Independent artists

The independent artistic spirit is something that just simply cannot be killed. It doesn’t matter what you think of the current state of top 40 radio, or the state of seriously shitty Broadway plays, and believe me I totally agree with your worst assessment, there is still great theater and music being made by people with no corporate backing at all.

Movies and Broadway shows cost millions of dollars to mount, much more than you even read about because the publicity campaigns are not included in the figures you read. I have a friend who says that it isn’t possible to produce a show in New York for less than 14,000 dollars, and I understand how he gets that number.

But there are people putting on shows for much much less than that, and the shows are not worse for it. There are aspects of theater that simply cost something, and God knows talent should be better compensated than it currently is in New York theater. But if you can assemble a group of artists who are willing to work toward a purely artistic goal then you can put on a show for under 5 grand. Well under.

And that is what the focus needs to be. What are you trying to say? Isn’t it more important to say that thing than it is for your theater to have gorgeous plush seats? I’ll admit, I am a snob when it comes to theater, I don’t want crappy lighting, I don’t want folding chairs, I don’t want age inappropriate casting. But If you have, say, three people doing an hour long show that says what all three of them and the team of artists behind them wants to say, then you have perfect theater. One step above performing on the street, one step below charging thirty dollars for tickets. Paper the house with free tickets, and charge some people whatever the going rate is. The exchange of ideas is there, without the threat of massive financial loss.

Even better is the music industry now. You are being given, say, forty artists by top 4o radio and MTV. These are the same artists, despite the fact that Shania Twain and TaTu are not nearly as good on the radio as they are on the TV. So where are the other 3 million recording artists? What are they doing?

They are making music in their living rooms, their dens, their garages. It used to be that you needed space and money to get your idea down, but not anymore. When you had 2 or 4, or even 8, tracks, you needed to get all the instruments playing together in order to record them, and for that you needed a hall that could house them. You also needed the thousands and thousands of dollars it cost to purchase a recording machine.

Now, everyone’s hard drive has recording software. A coupla grand, maybe, and a hard drive that will house as many tracks as you want. You get a guy with a guitar in your living room and plug him into the tracks you created at three in the morning in your basement. You get your friend who plays bass, and another dude who plays French Horn. You have as many tracks as you want, just record them, manipulate them, mix them down and burn a CD.

The exchange of ideas is still there. Again, for less than five grand, I’ll bet. Once you have your CD, make MP3s and CDs and start giving them away and selling them at the going rate. You aren’t going to risk one hundred thousand dollars, you didn’t soundproof your booth and build a room with no right angles.

Yeah, the lottery we’re playing with either one of these scenarios is that the play or CD will be embraced by massive audiences and make you enough money to retire before you’re 70. But the thing is, you don’t even have to worry about it. Just keep putting your best ideas out there, and if nothing sticks, you haven’t wasted your life waiting for someone to cast you in a broadway show or give you a recording contract.

Right now may be the best time in the history of the world to be an idealogical artist. None of us has any excuse.