Songs for the Struggling Artist


Amplify Wednesday

The thing is, y’all, I was 100% sure I would have achieved massive success at least 20 years ago. I do a lot of different things and depending on the thing, small groups of people think I’m pretty great at that thing. My issue is not that I make bad things but that almost no one sees them happen. My platform in this big number world is so tiny – if it were a raft, it could only save a handful of people.

This is true for a lot of women I know. The quality of their work is fantastic but their reach is negligible. I used to fall for the “women lack confidence” angle but I know now that that is bullshit. The whole “women would do better if they just promoted themselves better, presented themselves differently, made more commercial work” thing reminds me of a guy I heard talking about his experience of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He said, “It’s clear that the cream really rises to the top there.” Three guess as to whose show had been a hit at the festival that year. When you’re at the top everyone else is just regular milk and your rise was inevitable. Also – the other thing about cream is that it does rather tend to be rich and white. And male. (Wait – this metaphor falls apart there, I guess. I don’t think cream is gendered actually.) Anyway – my sense is that reach is a problem for a lot of women so I’ve decided to start a practice of amplification.

I already practice some amplification. After learning about the gender and racial imbalances on Twitter, I made it my practice to follow and amplify the voices of women (particularly women of color), trans people, non-binary people, people of color of all genders, people with disabilities and anyone else who ought to be heard more. My hope is that with my simple follows and likes and retweets, I can turn up the volume a little for people who ought to be heard.

It is not a thing that makes a big splashy difference. I see it as sort of incremental but hopefully cumulative. Now that we live in a world where people’s tweets are news, I think it’s important to add to the numbers of the people who are heard.

That’s all just my small daily amplification. But now I think I need to do a weekly amplification. I want to consciously lift up one woman a week. I want to expand someone’s fan base, if only a little. I want to lift up my friends, sure but also artists, writers and journalists that I wish had a larger reach.

I’d love for others to join me in raising the tide for the un-amplified voices. I’d love to see #AmplifyWednesday become as common as #ThrowbackThursday. If there’s one thing that writing/podcasting on the internet has shown me, it’s the effect of just one person advocating for something. I’ve seen big spikes in my views and/or listens just because one person decided to share it. And then when two people share it, my reach doubles. And so on and so on. Social media is weird. I acknowledge all the freaky things that go on here, all the ways we’re manipulated and sold to but we’re all still here – I think because we like one another, and we like being connected. We like supporting one another.

So I’m advocating formalizing that a little bit. If you feel like joining me, here’s what I propose: Every Wednesday post on the social media of your choice someone’s work you want to amplify and maybe say why. Pick on article, a painting, a song, link to it and give that person a boost. That’s it. #AmplifyWednesday

I’ll be amplifying mostly women, inclusive of trans and non-binary folk. I’d love for others to do the same. Even if you don’t want to post, click on links that you see posted, like those updates. We live in a click, like, share world and you can amplify by doing those things as well.

I think it’s time for Conscious Amplification.

No disrespect to Justin Timberlake but he doesn’t need your clicks and likes. His voice gets heard no matter what you do. But there are those for whom you can turn the volume up, whose lives you could change just by amplifying them.

One of the reasons I’m glad to see my Twitter following growing is not so much for my own work but because it amplifies the people I amplify more. The rising numbers of followers I have on Twitter has made no difference whatsoever on my views or downloads. None. But I expect it has made a difference in boosting the numbers of some people and/or causes I care about.

Turn up the volume on someone who is not getting heard. It’s not difficult and a great way to be an ally. You don’t need to insert yourself into the conversation, just turn up the volume on the people who are already having it.

This blog is also a podcast. You can find it on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you’d like to listen to me read a previous one on Anchor, click here.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to really amplify my work?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

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What People Click On

One of the side activities of having a blog is watching the stats roll in. My host, WordPress, keeps track of views and clicks on my blog and they share that info with me. This means I see when a post is traveling through the internet (usually Facebook) and when it does not.

The bulk of my views tend to come through Facebook (WordPress shares where the click originated.) And I can see what posts people read on Facebook, what caught people’s attention and what did not. Based on that (admittedly limited) data set, I might determine that people are the most interested in sexual harassment. My big viral hit a few years ago (four thousand views one day) was on this topic and the subsequent follow-ups were also in my top most views.

