This is Bonnie Hayes, a songwriter and musician from the SF Bay. You and I have exchanged email before. Always enjoy your posts!
I’ve been teaching at the Berklee College of Music all summer, in their regular 12 week college program, including several advanced classes of students who are about to graduate. Many of these kids come to see me in my office and ask, “How can I make some money?”
But they’re not asking because they’re greedy and want to be rock stars. They’re asking because they can’t figure out how to live at all. There’s no way to live in the cracks like musicians, and all artists, once could. In Boston, in SF, in NYC even the crap apartments are insanely expensive. Owning a car in the city is impossible; and how are you going to get to those famous $25 gigs in podunk without wheels to move your gear? There is nowhere to rehearse,and no time to sit around concocting dreams with your pals when you’re holding down two jobs. Just staying alive is a full time job, even when your job pays well.
Yeah, yeah—I lived in a 6th floor walkup in NYC and trundled my fender rhodes and gynormous amp up and down the stairs, then watched the cabbie ditch when he saw me with my stuff waiting in the snow. But when I wanted to start a band, make a record and play my own songs in nightclubs, I went back home where you could still rent an apartment for peanuts, and where it was still possible to drive a car to a gig without getting towed and impounded. Now, a 2 bedroom apartment in SF costs twice my house payment. I was lucky, and I’m still lucky. How much luck is left for them?
I don’t see many kids who want to be rock stars. They want to be songwriters, guitarists, producers (in the sense that daniel lanois or t. bone burnett are producer—creating gorgeous, original worlds of sound for the listener to get lost in). Some of them are more pragmatic and proactive than others, but they all love music, like mad. They just see very little chance of ever making even a living wage from it. I advise them to develop multiple income streams and to try to build a teaching practice to fall back on, to get their music out there, use licensing opportunities, network and create community. Life is a schlepp whether you run a corporation or work at starbucks—you might as well work hard for a dream. But a dream with no chance of coming true? That’s beyond a schlepp, and for many talented people, it comes to seem like a waste of time.
There’s no separation between what’s going on in the political/economic world and what’s going on with music or art, popular or not. We’ve created a culture that turns creatives into pampered lap dogs or ants working shit jobs to do their life calling their spare time. Why are we surprised when kids want to know about making money? It’s the dream we bought for them when we started prioritizing money over people; and the only dream they can afford.
2 Responses to E-Mail Of The Day
Trackbacks & Pingbacks »»
[...] publishing Bob’s original post titled Income Inequality Killed the Music Business and Bonnie’s response below as well as all of the responses that Bonnie’s email triggered and that Bob published in [...]
[...] this week, I read this letter by musician and teacher Bonnie Hayes about the financial problems her students face in embarking on their careers. We’re not talking [...]