Being an arts student from GCSE to University level is hard, real hard. But not in the conventional way. The subject isn’t hard, in fact it’s pretty easy, but the prospects are hard. From the moment you first start your new arts course, you are practically told that you won’t make it. That the shot you have is so slim that you shouldn’t even bother.
At least two years you spend fretting over numbers that help you achieve letters in the alphabet, those of which are compared and scrutinised by those that have technically failed themselves, wishing that they were in your position. At our lowest times we are upset and frustrated at why we can’t answer our own questions, yet we still continue to be dismissive when we answer those asked by others.
Despite it being art, we are still parts of a stat sheet. A generation of letters and symbols that equate to an efficiency rating rather than a proficiency rating. No one cares how well you do something, as long as you do it to their specifications. I had a number one single in the National Ambient charts that couldn’t even scrape a C in class.
But with art there is always going to be one stat that can’t be measured. That being chance. Chance to succeed, chance to fail, likeability is what we use to measure this but it’s pretty unreliable since when you consider something is unlikely, you’ve already given up hope in it. I was given zero chance to pass or even finish my music A level when given just one year to complete it, but I did it.
Belief is the reason an arts student picks up their course and qualification. The reason we fret over these stats and sheets, we believe when we are finally given them, a whole world opens up… But that isn’t the case… You instead become those that scrutinise and instead of living, you survive. The belief to succeed as an artist no longer stays relevant and the idea of what success is, becomes muddied. Is success where your art fulfils others, or when your art fulfils you? Is success when your art pays the bills or when your art hits the headlines?
All those years you were told that this won’t happen and this isn’t as good as that, come back to haunt you. Suddenly you’ve spent your entire education studying music or art or culture, just to find out that the people who have made it were as old as you when you started; when they broke the industry may I add.
You read online and in newspapers about how arts qualifications don’t matter and are a waste of time. How the arts do not supply a career but rather a passion. All of these people say this whilst watching actors on a TV in the evening, listening to music on the radio as they drive away, wear clothes made by specific brands; you’re telling me that people don’t have careers in this industry.
How is it, that we are the most materialistic generation, yet we are told that these careers that allow for materialism to exist, are invalid or improbable?
Also, and here is the big one, why are we so quick to hate on the people who haven’t even started yet? Whether it’s video making, music composing, short films or whatever, all I see is love and hate, no in-between. Love is given by the closest of people, hate given by the interconnectives. I’ve had friends and known people, who wouldn’t even give their best friends short film a watch, yet will watch a full series on Netflix the day before their exam. I spent over 250 hours on my music composition for school, just for three people to hear it and for me to be told ‘it’s at about a C grade’. Art isn’t a stroll in the park, it’s a hard time.
You put all of this effort and emotion into your chosen canvas, splat it with your personality and character, refine it just to make each detail perfect for your audience, spend hours and hours unpaid just to make it mean something, just for someone to either ignore it or stray elsewhere. That canvas is the embodiment of your soul, yet it’s completely overlooked because someone can’t be bothered to give it a passing glance. Try finding that feeling in any other occupation on Earth, it’s soul crushing during teenagehood.
What I’m trying to say here, is give an arts student a break. You don’t have to tell them that the chances of them getting into their chosen industry are slim, they already know that. They’ve had a thousand people tell them already. Don’t mock them or smirk at them if they crumble at an arts assignment, because they are already terrified of becoming an unwanted stat. Don’t tell them that their qualification doesn’t matter, because again, they already know and are choosing to ignore it just so that they can hold onto their dreams. Also, when they create a new song or draw a new picture, tell them that it’s good whether you like it or not because other than the known 1% who are paid for art, they did that piece of art just to please you. They did it, just to please everyone. They did it to answer the questions they had about themselves and those questions that saddened and frustrated them.
On this site we review a ton of independent music and we are often scrutinised ourselves for never criticising their work. Why would we criticise work that’s made by someone trying to achieve their dreams? Why hit them down like that? It’s different when that artist has made it, because they are getting paid for their quality, but when an independent act makes a track, which they’ve spent hundreds of pounds on getting recorded and produced, making a huge loss just for their love of music and to please you, why would you hit them down, what is the point of that moral loss?
Being an arts student ain’t easy, but we do it anyway. We’ll never refuse a helping hand.