January 31, 2023

What is being lost with all this talk of music for money? And how exactly do we appreciate live music?

These are the questions I’ve pondered since the last Ticketmaster-Live Nation News began to dominate every aspect of every discussion of live music.


I have multiple views on the subject, and as a result I struggle with myself over this just as much as I do with capitalist show business and my once-hero Bruce Springsteen, who, yes, once again, is likely to explode. my mind, heart and soul are wide open when it lands at the Xcel Center in March and I won’t fight the feeling. Like all the other servants of unarmed detainees, I will most likely get on all fours and thank God that I live in the era of the working class hero Bruce and for the fact that I had the opportunity to testify about it. to the joyous noise of his great band once more. But.

The dude needs to know what it’s like here.

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For me, a lifelong seeker and lover of live music, the answers to the questions are obvious, but it is worth repeating: what is lost in the discussion of capitalism and ticket prices is the mystery and magic that music gives to the human soul like nothing else. . Given the parameters of the discussion these days (“How much did you pay?” “How much does it cost?”) I feel like an overly romantic sucker for having to even point it out, but the truth is Billy Bragg came right in 1988 when he warned that “capitalism kills music” – which is not really possible, but here in 2022 it is fair to say that the sound of capitalism drowns out the sound of music.


In other words, music is priceless and I’ve had too many priceless live music moments that cost me absolutely nothing other than the effort it takes to get out of the house to mourn the expensive tours I missed. As a result, instead of wringing my hands over the Springsteen, Taylor, Swift and Metallica heists, I talked about it here, focusing on why free live music is more valuable than what corporate overlords and performers might have you believe.

As insidious as it sounds, it seems to me that the capitalists are betting that you do not belong to any local music community and do not know where to find free live music. They want you to believe that their product is the most valuable product, but anyone who has attended shows without cover and supported the workers with a table of merch and tips for bartenders and musicians knows how exceptionally soulful the experience can be. I have hundreds of such experiences, and not a single souvenir ticket to show for any of them.

On nights like this, the overall feel of it all is a casual connection to the music, the club, the neighborhood, and other music lovers. One night at the Schooner Tavern in Minneapolis, I was happy to tip the group when my friend Lynn Schultz, a former St. Paul’s school teacher, passed the bucket with a warm smile and an open heart, and damn if it didn’t make me feel good. and at the same time I wonder if Bruce, Taylor and others like them are still entrenched or connected to the music scene.


That is, I felt a natural connection with the experience itself and with a very real and lasting sense of true freedom and musical delight that filled me. I could go on and on about a similar experience I had with free live music, but suffice it to say that it’s a feeling that can’t be priced, nor should it be.

“Corporate music still sucks,” Kurt Cobain said in the early days of Ticketmaster, and speaking of that, Taylor Swift plans to play US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, which I’ve visited exactly twice in concert. One of them was a U2 show a few years ago that I got to at the last minute from the rafters. I dug it out. But here and now, what I remember most from the show is how people complained about the “hall” sound system afterwards. In truth, the sound was good, but people didn’t feel like they were worth their money, and how could they? For the money, people expect perfection and effeminacy, and this is a recipe for the jaded and prejudiced, not for an enthusiastic audience of listeners with open ears and hearts.

In a Boston Globe article on a 1987 psychological study proving that creativity is diminished if it is done for any profit other than creativity and music itself, Alfie Cohn wrote: “If the reward is money, awards, praise, or winning a competition— becomes visible. as the reason a person engages in an activity, the activity itself will be seen as less enjoyable. With the exception of some behaviorists who doubt the very existence of intrinsic motivation, these findings are now widely accepted among psychologists.


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So… it’s not just me. And now I know why I don’t feel as good in stadiums and arenas as I do in smaller clubs like the White Squirrel in St. Paul, the Driftwood Char and the Shuner Tavern in Minneapolis, clubs historically and heroically did not receive guests. little cover parties seven nights a week and it reminds me of something I wrote around the time the late great Uptown Bar and Grill closed its doors:

“Uptown’s main attraction and legacy can be summed up in two words: no cover.

“Ask any clubgoer from any other city and they will tell you that the free entry policy on most nights has made Uptown an anomaly. Even a miracle. And since the music was much more accessible, it turned Uptown into a hotbed in the truest sense of the word. Not only was it a springboard for local bands to the big leagues (an angle that all TV stations took on as if it were the only recognition of any artistic institution), but more importantly, it was a place where the public could stroll around. and amble. Thus, they were given the opportunity to tackle an experience that had become too rare: discovery.

