Okay, so you’re creative. You’ve established through Instagram, Soundcloud, YouTube, and name-dropping the perfect mixture of contemporary poets, classics, and pop culture references via social media, coffee shop conversation, and drunken slurs. The only real issue is your lack of talent. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you aren’t talented in someway, it’s just that you’re not talented enough to just be an aloof artist who can hide out in a shack in rural West Virginia and still become a cult sensation. You’re also generally just not talented but that’s mean and this is a list-based article that is supposed to be a sort of self-help guide, so we’re not allowed to openly call you a diluted hack with no sense of self-awareness. That’d be counterintuitive, because we’d like you to read the article and pointing out that the best work you’ve done is blatant copies of more established artists that look like they’ve ad-libbed every third sentence to get it passed off as “original” does not make people read articles. Except you don’t think that I am talking about you because you’re the exceptional creative type who is doing something new that is so intelligent it won’t even effect its medium, it’ll create an entirely new means of seeing “art”. Although the catch 22 is that if you believe you are that person and weren’t insulted by that first part, then you really won’t need any of the things mentioned in this list. So just pretend that I didn’t insult anyone and that I love you all equally, except for that one guy in the striped Oxford shirt who is reading this on his android, while walking south on Broad St. Fuck you guy.
Obscure Name that Implies More than One of You: No one wants to see or listen to John Smith’s work. That’s just one dude stroking his ego and no one likes to watch a guy stroke an ego except for some men on Craigslist and a couple of cam sites that won’t hire me. Apparently doing those little arm circle stretches from elementary school gym class while tucking your penis back and singing Otis Redding is too much of a “niche fetish”. About the name thing, you have to come up with some vague label that implies that you are either an entity that moves past labels or a collective. Finding friends is hard, and finding friends that are similarly diluted/talented is even harder. So just pretend that you’ve found them. Instead of John Smith you’re now Gymmm KArrIE
Spell Name Weird: The using v’s instead of u’s thing maybe dying out, as well as triangles and other things of the CVLT nature. However, it’s still trendy to misspell or distort the name of your “Band/Art Collective/solitary circle jerk” (Solitary Circle Jerk would be a great band name if you were social capable). Misspellings are important because they say a few things.
1. You don’t respond to conventional naming or grammar standards or common sense
2. Fuck Google
3. You get to talk a lot when people ask you simple questions. “What’s your band called?” Usually it’d just be a simple “We’re the Twisted Peters”, then that person walks away and only knows the name of your band.
With your new name, you get to explain that
“Yes it’s pronounced like the actor’s name, but it’s spelled like Gymnasium only it has three m’s instead of one. The thing is, you don’t pronounce the two m’s after the necessary one. Shit man, if you did it’d sound like you were hungry every time you wanted to listen to our star pop wave album. Oh, and it’s also Carey spelled with a K and an IE, and everything’s capitalized in that word except for the r because fuck r’s man. (this is hilarious to you, so you get to laugh here). We didn’t get it from the actor though it’s a reference to a Bukowski poem; only it’s a metaphor of that reference. Well actually, it’s a metaphor about how Ace Venture would have felt about Ham on Rye. Just fucking with yah man. (Damn, you are fucking comedic gold. Make sure you start doing comedy.) It’s actually the name of this guy we met on the way to buy coke, which we totally do both sincerely and ironically, as a comment on child labor.”
Or just respond by snapping in Morse code and yelling WEEEEESSSSSTTTTTSSSSIIIIIDDDDDEEEEEE!
Both really get the point across that you are an artist and clever. Well, clever enough to imitate what others are doing, but that’s all that mimes do, and mimes are like a symbol of France, which is artsy as fuck. You’re pretty much the next Goddard, only you don’t have to worry about making any pesky advances in your craft.
If You’re Parent’s Would Get Mad At You For Majoring In it At College Do it: People don’t have time to get movies, art, music, and writing from the same place. People don’t even have time to go grocery shopping anymore. Do you think that a world where someone delivers granny smith apples to your door is the same world that has a person for each art?
