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What Is The Role Of Competition In Art?

Of course, art is subjective. Ranking art according to taste and preference is not really possible -- nor should we try. Each of us has different criteria for what makes a piece of art special. Different pieces move each of us in different ways for different reasons, at different times. I don't think that popularity should be a determinant of what makes a piece of art meaningful or important. There have been plenty of earworms that infect our senses and though we wish we could eject them, they're buried in our brains. They are stuck. They get that way because we hear them over and over and over again. Popularity is not a factor for me. That should not be enough for any of us.


All marketplaces are places of competition. There are customers and sellers, and each customer is making choices about where to spend their budget, so anything that is a business becomes a competition. In business, popularity matters.


If I am wearing my "music business, record-label-owner" hat, I would say, "Competition is part of the business of selling music and tickets. Without money to make art, art cannot be made. The business is very important."


If I am wearing my artist hat, I would say, "Competition has no place in art. Art is about pure expression and reflection which is nuanced and at times challenging and should be approached with fearlessness, and popularity should not be a factor."


As an independent artist and a record label owner, I am constantly looking at this question from both sides. I am constantly addressing my priorities in both roles.


Whenever we are lost, many people will say, "trace your steps," and that is what I end up doing when I find this question leading me in circles. My steps always lead me back to my "WHY?"


"Why do I do it?"

"Why did I get into art in the first place?"


For me, I got into art to create beautiful and thoughtful creations. I create to give back to the world, as much as I can. I have been an art lover my whole life, and art has given to me beyond measure, so I make art to give to others. This exercise shows me what is most important to me. I am in it primarily as an artist, and secondarily as a business. That doesn't mean that I can't be a business too, but when there is a choice to be made about priorities, I will always prioritize the quality of art over business.


It is funny how small binary decisions can lay out our whole business plans.


Do I enter competitions? Yes! I do! I enter my art for consideration, on the GRAMMY® ballot every year. My latest album Playfully has been entered into consideration for the GRAMMY® ballot for this next cycle.



Because my priority is the quality of the art, I enter competition peacefully, and with the knowledge that taste is subjective and that popularity is not the only or most important metric of quality. I enter "the competition" able to celebrate my "competition" in their impressive artistic creations as well as my own with an open heart. To me, this is a joyful and authentic way to participate, because for me art is NOT a competition. Art is made to support the people who are able to receive it by experiencing it. In order for that to happen, the public must be made aware of the art. Awareness campaigns require resources. This is where the art, in order to live its dharma needs the business.


As a label owner, I always support the art coming out of my label and hope that my projects are able to gain the attention that would allow me to keep generating the resources required to make art. The dharma of business is to generate income so that it can support the generation of art, in a virtuous cycle. Winning competitions generates attention, which gets the art out to the public where it can be of service to listeners. So, as a business, there IS a place for competition, not to beat others, just to gain a momentary spotlight on work that can serve others, and fulfill its dharma. So what is the role of competition in art? The role of competition is promotion so that the art can reach those it was meant to serve. -- It is not to rise above or sink below our fellow creators. It does not actually indicate "better" or "worse" because great ART is not always known at the moment of its creation. Great art is oftentimes seen and understood over time. Winning awards and competitions is literally the RECOGNITION of art by experts. Recognized art is spotlighted to the public. Art that is known is actualized in its ultimate purpose of service to the public. What are your thoughts?




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