoting your work through flyers, red carpets, or social media; details count. In a sea with plenty of different fish, you need to be able to connect with people who are looking for what you have to offer. It does not mean that you won’t be able to find your audience among millions of other artists. It means you need to make sure you know what you’re selling, so others will be able to find you and buy you right away.
You have some resources, you know your brand, now you need a team. No one has ever made it big on their own. Even the most multi-talented artists need a team. Even when Ed Sheeran performs by himself doing the music and even back-up vocals to his own voice; he needs a team. Even Madonna needs a whole production team to turn her ideas into reality. She is not the one who builds her stages, wardrobe, and runs the show when she’s onstage. A sculptor cannot objectively value, promote, sell, and charge for his or her work. Even if he or she does it all online, at some point, someone has to interact with you so that your project prevails. You at least need a supporting partner, family ,or community to keep you sane when your creation is driving you insane.
This is the highest level of risk and complexity that we are facing in the artistic community. We need teams of people who know, care about, and respect the artista. We need teams that are willing to learn, ask, share, and interact. Art needs teams that are true to themselves and those around them; knowing that things might get messy at times, but the artists’ name and credibility is at stake at every step of the way.
At the same time, artists need to be willing to put their hopes, dreams, and insecurities in the hands of other people. They need to be honest and vulnerable enough, but also patient enough, to know that the team will push and pull them in the right direction once it’s all set to go.
While freedom is awesome for creation, it comes with a price once you want to make things work within a system; even an independent system.
It’s not easy being on your own. Becoming a true artista requires commitment to your work, and to the idea that it will need more people other than yourself to keep it safe and make it known.