Anti-establishment Vs Commercial?

A journey beyond mainstream to rebel music

Anti-establishment Vs Commercial?

Postby (sowhat) » Thu Jan 14, 2010 5:30 pm

Hello all.
If you don't mind, before i ask the question, i'll tell you a story about the guy i once knew.
He was what they call "rebel musician", not big in terms of commercial success but loved by young people who like to hear something that has no chance of being on TV. No big venues, just "flat concerts" and small clubs, but still popular enough to be able to sell his albums.
One day he got a call from Kiev (a bit more than 1000 km from the town where he lived), an invitation, like "we are eager to have you playing a small concert here". He then asked, "How much?" — "Ahem, what? You want money, do i get it right?" — "Well, i do have to eat and all that, you know..." (oh yeah, i've seen that, i mean guys and girls who seem to think that rebel musicians are fed by air and defecate roses — SC) — "But... well, you know, that song of yours — "We play for free"... And we thought..." — "Um, well, how about paying a train ticket to Kiev and back, at least?" — "Um, we thought you could hitch-hike, you know..." (It was winter. Cold and all that — SC) That concert never happened, of course.
Heard it a lot of times that true rebel musicians shouldn't become commercially successful, otherwise they become "sellouts" and all that. Because — well, because a true rebel shouldn't care about money, full stop. But really. As my husband says, "not to care about the money is much easier when you do have some". And it'd be a bit silly of me to argue. :wink:
So, what do you think about the statement "the one who stands against establishment shouldn't be commercially successful" (or "play for money")?
As always, all kinds of opinions welcome (as long as they don't violate any forum rules :wink: )
Best wishes,
Nothing will get you dead quicker than being deadly serious about yourself.
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Re: Anti-establishment Vs Commercial?

Postby (Brian Krashpad) » Fri Jan 22, 2010 12:16 pm

The whole "sell-out" argument by dogmatists is kinda like (and don't take any offence at this) communism-- good in theory, but it ends up just not working in the "real world." I don't expect to even feed myself based on money from the bands I'm in, so I have a "day job" that pays the bills. But I DO like to get paid, and will sure take whatever I can get for a show, which usually ain't much.

The "sell-out" argument is effectively based on revisionist history, at least as it relates to rock and roll generally and punk rock in particular. All the early bands like the Pistols, Clash, Ramones, etc. were under contract to as big a record label as they could manage. Even on the lower level of "DIY," the model is still a capitalist one, if informed by some arguably higher artistic/moral beliefs, and a sense of community not necessarily present in other "businesses."

The Bible is frequently misquoted as saying that "money is the root of all evil." What it actually says, however, is that "the love of money is the root of all evil.” Timothy, 6:10. It's an important distinction, unfortunately all too often lost on those who set themselves up as aribiters of the scene.
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Re: Anti-establishment Vs Commercial?

Postby (jimk) » Fri Jan 22, 2010 1:15 pm

I love what I do so much that I don't have time for a straight job anymore. So I have to get paid for the music I make, and the lessons I teach.

If I may be blunt; the whole anti-establishment, rebel musician pose impresses me as something of a charade. And your story, Sheena illustrates that perfectly.

I'm not saying we can't criticize the Establishment without being hypocritical. I do think that where criticism in warranted, we should use our music as commentary. But as everyone else works for a paycheck, we shouldn't feel obliged to refuse one. Being creative is a lot of work.

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Re: Anti-establishment Vs Commercial?

Postby (pfflam) » Thu Jan 28, 2010 12:20 am

I think that attitude of 'anti-$$' is a sort of Cinderella thing, it buys street cred until the cred pays off enough to translate into revenue. Waiting for the kiss from the prince of cash.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not purely cynical, I think though that if someone is proclaiming that attitude, wearing it on their sleeve, chances are its only marginally serious and/or marginally well thought through in the sense that it would be a maturely developed idea.

I think what is far more rebellious and far more counter-culture is to not wear that attitude on your sleeve but merely do what you love and not demand that it pay . . . and if it does, thank the denizen of Mount Olympus and save towards another RIC.

I work in the Fine Arts, I make Video art and I teach theory, I never imagined that i would ever be able to make art pay . . . it isn't, though I sometimes get grants and or a bit here and there, generally though, I pay more towards big projects (installations and whatnot) then i get for doing them, but I have managed to teach and have therefor made it work - I think music is the same way - do what you love without the motive of 'making it=$$$', do that enough, and if you are willing to live low for a while then there is a chance that related income will make it possible to continue doing what you love. That is the long term goal anyway, isn't it?!
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