Selling Out vs Making A Living

I see the term selling out often used to describe some artist and their work. And most times, it's used as some sort of criticism, demeaning both the artist and their work. But I think that sometimes this criticism is misguided.

First, we need to look at what so many people think selling out means—it means doing your art for money or some other reward. But let's be real here, no one accuses the grocery clerk, or the fireman, or the school teacher, or the plumber of selling out because they get paid for what they do. That seems to be reserved for those who pursue art as a career, or at least as a serious side endeavor. Why is this? What makes art so different than any other job?



Job is why. Most people don't look at creating art as a job. They look at it as some sort of magical, spiritual, unfathomable thing. “I know you paint/dance/play music/direct films/etc. for a living, but I have to have a real job.” There's that word: real. Like being an artist is not real.

But it is real. And artists need to pay bills, put food on the table, buy clothes for their kids, and do all the things everyone else does. And even if you create art, sometimes you have to use that ability to take jobs just to make a living and survive. As a musician, you may be known for playing high profile gigs of extremely creative music. Yet in order to pay the bills, and enable you to play those very cool gigs, you need to play in the pit band for a musical, teach music lessons, play a country gig at a dive bar, or a thousand other possibilities.

Yet someone will look at you and cry, “Sell out!” And that's usually because you don't live up to their fantasy expectations of what an artist's life is supposed to be like.

Ignore The Critics

Don't listen to anyone else. They don't know your struggles. They don't know that you need to feed your kids everyday just like them. They also don't know that maybe you really enjoy some of those other creative outlets because they let you express a different side of your art (and the pay is pretty good too!).

Your art is what YOU want it to be, not someone else. 

The Real Sellout

The real sell out is taking a gig that you don't really want to (usually for the money, sometimes for the notoriety) and not taking it seriously

If you take a gig, take it 100%. 
Give your all. 
Be your best. 

Don't suck at it because you don't care, because someone else surely cares, and you don't need to let your ego destroy it for them. 

Art can be a spiritual practice no matter what type of art it is, because the practice is within you. Always do your best, because others are depending on you to.

~ MB




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