Bloody Agentsby Daniel Friedman / 14.09.2010
It’s no secret that we live in a world where creativity and artistic talent is seen as more an impediment than an advantage. This is why we tell our kids to become doctors and lawyers when they tell us they want to be artists. We’re scared they’ll end up broke or on tik. Which, granted, is a real concern. But people still need the work that creative people do, even if they undervalue it. The result is that, as a creative person, I have to deal regularly with people who think that they are doing me a favour by giving me work. The worst of these people even believe that they are geniuses, because they have worked out how to get rich from the creativity of others.
I once worked under an editor who is a particularly scary person. Let’s just call him/her Satan, for the sake of this article. When he/she walks into the room there is a palpable change of energy, as people quickly scramble to stop having fun. Most editors are writers themselves, and some are among the most talented journalists in the industry. But not this one. Looking back now I can see that Satan had no discernable skill or talent, except being intimidating, and I must admit he/she showed a rare flare and brilliance for that. Satan’s publication worked only because he/she would recruit talented people and then stand over them, cracking a whip. They would then work hard and, in the process, make him/her look good. To the point that everyone would marvel at the brilliance of Satan’s ‘work’, which basically consisted entirely of telling his/her employees to do stuff.
It’s not just writers who are undervalued, it’s all creative people. I direct these words at anyone who makes money from the work of creative people. Sometimes they are publishers, occasionally they are editors and in the world of performance they are managers or agents or venue owners or event organisers. And I’m not saying there aren’t good people in the world offering these services, or even those who are so good at it that they themselves are every bit as skilled and talented as the artists they deal with. There are. But they are considered special specifically because they are so rare.
As a musician it’s even worse than being a writer. You are, from a club owner’s perspective, right at the bottom of the pecking order, after the guy who cleans the toilet. Comedy is slightly better, but in just one year of doing it I have had encounters with some of the scariest sharks in the business.
Strangely, though, if you become successful enough the tables suddenly turn and there are people tripping over your feet trying to make you happy. I’ve performed and worked with people who are that successful, and do you know what? It also sucks. Because people stop being honest with you, and they will never ever say anything they think might upset you. The result, you start to believe that you can do no wrong, because this is how most people treat you. This is why so many of the world’s top artists stop producing good work after they become successful. That said, I hope I do reach that level of success one day, if only so that I can watch those same sharks who once treated me like shit trying to suck up to me, in a supreme act of earthly karma.
If this ever happens I will tell the sharks the same thing I’m about to tell you now, which is that I believe it’s those of us with skills and talent that make a difference to this world, not those who make their livings out of exploiting people with skills and talent. And since they’re the ones who make all the money, it would be a nice touch for them to, at very least, occasionally acknowledge this.
*Daniel Friedman is a writer by day and musical comedian Deep Fried Man by night. Read his blog here.