BackBlog: SXSW 2007

The music industry is unforgiving on its own; so why would we want to collect all these miserable people in one city? And then…”I know, let’s invite the musicians along. They’ll do anything for a laugh. Just look at Andrew W.K.” A fiendish plot! Look at our industry: it’s one that drains the soul and passion out of artists. It wears us down – its meant to – so that we get to a point of total submission. “OK. I’ll sign your crap record deal.” or “OK, I’ll do that gruelling three-month tour just because you asked me.” or “I guess we could change that part in the song and make it shorter and replace the horns with a gross guitar solo.”

But without us they are nothing. Without the music, what the frick is an A&R guy going to do? Like Murray says, it’s not like he/she can stand on a street corner and A&R for spare change. People are drawn to music, it’s integral to human nature. We can busk and perform, we can make people think, we can bring joy to someone’s life. Yet this world is flooded with leeches who want to take a ride on our backs, who latch on and drag us down to the bottom. This actually applies to every job, every business, every aspect of life where there’s competition. And the disgusting thing is that music has been totally commodified and changed into a device of capitalism, instead of a facet of culture.

So can you just kill me now? Just figure out a way to end it? There is nothing more excruciating than a music industry festival: four days planned for wannabe moguls, delusional executives and raging alcoholics. Going to a vegetarian-unfriendly Texas BBQ and talking to people who want to work with you while they sweat intensely from a combination of hangover and heat: not my idea of fun. And people actually “dress up” for South By: when in Texas, do as the Texans do. That is, it’s suddenly OK to get a cowboy hat, checkered cowboy shirt and cowboy boots (do they also bring guns and start voting Republican?). Everyone exudes a sense of exhilarating desperation. Anything can happen, you can meet anyone, and everyone is thinking the same thing: “Whose path will I cross today?” It’s pathetic and disgusting and after years of it being your entire life, it gets boring. If the festival organisers had any sense of responsibility, they would follow the weekend with a mandatory AA retreat in Aspen. People could ink deals over the Twelve Steps. Instead egos are inflated, musicians are routinely led down the garden path only to find a thug weilding the Quarter-roll-filled Sock of Reality. Then Monday morning, everyone returns to their everyday lives, tail between their legs. Back to their individual, pathetic hustle, scooping ice cream or telemarkting, which inevitably leads to dutiful alcoholism (i.e. I’m going to the bar to network. I’m going to a show to meet people. Why not have a few drinks? Maybe meet the band. etc, etc.). Bottom line? SXSW is too visceral; too concentrated a version of working in a working band. I’d rather take it in small, daily doses. Its just less painful that way.

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