inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #126 of 198: a monor quibble (chrys) Mon 10 Mar 03 13:22
    
so - can that be changed?

The 'music industry' nearly destroys music for musicians AND fans. Can
another model for sustaining musicians be found?  What would it look
like? 
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #127 of 198: Jim Brennan: Pseud Monkey (jimbrennan) Mon 10 Mar 03 13:30
    
It already exists.  Both in the beat up corner pub, and high tech
websites.  You just have to make the effort.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #128 of 198: Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Mon 10 Mar 03 13:45
    
I think there's a big difference between the commercial and artistic
sides of the music business. Some artists can navigate between both
worlds without too much problem. But I wonder how long someone could be
a pub or internet player without having a taste of commercial success?
That's what I was saying before about the Beatles. You need some
validation somewhere to keep on plugging.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #129 of 198: Life Is Easy When Considered From Another Point Of View (dam) Mon 10 Mar 03 13:46
    
i think i am much happier being a guitar player with more guitar equipment
than i would ever need and not being a working musician
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #130 of 198: a monor quibble (chrys) Mon 10 Mar 03 13:49
    
>Both in the beat up corner pub, and high tech websites. 

Frankly, neither of those options appeal to me as a listener of music.
 And for those musicians who thrive on performance, I suspect these
options aren't all that satisfying to them either. 

Even the club scene is tainted by everyone wanting their piece of the
action and the musicians are often left with very little.  


(two slips)
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #131 of 198: Jim Brennan: Pseud Monkey (jimbrennan) Mon 10 Mar 03 14:28
    
That's true, I suppose.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #132 of 198: alla bout image and not music (kurtr) Tue 11 Mar 03 11:21
    
Well, there's things like 924 Gilman in Berkeley.  It's oriented towards 
kids and punk, and since I am neither at this stage of my life I'm not 
really current on what they're doing.

I did play there a few times a decade or so ago, and I was struck that it 
was something of a co-op.  The consumers were also the organizers of the 
shows.  Given that it was in the era when a lot of young bands were paying 
700 dollars to play at the Omni and similar amounts at the Stone, I 
thought it was cool that the kids were finding a way out of that rut.  
Personally, though, I felt silly hustling 15-year olds for gigs and 
playing in a place that was that divey - it would have been cool if I were 
17, but not at my age.

Green Day came out of that scene, probably some other bands that broke 
big.

The bluegrass scene seems to be very community - oriented, with potluck 
jam sessions, etc.  They seem to have a strong grassroots scene.  There 
was also one in the early music scene, dunno if there still is. 

I think it's hard to have that grassroots feel to the rock scene - it's 
harder to get together and jam when people are using big amps and trying 
to create a spectacle.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #133 of 198: alla bout image and not music (kurtr) Tue 11 Mar 03 11:25
    
I think some of the "grind" aspects of being a working musician are 
inevitable when you do something for a living rather than for fun.  If 
you're playing for your own entertainment you can always go home when 
you're tired of it, but if it's a job you have to fulfill your 
obligations.

There can also be a very fulfilling part to being a working musician, 
though.  New Year's Eve I had a gig where I had the musicians I wanted to 
hire, paid them decent money to play in a nice venue, we played my own 
compositions, and the audience was appreciative.  It was exactly what i 
want to do with my life.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #134 of 198: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 11 Mar 03 12:26
    
Bruce, you've interviewed so many different musicians over the years. Which
interviews stand out in your mind, and why?
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #135 of 198: Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Tue 11 Mar 03 13:35
    
    Although my fantasy may have been to have had complete access to
some superstar or other, like Cameron Crowe riding on the bus, or every
other Rolling Stone writer getting a phone call from Jackson Browne at
four in the morning, I have had to find my satisfaction in smaller
thrills.   
   Any time you make a connection, even if it's just for five minutes,
you feel like you did your job.
   Those are the moments I collected in Working Musicians.
   Over the years, I feel as if I've had some special rapport with
Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Randy Newman, Phil Ochs, Peter
Townshend, Doc Pomus, Robbie Robertson, Peter Tork, Essra Mohawk, Dr.
John, Carly Simon, Keith Richards, Emmylou Harris, and all of the
members of Sha na na, among others. Sometimes it's because you know
they're only giving a few interviews. Other times it's because of how
the conversation flows and you think you're getting great stuff that
they've never told anyone else before.
   Being in on the Springsteen phenomena from the beginning was a
rush. Getting served a tuna sandwich at Paul Simon's apartment
overlooking Central Park was a pretty cool day's work. Finally getting
to meet Laura Nyro backstage at a Newport Folk Festival was
illuminating. Andy Partridge didn't want to finish the interview. 
   More thrilling is when these assorted people remember you years (or
days) later. Admittedly, that doesn't happen very often.
   The best part about Working Musicians was that I got to do 50-60
new interviews, when I'd been out of that particular part of the
business for 5-10 years. And finding out there are so many artists of
the past ten years that I would have loved to talk to, if only their
managers or publicists had gotten back to me.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #136 of 198: Jim Brennan: Pseud Monkey (jimbrennan) Tue 11 Mar 03 14:28
    
Like who? 
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #137 of 198: JOHN ADAMS writes... (tnf) Tue 11 Mar 03 17:41
    


From John Adams:

Subject: When was the David Lowery interview done?

