The glow of an artist

We live in a world in which if you’re not active on social media, you’re basically not existing. The more you post, the more you live. Posting only occasionally means for many you’re probably living an uninteresting life so you have nothing worth to share.

It gets even more tricky if you’re a musician (ideally an artist). Then, not only you should share on a regular, rather constant basis, but also other people and institutions should share or publish the material featuring you. The more, the better. It means you’re something. And that your life is just great. Your fans are impressed, the managers are flying around you like mosquitos on a humid summer day, the concert promoters are smiling like kids who see a package of tasty candies. You make everybody happy (that is very nice of you), but you don’t necessarily make yourself a favour. The pressure increases. And the more it does, the more your artistry suffers.

When one takes a magnifying glass, this delusional image of your beautiful life and career which is spread all over the place may show the first signs of auto-destruction or it falls apart altogether. It’s a risky game that can lock you in a hamster wheel where you’re stuck forever biting your own tail without going any further. The growth is silent and creation is quiet; sometimes one has to “disappear” in order to advance for real. But in any case, one should reflect on a regular basis. The question always remains the same: what does one really want from life? What is one’s main purpose?

I must underline one thing. I don’t find anything bad in some small promotion made by agents or in being active on social media. On contrary. Overall, it can be helpful. And social platforms alone can be a great medium that brings people closer, or at least has such potential. What I detest, however, is the way how we got used to thinking in categories: you’re visible = you’re great and alive, you’re not visible = you’re nothing, forgotten and dead.

Due to existence of such a classification, artists often fall in a trap of being totally terrified of being invisible. Naturally, they want to exist, grow in power and importance. A great visibility is an intuitive way to achieve it. And up to a point(!) it is like that. But the problem starts when you get scared of becoming unnoticed and dead. Then you get anxious. You start to post massively or/and you regularly pay PR companies to make a pitch for you and your greatness, to keep you visible wherever possible, to ensure your exposure. That is your choice and if it doesn’t give you stress and doesn’t make you feel like the above-mentioned hamster then it’s totally fine.

What is really bad though in this whole marketing area is when you get comfortable with the act of humble bragging. Or not so humble.

“Congratulations to your successful debut at the [name of a major venue]!” I applauded face-to-face one musician, who is establishing his position in the business.
“Oh, thank you! I see the news travels fast.” he answered in a questionably modest way.
“Yes, because you shared that news by yourself on your private fb account.” I thought to myself biting my tongue.

My absolute favorite is a trendy phrase: “I had a great success tonight” posted not on private channels but very much public ones. When I saw it the first time, I thought somebody was so overwhelmed with joy that this sentence just slipped out. It’s OK, it happens. But then I realized it’s a popular thing to say, and not necessarily among the wannabes, but among well-established artists. Some do that repeatedly. So let me repeat it too:

“I had a great success tonight” (or other variations of a similar self-praise) – Can’t one express that a bit subtler? Self-worth is important, but I doubt this form is appropriate. It seems nobody pays attention to it and such phrases became totally accepted and applauded by the business and by the public. Apparently, promotion rules, doesn’t matter how you’re doing it. Also, praising euphorically and openly one’s own ensemble and one’s own grown-up kids who are fellow musicians is slightly awkward. But, here again, I have never spotted any reaction of disapproval. I have a funny feeling that something isn’t right here. But maybe it’s just me. For some weird reasons I got mentally stuck somewhere in the past, where artists were rather constantly unhappy with themselves, aiming at something better and higher. At perfection which is always out of reach but worth striving for.

I don’t say one should always have himself under control and pretend modesty when one doesn’t feel like – that’s fake. We’re all humans and sometimes we need to express “Yes, I did it. I’m happy and proud!” This is healthy. But let’s not forget about the dignity and the reason why one does the things in the first place. Again, the question: what is my purpose? Am I working for the sake of artistic quality or for sake of self-oriented noise being a part of omnipotent marketing?

The noise created around a person should be only a byproduct of the artistic value. It seems, however, that very often this works the other way: the artistic value becomes a byproduct of the noise.

Is it not worth anymore to aim at artistic highlands, not only by saying so but actually by doing? This depends on the business and on us, consumers. If we’re fully satisfied with the pure gold glitter served in posts, publications, “paid word of mouth” and other pretty gimmicks imposed by the current market condition, and let THEM shape our opinions according to the amount of glitter spilled on a person, then probably it’s enough to stay where we are and enjoy the glow. Until it stops and culturally leaves us with nothing.


  • Robert B. Lewis
    "The noise created around a person should be only a byproduct of the artistic value." Couldn't agree more! Having said that, artists always "helped" their status by creating noise around them, even Liszt did - but in those times the artistry was still very accomplished and on much higher spiritual level.
  • Peter Wu
    Worth reading. Thank you, Paulina!

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