How Important Is Art In Your Life?

We don’t need to go to museums and galleries to experience art.
Just like science, just like love, art is all around us every day, though we may not always be aware of its presence or influence. We wake up, turn on the radio, and there’s music. We go out and see different styles of artwork on enormous billboards, quaint little posters, and even raw graffiti. We may not be singers, painters, or stand-up comedians, but we’re all unconsciously creating art when we’re humming a song, doodling in a meeting, or telling a joke to friends.

But while there may be spirited discussions about how we can all create art, there’s absolutely no argument about how we’re all consuming it.

Whether you’re for or against the idea, the fact doesn’t change: art is consumed. We pay to see movies in theaters, attend concerts, enter museums, and watch plays. And why shouldn’t we? These works of art took a lot of time, effort, and talent from numerous individuals, each with their own competencies, working together to achieve something beautiful and meaningful.

Some artists believe that the fact that art is consumed is the main problem, saying this system encourages artists to create art primarily for money, which is so universally reviled, that artists perceived as practicing it are reduced to a loathsome, pejorative term: sell-out.

A sell-out is somebody who creates something for commercial reasons. In other words, something that would likely generate good sales, usually by riding a trend or by making something that’s similar to one that had previously sold well.

What’s so bad about wanting to create something that will sell well? Doesn’t it imply that a lot of people like it? Does it follow that something that’s created for aesthetic reasons is better than one that’s created for commercial reasons?

Bob Dylan was cursed and vilified by his purist fans when he shifted from folk to rock. Did his music suffer from the genre shift? Is “Like A Rolling Stone” not as good as “Blowin’ In The Wind”?

The answer: it depends who you ask. While most music fans, in hindsight, will say no, there are some folk purists who’d say yes. This ultimately proves an old adage about art: you can’t please everyone.

As if artists aren’t facing enough challenges, technology has seemingly gotten in the way of their livelihood. The arrival of streaming services has effectively changed how music and movies are consumed, and it has severely affected the earnings of the artists involved, especially musicians. Nobody’s buying CD’s anymore, and a recent resurgence in vinyl record purchases can’t compensate for the many years of steady decline in music sales.

As a result, musicians are earning less and less, given the minuscule percentage allotted to them by streaming companies, leaving them with no choice but to make regular gigging their main source of income.

And this is where we come in. We may be basking in the convenience of having thousands of our favorite songs ready to play in our pockets, and a vast library of new movies on our apps begging for our attention. But it wouldn’t hurt if every once in a while, we support artists directly by watching a band perform at the bar around the corner, going to an art exhibit at the nearby gallery, or attending a play being staged at the local theater.

The money may not necessarily be going from our pockets directly to the artists’, but the route is sure as hell shorter than if we pay for their work through Spotify or Netflix.

No one knows how long the business model of streaming will be the dominant way for artists to profit from their work, but one thing is deathly sure: they will never stop creating and we will never stop consuming.