How Can Indie Musicians Help Fix the World Right Now?
A lot has happened in the last week. Donald Trump was inaugurated on January 20th and has since been churning out executive orders. On January 21st women (and plenty of allies too) around the world marched to voice their concerns. As the week has progressed, it's felt like every time we turn on a TV or computer there is a new piece of jarring news to contend with. The White House is unironically using phrases like "alternative facts" and many of us are growing more and more concerned about the potential effect this administration may have on our environment, women's rights, the physical safety of many minority groups, and more. People are clamoring to share their opinions online, in organized activist events, and at the water cooler. These conversations are needed, but have also raised our day to day stress levels to the max. Many of us are faced with a conflicting need to retreat for self care, and also to raise our voices and stand up for the greater good.
I know from the conversations I am having that many of my fellow indies are daily facing questions like "How can I affect change? Can I even handle engaging with these issues today? Am I doing all I can? How can I possibly make a difference when there is so much at stake for so many different reasons?" Artists have traditionally been at the center of social movements, and many of us are feeling a combination of pressure, motivation, and anxiety as we realize that the time to step up for what we believe is NOW.
Delia Stanley and I, as indie creatives ourselves, are asking ourselves those questions and feeling those feelings right along with everyone else. We have been brainstorming ideas for how musicians can contribute to positive change right now. This is not an exhaustive list and what we hope is that it will start conversation and get more and more musicians actively engaged in exploring how they can be of service. We are often reminding our community of indie musicians that we are not at the mercy of the music industry--we co-create it. Today, I remind you that as human beings we are not at the mercy of current events--we co-create them. Together, we CAN change the world.
1. Be a concerned citizen. Contact your elected officials, sign the petitions, get yourself informed and spread information that needs to be spread. Calling is the best way to get real notice from elected officials as their staffers do daily tallies and reports on how many people are contacting them and about what issues.
2. Be an involved citizen. When I was talking to Delia today about this list, she said something that really hit home: "I’m not knocking calling senators. But I don’t know who’s listening and who really cares. So in my opinion it’s time for extremely practically, applicable, tangible actions." She has put a call out to her community that the weekly open mic she runs is now also a place to donate needed goods for local domestic violence shelters (which are facing a total slash of available funding). It’s time for all of us to ask ourselves how we can get directly involved in protecting those in our communities who are vulnerable, and what we can do right now to help out in our local area.
3. KEEP MAKING ART. We need the protest songs of our generation to ring out loud and proud right now. When the government is giving us "alternative facts," we need courageous artists and filmmakers and writers and musicians to make bold art that tells the truth. Art unifies us in a way few other things can.
4. Work your healing magick on yourself and others. One reason protest songs are so important to a movement is because singing them helps us believe we can make a difference. When people get together in a room to make music, their brain waves change as they coordinate with each other on conscious and subconscious levels. Music gives us hope when we are feeling hopeless and it gives us strength when we are feeling week. That is a powerful renewable resource that we all have at our fingertips. Use it. Heal yourself with song. Heal the people around you with song. Get people focused on making a joyful noise together. When others are uniting through fear mongering and hate speech, we must unite through collaboration and love.
5. Stop thinking about your music and your activism as two separate things. I am someone committed to building a career doing my true calling, and I am also committed to changing the world for the better and standing up for what’s right. One thing I have asked myself in the last few days is whether I will have to put my music on hold at some point in this mess to serve the greater good. What I have learned from my own internal inquiry is that there is another way--these two goals are not in conflict at all but can flourish together. Because making music is my true calling, it also provides me with the best way I have of changing the world. Because I got into making music to be my best self and empower others to do the same, my commitment to activism can only make me more powerful as an artist. Now I am looking at how to combine these heartfelt goals and I am seeing opportunity after opportunity. I will spread needed community information, as well as healing and encouragement, at every gig I have. I will use the extended reach I’ve built in my community and through social media to highlight the important things happening right now and what we can do about it. I will use the unifying, awe-inspiring power of music to help with the difficult task of turning hearts and minds away from fear and towards compassion. When we use the tools we are meant to use to do the things we know are right, nothing can stop us.
This is not the full list: this is the beginning. Please share this post with your musical friends and most importantly, add to it. What are you doing to change the world in small and big ways? It’s time to come together and give it all we’ve got.