In the recent wave of discussion on this topic, triggered by Weinstein, I found my blog getting more views again. It makes me think about the following possibilities: people are very interested in sexual harassment or I just happen to be a better writer on this topic than I am on other ones. Another possibility is that Facebook likes to promote topics in this vein as it hits two of their algorithmic favorites: things that generate outrage and sex. (Not that sexual harassment really has anything to do with sex – but it does have the word in it!)

Based on the data, I might, if I were a person who was interested in following the market, be inclined to write more about sexual harassment and less about, say, arts education. But I don’t trust the data. I’m interested in it but I don’t trust it.

Social media companies make money on outrage. They promote posts that stir up controversy (controversy means more comments and more time on the platform) and are disinclined to promote posts that take people outside the network. I’d imagine they’re not so keen on posts that are critical of their platform either (unless, of course, they trigger a lot of comments.) I wrote a post a while back about how “discussion” on social media isn’t really discussion – about being reflective about what these platforms can actually do for us and it got, like, no views.

This could be because it wasn’t that interesting to people (fair point – very possible) but it could also be because Facebook isn’t that interested in being reflective about itself. Because it’s an open question, I really cannot and should not base what I write about on my stats – and I also need to be careful about making assumptions about people based on my stats. These sorts of data can make me feel like people are only interested in hearing from women when we’ve been the victim of something and I have to hope that that’s not true.

Want to keep up with me without the mediating force of Facebook?

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become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs and an album of More Songs. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



The Danger of Relying on Opinions

My theatre company’s crowdfunding campaign for Research and Development of our show got me thinking about arts funding and the way art gets supported. Generally, arts crowdfunding campaigns live or die based on the response to an idea, that is, the opinions of the people funding it. If a project’s friends and family LIKE the idea of the project, they fund it. If they’re not keen on it, like they think, “I wouldn’t want to go see that,” – they won’t. This is actually, at the gut level, often how grants get passed out as well. “Is this show, art-work, dance – something I’d want to see?” If yes – Stamp of Approval. If no – Rejection.

This basically means that whether or not something gets made is connected to the opinions of the consumer. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I decide whether to support something or not based on whether or not I think it’s a good idea. But I think this is problematic and symptomatic of an overly commercial sensibility when funding the arts. If you’d pitched me some of my favorite shows just as ideas, I’d definitely not have funded or chosen them. A stage version of the film, Brief Encounter? A one man show about tribes in the rainforest performed by a white dude? If you’d asked me to fund a show about a horse who goes to war, I’d have said that was an idea that was doomed to fail. And I would have been very wrong about that.

The fact is, whether or not I LIKE an artist shouldn’t preclude that artist’s ability to make the art. I don’t like all kinds of things every day. But I shouldn’t get to be the arbiter of what gets made.

We live in a world where Spiderman The Musical got made because Marvel had money to burn on it. We had Legally Blonde, The Musical because it was paid for. And I have to bet that not many people were truly passionate about making Legally Blonde the Musical. It was not born from a group of artists getting together to create something where there was nothing. A group of producers hired a group of writers to do a job and make some money using an existing property. It has all the hallmarks of a show put together by agents to showcase people at their agency.

Do we truly want a world where agents and movies studios decide what theatre gets made and artists like us – and like so many of our peers – have to send our ideas to the Idea Cemetery simply because our friends and/or granting organization didn’t like the idea? From Broadway all the way down to the smallest company, we’re letting the market determine who gets to make art.

This is why government funding for the arts makes sense. While no Arts Council is perfect, they at least aspire to a more equitable distribution of resources. They can keep their eye on inclusion and diversity. They can fund things that people won’t necessarily LIKE but really should get made and seen anyway. I’d rather have all kinds of work I don’t like funded, knowing that there are other metrics under consideration than whether the panel or audience thinks it’s a good idea.  I mean no disrespect to grant panels or audiences – but they don’t always recognize the good ideas from the outset. They tend to respond to things that are like something they’ve seen before. And this is not a great way to innovate in the Arts.