“People were walking down the street at midnight after watching a movie at the Suburban World or the Uptown Theater and bumping into Nirvana, Gear Daddies, Babes in Toyland, Soul Asylum, Oasis, The Replacements, Cows, Jayhawks or some other future. yarn manufacturer.

Since then, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to great free live music and someone said, “Can you believe we’re hearing all this… for free?”

At the moment, the Twin Cities are full of free live music options, from record store shops to small clubs that pay what you can and countless free outdoor events. For years, I’ve run a songwriter’s circuit show called The Mad Ripple Hootenanny, and on 90 percent of those shows, the songwriters played for free, and everyone understood that it was about more than money: music and the camaraderie that happens around music. .

On the one hand, I can name songwriters who have ever mentioned money as a motivation for playing over the years, as all stakeholders have admitted that tainting musical magic with talk of performance royalties devalues ​​the whole experience. It wasn’t until recent years that we finally started getting tips, and of course we were all grateful for the gas and the money for the guitar strings at the end of the night. But Hoot’s main slogan towards the end was “free and freaky” because in my humble opinion one of the best ways to get freaky with music is through freedom and of course there was equality for everyone and the lack of ticket space gave us we all have the right to relax into something more.

Which may sound crazy, but it really happened. For me, I’m still thrilled to be able to play music for people and I hope I never lose that feeling.

I’m not a socialist monk either. I get paid a freelance salary for this column, and I play my songs for a small fee and tips, which I’m grateful for, so you can take all this with your share of skepticism. But unless you regularly hang out in a room with a bunch of other free music-loving freedom fighters, I’d say you don’t know any better, which is the thrill of free live music.

When I get paid to play music, that’s a great confirmation, but for the moment it remains something of a minor concern. Listen to all the very fair career complaints from my fellow starving artists here, but something really important is at stake here, and after chewing through all the leaking effects of Ticketmaster-Live Nation gouging, I’m back to Lewis Hyde The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property is a highly recommended reading for all artists.

Hyde argues in part that art is a gift, and that the relationship between giver and receiver remains pure and can never be corrupted, no matter how many layers of trade lie between them. In her forward, Margaret Atwood (who discovered The Gift in 1984 while writing The Handmaid’s Tale) wrote, “What is the nature of ‘art’? Is a work of art a commodity of monetary value that can be bought and sold like potatoes, or is it a gift that cannot be valued and can be freely exchanged?

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“And if works of art are gifts and nothing else, then how can their creators live in the physical world, in which sooner or later they will need food? Should they be supported by mutual gifts made by the public – the equivalent gifts placed in a Zen monk’s begging bowl? Should they exist in quasi-Shaker communities of like-minded people?

All of these questions were asked before Ticketmaster’s “dynamic pricing” system forced fans to pay hundreds and thousands of dollars for cold, hard seats in aircraft hangars, and before Springsteen told Howard Stern last month, “I stumbled upon the best work in the world.” the whole world because they pay you a fortune for something I would do for free.”

Hm. Springsteen once said that he was driven by desperation, and you could feel it. He’s in his “summation period” now (as he keeps describing/selling it) and you can feel it. About inflated ticket prices, he explained to Rolling Stone he wants to be paid the same as “my peers” and I’m here to ask, why the hell should I care about Bruce Springsteen’s competitive desires or the golden parachute’s ambitions, other than the probable fact that both are the engines and muses of his creativity?

The truth is, I don’t know. On the one hand, musicians are historically among the lowest paid workers, so it’s only right that 73-year-old prodigy Bruce has figured out the game and is grabbing all the money while he can. Good luck, much respect, we are happy for you, especially at a time when the pandemic and inflation have exacerbated the show business supply chain crisis like never before. But for this fan, the shock of the stickers creates a barrier that makes me less than zealous for concerts, re-releases, etc., leaving me to wonder what is being lost, but who is being lost when the money becomes the bottom line. , and whether the artists care who they play for.

As Ryan Ritchie of Los Angeles Magazine wrote so succinctly in his “Open Letter to Paul McCartney on Ticket Prices” last May: “Paul, serious question: what [f—]?

Fortunately, there is an option. Once upon a time, alternative weeklies regularly listed the “Top 10 Free Concerts or Live Music Venues”. to obscure or experimental shows that guaranteed an organic and curious audience and created hype out of nothing.

Times have changed, of course, and of course, I will continue to attend individual major shows, but while I’m there, a large part of me will be looking forward to escaping the bank-sponsored aircraft hangar and heading to the next free and quirky show. gig. Join me?

Big! Just remember to tip your bartenders and musicians.

#Priceless #Appreciating #Free #Quirky #Live #Music

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