It's A Good Point, Right?

Not a sell-out.

UK newspaper
The Telegraph ran a story today on author Jodi Picoult. Picoult has a new novel coming out, her 17th, and seems to be hankering for a critical respect that has thus far eluded her, despite quite good sales numbers. I confess to never having read any of Picoult's books, nor ever really having a strong inclination to do so, as I've always viewed her (perhaps mistakenly, I have no idea) from a distance as a purveyor of disposable "chick-lit." However, in the Telegraph piece, she does make a compelling case for why writers like herself shouldn't be out-of-hand dismissed by critics or "serious" readers, a case that most interests me as it could be applied to music/musicians:

"What kills me about the whole commercial/literary debate is that what we consider to be the classics were the commercial literature of their day. Shakespeare, Dickens or Austin – they were all widely read. It's a good point, right?"

This sentiment is true of much of what we consider to be the great pop/rock/soul/etc. music of the past as well. The Beatles, Stones, Who, Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, Temptation, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, and so on, and so on, all of these acts were met with critical success, large album sales, and little fan derision as a result. All of these acts are still viewed as classics today and despite huge successes (and bank accounts), few would venture to rob them of their artistic integrity as a result.

In music today, and many other artistic mediums, it is all too common for early adopters to jump ship right as the rest of the world is discovering what they already knew. As if what is important is not the quality of the work, but being one of the elite few who are aware of it. These same "fans" are often quick to dismiss an artist for licensing a piece to a TV show, movie, advert, etc. The question I ask is why is it wrong to make a buck off of one's hard work? If the piece comes from a place that is pure (i.e. this does not hold true in all cases for commissioned work) and adheres to an artistic vision that we've celebrated prior, then who are we to deny our favorites the chance to make a little cash for giving us the art that adds so much joy to our lives?

It stands to reason that in order for one to continue to make their art they will have to find some way to monetize the work, and in a world where album sales are no longer going to cut it in that department, new avenues must be pursued. We, as fans of music and other art, must shift with the times and stop slagging off the artists that we love for making money or beefing up their fanbases. We must adapt to the new media landscape and accept the ways in which it has changed the game. We must use pejoratives like "sell-out" with much less frequency and understand that a sell-out is an artist who changes their art just to make money, not an artist who simply finds an audience for the work and thus is able to earn a decent living.


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