In this post, I’m going to break away from writing to talk about successful artists and sellouts.
You work hard. You write stories (or make games, or direct films, etc.), and one day someone recognizes you. They compliment you, they tell you how much they love your work. They tell you it’s changed their life.
Feels good, doesn’t it?
But your story doesn’t stop there. People start to recognize you everywhere you go. Your work has hooked into something fundamental, something mysteriously powerful, and the mainstream has carried it far out of your control. People are obsessed with your work, hundreds, millions.
Your work doesn’t belong to you anymore. What would you do?
If you are anything like Markus Persson, (more commonly known as Notch), the developer of Minecraft, you sell out. Notch has agreed to sell his game, and his company Mojang, to Microsoft for a staggering $2.5 billion dollars.
This announcement has millions of Minecraft fans in a frenzy, but I want to tell you why Notch ‘selling out’ is nothing but good news, for the fans, and for you.
1. Can’t Buy You Love – Money isn’t everything, but it sure is a lot. Every writer, every director, every artist or creator needs money to live (at least, until we live in a purely merit based society, but Star Trek is still a few hundred years away).
Sometimes, you will be faced with the choice to tailor your work to fit a broader appeal. Are you sacrificing your ‘integrity’ as a creator for fiscal gain? How much money would you need to change your artistic direction?
Most importantly, who is it going to hurt? The whole reason most people ‘sell out’ is to hit a larger audience. As a writer, that is one of my constant goals. At first, I was my only reader. Then I wrote for my parents,and friends, and they pretended to like what I wrote. But as I’ve been honing my skills, I’ve grown a (small) readership online, and I am constantly learning how to engage even more people.
Sometimes, selling out is the same as branching out, and there is nothing wrong with that.
2. Money Affords the Freedom to Dream
You might choose to sell out before you can make your dreams come true. And you would be in excellent company. From Bach to The Beatles, artists have been working to appease the populous for hundreds of years. They would write songs, or paint subjects, about topics that never interested them before.
And it worked They grew, as artists. They learned to sharpen their styles through countless commissioned works, or by pandering to the people. They became famous.
That’s when the magic really began. There is something about that mixture of fame and fortune that turns struggling artists into obsessive, meticulous geniuses. Cracked.com has a fantastic article about it.
I’m not saying that Notch is going to paint frescoes at the next Sistine Chapel, but you, dear creator, might find the inspiration easier to come by after your financial security has been guaranteed. Perhaps that is why so many writers don’t start writing until their thirties, forties, or later.
3. Room For Growth
This one is my favorite. When someone sells out, they are opening up two avenues. One for themselves, and one for you.
First, they are permitting themselves to grow. Notch has announced his intent to leave Mojang and Microsoft behind. This means that he can take a new direction with his future projects. He has broken his pact with his fans, and that means he can change everything. He can make any game he wants to, or quit making games entirely (the man is a billionaire, he can live in space for block’s sake).
His work is no longer dictated by the audience that craves it.
Secondly, when someone so popular changes their direction, it creates a void. Fans are left angry, abandoned, and vulnerable.
That’s where you come in – with your bold perspective and great ideas. You can fill that void. You get the chance turn something old into something new.
As I always say:
“Good artists copy; great artists steal.” – P.S. Hoffman 2014.
Talk to me about your selling out experiences. Give me your opinions in the comments below. Don’t forget to like or follow the blog!