To be an artist in today’s fast-paced, highly competitive society is a daunting challenge, to say the least. The artist/musician must have a tenacity and inner strength that can withstand the criticism of his new ideas, the charisma to reach a new audience and the technique to rise above the average.
When considering ‘success’, an artist must grapple with the question as to what ‘success’ really is for his own life. It’s a little like the Peanuts Cartoon of Charlie Brown shooting an arrow at the fence and subsequently drawing a circle around where the arrow stuck. When asked by Lucy what he was doing, he replied that this was the way he knew he would always have a Bulls-eye.
As artists, instead of justifying our lives, living in a dream-world of ego-centrism and unrealistic expectations of an audience’s recognition just because we consider ourselves to be ‘great’, there should rather be some concrete and measurable standards to which we hold our lives and our art.
In this series of blogs, I am outlining what I believe are definitive characteristics of a successful contemporary musician/artist, attributes of ‘character’ (if you will) of a complete and mature artist, who will be truly beneficial to society.
Attribute #1: The Complete Contemporary Musician/artist, before anything else, must have a meaningful purpose for his art.
If the artist has a purpose that is anything less than compelling, his art will suffer for it. The motivation of the art defines the art itself. The art emanates from within its purpose.
For example, if the artist’s intention is to simply ‘make lots of money’, then his art will be crassly commercial, artificial and superficial. This kind of art lasts long enough to titillate an immature and naïve audience, then quickly falls into obscurity and obsolescence.
If the artist’s purpose is to ‘become famous’, then his art will revolve around ‘self’ instead of anything of higher meaning. Flamboyancy and a wide palette of extreme attention-getting techniques are typical to this kind of motivation. Unfortunately, the self-made artist is, in the end, a disappointing object of worship. Once the shock-value of the display wears off, his audience is acutely aware of his ordinary humanity, and even resents the fact that he spent more time on ‘marketing himself’ than on developing something of lasting value.
Another unfortunate result of this kind of artistic purpose is the fact that men are simply unable to withstand the pressure of being ‘worshipped’. They self-implode. The psychology behind all of it is too much to bear when they find themselves living a lie. The subconscious awareness that they are not really able to live up to everyone’s expectations of ‘deity’ drives them to strange and various dissipations, which all end in further emptiness and un-fulfillment.
Having a purpose of ‘societal benefit’ is compelling to many artists. Some find fulfillment in promoting a ‘Green Earth’, or to help raise funds to ‘Fight AIDS’ or some other societal ill.
Some artists simply like to ‘bring beauty’ into the world, or to ‘make people think’ about politics or societal dilemmas.
Every artist is on a journey to answer the question of meaning in his life and work. It is not a stagnate, life-long rut that he endures, but rather a constantly evolving paradigm-changing awareness of ‘reality’. What he was involved in a year ago may seem to be ‘silly’ to him today. Most artists are adept at raising these questions, and are constantly searching for new answers to meaningful awareness.
In my journey, I have come to believe that the highest expression of music and art are in the worship of God.
I’m not alone in this belief. One of the greatest musicians to have ever lived believed that “Music’s only purpose should be for the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit.” (J.S. Bach) [for more on this, see 10 Lessons J.S. Bach Taught Me]
The Bible is replete with thousands of years of historical records showing the use of music in worship to God.
In my personal experience, having lived through most of the above-mentioned examples of artistic purpose and motivation, I have come to sense a vastly greater peace and contentment in this pursuit, knowing that I don’t have to ‘measure up’ to society’s varied and ever-changing whims and ‘hoops’ to jump through. I simply have ‘an audience of One’, and He is already pleased with me by the forgiveness He offers through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.
Regardless as to where you might be in your pursuit of meaningful artistic creativity, I encourage you to continue to ask the question: “What is the purpose of my life and art?”
When you ask it sincerely, you will undoubtedly be on course for a life of true meaning and authentic success.