Regarding the "collective technical fixation" I discussed in a previous post, I think there is something more to its causes; something that touches the distinction between "art" and "entertainment".
When is it art? When is it entertainment? And, perhaps most importantly, who's to judge it?
The line between one and the other seems to me very blurry, for several reasons. For one, and it's a big one, to really know what a creative piece is actually worth, you need the judgment of time. Art is what stays, what keeps on being current and alive and a go-to source of joy long after the promotional caravan has left the town. As time moves on, the significance of the work will change, new stars will appear in the sky and change the shape of the whole constellation, but its individual light still keeps shining and shining, enriching our lives.
Other reason that makes difficult to differentiate art from entertainment is that, even within the context of present time, of guys-who-create-stuff-right-now, the distinction isn't straightforward. A piece of art can be entertaining. Some creators, even, make it their personal challenge to make stuff that is both high quality and compelling to the masses; this tension of forces is the battlefield they choose, and the cases where they have succeeded are many and worthwhile of admiration.
And on the other extreme, entertainment can be artistic too; sometimes products considered light entertainment, pop culture, when considered in detail, reveal an openness of interpretations, lateral themes, evidences of good taste, and care for structure and proportion, where you recognize a clear artistic intention behind. Because say a script writer can be a sensitive guy, who in his spare time enjoys and recognizes all the nuance of complex art, and even when he has to switch to write in "commercial mode", the cultivation and sensitivity, the "better standards", cannot be hidden, they are going to show in the product (as long, of course, as on the other side of the tunnel there is also someone with a similar sensitivity, tuned in to receive those hints).
So, as a musician, what is it going be? Entertainer or artist? Can you be both? Should you be both? I think each of us must draw the line in a different place. Taking it to the extreme, if your goal is 100% entertainment, you don't need to cultivate yourself, because you're not really putting yourself out there. You can do very well with a bunch of time-tested proven recipes: bodily functions, kittens... If that's your call, you have my blessings, go do it and peace be with you; you might see me at one of your functions sometimes. You're providing a honest service, for which there's a market, and life will be easier for you in more than one way... But also be fully aware that what you're producing is like bubble gum; and you know what people do with bubble gum once they're done with it.
If you take the other road (or, not to be extreme, at least pay visits to it from time to time), your art will be sometimes uncomfortable, because you will be dealing in reality, your reality, and sometimes reality gets ugly, no matter the tower from which you're gazing. As a result, some people will not want to "hang out" with you. But for those who do stay, those who truly connect with what you do, you will become one of those "open windows" that we all need in life, through which fresh air enters, and they will be truly grateful, in a simple, direct, fuss-free kind of way; they'll be thankful in the way in which you say thank you to someone who hands you a glass of water. For them the world will be a less shitty place when they sing one of your lyrics, or as they go through the anticipation and ritual of knowing that next week they'll be attending one of your concerts, or listening to the new album for the first time...
In my case, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing in someone's eye that spark of happiness caused by something I've brought to this world, generally after going through a lot of struggle and self doubt. That redeems everything. That connection that happens, for once, without the need of gruesome explanations; that place where we meet each other and we simply "know", and it flows...
I have a guitar and I'm gonna use it