by Joshua Miller
Why do you make music? I’ve had long conversations with many of you about this very subject and have always received various replies:
- “I can’t live without it. Music is my very soul!”
- “I didn’t take lessons for 14 years for nothing!”
- “I just love to jam, man.”
- “I want to break down artistic paradigms and get people to think outside the tiny boxes in which they dwell.”
- “Uh, for the free beer. Duh.”
Whatever your answer may be, I’ve never heard a musician honestly say they’re in it for the money. In fact, there’s a universal stigma against “selling out.”
And why shouldn’t there be? We’ve all seen some of our favorite bands get sucked into the major label grinder, sold on corporate radio stations owned by Clear Channel and puppeted around the world by corporate promoters like Live Nation, only to emerge chopped up and watered down in an advertisement for the new iPad.
But we’re not that famous, you say. Now’s the best time ever to get your music to the masses, you say. But let’s think about this for a minute.
The internet does give you a broader reach to niche audiences and listeners in other countries, but unreliable connections from telecom giants like Time Warner can make it frustrating to update your website. And band websites themselves are becoming more outdated as we’re forced to promote ourselves through sites like Facebook and Myspace and generate hits for their sponsors. Digital stores like iTunes and Amazon, who have effectively made it harder to find physical record shops, also charge you a fee for the convenience of selling your songs there.
Even eschewing the internet and going the old-school route is expensive. Increasing gas prices make it increasingly difficult to hit the road. And those American Apparel T-shirts get more pricey too, as they pass on the raised shipping costs to you.
Don’t get me wrong ― I’m not anti-business. I actually consider myself to be involved in a small music business. And I’m not in it for the money. But it takes money to make music. And there’s plenty of big money working against small start-ups, even when it’s inadvertent. It’s enough to make a guy very frustrated – angry even! – without even knowing for sure why.
Over the past year, I’m sure you’ve noticed others getting more and more upset with the way things are going. It started abroad, wandered over to Wisconsin and the Rust Belt and kept going, eventually to where all the big corporations that are keeping us down are getting propped up: Wall Street. That source of anger and frustration is worldwide. And this is a big week for that unrest as cities all over the country join in solidarity with those in New York to express their own frustration.
And this is a big week for us local musicians too: Lincoln Calling
; that time of year when Lincoln musicians join in solidarity to put on a kick-ass week of tunes about whiskey and heartache and dragons; when we get to meet up again with our friends who have traveled the world and have seen the happiness and frustration present there; when we get drunk and rock out with our close friends.
But this year is different. This year, all that unrest that’s been boiling up and flowing around the world comes to us here in our music city, Lincoln. On Saturday, hundreds of angry and frustrated people will descend on Centennial Mall to voice their complaints. And they want us scruffy, often self-interested musicians to join them.
Again, I don’t know why you make music. Maybe you’re just in it to get chicks. But there is one thing I do know: You’re frustrated by things out of your control. And you’re not alone. What better way to voice that frustration and come together on a Saturday afternoon then entertaining and enlightening others in the same situation. So please ― join me and others this Saturday as we express ourselves and share with others. And, yes, sing those whiskey songs.
Occupy Lincoln. Hear Nebraska. Let’s do this.
Joshua Miller sings songs about Peter Pan's nuclear tan in Powerful Science. Tell him what you think in the comments below.