Why Does Art Flourish Online?
Who has time to “get discovered?” Unfortunately for most of history that is exactly what artists of all kinds had to deal with. They had to create amazing art, make a living some other way, and hope someone (or a large group of people) would come along and “find” them and support them on a level to allow them to make a living this way.
If that sounds old and antiquated, it is. That was a terribly unfair system and is how so many artists like Van Gogh, writers like Charles Burkowski & John Kennedy Toole, and singer Eva Cassidy all died poor, suffering, or without recognition (or at least not nearly as much as they’d find) until after they were gone.
While there’s more competition than ever for every type of art, social media like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and more provides platforms where artists can actively work to get themselves out there instead of sitting back and hoping/praying to be discovered. Social media has really opened up the possibilities.
Anyone who spends any amount of time appreciating art or culture online has almost certainly heard of “Humans of New York?” For those readers who haven’t – it’s a page worth checking out immediately. One of the more popular photo blogs in the world that now even has its own book, it took off through Facebook. Photographer Brandon Stanton would go around New York City looking for someone who caught his eye to take a picture of, to find out about, to talk with. The pictures can be happy, haunting, but are almost always vivid.
One a day would be posted to Facebook and it began to explode. Today there are over 17 million followers on Facebook where it really took off, but there are also nearly 9 million followers on Instagram and this has led to a book that spent over half a year as a New York Times Best Seller and hundreds of imitators. Most importantly, it gave a photographer with a unique interesting idea the platform to share his art and now the ability to focus solely on his art and passion.
YouTube Is Modern Music
The list of musicians using YouTube to get attention via cover songs and their own work is over 10 years old at this point. Ana Free is a major example of a very early influencer who gained widespread following and landed multiple contracts and international fame as a result of early covers she did of classic rock songs on acoustic guitar – interspersed with her own original songs.
From cult favorites to giant mega-stars, the sheer list of musicians YouTube has taken from high school, college, or mid-20’s kid with a dream to bonafide full-time famous musician is stunning at this point, and the list only continues to grow.
Some believe art thrives when artists can embrace anonymity to make bold and daring statements that might not be possible if constrained by the worry of judgement. Social media has allowed what once might have been a really local anonymous street artist to have their work spread. Instagram is home to many such accounts and has definitely helped with the rise of now well known artists like Banksy and the Guerrilla Girls who can share the art without having to reveal their identities and the censorship that might ensue.
The Freedom of Choice
Why should anyone be surprised by the revelation that social media is making art more widely available? Artists aren’t limited to a street corner, a small bar half full of patrons not listening to their music, or geographic location. They have the ability to put out art the world can see, to promote it, to have it seen by the world, and to receive feedback both good and bad – to learn and get even better because of it.
Art is going to thrive with social media and influencers who are passionate about their particular medium, and it’s hard to imagine that doing anything but continuing into the future.