A couple of months ago, I read a tweet in which a musician was complaining about the lack of support from his fellow musicians, and somehow the only way they couldn’t be getting support is jealousy on behalf of the others. It was most likely a targeted post towards someone he was feeling less-than-adequate support from, but they weren’t named, so I can’t get any more specific than that. However, it did start a thought process that I’ve been trying to find the best way to describe since then.
First, and foremost, so it’s stated from the jump: the definition of “support” is going to vary from person to person, as much as the art itself will change. We’re going to go with “art” because a lot of this subject is universally applicable to various types of art. (If you’re a painter, just replace “concert” with “exhibition” etcetera, etcetera.) If we’re going to get to the root of the issue, we’re going to have to put egos aside (yeah, artists, I know…) and get as literal as we can. Once the terminology is clear and understood, it’ll be a lot easier to communicate the problems and solutions.
Absolutely zero successful artists have become that way completely on their own. There’s always SOMEONE else that helped along the way. We’ll use the painter comparison, real quick, to illustrate my meaning. (See what I did there? Painter…illustrate…) A painter creates the new-age Mona Lisa, using nothing but his art supplies and his mind. Could he have done it without other people being involved? Maybe, but chances are he didn’t make his own canvas, brushes, paint, easel, art studio, or anything else that he relied on during the creation of his masterpiece. After he made the painting, did he sell it? Did someone help broker the sale? So, before and after the actual creation, people were involved in his craft. I would go so far as to say they helped support him, as he couldn’t have done it without those people.
Now, some might say, “That’s bullshit Cav. If you have to pay for it, it’s not support.” I disagree. If two people write a song together and split the songwriting royalties from subsequent sales, that’s mutual financial gain from two people who assisted each other. Much like any other business transaction, both people gain something by helping one another. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” so to speak. The same applies to managers, agents, lawyers, distributors, publicists, publishers, promoters, graphic designers, merchandise fulfillers, engineers/producers, videographers, roadies/tour crews, and so many other tasks that the artist may not be able to do themselves. Even much more so is the case when it comes to consumers. That’s the ultimate form of support. If someone buys your art, wouldn’t you say they’re a supporter? If you don’t have anything available for sale, you display your art on the internet, a gallery, or just in public. If that’s the logical endpoint to the distribution of your art, and someone views it, they’re supporting you.
Social media and other forms of advertising may have changed the outlook on how to support artists a little bit. Seeing as word of mouth has always been the best form of advertisement, this is multiplied exponentially by social media. However, most artists in this age of entitlement EXPECT people to share their art, without giving them any reason to do so, other than, “You know me.” If my own brother made country music and expected me to share it with my audience without some kind of quid pro quo, I would laugh in his face. To have someone include or endorse you with their brand, “You gotta give the driver a little incentive,” because fans are loyal, and pushing that loyalty is never good for anyone.
TL;DR: First, define what “support” is to you. Second, assess how you’re supporting others, and that’s a good indicator of why your support levels are where they are.
Like I said earlier, someone else may have a varying opinion from my own, so I’m curious what everyone else thinks about the subject. Leave a comment below with your thoughts.
Edit (December 4, 2017): Zo West has written a follow-up article with his thoughts on “support.” Stop by and join the conversation here.