Sell Your Soul: An Argument Against Art For Art’s Sake By: Zach Weinberg

There are people in this world that will tell you, “you are not fat”, or “you are not ugly”. They will say, “you are beautiful on the inside, and anyone who does not see that by choosing to only look at the surface is missing out.” They may even call it a blessing in the long run, because those whose judgement of others is skin deep can only provide a love that is equally shallow.

And so there you stand. Alone. Unchanged.

Waiting… either for the world to adapt into a place where your characteristics are deemed favorable, or for someone unique who both loves you for exactly who you are and possesses the qualities you need to be in a fulfilling relationship.

This is a dilemma that plagues both lovers and artists, whose characteristics fall outside of societal norms. And while the P.C. police might come charging at my digital doorstep to burn a cross on the lawn of my social media accounts, I will just say it: you are the problem, not us.

The reality is, we are not under any obligation to like you. It is not on us to look past the surface and find your redeeming qualities. It is a nice thing if someone chooses to do that, and maybe they will be surprised every once in a while. But to do it all the time would be both exhausting and disappointing. And so we set standards. We look for specific things we like, and we go from there with the people who live up to them.

Think about it like this: You apply for a job. You are completely inexperienced in that field. You never graduated high school. Your resume was a photo of a hand-written piece of paper. In the end, you do not even get an interview…. Who is to blame? Do you rant online about how society should stop judging potential employees by shallow things like college degrees, grades, work experience, or presentation? No, you do not. You sit back - expectedly disappointed - while others who put in the time to make themselves desirable get the consideration they deserve.

For musicians, the music is your face value. Are you going to make the kind of music that you want to make? Or are you going to make the kind of music that people want to hear right now? You may think that forging your own path - irrespective of current musical trends - means to take some sort of artistic high road. But you are wrong, and 99.99% of you will fail if that is the choice you make.

Failure is of course subjective. Some people are happy to have a handful of fans that follow them to the ends of the earth. And if that is you, by all means hop in your solar-powered clown car and enjoy the ride. But if the purpose of art is to share your perspective and change that of others, inarguably you will do so on a much larger scale if you adapt that perspective into the landscape of what is currently popular.

Some people call it selling out. Those people are losers. They are either too dumb to realize this truth, or are making excuses because they know they do not have the talent to create something familiar yet unique enough for people to pay attention to. But when you really look at all the “greats” of rock and roll history, that is exactly what they did.

In 1962, Bob Dylan launched his career with a contemporary folk album. It was a form of music that started in the 30s, became a GRAMMY category in 1959, and enjoyed the peak of its popularity in the late fifties and early sixties. It was the music of his time. He simply put his spin on it. And then that music became his music, and he took it where he wanted it to go.

So did The Beatles. So did Jimi Hendrix. So did Led Zeppelin. So did Bob Marley. So did Michael Jackson. So did NWA. So does Beyoncé.

But even in the musically-open-minded era of the 60s, I don’t think anyone would have paid attention to Nirvana if Bleach was released during the summer of love. Nor do I think anyone would pay attention to Nevermind if it was put out by some unknown band today.

Art, and especially great art, does not exist in a vacuum. It exists in a mirror, and is a reflection of the popular culture of its time. Now, that reflection may come to shine a light towards an entirely new path. But to do that, it must first draw from the existing light source, and then be strategically angled to carry it in a new direction.

Today’s music audience is that existing light source. Find them, put yourself in a position to attract them, and then pivot to take them where you want to go. Otherwise you are just wasting everyone’s time - stumbling around trying to find your way in the darkness.