Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Starving Artists of the 1%

I haven't done a ton of music-related writing in recent months. There've been lots of reasons for this--my day job saps my energy (the most consistent blogging i've ever done here took place while i was unemployed four years ago--go figure, eh?), all my available writing time has been taken up with WrestleMania liveblogging--but mostly, i've been in a rut of non-enthusiasm fed by a feeling that most people just aren't interested in reading about the bands i want to write about. I mean, who would want to hear about Motherfucker or Le Butcherettes or Hungry Man when stuff like this is out there in the world?

This sub-twee nonsense is a New York band called The Prettiots, and they live in a world that is almost completely removed from the musical universe populated by my peers and friends. I say "almost" because sometimes the two universes crossover like a Marvel vs. DC one-shot, although it's really more like Marvel vs. Achewood or DC vs. your local indie cartoonist who gets stocked at House of Heroes because It's Important to Support Local Art. One of those world collisions happened earlier this month, when The Prettiots traveled to South By Southwest in the hopes of getting "discovered" and "making it," a trek chronicled in part by a piece in the New York Times:
Weaving down from New York to Austin, Tex., in a minivan will cost the Prettiots about $1,000 in gas, plus $3,000 to rent the van with insurance. Hiring someone to manage the tour will be $1,500. Cheap hotels along the way: $500. And once the band members arrive at the music marathon on Tuesday, they will stay at an Airbnb accommodation, which will run them another $2,500 for four nights — the going rate, as the city is overrun by thousands of visitors.
All told, with incidentals and a $15 per diem for the musicians, the trip will cost the unsigned group nearly $10,000, said Asif Ahmed, the Prettiots’ manager, who is fronting some of the cost himself. “When you’re a band this young, it’s a necessary evil — spending money to eventually make it,” he said.
The article's point is valid on its surface--SXSW, as everyone knows, is crammed with "starving artists," in the Times' words,  playing for little to no money while hoping to catch someone's attention. But how starving can a band be when they have access to $10,000 to blow? In a spot-on response to this article, Deerhoof's Ed Rodriguez astutely observed, "The people they chose to speak with were so unlike any musician I’ve encountered in the past 20 years that I’m left wondering, where do they find the sources for these stories? Is this your realtor’s son’s band? Did the famous movie director you spoke with for your last interview have a daughter who recently recorded a demo?"