Artists need to understand something.
You may feel that your art is an expression of some of the deepest parts of your being. Often that’s very true. You may see it as the work of your lifetime, the reason you get up in the morning, the beauty in the drabness. Yet to the people who make a living off from your creativity its a business, a way to make money, and you are the one delivers the commodity they sell.
There’s a whole group of people out there who eat from your table. They scour the world looking for the next big thing and if they can find it, find a way to package and market it for sale, the people who provide it can become famous in an instant and fabulously wealthy. That a big “if” by the way.
Its a dark arrangement. As a musician you must sell your art in one form or another if you want to make a living at it so you find yourself in relationships with people who want to exploit your work for profit. There’s nothing necessarily bad about it but you, as an artist, need to understand that when push comes to shove you’re a commodity, your gift is something to be traded on the market. You may not like it but sometimes your masterpiece ends up as a car commercial. You get a check, they get your soul. Yet it keeps food on the table and that’s not all bad.
Whitney Houston was beautiful, possessed of an impossibly good voice, and when she was on her game she glowed like the sun. Even if you didn’t like her work you had to admit to the talent behind it. Now they say she may have been broke when she died. Who knows? Rumors. Yet she seemed to be in trouble, pills, alcohol, life stresses. They say you could hear it in her voice. Maybe as long as the money rolled in nobody particularly cared what happened. Just prop her up, get her on stage, and count the cash. Maybe the mythology of fame overcame her until one day her body couldn’t pay the bills. I don’t know.
I’m just sad for her. In the end there were reports that people in the music business were raising the prices of her downloads and who knows what album is yet to come. She’ll get none of it, maybe her family will. She seemed to be a beautiful and gifted soul who became a commodity with everybody trying to get a piece of the action. When the value began to diminish she became just another crazy celebrity and the industry moved on to the next voice to sell.
All I wish her is peace. I want her to be that little girl again singing in her church without the thought of schedules, sessions, business people, and no other fan than God. I suspect the good things can be very cool, but you’ve got to keep your heart.