The Realities of the Modern American Artist

Matthew Gearhart, Opinions Editor

 A poll from The Creative Independent states the median income for artists in the U.S. is $20,000 to $30,000 a year. With 60% of all artists making less than $30,000 and only 19% of artists that make over $50,000 a year. 12% of artists claimed they felt they were struggling financially while 10% claimed they’re well off. Artists make up for these conditions by engaging in multiple sources of income such as freelance practice or jobs outside of art. Even those who have earned degrees in art, whether it be Music, Visual art, Videography, etc. claim that their degree didn’t do much in helping with financial security.

For a young person aspiring to make music, take photos, and wanting to make a mark on the world around them, it can be scary envisioning the unavoidable struggle of meeting financial needs. America bleeds the idea of self-sufficiency, and our culture promotes obtaining a job under a company. As young citizens, we’re bombarded with the idea that it’s improbable and unrealistic to even obtain a modicum of success as an artist, or even as an entrepreneur. But this argument is built on top of the assumption that making a lot of money is the goal. And so we become trapped in a socio-economic cage, finding ourselves left with an aspiration for doing something meaningful and making due with a meaningless job that you don’t like. 

Money is a huge struggle, and the pressure of capitalism to make money is alive as ever. But if your intentions are honest and real, and the reason for creating is because you love to do it. You’ll find more motivation, even though you’re not super well off. 

Hope is not lost. With online social connections on the rise, creative endeavors can be shared with people around the world in an instant. So many artists are creating and sharing with the world, that’s sparking attention and inspiring other artists. In the past half decade, so many people have made a career through creating and sharing their content. Today you can more easily find a niche group of people who can appreciate your work even if it doesn’t fall under a large mainstream appeal. Tastes in music, writing, and art are more diverse than they’ve ever been before. 

Artists like Mac Demarco and Tame Impala have built massive fan bases off psychedelic rock and indie, two genres that many consider “underground”. Their success was mainly gained through promotion on social media. A relatively alternative route to the classic mode of relying on huge record labels to promote and control what is produced by the artist.  Mac Demarco has recently let go of his contract with his old record label, and now creates, produces, and releases his music through his own label. Tame Impala and Mac Demarco are the pioneers of a new way of producing and sharing music. Both artists have been able to truly express their creative vision throughout their songs and albums, and sell their music to a wide audience, something that hasn’t been seen in the music industry in a while. 

The reality that we face can be scary, but if you learn how to promote your work through an online forum without absorbing yourself into the chaos and droning of the online world. Treating it as a tool for professional output, and working hard for what you envision and crave, you will surely be more likely to succeed in making art your career.