I'm curious whether it was during the Camper days or the Cracker days--
Cracker (in my limited experience) is often not the best live band (much as I
like the records), whereas Camper Van Beethoven was (again, in my experience)
always very on. (For what it's worth, I saw Camper in Santa Cruz last month--
the cover of _Tusk_ is very cool live.)
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #138 of 198: Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Tue 11 Mar 03 18:51
    

The Lowery interview, I believe, took place in the late stages of the
Camper days. I love the fact that they have just reunited. "Take the
Skinheads Bowling" is a crucial song in rock and roll history.

   As far as the publicists who didn't get back to me, try every major
label. If you're not doing a cover story for Time or Rolling Stone
you're not a big priority. And I go back a long ways with some of those
people.
   That's why I was thrilled to get the Boyd Tinsley interview.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #139 of 198: David Gans (tnf) Tue 11 Mar 03 18:58
    

> If you're not doing a cover story for Time or Rolling Stone you're not a
> big priority.

Ain't that the truth.

I remember some major battles over the "cover or nothing" stances of various
publicists.  And with one particular act that I was friends with, the little
fucker almost blew a gasket when he ran into me backstage at their show.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #140 of 198: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 12 Mar 03 10:46
    
Bruce, that's twice now you've alluded to XTC's Andy Partridge as being 
somehow ... uh ... er ... "difficult." What the heck did he DO that made
him stand out in your mind as a tough interview?
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #141 of 198: Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Wed 12 Mar 03 12:31
    
   I'm sorry I gave that impression. Actually, he was one of the best.
It was a case where we got into a conversation and neither of us
wanted it to end. We adjourned from the coffee shop to his hotel and
continued talking.I may have even run out of tape and had to write
stuff in a pad, which I hate to do. 
    If you look at the Andy Partridge excerpt in Working Musicians,
you'll see he's quite over the top in his emotions and explanations,
quite verbose, the kind of guy who will give you a whole interview in
the answer to one question.
    One of the occupational hazards you always think about, especially
when you're getting great stuff, is how many other people has this guy
told the same story to? My solution to that is to never read any of
the other interviews they've given.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #142 of 198: Gary Lambert (almanac) Wed 12 Mar 03 19:15
    

The singer-songwriter Julia Darling (quoted in post # 75) is one of
several artists in the book whose misadventures in the music industry
seem all too emblematic of the state of things today. She finds herself
dealing with record company honchos who are unwilling or unable to hear
her as an artist of any worth in her own right, but rather as a
potential "new Jewel" or "new Alanis" -- in other words, as someone they
might be able to fashion into a replicant of some current pop flavor-of-
the-moment.

Over the course of the thirty-plus years you've been doing the work you
do, Bruce, and talking with musicians about their work, the music
industry has gotten progressively more reactionary, formulaic and
hostile to risk-taking, as record labels, including some of the more
artist-friendly ones, have been swallowed up by bottom-line watching
multinationals and both concert promotion and radio have fallen under
the 100% creativity-free rule of the evil Clear Channel empire. In your
opinion, how have these changes affected the fate of the working
musician, and where, if anywhere, do you think the greatest hope lies
that we might emerge from these dark ages sometime soon?
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #143 of 198: Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Wed 12 Mar 03 19:27
    
You might be interested to know that Julia, who was attempting to put
together her second album, was eventually dropped from her label. I
also had a call from someone, who later wouldn't let me use the
interview, who had been through an incredibly tortuous couple of years
going from producer to producer in the hopes of finding a hit single.
   Today in the paper was an item about companies using a computer to
tell them whether the singles they want to release match up with the
hits of the past twenty years. Talk about 1984 or 2003.
   Ironically, for the working musician, this might be sort of
liberating. While there will always be millions of star search/american
idol clones still hungering for the major label 
stamp of, I guess you would call it validation, maybe more and more
true musicians will try to do it independently.
   I've always felt the Internet would lead the way to this kind of
future, where you can check out someone's material and go to see them,
or buy their record, just by clicking on their web site.
   I don't know if the average musician can make a living at this
level, but the major labels don't seem to offer much in the way of an
alternative.
   As far as radio, don't get me started....

   
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #144 of 198: Gary Lambert (almanac) Wed 12 Mar 03 19:45
    

I saw that article about the alleged hit-picking computer -- one might
almost think it was a satire piece from the Onion. Almost.

It isn't just obscure artists getting the axe, either -- there have been
multiple tales of major labels purging their rosters of artists who were
selling something like a quarter-million units of their CDs. Or in some
cases, artists with even higher sales but "bad demographics" (which is
often simply a euphemism for "too old").

