“I’ll lose half my following.”
“I’m nervous about my sponsors.”
“My manager/record label warned me not to.”
“The trolls! “
These are just some of the fears that run through the minds of pop stars who consider taking a stand on political issues.
I get it. Although I personally don’t have a massive following (and by no means is any company begging to put their brand of guitar in my hands), I cherish every individual who has related to my story and jumped onto my journey. When I put myself out there politically I risk losing fans. What’s more, I leave myself open for the troll patrol who, at the mere whisper of a politically algorithmic word on Facebook, will descend in droves upon my feed. Watch this space.
But it’s an urgent time.
One thing we can all agree on is the importance of young people to be aware, even in an admittedly confusing news culture, of what’s really going on in their country/world/planet, and taking part in how we move forward. After all they’re gonna be living in this world for a while.
Navigating the music business, I’m disappointed at how many self-proclaimed superstars are scared to death of saying what they really feel. But we need leaders! Celebrities with influence have direct access to millions of fans. They can set an overnight trend with a distinctive ponytail, a pointy shaped fingernail or a new style of sneaker (ooh sorry)…Kicks.
Once upon a time we depended on music to communicate to lawmakers. Music was a powerful and emotional tool. And it was Art. Musicians were Artists! It was their job. Luckily Bob and Joni didn’t have to worry about losing Facebook friends or attracting trolls.
An artist makes art. And “art expresses the emotions and struggles of the society it exists within, and inspires society to cope and even overcome.”
Luckily Bob and Joni didn’t have to worry about losing Facebook friends or attracting trolls. That said, I don’t think they would have given a shit.
But the idea of an “artist” has been diluted. It’s become a blanket term that includes anyone who can sing decently and is on a self driven do-it-or-die beeline for fame. No other qualifications needed.
Alternatively, Taylor Swift motivated over 65k young people to register to vote with one Instagram post. She went a step further and revealed who she was supporting and who she wasn’t and why. True, her base is solid. Not everybody on the charts will have unwavering Swifties. But what harm is there in simply encouraging your fans to activate?
One day young people (you may be one of them) will grow up and live in a country that reflects their past choices at the ballot box or their failure to get there. Problem is, young people don’t believe they’ll ever grow up (I didn’t) so what’s the point? And parents are not the authority who can effectively assure their kids growing up is inevitable and just a matter of time. (You may know that dynamic.) But if you’re a die-hard Taylor fan and she tells you it’s true you’ll probably believe her. So imagine the collective potential influence in celebrity culture at large.
There are other exceptions to that fearful bunch. Bon Iver booked a 46 city tour which will encourage fans to activate their privilege. Papa Roach has been outspoken on Twitter and Cardi B has taken to Instagram. Billie Eilish and 15 yr. old Grace VanderWall have taken a stand against abortion laws. I expect there will be more socially conscious music-makers who will shine a light on the issues that are important to them.
Being an “artist” used to mean something more than seeking, finding and retaining fame. It meant stepping up and speaking out. Like I said, and you all know, it’s a crucial time in history. Soon we’ll have a better idea of which pop stars just want to be famous and which ones aren’t afraid of making a difference.
This is me trying to make some of my own.