How I’m Feeling: The Definition of “Support,” Part 3

Now that Zo and I have covered how artists should view “support” from other artists, and why artists should be attentive to the support they seek, I feel like we can adjust our trajectory slightly. While the previous posts were directed more towards artists, today we’re going to talk more about entire communities than just the creators they surround. So, as an artist, a fan, a friend, a family member, or a complete stranger, this applies to you.

I’m prepared to take a lot of flack for this, but let me say it because it needs to be said, then I’ll explain: Aside from direct purchases, There is no IDEAL way to support an artist as things sit currently.

In my lifetime, the paradigms have almost completely shifted from the way that things have worked for thousands of years previous. The system that was in place 50 years ago is outdated. Companies have lost an enormous amount of the footing they used to have as the gatekeepers and key masters of content. The internet, in general, has changed basically every aspect of the arts and entertainment, from creation all the way to consumption. The entry barriers have been eliminated in these industries, and the opportunities to be a successful independent artist are endless.

However, those companies are still clinging to life. Mainstream distribution channels are still owned by the corporations that created them and still maintained through other sources. As an example, a musician can now create their own music and accompanying video with absolutely no input from the music and film industries. Great, right? Kinda. In order for that artist to receive any type of compensation for these in order to further fund the creation and become self-sufficient, they’re still going to have to distribute them. So what are the options to do so? Either they can create their own distribution channels, or they can piggy-back on the existing channels for a (much) smaller piece of the pie. Still, with the music example, that means iTunes, YouTube, and the like.

Now, say they go with creating their own distribution channels. This probably means they’re going to create their own store, or a website with an online store (much like I did with this one, shameless self-plug.) Unless they plan on personally delivering each piece ordered through the online store, they’re going to need some kind of parcel delivery service. Unless they intend on personally handing out fliers worldwide, they’re going to need some kind of advertising. This is where things start to come together, yet become intricate and more complicated. Facebook posts are a great example of this, and I’ll go over that in the next part.

Earlier, I said there was no IDEAL way to support an artist, because most of the time, a good portion of that support goes elsewhere, depending on their level of dependence. However, as an underdog, ALL support is appreciated, and if we’re being honest: necessary. Other than the obvious purchasing of the products, tickets, merchandise, and such, here are a few ways that you can still support an artist, in no particular order:

  • Encouragement – Let them know if you’re proud of them. Tell them if you have faith in them. Sometimes, creatives get disheartened. Tell them to keep it up. Check in on them. Emotional support is free as fuck.
  • Be Patient – Try to understand that artists have a lot going on. Sometimes they spend an entire lifetime trying to reach their goals. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have other priorities in life or other things they want to do. Their juggling skills might not be the best (unless they are…), so don’t give up on them for having to cancel plans occasionally.
  • Criticism – I should say, “criticism with an explanation.” If you like something, let them know, and try to explain why. If you don’t, let them know, and try to explain why not. While art is an expression of one’s self, that doesn’t mean that your opinion doesn’t matter. We, as people, are shaped by our experiences and the people around us. That’s just nature. Also, artists grow and evolve. Don’t think any particular aspect of them is set in stone. (Unless they sculpt or something…)
  • “Social” Media – I could go on and on for days about this one, but I’ll keep it short for this article. While you’re not exclusively building the brand of the artist, it all helps. These sites have algorithms that promote posts with more interaction higher into followers’ timelines, so commenting/sharing/reacting exponentially improves an artist’s visibility on that platform.
  • Word of Mouth – Slightly different from the social media option, is the actual social option. Tell your friends at the bar or your church group (or both?) An actual face-to-face conversation always carries more weight than pixels ever will.
  • Get More “Hands-On” – I’m not saying be a groupie, but I’m not saying don’t be a groupie. Often times, artists struggle meeting setup times at galleries, concerts, and other various events. Literally, and figuratively, sometimes artists need a little help carrying the load. Forgetting to eat happens a lot too. (Seriously.) Making a simple sandwich can brighten an artist’s entire day.
  • Share Your Skills – As bad as it sounds to say this, anyone can be an artist. That considered, not everyone can do everything, and not every profession is considered an art, even if some should be. Not every artist knows how to wire their light desk. (Electricians do.) Not every artist knows how to fix their car to get to the next show. (Mechanics do.) Websites need development. Studios need building. A lot of things that people do can help out an artist, even more so than they think.
  • Just ASK – As I said in the previous article, the definition of “support” can vary wildly. Sometimes the easiest way to support an artist is just to ask, “Hey, how can I help?” Their answer could be any number of things that aren’t even considered in this article. Artists are normal people too, so pride is pretty common. They may not ask for help if they need it, and are a lot more likely to accept help if it’s offered.

Notice how these focus on interaction? Of course, this is just a prediction, but “Community” is a word you’re going to see a lot more of across the internet. Even with all the “social” sites on the internet, people are still looking for a place to belong. If you’re an artist, and someone enjoys your art because they can relate to it, guess what? You’re giving them that place. If you’re not an artist, but you can relate to the art which is created, guess what? You give the artist that place.

One thing I will say NOT to do is coddle them. Any artist that is serious about their work will make sacrifices to reach their goals. It is nobody’s place, but their own, to provide for themselves as they journey for the art to become self-sufficient. One day, they may be able to sustain their art through itself, but DO NOT sustain it for them, in the chance they may later. Their bills are THEIR bills, not yours. Significant others and family advice may vary slightly based on the levels of dependence, but do your best to nip the artist mooch stereotype in the bud.

I’d also like to point out, that if you’ve read this far, you’ve already supported Zo and myself more than I would ever ask, and I appreciate any and all of the support that I’ve received up to this point. Thank you. Feel free to agree, disagree, or input as you see fit, in the comments section below.