Tuesday, July 21, 2015

In which I give naked clickbait much more attention than it deserves

There's TONS of this stuff out there. 
UPDATE: Ari Herstand at Digital Music News has also ripped the guy a new one.

Here is something which is at best is clickbait— some drone working for some website desperate for traffic writes something outrageous, with some thin pretense of seriousness, to get people to click through to their site, which will use the data to make themselves a more attractive prospect for advertisers. At worst, it's a form of gaslighting— an abusive person taking advantage of others' insecurity to make them feel worse, more in line with the abuser's own self-loathing. It's probably both: a crappy site engages a bitter, failed talent to vent his resentment, to the satisfaction of the lowest needs of all involved. Whatever these creeps' motivations, the piece does point to real misconceptions held by a lot of musicians about the music business. And these same complaints come up again and again from anti-artist types, so maybe this will give you some fuel for dealing with them.

I will pay them the respect of letting them live up to their values, by not supplying them with a direct link, thereby tainting them with the resulting filthy lucre. If you want to search for it, it was printed on the web site of some free paper in St. Louis [oh, the hell with it— here. tb]. The introduction:

You've seen those memes: the ones about how musicians spend thousands of dollars on gear, hours rehearsing and loading/unloading, and drive 40 minutes to just play a show for $100. How noble and brave our poor musicians are, selflessly sacrificing themselves at every turn for a chance to do what they love while constantly griping and whining about every aspect of it. So of course they deserve to get paid -- they're performing a vital service to our lives, just like an ambulance driver. 
Although musicians are indeed shafted by entire industries that are built purely around their creative output, truthfully, they don't deserve to get paid anything. Now tremble with indignant rage as I explain precisely why.

And with that, here we go: one writer's idea of “Why musicians DON'T deserve to get paid.” I have to warn you, my commentary may be quite unintelligible with typos, as I am totally trembling with rage at the power of this schlub's words:

6. Most Music Sucks Honestly, most of everything sucks. Most architecture sucks. Most visual art sucks. Most writing sucks. Falling in line with this noble, sacred truth, your music also probably sucks. Do you really think you deserve to get paid for sucking, just because you took the time to suck?

Well, yeah. Of course. Are you stupid? This is America.

Obviously, no one is paid based on whether they “suck” or not— not even architects! They are paid based on the fulfillment of a contract with a client, a formal arrangement with an employer. In any field you have to have some kind of appeal to your customers and clients, but that's a very different thing than sucking according to some bargain-basement music writer.

There's more of this sort of thing after the break:

5. Art Has Never Made Money Have you ever thought about artists throughout history and how many of them lived in poverty and contracted diseases like syphilis? How famous painters and sculptors who're still revered today made most of their money making insincere crap for a relatively modest paycheck from a religious figurehead or nobleman? Being an artist has always sucked, save for a few select individuals in the 20th century who have managed to avoid getting devoured by parasitic labels and managers. So why do you think that somehow the established paradigm should suddenly shift just because you have to pay for a practice space? Part of being an artist is being a loser. 

Indeed. Why can't you all just die of syphilis and shut about it?

Then there's an image of Mozart, with the caption:

Mozart: Lived broke, died broke. What, do you think you're better than Mozart?

Wonderful, that's the model for how artists are supposed to live: go broke, die 30 years prematurely of a preventable disease, get deposited in your pauper's grave without complaint. And, since we're talking about flippin' Mozart, I guess not sucking is no proof against this outcome after all, so forget bullet point 6.

4. You Are Already Rich If you have money to spend on lessons, on amplifiers, on pianos, on a vehicle to transport all of these goods, you are already wealthy by a global standard. I'm sorry that you aren't able to buy the brand of organic cookie dough your partner loves because the bar owner decided his coke habit was more important than paying you fairly, but guess what? If you are reading this sentence, I'm willing to wager that despite this grave injustice you're still going to be eating at least two meals a day in one of the wealthiest nations in the world.

Please ignore the fact that the music business, and the economy as a whole (I'm talking about the so-called “developed” world, here) is awash in money. Go watch one of those horrifying Japanese tsunami videos, and then replace the water with money, and replace the human beings with the offspring of wealthy hedge fund managers. That's the current economic situation in the “first” world. But you, musician, may not complain until your plight becomes as dire as that of the people in Bangladesh who earn a brutally meager existence perilously scrapping old ships. So what he's calling for is essentially a return to feudalism.

