Bob can’t just give advice to the myriad young acts who don’t read his columns. He has to present it with awkward metaphors about high school, which he probably learned from the movies. 

You remember the art chick in high school.

It’s been 40 years, Bob. Let it go.

She looked different, didn’t really care if you noticed her, didn’t seem to play by the rules, wasn’t on a direct path to riches, but you never forgot her, never stopped watching her.

Then one night, you got drunk, looked her up on Facebook, saw what she looks like now, and didn’t even bother to friend her.

The art chicks were yesterday’s rock stars.

No, the art chicks fucked yesterday’s rock stars.

They will be tomorrow’s too.

Bob never gets more than five sentences into a column before the first “HUH?” moment.

 And we never really called them “art boys” or “art dudes” or anything like that, but there was a breed of male outsiders who garnered this same attention. There was a swagger, there was a cool. They were the ones who were quarterback of the football team…

 Wait, isn’t the quarterback supposed to be the most popular kid?

 …and one day up and quit, and didn’t profess a hatred of the coach, just claimed they didn’t want to play anymore.

It’s been too long since Bob was in high school, so he watched the last ten minutes of Dazed And Confused and figured the ending applied to every high school everywhere.

By the way, has anybody else ever thought that Ricky Williams used Randall “Pink” Floyd as a role model for his career?

These people are the art leaders.

No, these people were the dicks who quit on their teammates, forcing the coach to play the backup in an important game to predictable results.

As a result of crass commercialism, primarily MTV and now the Silicon Valley rush to riches, our vision of art has been skewed. Money comes first. It’s readily available to he who succeeds, and there are short cuts to ubiquity.

News flash: rich people are often successful.

But most people employing these short cuts are not art.

So says a guy who has somehow gained credibility throughout the industry without, as this sentence demonstrates, ever proofreading his columns.

The art chick and the outside guy never wake up and are CEO of the corporation.

Neither do the CEOs, actually. Nobody gets put in charge straight out of business school.

Artists are driven by a different beat. That’s why your favorite bands break up, it no longer felt right. Can you imagine the CEO of a Fortune 500 company waking up one day and stating that it’s no longer fun and dissolving the organization? But the Beatles did this.

Apart from the death of Brian Epstein, the Maharishi debacle, Ringo quitting during the White Album sessions, the clusterfuck of Apple, George’s dissatisfaction with only getting two songs per record, the Let It Be ugliness, and women pulling the band’s geniuses in different directions, The Beatles broke up impulsively.

So there are two camps.

Camp North Star and Camp Mohawk.

Oh, wait. That was Meatballs. God, I loved that movie as a kid. Hey, whatever happened to Chris Makepeace? He was everywhere for two years, then we never heard from him again.

One camp is peopled by aggressive individuals who want in. This is the reality television crowd. How can I make myself into a character, push ahead of so many others and get screen time?

You mean like mailing out newsletters with lurid details of a Lisa Loeb crush to everyone in the music industry, even if they didn’t ask for it?

Remember the art kids in high school? They never grubbed for grades, they never fought to get ahead, they questioned this herd mentality/behavior, they hung back.

Or they buried themselves in their work, and went into the city on weekends to go to museums and galleries while us losers were always at the goddamn mall.

So we have a world where the aggressive, normal people and the desperate poor will do anything to make it, get plastic surgery, change their soul and their sound to fit the desires of the man, of the system.

The nerve of people wanting to be successful and have nice things like a BMW and $1,500 headphones.

Ain’t that what “American Idol”, “The Voice” and “X Factor” are? Do it my way, I’m an expert.

Once again, Bob’s lack of self-awareness is troubling.

The judge/advisor is no different from the principal, and if you think the art kids listened to the principal, you were home-schooled and have no clue.

Of course they didn’t listen to the principal. Nobody did. They listened to The Smiths and The Cure.

And these principals, in most cases they’re angry they never got to be art kids, they never got to express themselves, so they tell you how to do it.

Bob just finished watching Dazed And Confused and has moved on to a double feature of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club. 

Labels are not peopled by successful musicians, but fans, who are angry that they can’t get laid every night, can’t live the musician lifestyle. In most cases, they won’t take the risk. They want to get their job via their education, their MBA, whereas successful artists have struggled, to find out who they are and to make it.

Quick, name me an artist-owned label that has succeeded without good businesspeople behind it.

But don’t confuse commercialism with artistry.

This is news?

Most people are just passing through. Their stardom is brief, they’re puppets whose strings are pulled. When their moment is through, they get desultory day jobs or go back to college and move up the corporate ladder.

I do not even know where to begin in pointing out what’s wrong in this paragraph.

An artist can’t do this. He can go to college to prepare himself to be an artist, but not a doctor, lawyer or manager.  And he continues to create irrelevant of success, it’s in him.

This explains the workforce at Starbucks and Kinko’s.

Just because you practiced your guitar for hours a day or wrote poetry just as long that doesn’t mean you’ll make it. You have to have something to say. Which is insightful, different and necessary.

You must never compromise.

This is where being a talented artist refusing to compromise just a little gets you in the longterm.

You must be willing to struggle forward despite the odds. You must be willing to change.

You just said they shouldn’t compromise and now you’re saying they have to be willing to change?

Before the MTV/CD era, when so much money flowed, artists were king. Labels signed them and never messed with them.

Complete and utter bullshit.

They didn’t say what could come out, didn’t foist cowriters upon them, because the label didn’t know. The label trusted the artists.

And the artist trusted the label, right up until the moment they looked at their royalty statement and saw how badly they were getting ripped off.

Fans want artists. You always wanted to be friends with the art kids, you just didn’t know how to bridge the gap, you just weren’t cool enough.

The artists in society have always been the outsiders, which means you weren’t even cool enough to hang with the outsiders.

But today you can know the art kids through their work. They’re honest and soulful in a way all people are but most are too fearful to reveal.

The artist embodies his material. He is what he says. He’s free. He marches to the beat of his own drummer. He makes it not through marketing, but the music itself.

Show me an artist who has made it without marketing.

With the crumbling of old institutions, the time of the artist has returned. With less money in music, only the artists persevere, because they’re not in it for the money.

With less money in music, only those who can provide a significant return on investment get a look. There’s no room for the personal favorite of the label head anymore.

There’s a reason why Joni Mitchell is an icon and Vanilla Ice is a joke.

That’s true, but Bob is ignoring the fact that Joni wasn’t taken seriously for years by critics because she slept around. Remember when Rolling Stone named her “Old Lady Of The Year?”

And those people calling themselves artists are not.

You know if you’re an artist.

Brian: I’m not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!
Girl: Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.
Brian: What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!
Followers: He is! He is the Messiah!

Damn, I’ve made a lot of movie references today.

You sacrificed, you don’t have health insurance, you’re playing without a net.

Good advice, Bob. You would have killed at the Tea Party rally last week.

We’re dying for a few good artists.

We’re dying but don’t worry about us. We’re insured, unlike you artists.

As for the rest of you, get out of the way.

Look, I get what he’s trying to say, that you have to work hard, that nothing comes easy, and that long-term credibility is a better career strategy than short-term money. All of that is undeniably true, but he offers these dumb allegories about high school and a rose-colored view of the 1970s that it’s impossible to take seriously.

About the Author

Dave Lifton

The perpetually cranky Dave Lifton produces and co-hosts the Popdose Podcast and contributes an occasional column when he darn well feels like it. But mostly he eats Cheetos and yells at kids to get off his lawn, which is strange because he lives in an apartment. The guiding force behind LifStrong, he can be found on Twitter at @dslifton.

View All Articles