Same with music. Just me, a pair of headphones, and a Victrola or an 8-track. That's what people like me listened to before music became computer language. And it never occurred to me listening to the Beatles, Hendrix, Parliament, Zappa, King Crimson, Yes, Cher, the Monkees, and The Archies (yes, the cartoon band), that a primary component of what I was experiencing was about business--about making money.
When I was a child actor in Ruth Foreman's Pied Piper Players, I just wanted to be on stage in front of people who were enjoying the story. It never occurred to me that people paid to get in, that the theater made some money, that my parents paid a hell of a lot of cash for me to be there...it never made me wonder why I wasn't getting paid to perform. I just really liked being in the play and telling the stories.
I often get criticized when I encourage people to contribute to budgets for projects I'm undertaking. I get the old, "...get a job and pay for your pastime by yourself." Sometimes, people actually get angry I'm even asking friends to help me put a project together. Really angry about it! See, I don't think of story-telling and art as a pastime. I think of it as an obligation to my fellow human beings on planet Earth. The foundation of culture is story-telling, and without culture, human beings literally could not survive on planet earth. Without story-telling, we would not be able to live in inhospitable places like outer space for example, or Florida; I know you love your air-conditioning. Guess how the idea for air-conditioning evolved? Story-telling. Culture.
I think of all the people focused on business who asked for money to make their movie or song, for example, 1995's Thank You, Duran Duran - a cover album probably lovingly made by a real fan of Duran Duran. Some executive looking for a big return on a terrific idea said, "Please, Capital Records, can I have some money to make this album?" And once the funding was in, someone else said, "Please Lou Reed, can you cover one of these tunes? And write something positive on the liner notes?" So the album is considered one of the worst in history (which in a way makes it art), and Lou Reed sold out in the most blatant way, (which in a way makes him truly punk). Isn't it okay if I ask too?
I really am happy if something I make compels people to pay for the experience of having enjoyed it. But as an artist, and clearly not a commercial one, my obligation is first to the art. I have to ask uncomfortable questions, compel uncomfortable thinking, challenge, explore, invite curiosity, and occasionally engage in pure spectacle, kind of like they do when someone spends ten-thousand bucks to make a big fireworks explosion in the sky that will make the kids go, "Ooo, Aaa!" But more than ask for money, I actually put my work up and out to the public for absolutely nothing. For free. On my webpage, you can listen to hundreds of albums, read hundreds of poems and stories, see hundreds of videos, view hundreds of visual artworks, and then I put a little donate button on the site so that if, if you have enjoyed yourself or you take delight in supporting such work, or if you--for just a moment--left your troubles behind to find pleasure in mine, you'd drop five or ten dollars in the kitty so there would be more to share; so that the work could continue. And I know how terrific a five-dollar cup of coffee is, or a ten dollar cocktail. Believe me, I know. But I also know how great it was when I saw my first John Waters movie and saw Divine, in all her splendor, dry-hump a skinny man on a bed with about a dozen chickens. And I thought, someone asked for money to do that, and people paid for it, and John Waters is still entertaining us for years to come. Now I'm no John Waters, but I take comfort in knowing (and you should too) that I'm the only Tom Miller in the world doing what I do.
I make art, music, poetry, theatre, paintings, and spectacle. If you enjoy it and you'd like to help keep Gainesville weird, check out my site and skip one cup of coffee or a cocktail, and I'll put that money to good use. My next project is a movie about a small ugly water creature who destroys the Earth. I need your help.
My SUMMER PROJECTS FUNDRAZR: https://fundrazr.com/e18qI8