For the sake of art or money

Recently in an undergraduate discussion about the music business, we endeavored as a group to place artists – mainstream and independent – on a spectrum with ART on one end and MONEY it’s polar opposite. The exercise was intended to get the students to think about the constant friction that exists for artists when making art for commerce. We discussed examples of times when artists (or their management/labels) have been faced with decisions between the two. Much to the point of the exercise, the students were valiant in stating their opinions – why they put each artist where – recognizing the influence money and business has on art. But now three weeks since, I can’t help but continue to think about the conversation. The ways the exercise was apt and the ways it was flawed.

We work to make money to live to make art, which is our work.

If art is our child, we do anything it takes to feed that child. Anything.

But we don’t do it out of vanity. We do it for transformation. To make a contribution. For people, even if we can’t see or name them in our moments of creation. We do it from acknowledgment and faith that they are there.

In a conversation with a lifelong mentor the other day, we talked about the spectrum of INTEGRITY and SUCCESS. Invariably we fell into a groove of comparing the two as if they are mutually exclusive, acknowledging simultaneously that is flawed – but we indulged ourselves nonetheless. After that conversation I had the same feeling. I can’t help but continue to think about it. Because I still believe ART and INTEGRITY can live in peace with MONEY and SUCCESS. It is not the common or easy path, but it is possible.

It is a choice to remain focused. To remain true. To stay the course of our own creation. To have faith and believe that all the previous choices in our lives have led us here. To keep our choices, and not fear them. To trust our previous, present and future selves. And to trust that this moment is the beginning of the next moments to come – and they are important.

We are a product of our vision, experiences and environment. The invisible path we set out on. Acquaintances, interactions, impressions, attitudes. Surroundings and circumstances. Serendipity. Universe conspiracy. A collection of moments that share something in common – that we are in them.

We transform all of this into expression – visual, musical, tactile, edible. And because we share being human, these diverse expositions of our inner and outer personalities are sometimes universally relatable – sometimes individually relatable. By many. By few.

It’s the connection moment we strive for. We can feel when we have created something so true that it is relatable. We hunger for it.

We do not make art for art’s sake or money’s sake. We make art for people’s sake.

And making art that way leads to both money and integrity. But they are not goals or routes – they are not ends or means. They are bi-products of a creative life lived with intention.