You go see bands no one's heard of. In big cities or in small. Venues the size of tool sheds ripe with the perfume of beer and puke. You buy their Cafe Press t-shirts and CDs burned on a laptop with home-printed inserts crafted lovingly by the bass player. Bands that spend more in gas getting to gigs than they'll probably make for the night.
You watch movies made by local filmmakers that run in tiny theaters and bars instead of multiplexes, filmed on cheap camcorders by directors who are actors and actors who are directors. Or set builders who are screen writers. Or sometimes one person doing all of the above, who lost more money than he or she ever hoped to make.
You read books by authors who maybe sell 20 copies a month if they're lucky. Sometimes 20 copies a year. Books with a publisher's name that came out of the author's brain. Books with a few more typos than the ones you find at Barnes & Noble, and cover art with free stock photos and open-source fonts. Books with six-digit sales rankings, where your review stands proudly among three or four others that might be the author's friends or mom.
You buy the artwork of someone who stays up into the wee hours of the night, drawing or painting until their eyes are about to pop. Because that's when the kids happen to be sleeping. Because it's the only time they can do what they love before getting up in five hours to do what pays the bills. Artists who may or may not sell enough to cover printing or convention table costs, but who will draw until their hands are numb. The picture of a superhero you've always loved.
You press Share. You press Like. You Retweet. You Reblog. You tell your friends in casual conversation. "Oh I just finished this book . . . you really need to hear this song . . . hey, there's this great little flick on YouTube . . . this guy can seriously draw ANYTHING." You go to the release parties and crow with joy when these struggling nobodies sign your books and albums and programs and pictures. You pay the admission to conventions. You put the miles on your car. Take the time out of your day. You click to download. You read late into the night. The dreams and hopes of someone who just loves, so much, to show you the world through their eyes.
You're the ones who help make sure that one day, everyone knows who we are. And you'll always have ringside seats.
Because you were there from the beginning. When no one else was. When know one else knew better. When no one else cared. You were there, believing in us, donating your time, your money, your faith, your energy. Holding the door open to let in a little bit of light and a little bit of hope. It kept us going when we thought it wasn't worth it.
You were there when the chords weren't polished.
When the prose didn't always flow.
When the spotlight was dim.
You're a true believer. A generous soul. And adventurous spirit giving the little guys a chance, making them feel like bestsellers, like rock stars. Like Contenders.
From the bottom of our hearts . . .