Last night, we had our first Brevity Fest, at which about a dozen writers and musicians shared new work for an audience of roughly 75, who filled a cozy venue called El Cid where drinks and food were served and lots of people were moved.
This morning I took a meeting with a publicist who told me that nothing I've done is even worth discussing (or his time) unless and until I have a breakout hit.
Both are real. Both are valid. But one of these things moves me deeply while the other leaves me cold.
Is it just me or has our obsession with reaching the largest number of eyes possible reached an absurd height? We live in a world that tells us repeatedly that the value of our output as artists is directly proportional to the size of its audience. And yet, sitting in that room last night with a mere 75 other souls felt like heaven to me.
Am I deluding myself to think that gathering people in a club for a night of audacious entertainment is more important than a 2+ billion dollar gross for Avatar? Am I just a hopelessly-naive dreamer who needs to grow up and recognize the reality that the only way to make a living in this business is to reach more people more efficiently? If I believe the publicist with whom I met this morning, the answer is "yes."
But I'm not so sure. Ultimately, I think it boils down to whether one values quantity or quality. The quality of the experience last night was one of the best I've had in years. We became one in the way that an audience does when it's sharing in something magical. That's so rare. That certainly did not happen to me when I sat in the dark with 200 other New Yorkers and watched Avatar. Not that I didn't enjoy it. Don't get me wrong.
I guess I'm starting to wonder: what matters to me more? My own immortality (to which the path for artists is generally huge sales) or the quality of experiences i have on this planet while I'm still alive.
Hmm... Food for thought on a rainy morning in Los Angeles.