I want to talk about a paradox, it’s one that most of us have experienced and it relates to money and success.
If you asked me if I thought commercial success was a true measurement of achievement, I’m pretty sure that, philosophically speaking, I’d say it wasn’t. In reality though, when I meet people who have done well in their fields, (commercially I mean), then I can’t help but feel more impressed than those who have not done so. I can do that because I’m a hypocrite. We all know that loads of people who get rich and famous are probably there more by luck than by measure. Often people who seem to be far better at what they do than other, more well known, people often go unrecognised. It’s just a fact of life. So what is it about commercial success and fame that a lot of us are so impressed by?
Perhaps one thing it particularly relates to is the “Pursuer, Distance Dynamic”, again this is one of those things that most of us have experienced. It’s basically the more someone wants us, the less we want them, and of course the more they don’t want us, the more we desire them. It’d kind of the first rule of love as well. The second rule of love is: When you’re single no one wants you and when you’re with someone people won’t leave you alone, but I digress.
So when it comes to fame there’s a connection between these principles. People who are desired by others may trigger our own desires for them, because a subconscious message tells us, “Well they must have something, if everyone else thinks so”. I mean if you were to see two restaurants next to each other and one was full and the other was empty, which one would you be most likely to enter? So in a way fame feeds on itself and that’s partly why it doesn’t always relate to ability.
One of the other ways we measure success is by how much others will pay for their services. I would happily pay £40 to see Leonard Cohen, it would be an experience well worth every penny for me. There may be other artists who are “almost” as good, (not likely), but they haven’t been in my head for as many years, and to me, seeing Leonard Cohen in real life would be like bringing my inner and external worlds together. Again my willingness to pay to see Leonard Cohen isn’t just about his ability it’s about our relationship. So what’s my point?
The thoughts that motivated me to write this article came about because I saw a video in which, Chris Cox , a marketing consultant, suggests that artists give their music away for free. His main argument is, that in a world of pirating and media companies that dominate our world, he believes, artists who want to sell their work without, or sometimes even with, corporate help are going to have a hard time doing so. Therefore he suggests that one option, is to give the music away, at least that way it’ll get heard and connections with people all around the world can be made.
The only thing is, in the past when I’ve paid for albums, if I didn’t like the music at first I would still struggle on because I had made a financial commitment to it. I wanted to see if by digging a little deeper there would be anything worthy of my hard earned cash, and more often than not there was. BUT if I was given a disk for free and didn’t like the first track I’d probably just put it aside and never come back to it. So by giving one’s music away there are two possible side-effects. The first is that people may feel you can’t be any good because you’re unable to sell your work and secondly they probably won’t even listen to it because they haven’t made any commitment to it. There is a third effect which is music that needs to be struggled with may be abandoned too early so both the artist and audience end up losing in the long run.
When Leonard Cohen is in concert and says to his audience: “I want to thank you friends, I know some of you have had to undergo financial and geographical struggles to be here tonight” the audience cheer. He touches them because both he and they realise there is a connection, a deep emotional one between them. Plato said that we recognise something inside others that is inside ourselves too and that’s what contributes to us becoming true friends with certain people. It’s also true that our closest friends are often very different from us, that it’s something in their essence that connects us.
When I write songs my music comes from a deep part of me, so as it moves around the world it touches some people and they then link up with me, for instance via my Facebook music page. What ensues between us is a two way dynamic, well more so than the traditional musician and audience relationship. Perhaps as the Internet changes the nature of how music is distributed, the type of relationships between artists and audience may well change too, becoming much more intimate. Ironically that’s probably quite like relationships that existed between many musicians and singers when society was more of a community. People would often gather to make music and sing together. Also the isolation caused by the relationship, or lack of it, between artist and stars, might be why so many stars have collapsed emotionally after they found their “dream”. When TV and radio took over, the “stars” sang to an audience that didn’t really exist in any real way to them, and though the audiences might have waved and thrown their under garments at the TV, the person singing to them would have been blind and deaf to their antics. But now, now there’s the Internet and it’s becoming a two way process, so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens next!