Sunday, May 31, 2020

Gates and Keepers

To some degree there have always been both avenues toward success/survival for all artists/craftsmen who have tried to survive by their creativity.

I remember when I met David. I was doing an art fair in Toledo and though I couldn't see them behind my booth, I could hear some really good musicians -- a hammered dulcimer and a guitarist -- who were hired by the art fair to provide ambiance.

When they stopped playing and I had no customers, I ventured around behind my booth and found the two musicians taking a break. I introduced myself and complimented the guitarist -- David. After some conversation, I asked him what he did for a living. "Music", he said.

I felt kind of silly. I mean, for 15-20 years to that point, I had been making a living as a potter in a sub-culture, niche market "Wild West" of art fairs that had developed as a work-around to the twin gatekeepers of academia and gallery.

Why it hadn't occurred to me that there were parallel means of making a living from other creative pursuits and their gatekeepers, I don't know. Probably because I worshipped the world of music and the musicians that the gatekeepers of record labels and radio had presented me. At that point in time I was only a decade or so into collecting more homemade music and meeting more and more musicians of a decidedly NOT pop kind. At that point, though, even those musicians I was learning more about were still the "product" of record labels and contracts and distribution infrastructure. It was just smaller labels like Red House, SugarHill, and others.

But David was completely independent. He played in (at that point) four different bands, had his own recording studio, and would accompany just about any musician in need at a gig or recording studio.

Now we're all Davids. We're all finding our own way. Many of our favorite musicians are those we find on youtube. The Universities told some of our favorite authors/writers that they weren't any good. Thankfully some of them were simply obligate writers who couldn't not write.

In this digital age the braver among those rejected by academia and publishing houses took a chance. Even if those educated in our Universities to have contempt for the simple and the beautiful had rejected them, perhaps they could cast their bread on the water of the internet and see if there were any souls among the 4 billion with computers and kindles and phones out there whom they might touch and be touched by. And they found us. And we found them.

There will always be gatekeepers. And there will always be a majority who will look to them to tell us who and what we are supposed to like and dislike.

And there will always be obligate artists who do what we do. The shift is that there is now a much broader path around the gatekeepers.

Sometimes the gatekeepers want a piece of some of those self-made artists, and agreeable deals can be made.

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