An Anonymous Observation

Nena forwarded this over to our email from craigslist. Whether or not we agree with this post, it does have a few good points. We are a six member band with a three person staff and we find it hard to agree on all things music but we have our ideas, philosophies and we make ’em work. So, below is someone’s anonymous post about the Music Scene in our dear city. The post was originally posted in the Musician tab of (St. Louis). Your thoughts and opinions are welcome…..

again, not the direct thoughts of any member of Illphonics

The Situation ‘On the Ground,’ Music and $

Reply to:
Date: 2008-10-11, 11:15AM
I’m a drummer and singer/songwriter, but mostly a drummer. I grew up in St. Louis and I’ve lived in a few different places, experienced their music scenes.

I see all this talk here and I wanted to weigh in because I think the discussion could use some points from the big picture. I think craigslist is a valid forum for this and I’ve seen a lot of great points.

Here are some more.

1. The American Economy

If you are not in the military or construction, America has been in a recession for about 5-10 years. Art, including music, painting, writing, movies, whatever is making less money every year per capita. Even if there is a slight rise in gross revenue, it’s not keeping up with the increase in population.

Basically, there are fewer clubs/galleries/theaters and the suburbs extend further into nowhere. A lot of this trouble has nothing at all to do with the failures of musicians.

2. St. Louis is a Suburban Economy

This means it’s decentralized and everyone considers going out to be irritating. There is a central west end and soulard and a waterfront, but the vast majority of the population cannot go there with any convenience. And they don’t have the money to spend there, either, see point 1.

3. Suburban Economies do not fully participate in Local Economies

This mean that they consider bands on MTV more important than the bands in the Riverfront Times. Nellie is therefore a greater artist than anything else in St. Louis. This means that the vast majority of people do not consider it any priority to ‘support’ anything that local artists do. In fact, they consider us pitiful. Because we are not on MTV, we must suck. (to be fair, often we do) Local Artists must compete against national artists, often prodigies with wealthy parents groomed for stardom from a young age(and, to be fair, completely devoid of any connection to the real American experience)

4. American is in Decline and American Art is in Decline

Pick up a newspaper, listen to how the president can barely complete a sentence without screwing up a word. Then look at the artists that have been ‘hits’ over the last couple years. Is Britney Spears as good as Madonna? Is Limp Bizkit as good as Nirvana? Nope, and the whole world knows it. Are the Jonas Brothers as good as Hansen(trick question, lol)?

If you want backup for these points, I recommend reading authors like Wendell Berry, James Howard Kunstler, Douglass Rushkoff and Derrick Jensen. A member of the nobel prize commitee for literature, a similar form of art to music, recently said that American society is too ‘insular'(read: closed minded, ignorant, sheltered) to create great works, so keep that in mind as you’re looking around.

Greatness is out there, but America ‘pop’ just doesn’t get it anymore. Modest Mouse, one of my favorite bands, fits into this category. Hardly a month goes by where I don’t find some great act on myspace, working their day jobs, while the rich and famous youth culture and/or rage rock spewers get a new hello kitty themed bus.

This is all the downside.

The Upside.

1. The Internet

With some effort, you can now own and operate your own promotion and distribution.

That’s it. That’s all we’ve got. Everything else is worse. But think about it, that’s big. The internet is huge. It’s global. It’s audio and video. It’s friends networks. It’s collaboration. It’s tour booking. It’s festivals. It’s instantaneous.

The internet is magic. And we may be in it’s golden age. Plenty of business types are looking to make it suck, by making media more difficult to download.

A musician telling me they are disillusioned because they can’t make a hundred dollars playing for ignorant people at a crummy bar, lugging their shiznit all over some cockroach infested sleaze joint, is like a kid being upset their swing is broke at school when they’ve got six flags in their back yard.

But it depends on what you want. Not everybody wants to tour the world. A lot of musicians really like their day jobs and steady lives. Some Musicians just want the kind of fame where they invite some family and friends to watch them play some songs and supplement their income, and we should let them have it.

But if you want to be the other kind of Musician, writing new music every day, touring the world, pursuing originality, pushing the envelope, then you should just forget about those bars and that 100 bucks entirely. Leave that to those other guys, who are probably going to give the crowd what they want anyway.

Make yourself a myspace page that will get you booked at SXSW and that Pitchfork magazine will like. Consider what people in London and Madrid and Rio De Janeiro will think about your music. That’s the pool you’ve got to swim in, otherwise you really should rethink the use of your time.

There are a lot more people on this planet than their were in the British invasion, you don’t have to get the whole national attention to be great.

But you have to sound fresh at Ibeza or Bonnaroo. You have to be a global artist, ready to make sound tracks, teach clinics, be at the forefront of sex and fashion and have something to say when people look at your lyrics sheets. It’s very extroverted and broad, open and loud, it’s not for everybody. It’s a lot of pressure and it takes a lot of study, because you’ve got to know what’s out there or you’re going to get squashed by someone who does, and you’ll look like yesterday. Think of StL hair bands in the 80s, how they were derivative of coastal culture. Don’t do that. Make something new. The Midwest is the most difficult artistic place in America to call home, so you’re going to have to stare that down.

So STL Musicians, figure out which of these you are and then stay out of each others hair. Cover bands, don’t go around thinking you’re all of that, and original bands, don’t play places for free.

And let’s have respect all around. Anybody who’s playing music or expressing themselves, for free, at all, in a crappy time like this is to be admired. Competition comes with the territory, everyone on the planet gets to choose what they’re going to listen to every day. The market will decide and it’s not a zero sum game, so let’s not get in each others’ faces.

Thanks for reading, I hope this helps provide some perspective.

Location: St. Louis
it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
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~ by Nena on October 13, 2008.

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