In Art You Can’t Please Everybody…

Being and artist is a strange job.  In most regular jobs there’s a concrete way of knowing that you’re doing it right.  Jobs are completed.  Profits or sales are up.  People’s lives are saved.  It’s not subjective.

In art, you can only do what pleases you and hope that others like it.  Someone is always going to think you suck, no matter how famous or successful you are.  I have a friend that hates the Beatles.  The most popular band ever and he writes them off as worthless.  If it can happen to the Fab 4, it can happen to me.

Artists deal with rejection on a daily basis.  Second only to door to door salespeople or the guy selling fruit on the street corner.  There was a show the other night that, due to it’s location and inexpensive ticket price, attracted a slew of older retired couples.  We hadn’t marketed to them since they’re not our target market, but they found the show.   And, of course, we were right.  They didn’t like it.

“We expected something more like song parodies.” – Ok, shoot me.  I don’t do parodies.

“It was too dirty.  We almost walked out during ‘Booty Call‘” – Chris Valenti’s song that is really pretty darn tame.

And of course, just as many people emailed me to tell me how much they loved the entire show and why aren’t we more famous than we are?

Marketing art is all about finding the right people, in the right frame of mind to accept what the artist is doing.  People have no problem telling an artist “you should do this…”.  Guess what… No, I shouldn’t.  My job isn’t to please every person.  It’s to create art that I like and find the people that also like it.

At the same time, my job (different from my art) is to entertain the crowd that’s in front of me.  And I do my best to do that.  But some people don’t understand that I can’t just throw out my material and make up new things on the spot and expect it to be a good show.

I don’t mind when someone tells me it’s not for them.  That’s totally fine.  There’s plenty of art out there that doesn’t fit my likes either.  And if we accidentally encounter each other in an artistic situation, then it’s just a miscommunication.  But please please don’t give me “You should be (playing cover songs)(doing parodies)(not talking about sex)(not talking about religion)(doing more songs)(doing less songs)(doing more intelligent material)(doing dumbed down material)…”

Someone recently told me I should be writing funnier, more clever material that people can’t help but laugh at.  Umm,F**king duh?  Like I’d never realized my comedy should be funny and intelligent before?

See, an artist constantly evolves and is never happy with where they are.  The best piece is the one that hasn’t been written yet.  Art is a snapshot of where that artist is right now and that’s all.  I am not the comedian or songwriter I wish I was.  That doesn’t mean I’m not trying to get there.  Even (especially!) the masters throw away more art than they release.  It’s a process that takes time.

Christopher Titus told me that it took him 10 years to really find his voice as a comedian.  Greg Behrendt had a similar comment.  So I keep pushing myself to make better and better art.  And that’s all I can do.  I can’t fast-forward the situation.  I keep writing and getting better and even then, someone will tell me I’m doing it wrong.

But those people don’t matter to me.  I’m only looking for the people that will connect with my art at the level it is right now.  Unfortunately those other people think their opinion matters.  Unless it’s something that I didn’t notice or hadn’t thought of about my work, then I don’t need to know that they didn’t get it.

Thanks for the ranting time. 🙂

Phil Johnson

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