What happens when an artist’s ego impedes on the audience’s appreciation for the art? Trubie Turner offers some insight.
Some months ago, a blog posting by a certain electronic artist that provides a series of ground rules for meeting him caused a bit of buzz online. While generally a bulleted list of items kindly requesting a certain level of etiquette when being approached wouldn’t normally turn many heads, this particular artist’s brutish and condescending tone has definitely rubbed a few people the wrong way. The question is, should we expect any better from someone who has been inflated into a position of minor celebrity, and should they expect any better from their fans?
Fans of the more underground musical styles tend to get a much greater level of access to the artists than their more mainstream counterparts. Because of this, underground artists frequently have to sell themselves as much as their art. I myself am guilty of buying an artist’s music more to support the persona the artist has put forth than an actual love of their music. This can make public interaction and blog postings by an artist all the more precarious. One moment’s weakness, one tongue-in-cheek blog posting taken the wrong way, or one bad day viewed by outside observers unaware of the context can adversely harm an artist’s reputation and potentially affect their livelihood.
When an artist has a moderate amount of success there will be no shortage of people telling them how great they are and conversely how terrible they are. It is how the artist responds to all this ego fellatio and negative feedback that defines them. Some artists remain humble and genuinely appreciative of their fans and their input, while others let the fame and attention go to their heads writing off negative comments as squawking from the jealous and the petty. No matter what sort of pedestals their fans may put them up on, the artist is still just a fellow human being susceptible to all the same temptations and failings of anyone else. Just like our normal day to day interactions, some artists will come across as assholes and others as saints. If an artist is short tempered and standoffish with their fans, does that change the quality of their music at all?
One of the apparent bigger problems with some artists being inflated to the rank of celebrity is an apparent loss of empathy for the people who have raised him or her up on their backs. Should an artist be horribly shocked and appalled when an excited fan temporarily forgets common courtesy and does something a bit rude? Have they lost all ability to see the situation from their fan’s point of view? Anyone can get caught up in a moment and forget how they should behave and many fans express their fandom differently. Some are satisfied with just a quick interaction. Some want to ask questions about the craft just to hear the artist speak about their creative process. Some want to share their own creations hoping to find a common ground. Some are satisfied with simply watching the artist and seeing them as a human being and not just as a formless voice coming out of their speakers.
Though the original blog posting has now become a bit of a joke with other artists creating their own bulleted behavior lists in a gentle ribbing of the original poster, the intent, tone, and the in-group mentality it has spawned is more depressing than amusing. Thankfully, the attention surrounding this blog has since died down, but at the time, those who seriously questioned the post became labeled as “butt hurt” because they “obviously” weren’t cool enough to hang out with the artist, while others used the opportunity to ramp up their ego fellatio to new heights trying to find room to plant their lips firmly on the backside of the artist and prove they were part of the “in” crowd that follows the artist’s rules.
These in crowd “yes” men are truly one of an artist’s greatest perils. The blind adulation and uncritical praise can easily lull the artist into accepting the status quo, abandoning experimentation and growth in favor of bland reproduction of previous work in an effort to keep the vapid, mindless, ego inflating praise flowing. How often do we hear virtually identical albums from an artist released over and over? Obviously with established artists who have found their niche, like AC/DC for example, any drastic change in formula is likely to hurt their monetary flow; however for more underground and younger acts where there aren’t millions of dollars at stake, falling into the trap of these “yes” men, ceasing any growth and writing off sources of negative criticism as “haters” is not a recipe for success; critical, artistic, or financial.
In the end it’s a question of what the artist wants out of their art. Do they want to improve and grow as an artist? Do they only want the mindless empty praise of a few fans of questionable taste and settle for “good enough” or do they wish to make a bigger impact on their genre and influence many artists to come? Do they want to be a Bob Ross or a Van Gogh? Are they figuratively shooting for a hotel room wall, or a museum gallery? Far too often genuine potential can get caught up in the tides of worthless praise leaving little more than a grossly overfed ego weighing the artist down and making them incapable of producing anything creative, relevant or worthwhile and unlike an obese person, there is no motorized cart powerful enough to haul an artist weighed down by his or her own ego.
Trubie Turner (Flexei)