I have been noticing an increasing trend among consumers lately. Not just in the world of music, but in general. And it’s not a flattering, or exciting, or fun trend. Consumers lately, are becoming more and more self-entitled. And for an artist trying to pursue their passions, and follow their dream. I can only assume that this further disheartens an already struggling person.
This evening I finished reading Funemployed by Justin Heazlewood, or The Bedroom Philosopher, as he is better known. Funemployed should probably be required reading for anyone who wants to pursue a career in the arts. Like most people, I always had a romantic view of the life of a rock star, actor or comedian. Obviously, deep down, I knew life for an artist wasn’t an easy path to tread, but I still continue to have rock star dreams. I can’t play an instrument, or act, or come up with witty, funny jokes, so for me that will always remain a dream. But for others. The talented few. They will follow this dream, and live their life pursuing that romantic view of stardom. Heazlewood has lived through it all, and through interviews with Gotye, Clare Bowditch, Tony Martin, Christos Tsiolkas, Tim Rogers, Benjamin Law, and more – shares the harsh truth about what life is really like as an artist. He by no means is warning people off the arts, but Funemployed lets people know what they are getting themselves into. Tells up and coming artists what they need to prepare for, and probably all the information all young artists wish they were told before they entered the wonderful world of the arts.
Anyway, I am getting off the point. While reading, I started thinking about life as an artist. And the industry through the artist’s perspective. Countless hours go into not just creating an album, TV show, movie, screenplay or book – but also into all the admin tasks most of us assume are done by someone else. Need to book a show? The artist does it. Need to fund your next album? There is the frustrating process of grant writing (or the less glamorous asking family/friends for money). Need to promote the tour? Yep, the artist prints off some flyers and stands on the street handing them out. And it doesn’t end there. Everything is handled by the artist – unless you are lucky and have an agent, manager, booking agent, publicist. It’s a hard life. And it’s expensive. Where do you think the money comes from for artists to create work that many of us deem not good enough? Or not as good as something from America, or Europe?
And here we come to my point. How many times have you heard “oh, nothing good comes from Australia”, or “this is actually good considering it’s Australian!” Hell, I am sure I am guilty of saying it at least once in my time. These artists, be they musicians, writers, visual artists, comedians, work endless hours to fulfil their creative prophecy, only to have it thrown back in their face. Why are we so convinced that Australians have no talent? What about coming from America or Europe makes them better? So, with all this going on around them it’s a wonder any artist survives. The struggles with money, gaining exposure, rarely being seen as good enough in their own territory, working constantly. It takes real drive to overcome all of that. And then you have the consumer. The self-entitled consumer.
With the rise of Kickstarter and Pozible it has become slightly easier for artists to fund their next project. But with a crowdfunding platforms comes its own set of problems. First and foremost being, does the artist feel comfortable essentially asking fans for money? To invest in a product they haven’t heard or seen yet? It is also here that the self-entitled consumer really surfaces. Crowdfunding works with a reward system. The more money the fan “invests” the bigger and better rewards they get. Which means not only is the artist doing everything mentioned earlier, including working on their album, movie, show or book, but also creating all the rewards for their Kickstarter backers.
In an interview with Kim Boekbinder, she describes the crowdfunding process as “…a great and interesting way to fund an album. But it is also exhausting. My Kickstarter was wonderfully successful, and I’m so grateful that I have so many supporters. But, I do sometimes wonder if the process of running the campaigns and doing the DIY fulfillment is also holding me back from doing bigger things because my energy is often on the small day to day business rather than “the art” like it would be in my fantasy world if I had something like a label.”
Sure, it gives the band the funding they need, but it is just signing them up to even more work. All the rewards that seem more important to the backer than the project itself. You see, the self-entitled consumer sees it like this: “I paid money. I want my reward right now and that album better be damn ready when you say it will.” Do they think about the time needed to put into the album (book, movie etc.) and the the time required for the rewards? Do they think about the fact that there are more backers than just themselves? Nope. Nope and Nope. They think “I paid, so where is my stuff?” Don’t get me wrong, I think crowdfunding is great. If handled correctly it helps a lot of artists get their project off the ground. And I have a rule I follow for all projects I back. Whatever the crowdfunding is for, I will pledge the amount of money I would pay for the final product. I don’t do it for the rewards. I do it because I generally believe in the project and would like to see it created. All too often though, pledgers get caught up in the rewards and that’s all they focus on. They no longer seem to care about the album, just the reward they wanted. Apparently now, it’s not enough for a musician to make an album, or a writer to write a book; they need to do more to get the attention of the consumer. The consumer is so self-entitled that they believe they deserve more than what they are paying for.
My thoughts about consumers being self-entitled were further cemented when I read this article on The New Yorker about Adele’s latest album 25. Adele chose to not have her album on streaming services like Spotify, which resulted in 25 breaking album sale records and proving that not everyone will choose to pirate music. All of this sounds great, right? And that’s because it is. Whether you like Adele or not, this is proof that artists can still sell millions of records and the industry isn’t going to crumble thanks to piracy. Does the writer of the article John Seabrook think so? Apparently not. Sure, he recognises that this is good news, but then goes on to whinge that he can’t stream 25 when he believes he should, because he pays $10 a month to stream thousands of albums whenever he wants. Now, $10 a month isn’t a lot of money. Especially not when you have access to millions of songs. And that $10 a month has to then be shared among all those artists on Spotify, or Apple, or whatever streaming service you subscribe to. Sure there are plenty of users, but trust me they don’t get much. Seabrook seems to think that if he buys Adele’s 25 and then in a few months it pops up on a streaming service, he has paid for it twice. That’s hardly true. A subscription fee is for the service, not the specific album. And guess what? The album is Adele’s. If she wants to release it this way to try and make as much money as she can, well so be it. Aren’t we all just trying to make as much money as we can?
I could probably rant and rave about this endlessly, but I have to end somewhere. The arts are important, and we all love music, or reading, or watching a movie, so why do so many people think so little about the makers of the craft they love so much? Why do they think they shouldn’t pay? Why do they think they deserve more? I don’t have the answers, and I don’t know if anyone does, but something needs to change. People need to be confronted. Their behaviour needs to be brought out into the open. And people need to start appreciating Australian talent. And the album, book, movie or show they spent years making – is definitely more than enough.