The current-model record companies have accomplished something I never
thought possible: they have managed to make people nostalgic for the
legbreakers, extortionists and payola specialists who used to hold sway
over the industry, as depicted in Frederic Dannen's great 1991 book,
"Hit Men."  Sure, those guys were sociopathic gangsters and all... but
at least they seemed to like music!
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #145 of 198: Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Wed 12 Mar 03 19:51
    
   Of course, the hope is, with the success of Norah Jones and before
that the O Brother...soundtrack, that record companies are beginning to
realize that the older audience still buys huge quantities of records.

  But in some ways it's like television, once you get to a certain
age, you no longer matter to the major advertisers. You get to be a
small niche that just has to gratefully accept whatever crumbs get
thrown at you.
   As far as being a player, like Richard Lloyd, and a few others have
said in the book, you have to love what you're doing, whether you ever
get paid or not.
  The question is, as I have posed for, how long can you play on love
alone, without getting a reasonable paycheck? What's reasonable is
something each person has to decide.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #146 of 198: Gary Lambert (almanac) Wed 12 Mar 03 20:09
    

Indeed -- I have enjoyed a long friendship and working relationship with
a band that has never enjoyed a level of renown or financial security
that corresponds even remotely with their musical brilliance or the
esteem in which they are held by their peers: NRBQ. And man, talk about
a band that The Industry has *never* comprehended or appreciated! On
some levels, working with them has been one of the most maddening
experiences I've ever had, because banging my head against that wall of
incomprehension and indifference is a daily part of the job. But in
another way, I can't think of a more inspirational or fulfilling
endeavor -- because no matter what the day-to-day frustrations of the
job may be (and I know that their accumulated frustrations make mine
look pretty puny by comparison), whenever I get to see these guys play,
whether in some little hellhole or opening for one of their fans like
Elvis Costello in ritzier surroundings, they are going to deliver the
goods night after night, and do so with more joy and wit and beauty and
brilliance than any band on the planet. And to see them do that with
such dependability (and never the same way twice!), especially knowing
the knocks they've taken in their 35 years in the trenches, is about as
potent an object lesson in courage and resolve and love for your work as
any I've ever come across.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #147 of 198: Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Wed 12 Mar 03 20:17
    
   One of the guiding premises of Working Musicians was that 90% of
musicians out there are at the level of NRBQ or (way) below that. Maybe
95%. The other 5% are the ones in all the magazines and on the radio
and MTV. Most people think it's the other way around. 
   It's probably something like the high school kid who wants to turn
pro for amazing riches. Nobody think that it could turn out to be a job
that you work at 50 weeks a year just to make a living. They think
they can tour for 6 weeks, sell 5 million records and live off the
royalties for the rest of their lives.
   The real trouble is the disparity between the 5 and the 95 in terms
of income (to say nothing of artistry). In the case of writing a book,
for every John Grisham, there are 99 others who sell about what the
average record release sells.
   How can we go about creating a profitable middle ground?
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #148 of 198: Gary Lambert (almanac) Wed 12 Mar 03 20:35
    

I think eliminating the middleman, to the greatest degree possible, is
always the best place to start. For one thing, the *business* of making
music is long overdue for a process of demystification. I'm not saying
that it's not hard work to make records, book gigs, generate publicity
and nurture a musical career.  But if you accept that it's hard work,
and are willing to do it, it can most certainly be done, and often more
efficiently, creatively and effectively than the corporate behemoths are
able to do it. In her stewardship of her own career, her uncompromising
artistry and her effective end runs about the big labels and promoters,
Ani DiFranco is one of the most effective living advertisements for
musicians' self-determination.
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #149 of 198: Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Wed 12 Mar 03 20:38
    
Ani is someone I really wanted to get into the book, but failed to
reach in my relentless pursuit of her press agent.
   Actually, I think her story deserves a book in itself
   And I would be the perfect one to write it.
   Ani? Are you out there?
  
inkwell.vue.177 : Bruce Pollock: WORKING MUSICIANS
permalink #150 of 198: Gary Lambert (almanac) Wed 12 Mar 03 20:55
    

A funny thing about Ani is that the success story of Righteous Babe
Records was so striking that she was getting more calls from business-
beat writers and magazines like Forbes than she was from music
journalists, so she declared sort of a ban on interviews about her
entrepreneurial endeavors.

I do think that the silver lining to the heavy overcast that is the
music business is going to be found in a proliferation of grass-roots
enterprises, undertaken by musicians themselves and by businesses that
are much more inclined to take chances, break rules and nurture
creativity than are he big, slow, dumb industry dinosaurs currently
slipping into expensive, elegantly appointed tar pits of their own
design.

So, Bruce... let's say you've just been appointed the all-powerful Czar
of the Music Industry. What are your first three decrees?
  

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