good morning ~
(click the parc de la fontaine / link to listen)
two fun yet extra gentle gigs happening this weekend
on Saturday we're trying something new at No Fun - quiet afternoon music featuring the ethereal travels of Jason Calhoun, whose music I adore:
and then Sunday m.geddes gengras (who you might remember from last week's newsletter) and I will be performing one long set solo and together for the Avalon Lounge's Sunday Night Swim:
The other day my buddy was wondering out loud on the internet how he could possibly muster the chutzpah necessary to take his beautiful songs on tour, knowing all too well - from years of playing gigs with other traveling bands while living in cities like Chattanooga - the burden that such a request often places on local musicians, folks who are also usually relying on favors, luck, and kindness to make it work. How could anyone do something so bold as to request 40 minutes of stage time in a town you've never visited?
Most of the people out there playing shows - my buddy included - lack what more widely recognized names gratingly refer to as a "team." No booking agent, no well-funded label, no manager, no entertainment lawyer, no public relations representative on retainer - when there isn't enough cash coming to take 10% of, you stay locked out of "the industry." At a certain point, though, if you have something to say and keep at it hard enough, you might catch a wave - maybe the right critic hears an album of yours and tweets it out, maybe you get a chance at opening for a big name band, maybe a track of yours gets licensed for a movie or a commericial. If the right circumstances surround your work in music, people might start to think, "hey, I can possibly make a buck off of this" and soon enough you'll be taking meetings, pretending to understand phrases involving the word "revenue." Something like this has happened to me a handful of times. It can be exhilarating, validating, intoxicating - how sick would it be to quit your shitty job and make music full time?
But, of course, taste is fickle and we listeners tend to discard cultural relics almost immediately. Any wave you catch might peter out unexpectedly and there you are, no longer a viable source for someone else's money, back at a shitty job squeezing in rehearsals when you can. It can be a brutal cycle, real slot machine mode - if only I got this, then I could do this, then I could make this happen, and then it would all click into place. Well, just like the jackpot, it hardly ever all clicks into place. And just like gambling, it's usually the people who already had access to fat stacks of cash that win big. But you feel that your work is good, thoughtful, other people say that you "deserve it" when you get a piece of good press or a prestige booking, so you keep trying. Eventually you savvy up and learn how to position yourself in this industrialized realm - without saying it too indiscreetly, how you can assure the folks you're wheeling and dealing with? I think we can sell out a 100 cap room. This will be huge on independently curated playlists. We should make plans for a second pressing. How do I ingratiate myself to the people with all the money?
Music, sounds, songs, acoustic phenomena - whatever your ears or the rest of your body hear, these are undeniable facets of our shared cosmic experience. Resonance and comprehension of air wiggling predates by millennia anything as rudimentary as money, and certainly something we could call music rose from our throats before something that could be codified as language. Those that dare to play before an audience are doing nothing short of harnessing and organizing an eternal, primordial force for a once-in-a-lifetime gathering of souls (much as a river, you can't step into the same DIY gig twice). In a perfect world, the fulfilling of this awesome responsibility would be sufficient reward. But, tragically, we must also feed the body while we nourish the spirit. In other words we must pay dearly in currency and labor for the privilege of living, and so we are more or less forced to monetize the holier things and - more often than not - shell out for the universal joy of watching music being performed. A collection plate or ten dollar advance tickets to the gig, not much of a difference there, and paying for the gig is the only way to temporarily correct the caging of this particular bird.
I'd like to say this clearly: music and its industry could not be more opposed to one another. That people aren't easily convinced they can make a quick buck off of you is one of the surest signs of the value of your work. That we squeeze the songs into record deals, streaming services, and places with twelve dollar beers is simply a Faustian bargain, a devil's bloody hoof print, a casualty of capitalism. Ya gotta eat - how horribly fucking true is that!
So to my friend: you should fear not whether or not someone in another town is going to make a buck off of you. Book the show, make the ask, sprawl on floors across America. But as you travel fear, instead, a much more serious dilemma - were you to park your minivan in front of their bar, will you have wasted someone's time?
Everyone dies a little in the act of watching you sing, no matter how much you make them want to live. Provide for them an organizing principle, an invitation, a three-band bill where at least one of the acts is a name they don't recognize. Bring word of songs and scenes beyond this one, make some cool ass merch. Bring to them an air of enthusiasm and fresh perspective - how sweet it is when someone you book a gig for shows you something you never realized about the place where you live. Be nice to the person in the sound booth, tip generously on every single drink ticket. Be among the people gathered in the room, however many handfuls make it out. Try to never sound like you've taken a handshake meeting before. Speak not of money, but make sure you are paid fairly for the holy work you're waging. Take it all seriously. But take it.
But what about you? What would you like to do, if you were slightly less considerate of others? What meetings are you taking? Are you (like me?) wasting anyone's time?