For the arts to thrive, we need to be able to explore a wide variety of ideas. We need to chase down the “bad” ones as well as the “good” ones. Good ideas sometimes make bad art. And vice versa. We need an arts funding culture that isn’t predicated on whether or not someone likes the idea. If we could, instead, fund the artists, fund the companies and fund the places that say to artists, “Whatever you want to explore, here are some resources.” That’s the way toward a vibrant, thriving arts landscape.

And, I think, that is why my company’s current campaign is going better than any crowdfunding we’ve done before. We’re not trying to sell the idea this time. We’re sharing a process. We’re looking to fund an exploration instead of a product. No one has to have an opinion about where we’re headed or what we create. And it is liberating for both artists and funders. We’ll save the opinions for the critics.

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You don’t have to like me to become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. If you’d like to listen to me read this one on Anchor, click here.

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



When You’re Winning
April 28, 2016, 9:08 pm
Filed under: art | Tags: , , , , , ,

I got some good news and I posted about it on Facebook. It generated hundreds of likes and bunches of comments. People love good news.

I love good news, too. It feels like, when I “like” someone’s good news on Facebook, that I’m saying, “I like you and I want good things to happen to you. So yay!” It is a very clear interaction in a world of mystery. Someone has some success and I get to cheer for them. When I got cheers like that, it felt great.

But getting that flurry of support also felt a little strange. I’d won an award. It was categorically good news but I was struck by how little I had to do with it. I apply for things constantly and the answer is, 99 times out of 100, “No.” The actual thing I did in this case was to continue to apply in the face of so much rejection. This is the one hundredth time I applied for something and finally someone said “Yes” and in a way, it felt like the crowds were merely getting onto the “yes” bandwagon. Someone else did something (by accepting me) and the approval from so many people was for this thing that I had almost nothing to do with. It felt strange. Like the likes weren’t for me but for the people who gave me the award.

Facebook plays a large part in this, of course. The algorithm is such that posts like my award move to the top of the posting pile. The “Good News” I included in the post, probably triggered a few algorithmic points but the many “Congratulations” boosted it even more. It’s a trend that becomes a trend because it’s trending. And so hundreds of new likes happen. And people who haven’t seen me in their feed for months or years are suddenly getting this one post. So to them, it probably seems like I’m winning all the time. Meanwhile, things I actually make (like shows, or blogs, or songs) barely get a look.

It made me wonder how we can better support one another even when we’re not winning, when the approval machine is not working in our favor. I wonder how we can support and encourage one another when we actually MAKE things, when we make a show or write a blog, story, song, play, etc. I think, in the past, I’ve thought of “liking” these sorts of posts as a kind of review – like, “I liked this show you made. I endorse it.” Or “The blog you wrote was relevant to me.” Like, a mini review via clicking. Conversely, I’d abstain from “liking” a show I hadn’t seen, a blog I hadn’t read, a song I hadn’t listened to. I’d also abstain from clicking things I wasn’t really a fan of, despite being a fan of the person. I think now, after my experience of winning for a moment, I’m going to be a lot more liberal with the like button. I want to support my fellow artists/makers/humans for the things they actually make/do and not just other people’s approval of those things.

But while I was feeling weird about my sudden Facebook “success,” I had a strong sense of gratitude for the people supporting me on Patreon. Because the folks on Patreon have my back on everything I write. They’re there for the posts that hit, the ones that strike the Facebook algorithmic fancy, and the ones that don’t. That is, they’re supportive of my MAKING things, not just the things other people approve of.

We’re pack animals in a way. We pile on to the things the pack has given approval to and let the “unliked” go it alone sometimes. I’m experimenting with how to bring our pack instincts to the act of MAKING things and not just receiving the approval and acceptance from outside ourselves. Patreon feels like a good start on that but I wonder if there are more ways we can applaud one another for what we do not just who approves of us.

Ideas?

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Join the fierce wolf pack of supporters.

Become my patron on Patreon and, for as little as a dollar a post, you can make a big difference in this artist’s life.

Also – this blog is now a podcast. If you’d like to hear it, click here.

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Click HERE  to Check out my Patreon Page

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist




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