Pay the Cover | Darren Keen

By Darren Keen

I am so broke right now. And this is not me being humble about the amount of money I have, or an attempt to have a catchy intro to my first amazing column. I am having serious financial problems. 

As an industrious artist, it's easy to blame music piracy for contributing to my money woes. But while people stealing movies, music, comics and other media doesn't help, it's not the only thing I blame for an increasingly devalued creativity.

Everything seems to be within our reach. And gratification is immediate and, often, constant.

But imagine my great-great-great grandpa in Ireland — waking up at 4 a.m., feeding cows and tending to the Irish countryside. He's only heard music in church, parades and, maybe, some drunken sea shanties (I hope I descended from Irish pirates). But if you handed him an iPod Touch, Seamus O'Blackbeard and his contemporaries wouldn't be ready for the cultural revolution provided by such a technological jump. He wouldn't have known what to do with non-local music.

Here in my basement, I'm sitting at a quad-core iMac, listening to traditional Zeuhl music on my ear buds. The giant, can-style earphones I have placed over my ears blasts "I Can" by Nas, which is hard to hear over the dub-step track bumping two feet away from my head on the studio monitors — it seems to have a similar bassline to the song in the movie I'm watching.

But at what point does having such easy access to art start to devalue it?

Recently, Duffy's Tavern, 1415 O St., in Lincoln, was named the best college bar in America by, the president or something. (Ed. Note: It was Duffy's was also named best college bar by a major music mag about 10 years ago. If this is truly a cornerstone for college culture, then why can't bands charge a cover when they play there? I think that if everyone had to drop even $2 to get in (as is the business model at the Replay Lounge in Lawrence, Kan.), the fishbowl crowd would at least want to get their money’s worth. They might even stop and check out a song or two on their way to the beer garden, allowing us artists to try and convert some of them into fans.

When you allow people to come to the shows for free, you instantly devalue the music in the attendees' eyes. People assume that if you aren't good enough to warrant a cover charge, then you probably aren't worthy of their attention.

Although illegal downloading is in someways directly stealing from an artist, I think it's important to examine the deeper implications of people not needing to pay for art anymore. Next time your friend has a show, try and shed all of this entitlement that you have been tricked into feeling — fuck the guest list — buy a ticket, stand in the front row, and just be a fan for a change.

Pay the cover.
Darren Keen has a lot of sci-fi tattoos and makes a lot of experimental electronic music.