Sometimes I feel like we, as independent creators, still haven’t gotten the memo. We’re out there, like desperate lovers, waiting for the phone call that never comes, standing in the rain outside the apartment door of someone whose already told us that they’re “just not that into us.”
But we don’t move on.
“If they don’t love us, who will?” we ask.
There is a heart-warming answer to this question because the times have changed. Everything has changed, but we’re still waiting.
When I heard about the Oscars debacle last week, the first thing that came to mind is 'when was the last time the Oscar’s list of nominees for pictures and performances reflected THE BEST out there in motion pictures?' I can tell you that, for me, it’s been a VERY long time. I don’t even know why we care what the Oscars say anymore? Or the Grammys, for that matter, or any major awards show. Isn’t it clear, with all the backdoor dealings and multi-million dollar marketing campaigns, that it’s anything but a meritocracy and hasn’t been for a long time (if ever). And, if you’re not part of the “mainstream”, however major industry chooses to define “mainstream”, you don’t have a chance of being acknowledged, no matter how good your work is. Of course, there are outliers, but they’re called outliers for a reason.
So can we finally stop waiting in line, staring at the phone, standing in the rain – not because we’ve given up, but because as independent artists and thinkers, we can’t play this game. And we shouldn’t because it’s keeping us stuck and we don’t have to be anymore.
It’s true that “they” don’t love us, but that doesn’t mean that no one will or, in fact, that no one does, because, you know who loves us, – fans – actual people who care about the things we create.
The problem is not one of love and validation. The problem is only one of connection and whether or not we, as independent artists, are willing to do the things that cut out the middle man and take our work directly to the people who most want to hear, see, touch and experience what we do?
Is your audience a committee of “experts”? Is that who your work is for or do you seek to entertain and inspire people? Admittedly, the experts have the big money and the big connections. If you can get their attention, then you might be a success, but in a book, music and film industry that only wants to back a horse that’s more than halfway to the finish line, it seems to me that the majority of the work is still on us. So why would we give the “experts” the power to define our success when they’ve done so little to contribute to it? Does that even make sense? It doesn’t to me, so why are we still doing it?
Where are the independent film awards created by independent filmmakers and people who are passionate about film (And I’m sorry IndieSpirit Awards, I don’t think you count anymore. From the magazine photo spreads, you look like a gathering of Who’s Who that got together and all decided to dress down.) Where are the indie book awards run by readers and authors? Where is the indie music awards website where PEOPLE can nominate the artists they love and share their work with other people who care about indie music?
And, don’t believe the hype. The pool of people who care about handcrafted, independent art is not small. Sites like Etsy, Deviant Art and ReverbNation garner visits from MILLIONS of people each and every month. No one seeks out the artists on these sites because the mainstream told them to. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The people who go to these sites had to look for them. They had to CARE enough to look for them, and spend their money, too - millions of dollars each year going to support itty-bity, indie artists like you and me.
What we need are more online and in-person communities that bring together independent artists with the fans who will love what they do. We need a paradigm shift, in our minds and our resources, that acknowledges the reality that there is a market for what we do as independent artists and that we don’t need permission or external validation to access or celebrate it. We, as independent artist, can define and create our own ruckus. This new paradigm seeks to ignite a lasting, one-on-one relationship, not between an artist and a committee, but between an artist and a fan base.
Because someone will love us, more than we know, if we just stop wasting our energy knocking on closed doors.