FAN CULTURE VS. ARTIST CULTURE
and where to draw the line between inspiration and influence.
By Lee Bradshaw
Should being a ‘fan’ and being an ‘artist’ be mutually exclusive, in the pursuit of a creative identity…
I’ve been there. That record your idol put out - not quite as glorious or majestic as they once were; maybe the voice has aged; maybe the songs aren’t quite as strong; maybe popular culture has moved on…
But this is my IDOL. It has to be good…
Maybe… maybe not… that slight sinking feeling of confusion… “this isn’t what I expected”.
It’s in this moment that the distinction between ‘fan’ and ‘artist’ is born.
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It’s a spark of something critical awakening to hold the untouchable accountable - and it’s a moment of dissonance for a creative individual which may be subtle, thoroughly disconcerting - and absolutely necessary.
There is an irony to begin with; being a ‘fan’ goes hand-in-hand with being influenced… however the tipping point which distinguishes the behaviour of a fan and the behaviour of an Artist; is where the pursuit of a creative endeavour requires a conscious backwards step.
The idea of engaging with another Artist’s work as a peer, rather than an audience or ‘fan’ - is a big AND necessary step in achieving the fullness of an individual’s creative identity - in becoming an Artist.
It speaks to the idea that there is a distinction between those ON the stage and those LOOKING on.
I’ve seen it time and again - a performer enters the stage and takes the very first opportunity to decimate the magic, and ‘normalise’ the room by opening their performance with the most mundane of utterances; something like “Hi guys”… or worse. This disarmament of the power of the stage - might make the nervous performer feel more at ease, more connected with the room as a singular community; but the way to the kind of connectivity the audience is hoping for is through the stage and NOT around it.
Instead of taking account of the responsibility of standing on a stage to say something important - the performer precedes their performance with an action that undermines everything that follows.
This comes back to the idea that they are part of the audience, and points to the notion that they have not yet separated from the notion of being a ‘fan’ and stepped into being an Artist; on a stage, several feet above a room full of people - with something important to say.
And if you made it - it’s important.
It’s important for no other reason than it exists because of inspiration. If you have passed through the discipline and work to craft something thoughtful, then it has a place in the world, and you have a right to share it.
“But my vocal doesn’t sound right.” …Really?
Or does it just not sound like your favourite singer singing your song??
See - it’s more than a distinction between ‘fan’ and ‘artist’ - it’s a fundamental perspective at the core of a healthy creative identity. It enables an individual to exercise a very practical kind of constructive criticism about their work which is unemotional and pragmatic, and not the grief-laden and debilitating perfectionism which only exists in the vacuum of impossible comparisons.
Being an ‘artist’ means the pursuit and development of craft through discipline in order to express and communicate in a tangible way; to enrich the community - a community for which the Art itself is intended.
It’s this very noble endeavour - to give; which means to separate oneself from the audience - who participates by receiving - that makes the Artist special.
Whether you like what they create, or not.