Any time anyone calls something a “first world” problem, by the way, that's what they are saying— lower your standards for what humans should expect from society in the richest society in human history. Expect third-world civilization.

Of course, to be happy living as an artist you do have to be grateful for what you have. That doesn't mean you are not in business, with all the mercenary implications that carries for everyone else in the world.

3. Feeling Pain Makes You Better You can't trust an artist of any medium who creates with the absence of genuine pain. That's what this stuff is all about -- communicating profound emotions through the cathartic process of creation. Contrived as it may seem, genuinely beautiful and memorable art (unless constructed by a brilliant and hollow master manipulator or impersonator) stems from an indescribable rawness that lacks a vehicle yet begs to be released. By keeping you miserable on some level, you're being granted a favor. You don't deserve to get compensated; it's going to make you into a boring chump. If you don't descend into illness and unrecoverable poverty, maybe later you'll thank the world for screwing you over.

That's one view— one hackneyed, junior high school-level view of the creative process. What actually makes you more productive than being sad is having a) the time to do more work, b) the resources to do more work, c) the sense that your work is valued.

An easy test would be to look at The Beatles. Were they better when they were five months into the Hamburg gig, grinding out five sets a night, or when they were happy, rich, superstars, making Revolver, Rubber Soul, Sgt. Pepper, etc, etc. Was Woody Allen better when he was doing TV appearances boxing kangaroos and singing to dogs, or when he was making Take The Money And Run, Sleeper, Love & Death, Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Broadway Danny Rose? Was Lenny Bruce better when he was a working comedian, or when he was being hounded literally to death by legal authorities? At that time, his performances largely consisted of him going up on stage and reading his legal briefs. Now, depending on who you talk to, all of these people have done work of greater or lesser quality after they were successful, but the point is that pain and poverty do not make better artists.

2. No One Deserves Anything The world doesn't owe you a single thing. The fact that you're here is likely a mistake or merely a piece of a giant incomprehensible puzzle organized by multidimensional beings[...]

Yeah, yeah, shut the fuck up. This one is just filler, quibbling over the meaning of the word he chose to title his piece. Next time pick a word that allows you to stay on topic, author.

1. You Care Too Much There are few things more rewarding than denying someone who cares entirely too much about something trivial. Rather than being content in doing the thing you supposedly are in love with, you choose to focus on things like financial compensation to indicate your success. If being validated by an outside force is what creates love and worth in your art, then you're doing it for the wrong reason, and so you get nothing. You lose. Good day sir.

He's been dying this whole time to use that line from Willy Wonka. That made his whole day. The reality is, he has no power to deny anything (other than future bad blog columns) to anyone.

Of course, he is committing the same fallacy as many resentful, artist-hating others before him, believing that artists expecting to be paid for the use of their product, time, and labor, means that being paid is the only reason they are doing it. Which is BS, of course, and none of us need a lecture on the love of music from a clown like this.

Amazing how some people can dish it out, but can't take it at all. Not amazing— totally expected and unsurprising.


Anonymous said...

"Art has never made money" - haha! Art has made a lot of money - it's just that the money ends up in interesting places and the amount of money being exchanged is often not correlated with the quality of the art.

It reminds me of a piece that I read a couple of years ago which made similar arguments (but much more toned down). Still, similar arguments - regarding 'entitlement', money=quality, being satisfied doing music only 'for the love it'...In the comments, he pretty much says that if you aren't making money from music, it's because it's lacking in quality. These guys seem to forget that some of the most vapid music is also some of the music that rakes in the most money.


I had almost as negative of a reaction to this older blog post as I did to the clickbait, mainly because it's written by a pop drummer who is actually pretty good (he studied with Dave King, apparently, which makes his stance regarding money and art even more confusing) and who has written other somewhat useful posts for working drummers on his blog.

Todd Bishop said...

I actually wrote about that piece before-- I frankly hated it, too. I don't know why a lot of musicians who should know better believe this stuff-- this SOS comes up again and again. It's weirdly similar to very right wing views of capitalism, and of the arts. I don't get it.