I hate it when people label music as “passionate”. As someone who’s creatively inclined, I can assure you that if you create something for free and put effort into promotion and distribution, you care deeply about it.
Yet, there is a big difference between, say, Rage Against The Machine and The Rocket Summer. I was lucky enough to see Bryce Avary during his Of Men And Angels tour. He played his heart out and brought the house down. However, had it been a music festival and Rage Against The Machine was one stage over, I wouldn’t have hesitated to abandon Bryce.
What is it that separates them? Both are very skilled musicians and put on energetic live shows. Their only real difference, besides genre, is that Rage Against The Machine is politically focused, whereas Bryce’s goal is to appeal to as many people as possible.
Writing pop music is harder than it sounds. After all, at the end of the day, The Beatles were essentially a pop band. Part of what makes Bryce so skilled is he makes his craft look easy. On the other hand, Rage Against The Machine puts just as much time, energy, and care into their songs.
Ultimately, the difference is Bryce’s objective is to entertain while Rage Against The Machine wants to change the world. Rage Against The Machine’s goal is something that is bigger than themselves. If Bryce works hard and gets what he wants, he becomes famous. If Rage Against The Machine work hard and get what they want, the world is slightly more peaceful than it was yesterday.
What people forget about The Beatles is that they didn’t become The Beatles until they started writing something other than pop songs. Had The Beatles never taken that first step with “Nowhere Man”, if they didn’t launch the counterculture with “Tomorrow Never Knows”, if they didn’t pray for peace in “Let It Be”, all they would have managed to accomplish is write some very popular songs and influence pop music styles. In other words, they wouldn’t be the most critically acclaimed band of all time. Becoming a part of something larger than their own success is a big part of what separates them from other bands.
Passion is more than caring deeply about what you do. It’s the difference between the ad executive and the struggling playwright, J. K. Rowling and Phillip K. Dick, The Roots and Kanye West, The Wire and CSI: Miami. Passion is what makes great art special. It’s why the modern art exhibit leaves the museum and the Van Gogh stays. Now if only more artists cared about something other than money.