It is perfectly natural for a human to pre-judge a situation. Good intentions aside, we do, indeed, judge a book by its cover. We do read the blurb and think, “What? No earth-destroying ninja robots? No deal!” We look at what’s trending and ignore what’s not.
It is an essential skill: With too much choice, too much information overloading us, how can we possibly sift through the flotsam? Search Engines and forums will bubble up the ‘most popular’. Marketers and publicists will thrust their clients to the top of the list. Money talks.
We need to quickly filter out the bad if we are to pick the good. Like choosing fruit, would you prefer a lovely, shining apple from the supermarket or a dull, hail-damaged one straight from the tree?
Enter the Indie
I’ll be blunt. Indies don’t have a lot of resources: Time, money, friends, advertising, celebrity, influence, you name it, it’s in short supply.
Want to know something interesting? Indies do have other qualities, special qualities, and they have it in bucketloads: Passion. Patience. Pride. Desire. Drive. Determination.
And, despite prejudices to the contrary, Talent.
That’s not to say that every independent work is a masterpiece. Nor does it imply that there isn’t a yard full of tosh to wade through. What it does mean is that just because it hasn’t gone through the sanitation process, been stripped of anything too extreme or risque or provoking, been puffed up with whatever’s trending, been watered down to suit the most popular palate, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth a crack.
That’s right. Pick up that windfall apple and look at it closely. Wrapped inside that dull, hail damaged, ill-shaped fruit is some of the tastiest flesh you’ll ever eat. It wants to be eaten. If there are bruises or knocks, cut around it and eat the rest!
Therein lies the issue: The artist lives to create, not to sell. Their focus is not on the perception of the work, rather on the work itself.
This is where we see the drive and determination coming into play. If Indies were all about turning a buck or becoming raging successes, we’d drop this gig and be out the door before the keyboard hit the ground. Yet here we are, plodding on, pushing through.
No press releases, no appearances on talk-shows, no endorsements by big name celebrities, no team of marketing experts. Yet the independent artists march on, confident that somewhere in the big, wide world are people who will discover and appreciate their efforts.
Indies persist despite the lack of recognition.
The problem with Perception is that it is largely out of the hands of the artist. It doesn’t matter how great the product is if the audience never gets a chance to sample it. The audience won’t wish to sample it if it does not look appealing.
Sure, there are reviews, publications, marketing and advertising, tools to grab someone’s attention, break through the barrier and say, “Hey, you might like this.” Of course, the bigger the budget, the better the campaign, and the small, pathetic plea of the indie is drowned out by the cacophony of the big boys.
It’s all part of the struggle.
Through resistance a muscle grows. So, too, through adversity the artist will thrive, savouring the small wins, learning from the defeats. Unpleasant as it is, it makes us stronger and, in many ways, both tangible and intangible, makes the artwork that much better.
It has to, simply because the artist cannot compete with the slick artworks and celebrity endorsements, and so must work on either quality or quantity. Give that time is such a scarce commodity, you can bet your bottom dollar that a your fellow artist is feverishly fine tuning their skills to give you the best work they can.
How can you help? Feedback. Feedback lets the artist know you’ve seen, or felt, or listened to their work. This, by itself, is one of the greatest motivators. Whether your criticism is good, or bad, or constructive, or jovial, or even if you have no criticism – and let’s face it, sometimes there’s just nothing to say – letting them know that their work made its way in front of you is enough to keep the creative passion burning.
You can also help by changing your perception and the perception of those around you. Independent artists will always have the stigma of being ‘unprofessional’ or ‘lesser-quality’ or, heaven forbid, ‘less-enjoyable’ than mainstream. The extent of this stigma, though, is up to you, the audience.
Be brave. Be adventurous. Move off the beaten track and try something different. Then you can tell others about that squishy, juicy, strange-yet-oddly-satisfying fruit you just found lying under a tree.