Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Honesty and Reality

"Music is a world unto itself,
with a language we all understand."
-Stevie Wonder

I made a handy picture for you:

Yes, music may be a world unto itself, but it is a world completely ensconced in a larger reality. I really need you to take this to heart.

Because right now a lot of you think music has its own set of rules. In a narrow sense, this may be partially true, but its dependent on context.

Every one of us holds in our heads an idealized version of ourselves that's mostly a mashup of already-established artists we aspire to be. I certainly have my own, and I know you have yours.

And while it may be well and good to have something to aspire towards, we have a tendency to ignore the larger cultural context in which said artist thrived.

Let's say you're a rock singer and you're molding yourself in the image of what you believe Steven Tyler to be. You scour the internet for footage of interviews, concerts, etc, and you assemble a trove of reference material about Steven Tyler.

But what you probably didn't do is read up on any actual history - you have no idea WHY Aerosmith mattered in the 70's or 80's. You have no idea why they succeeded and other bands didn't. You just think you have to be like Steven Tyler and the world opens.

This is so ignorant. Yet so common.

Because we're not honest, and we're not real.

Few of us know our actual job: Sales.

That's right, the time-tested, unglorious, oft-hated trade of Sales.

And you thought you were special.

When I hear bands complain about venue owners, I can guarantee the band knows nothing of the venue business. Bands think their very presence is to be rewarded. Bullshit. Your job (in a bar setting, anyway) is TO SELL DRINKS! If you're not selling drinks, you won't be booked back. It's that simple. Why can't you/we accept this?

And if we accept this, we can begin to fix it. Because plying our fans in alcohol is FUCKING STUPID! We want our fans to have DUI's? Worse, accidents? Addictions? What the fuck are we thinking?!?

We're not thinking - we're in a collective denial. It's reinforced daily in our media, no matter where you are. What's the saying - tell a lie enough times it becomes true? We're working with a version of history that has no bearing to a larger reality, so we're making terrible decisions. We invoke magical claims about our music history without much understanding as to why those bands even had a chance in the first place. You think anyone was gonna give a shit about what Grace Slick had to say if Tim Leary hadn't brewed up LSD?

Music (and by proxy musicians) exist as a component of a larger reality. The price of gas, for example, effects us in two ways: it makes touring more expensive, and it makes our show a more expensive proposition.

Another example: How many of you have tours this summer that will be interrupted by inclement weather disasters? (hint: more than last year.)

But you're not thinking about this. You still believe that "hard work" is enough. Fans are enough. Perseverance and a little luck and you'll get through.

Well, maybe.

But you'll have to be honest with yourself about reality, just to calibrate your expectations to "reasonable." Problem is, right now, that's harder than ever. It's so hard to discern what's real from bullshit, so we look for affirmation.

How can we be honest if we can't even agree what's real?

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