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The Endless Battle Between Good and Popular

From Lifehack - November 30, 2017

Have you ever watched an awards show and wondered how the judges reached their decision? Specifically, is it really the most talented artists who receive accolades, or is it just about popularity? Some argue that it doesnt matter how accomplished you areif your work is not popular, it will never be perceived as good.Have you ever watched an awards show and wondered how the judges reached their decision? Specifically, is it really the most talented artists who receive accolades, or is it just about popularity? Some argue that it doesnt matter how accomplished you areif your work is not popular, it will never be perceived as good.

Lets take the Grammys as an example. The Best New Artist, Song Of The Year, Record Of The Year, and Album Of The Year categories could theoretically be won by an artist of any musical genre. However, no classical work has ever won one of these awards.1 Year after year, the Grammy judges seem to reward musicians who are popular, as opposed to those who are good.

Looking at the numbers, Taylor Swifts 1989 won the 2016 Best Album award, whereas Adeles 25 has been nominated for the 2017 prize. Both these albums have sold in their millions1989 sold five million copies by July 2015, and 25 sold over nine million copies in 2016. It would appear that theres a clear split between good and popular.

How does this split come about?

At the beginning of an artists career, they use their creativity as a means of expressing their feelings. When they make music or create a painting, their aim is to work through difficult emotions and restore a state of contentment and calm. If the result isnt to their liking, they work hard to make it as good as possibleperfection is the end goal for beginner artists. Popularity isnt their first priority.

However, as someone learns their craft, they start to crave more attention, and to let others share in their work. Unfortunately, because art is subjective, their audience might not understand what they are trying to achieve, which can be disheartening. At this point, they have an epiphanyif they want to gain popularity and a wider audience, they need to tailor their art to the masses.

The typical artist will then work around other peoples tastes. Their first priority is no longer excellence. Instead, their focus has shifted to increasing their personal popularity.

Good vs Popular

People who focus on producing good work instead of popular end to strive for excellence. They do not care what other people think, and they know that it isnt always a good idea to follow the crowd. In fact, the masses may not actually care what is best for them, and simply want them to churn out popular works. People who place good over popular are also free to be more creative.

At the same time, people who do not care whether their work is popular runs the risk of ignoring constructive criticism. They can become too single-minded, and may also become depressed if only a small minority of the population enjoy their work.

Why not have both?

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