When Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova gave their now-famous acceptance speeches for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards, I (like so many others) enjoyed the moment fully with a joyful tear in my eye. It was a moment of purity and goodness.
Through their humble words of encouragement, they spoke for me and millions of other independent, relatively unknown musicians and artists out here. Yet days later, I realized that something bothered me about their message. It might be a bit misguided of me to analyze such a thing too much, but it occurred to me that their message was, essentially, to "keep making art and one day maybe you too can be in a room like this and be rewarded like us." That bothers me a little because it perpetuates the underlying problem.
My message would have been quite different. My message would have been to keep making art regardless of whether you ever become recognized or ever entered such a room. Let me explain. I became familiar with Glen Hansard's music long before the Oscars. It was passed on to me from a very good friend, and I passed it on to others since. But I suspect millions of others were not open to their music in this way and, instead, had to wait until the Oscars before they ever heard of Glen Hansard. That's the problem. At some level, most people still believe that the best music, the best films, the best art will eventually "filter up" to gain the recognition it deserves. But the reality is that for every Glen Hansard, there are literally hundreds or thousands of others just as talented who will never reach much of an audience at all. And so people give up on making their art because they feel unsuccessful. And so we live in a world void of so much potential beauty, for the simple reasons that both artists and fans place far too much value on the idea of "making it big".
So can small be the new big? The technology to completely revolutionize things is now in place, but the collective mindset hasn't changed much over the years. Most people still aren't paying attention. Most of us think that if it is on TV, it must be good. In fact, it is on TV, in the mainstream press, and on the radio simply because somebody put forth the necessary amount of money to get it there. They create an illusion, and we consumers mostly accept the illusion without much thought. Worse yet, we shut out that which does not conform to the illusion.
But what if we started appreciating that which is authentic over that which is polished? What if we took seriously those sparks of inspiration that might be happening right next door or even across the world? Once we could only choose among that which was offered by a few powerful corporations, but today we can choose amongst that which is created solely by living-and-breathing people and has been left completely unfiltered as it passes into your mind.
I'll leave you with an example. If you appreciate music, first put on your headphones or turn on your good speakers. Now go to www.jamendo.com and spend a few moments listening. Download something if you like it. Try to look at it for what it is...not for what it is in relation to that which is currently on MTV. There are countless other sites like it or even better.
Forget about what they are telling you to care about so that you can discover what you actually do care about.