Sunday, January 23, 2011


I got called out.

It happened a few weeks ago via email (with no permission to quote/attribute), and it's really been bothering me.

A while back, I'd written a couple of posts about a performer (Greyson Chance) who I felt wasn't being responsibly managed; "..borders on child abuse..." is what I wrote. My blog, my opinion. Leave a comment if it really bugs you.

The callout:
"...and I'd take this chance to remind you how small and connected this business really is, especially as you get close to the top. Everybody knows everybody, and if you think you want a career working with any of these people, it would serve you well to keep that in mind."
" probably should do a reality check on yourself. You pass yourself off as someone who's been around and done all that, but why doesn't anybody hire you? Why don't we see your name in our BMI/ASCAP logs? Oh, that's right....."
"...maybe you're making tons of money up north and all that, but nobody who counts is going to want to work with you if you keep writing [blogposts] like that. I know for a fact you're on [name removed]'s shitlist."
These are threats.

To be clear, the person writing this is an acquaintance, and is doing this ostensibly to help me. Which is fine, but let's be honest about the subtext here: "If you don't say nice things about me, I'm not going to hire you."

To recap: I wrote a blogpost in which I expressed my opinion, which, apparently, was not the opinion someone wished I'd held. I didn't even know people read this thing, much less cared what I think about topic A or B. Next, it's asserted that because I'm a 'nobody', my opinions don't matter, unless I want to be Somebody, in which case, I'd best show my unrelenting deference to the power structure.

What's going on here?

The Old World was predicated on a business that had monopolized distribution of its product (there was no other way to maintain 'scarcity'), and had grown inordinately powerful as a trafficker of social ephemera. It had a power structure: names that meant something, all backed up by (fake) sales stats. Legitimacy conferred by random anointing and a herd mentality.

But no more. Fans don't care anymore how many sales you have -they care what their friends say about you. Unless they're personally invested in the success of Greyson Chance, they don't give a shit what I write about.

People in the old world, however, care very much because trafficking in legitimacy (and the perception thereof) is a powerful sport to those beholden to it. If, however, you can honestly live without needing that (and some artists can't - I'm not hatin'!), then they've got no leverage.

I don't need legitimacy conferred.
I don't need their fucking money.
I don't need their approval.
I don't need to work with anyone so desperately I can't maintain an air of honesty...what good would I be as a producer?

So here's where we end up, dear reader(s) - if, as an artist you feel you need these things -external validation, someone else's money, etc - then you're beholden to The System. Old, dying and decrepit, that's what you're aligning with. You're up against all its legacy and establishment. If you think you can get into that maelstrom and retain a foothold, by all means. Godspeed to you.

It's not for me, though. I have a different path. My future fundraising is with a large Mason jar and a Kickstarter account. My fans are my PR. The next five hundred shows I perform will be in the living rooms and art-house theaters within a hundred miles. That's who I am. That's the only legitimacy I care about.

I got off track here somewhere...

Not long ago, I cared very much to be seen as affiliated with "the music business" and its associated accoutrement, cared very much what awards or titles were bestowed upon whom, cared very much about various statistics. Most importantly, I cared very much to be recognized by that system because I felt I deserved it (for reasons I still cannot fathom).

Among the many reasons I cared were people I looked up to in the business cared, too. Or seemed to...

I realize now that was a naive perspective, and honestly, it's been quite freeing to be able to write honestly (and clumsily) without the fear of being alienated from that Old World. I sleep better. I love better. I write better.

Artists: If you feel you need to take on The Big Game, by all means, get into it and ingratiate yourself with the names you see on the music you listen to. Pay attention to who's doing what/where and do your best to work yourself into those situations. Be positive at all times and keep your mouth shut if you know what's good for you. If you can do all that *and* write really good songs, then you can absolutely play in that pond. Go for it.

Everyone else, you've got my email address.


Nathan said...

So you could say that while you care enough to post your thoughts, ideas/opinions, and work, you don't entirely care what the response is. As you said, your blog, your opinion.

I can see that definitely being liberating.

Cheryl Jones said...

It's a matter of the quest for fame and riches versus a desire to simply follow your muse and see where it takes you (even if it turns out to be nowhere). Just different life goals and priorities. Nothing wrong with a person questing for fame, if that's what they're into. But, the search for fame comes at the price of artistry. No one who follows the herd mentality and does as they're told, by those who calculate the figures and formulas for popularity, can possibly meet their goal while retaining the integrity of their artistic vision. It is only by holding fast to your vision and creating your art in a manner satisfying to your soul that you can meet with success coupled with the honest representation of your artistic viewpoint. Again, nothing wrong with going out and making some money. But, there's something very wrong (and, frankly, very sad) with threatening those who value integrity over fame.