Your Friend Won't Attend Your Show or Buy Your CD or Read Your Book (and that's OK)

Definition of a fan: an ardent admirer or enthusiast

Definition of a friend: one attached to another by affection or esteem

If I had a dollar for every time I (or fellow artists) have mixed up the two, I’d be able to say that working in the arts is a path to wealth.  It’s a difficult lesson to learn. Somehow “love me, love my art” seems to be part of the artist DNA and it’s hard as hell to accept that the people we count as friends don’t always love what we create. They don’t show up for our concerts or plays; they don’t buy our CDs or books. We feel hurt. The friend feels pressured. The relationship suffers or ruptures completely.

I know the problem from both sides. Years ago, I backed away from a friendship with an actor because the only time I heard from him was when he wanted me to come to one of his shows.  Yet I wince when I recall how many times I felt wounded by friends who skipped my concerts or didn’t purchase my CDs or my book. When I take the situation out of the arts it looks ludicrous. Many of my friends are salespeople and not a single one of them has implied that I’m a bad friend if I don’t buy their products. Why should I be so discourteous as so require them to purchase everything I create?

We’ve got to let our friends be our friends.  We have to give them permission to not attend our concerts or buy our CDs. We have to avoid asking them if they listened to our radio broadcast or if they liked our recently published article.  Most importantly, we’ve got to be sincere in this and not nurture internal resentment. Unless the friend in question is unsupportive in all areas (in which case, why are you still friends?), it’s up to us to change our expectations. They’re in our lives because they care about multiple aspects of who we are, not just our artistry. They want and deserve an equal give-and-take relationship with us, not one based on them feeling they have to be a “super fan” in addition to a friend. 

Yes, most of my friends are my biggest fans and for this I'm overwhelmingly grateful. But I also cherish those friends who have no interest in piano music or literary novels but love others things about me. That’s what makes my circle of friends (which includes everyone from engineers to artisan pickle makers) so spicy and exciting. When I accept them for who they are (even if they don’t like my music or my writing or—god forbid—my cooking) the relationship can be truly egalitarian. It stops being about “me-me-me” and becomes about the affection and humor that drew us into friendship.  

Our friends are not our fans.  And that’s exactly how it should be.