There exists a stereotype that all artists/musicians should be starving, working gig-to-gig, hippie-like, sacrifice-for-the-love-of-your-art poor. I’m sure this stereotype, like most generalizations, exists for a reason. But when did being an artist/musician no longer become a respectable choice for a career? And should this career not also encourage us to give back to our community, too?
In ancient and not-so-ancient times, actors and musicians were regarded as the history teachers and storytellers of their cultures. The Christian churches regarded their musicians as essential in following the rituals of worship, and those musicians also gave a tithe to their church. Royalty may not have treated all of their musicians with respect and dignity, but many a famous composer from several eras were regularly employed by such courts. In many countries, the musicians are still highly regarded as essential to the culture and heritage of the people. Yet, in America, it appears that unless you are a top 40 act/artist, you should always have a “day job” or other means to “fall back upon” if you decide to become a musician. Even the public thrives on the story and wants their top 40 artists to rise from poverty, playing dive bar to dive bar, and learning of their struggle and story to “be discovered and make it big.” It seems to be the premise behind all the music and talent television shows of recent years, including “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice.” If you don’t have a good back-story, then they really are not interested in you or your actual talent. A good back-story is essential for reality television.
Why can’t a person be a successful musician without having to come from dive bars or living at the poverty level? Does this struggle make them a better musician? Or more talented? Or more or less devoted and driven to succeed? And when does one determine that he/she is successful?