Bandcamp is doing a fundraiser today, Friday, August 4th, and is donating the proceeds to the Transgender Law Center. As part of that effort they are also highlighting trans and gender-nonconforming artists. A musician I follow on Twitter tweeted about this a few days ago:
This isn’t the first time a brand has jumped into a “controversial” social issue; in fact, I’d say given the sway of things these days it’s happening more often. My initial thought was that I had no problem with a brand taking a side, or weighing in on a social issue. I had to ask myself if I would feel the same way if Bandcamp had taken a different stance though. If they announced that they agreed with the idea that transgender people should not be allowed to serve in the military, would I have been as understanding? I definitely would have pulled my meager catalogue from their service, but a part of me would have been glad to know at least, so that I could stop giving my money to them.
I honestly think that’s part of the issue some people have with brands having an “opinion”. It’s not necessarily hating companies taking sides; it’s hating when they take a side with which you disagree. It puts you in a position of having to make a decision about what matters most: your ideals or your stuff. I order food delivery A TON. If I found out that Grubhub or Doordash were giving money to gay conversion camps I’d have to stop using their services, and that would suck. If they never voice an opinion, I don’t know have to know whether I’m in bed with the devil or not.
For some people it’s simply a matter of separatism, especially when it comes to artists and creatives. They look to these folks to provide diversion, to help them escape real life, so it can be jarring and unwelcoming when an artist actively brings the outside in. People can get very tight when this happens. We’ve all seen the people who tweets that So-and-So Celebrity should shut up and just sing/dance/act/write—except when they agree with them of course. I’m sure the folks who think J.K. Rowling should shut it are thrilled when Scott Baio weighs in.
The thing is, creatives have been weighing in on issues since…well, since the beginning of creating. A good deal of the time the outside world is what drives the creative process. Not just giant world issues either; the little things in a creative’s life are often a catalyst for our work. Am I depressed? Did someone I love break up with me? Did I lose my job? Am I struggling with my sexuality? Addiction? Hell, did it rain today? I can’t think of any artist who feels like their personal stuff “isn’t relevant” to what they’re creating. The idea that bringing your identity into your art is in some way undesirable is just crazy to me.
So, in case it wasn’t clear, I’m all for companies rallying around the causes they care about. As a consumer I feel in a position to make smarter choices about what business I give my patronage to, which is a plus. The minus is of course that sometimes that means you have to give up a brand (looking at you, New Balance) but you know the song: “You take the good, you take the bad…”. I also think artists channeling their personal lives and experiences into their art is not only acceptable, it’s natural. I would question the quality of any art that seeks to completely distance itself from the real experiences of the creator.
Your turn. What’re your thoughts on brands having “opinions” and taking sides? How do you feel when artists bring their personal lives into their creations?