The Difference Between an Artist and a Product

Over the weekend Katie and I watched Saturday Night Live, and we got into a discussion about, of all things, Ed Sheeran. Now, neither of us are fans, but we don’t have anything against him, either. He’s just not our cup of tea, and we’re not his demographic. We did agree that we respect him, because he not only has talent, he plays an instrument and writes his own songs. This makes him an actual artist, whether we appreciate his work of not.

Justin Bieber, on the other hand, is a product. He’s not known for playing an instrument, and he has at best co-written the lyrics to some of his songs. He’s got stylists and choreographers. He’s a performer, but he’s not primarily a creator.

I’m not entirely sure why this distinction matters. Probably because Katie and I have been having so many discussions about identity as an artist and impostor syndrome. How you perceive yourself, and how others perceive you, is important. It also ties in with thoughts I’ve had about marketing myself versus marketing my product, and what side of the line having a relationship with my readers falls.

Journal: Tuesday 14 February 2017

Today is Valentine’s Day in the United States. Here in Finland, it’s Ystävänpäivä (Friendship Day). Whatever you call it, Katie and I are going out for lunch. There’s a Thai place we’ve been wanting to try. We’ll probably wander around downtown just because we’re there, and end up at a coffee shop for a little dessert. I expect that our continuing conversation about agency, identity, and creativity will continue, because it ties into her thesis-in-process and the new marketing plan I’m working on.

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Today’s Dashboard

Yesterday’s Word Count: 2335
Month-to-Date Word Count: 41230
Year-to-Date Word Count: 148588
Average Daily Word Count YTD: 3456

Actively Reading: 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell

It might seem like the last thing I need to be reading right now is yet another business book. The reason I’m doing it is to get myself into a particular frame of mind. Up above I talked about making a distinction between an artist and a product, but there’s also a distinction between an artist and a business person. I need to step out of primarily-creative mode for a while and into business mode, so I can do the things I need to do to grow the business.

Recently Watched: Michael Bolton’s Big Sexy Valentine’s Day Special

Technically we haven’t watched it you, but we’re going to give it a look tonight. It’s on Netflix, and it looks like The Lonely Island guys are involved, so it promises to be funny.

Latest Release: Story Design: The Obsession

Volume 18 of the series was released on Friday, and for a while it was #1 on the Hottest Small Press list! It’s on track to be a best seller within the first week of release, as is the pattern with most Dancing Lights Press titles (not-so-humblebrag).

2 thoughts on “The Difference Between an Artist and a Product

  1. An interesting distinction… but how does it, for example, relate to a classical musician? Most of them perform works composed by other people, but is an opera singer or a classical violinist a ‘product’ rather than an ‘artist’?

  2. That’s why a significant portion of the conversation was around whether the distinction matters, when it matters, and why it matters. Classical musicians aren’t product, because they’re rarely associated with a song or a brand. We listen to a classical musician or group because of their technical ability. We enjoy them for their expertise, rather than the specific song they play, and we rarely buy posters, t-shirts, and other swag with their faces on them. The purpose is the music.

    Pop artists, on the other hand, might be technical, but they’re tied to a specific set list or songs they are known for, and their performances of those songs. They also exist to sell merch above and beyond the music they produce. It’s an expectation that a pop artist will lean toward being product, even if they’re also musicians.

    This reminds me of a conversation a few years back about whether or not an artist can judge whether their own work is art or not. Is it intention or execution, and to what degree can an artist objectively assess their own execution. But that’s a whooooooole other post.

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