Even without factoring in speed and convenience you have to look at the shape of the arts today. If a musician or filmmaker says that they’re an artist they’ll sound pretentious, the same goes for anyone who just wrote a “piece”. If you’re an artist no one really cares enough to learn your name, like ten people actually want to see your work and only about a hundred who are even pretending to want to see your work. Now if you just half-ass all the outlets you can be an artist and popular. The key is you can’t be good at either. If you’re actually a talented painter and you suck at writing songs, then you’re just a painter who owns a guitar. You have to suck at both, but in a weird “experimental” way: only play one note for each song on the guitar, and only paint with the colors of the logos on your desktop.
Nebulous/Aloof Not Crazy: Now you’re painting orange and blue octagons and hitting a piano with a crowbar. Usually this would be either a case of poorly planned mescaline intake, or a result of the raised price in anti-psychotic medications. What you need to do is an intense face when you’re making the “Art” but never look at the audience. Only insane people look you in the eye, if someone was destroying a cello with a ballpeen hammer and screaming Dylan Thomas poems to the tune of Ludacris’ Roll Out and they looked you directly in the eye, you’d lose all the shits that you had in both this and every other reincarnation of this life. You can avoid the circle of shits by just staring at the ground. This means that you are thinking about the world and your mind’s intricacies, and not wondering if Pat Sajak is secretly plotting to stab your Aunt Helen.
Edit: You also want to make at least one cynical joke each performance. You’re too serious to self deprecate so pick someone from the crowd an insult them for something, then throw them out. Being irrational but specific is oddly a sign that you aren’t crazy.
Never Break Character: If you’re at this point, then congratulation’s PT Barnum would be proud. Now people are going to start wanting to talk to you, possibly even interview you. Getting attention will make you want to make personal connections and express sincerity. This is easily one of the most common mistakes made by emerging artists. People don’t want to know about you. That’d be like explaining why a joke is funny. They want the Gymmm KArrIE experience, so you have to give them a show, even when it’s just an interview. One good trick is to keep commenting on the interviewer’s apparel without regard for what it is or what situation you’re in, this works just as well during online interviews. When you aren’t talking about the writer’s cardigan, keep mentioning things that have no relevancy. If you still have questions to answer allude to something that seems like it might be a project you’re working on, or a possible lunch choice, the best way to do this is by referring to popular places slightly wrong, keep mentioning The White Castles without any contextual information.
Sell Out Quickly: You may think that people love being “indie” and that there is a backlash against corporate artists. People love cool, and the only thing more cool than liking something that no one has heard of is liking something that everyone has heard of and dislikes. Keep playing to the audience don’t compromise your “values”.
The key is to make Pitchfork approved music regardless of your record label. No one cares about you selling out. They care about following the script. Every relatively large indie band has a booking agent, manager, press agent and team to support them, so really it’s all about labels. Get that major label deal, then say that they’re cool dudes or that they allow you more freedom and resources to express your artistic intent. If you think that Radiohead and Trent Reznor are heroes because of pay what you want albums then you’re being silly. Is it kind of cool? Sure. Would it make any sense if they weren’t already incredibly popular and formerly on large labels? Not really.
You’ll also notice that the article refers to the plural you. That’s because the more than one person but actually one person thing needs to keep going even after it’s common knowledge that you are one entity. Bright Eyes can’t just be Conor Oberst anymore. Quick, name a Conor Oberst song. All right, now name a Bright Eyes song. Same goes for Ben Gibbard, Jeff Magnum, and J. Mascis. You have to keep the illusion going because it’s comfortable and familiar. While those last examples are talented, you don’t have to be restricted by ideas of creativity, talent or even being particular interesting.
People will just assume interesting if you follow the script and really that’s the important part. If you want to break the mold and become a renowned artist it’s important that you don’t break the mold.