Artists: Free to Create, or Slaves to Popularity?
Wouldn’t it be your dream to get signed to a major label, have your first record sell a million copies, open for the Rolling Stones and win a Grammy? Vernon Reid, legendary guitarist of Living Colour did just that. Here’s what he had to say about it in an excerpt from my new documentary film “Welcome to the Dream: The Rude Awakening of Rock Stardom”.
“Huge success can also be a liability too… All the sudden you have something to lose and something to be fearful about.
You now have a reputation to uphold. You can become a slave to props and status. Mega-stardom is much more AND much less then I thought it would be”.
Vernon is one of the very few recording artists who have been able to survive the collision of art and commerce without drugs or alcohol. He is a TRUE artist; never losing sight of his craft…never letting fame distract him. Artists like Vernon are able to assess popularity as a status and condition at a given point in time rather than a chronic classification.
For an artist to HONESTLY express himself without any inhibitions he needs to have a great sense of confidence…which can be easily misinterpreted as rebellion or ego. He is the one creating art to satisfy HIS OWN eyes and ears, not someone else’s. He should never let the unpredictable emotions and ever changing opinions of his fans influence him. But of course, he does…he thrives on the flattery, but is crushed by unfavorable reviews.
Young artists put WAY too much emphasis on ‘friend counts’ as a gauge of how ‘good’ they are, and even though networking IS important, social status and popularity has turned into a misguided objective that directly effects their ability to create ART FROM THE HEART…with no other agenda.
It’s very strange that during the creative process, an artist creates only for himself, but lets his fans pass back to him a ‘final rating’ of which can never let go of. Popularity can provide momentary adrenaline boosts, but as Vernon said, also become a distracting liability that can never be shaken, and it will ALWAYS influence subsequent creativity…which can be good AND bad. GOOD, if it throws emotional kerosene on his creative fire; BAD if spite becomes his sole agenda.
This is why most bands absolute best work – in terms of sincerity anyway – comes out of their first few albums; before all the distractions and criticism influences what they were compelled to do naturally. Would a band actually ever ‘sell out’ if they had no one to sell TO? Popularity is like gravity; what goes up must come down…and remember: the higher up the ladder you climb the more likely you are to lose your balance, and the further you have to fall.
THERE IS A SOLUTION.
Please help make it happen.
PROBLEMS CAN’T BE SOLVED WHEN YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM.