This is an unabashed, unashamed plea for your loyalty.
It's also a call to arms.
It can be both at once. Self-promotional and hopeful universal.
There is nothing wrong with Taylor Swift. Except that she doesn't speak to me. Nor anyone I know. The world of music lovers doesn't have a ceiling at 25 years old. To be honest, when people ask me, now that I'm in Nashville, if I moved there to "go country" I giggle and say "Look at me. Look at the CMAs. Seriously?" I love Folk Music. I love Americana Music. For many many reasons, not the least of which is that those genres not only allow graceful and poetic and relevant aging, they embrace it. Buddy Miller and Emmylou Harris are the posterchildren of Americana. We in the folk world think Pete Seeger and Joan Baez have more to say to all of us, kids and adults, than the 20 somethings (or even 40 something) so-called Emerging Artists.
We complain that the world is too commercial. That our radio waves that we grew up to listening to and discovering rock & roll and folk & country and talk radio are being cluttered and clankered by dreck, by 360 deal Disney "artists". There is room for The Jonas Brothers. But not to me. The Jonas Brother will never speak to me (not that, as a 16 year old, they would have spoken to me then. Back then I was in my full on Madonna vs. Cyndi Lauper war, but I'd also discovered The Stones and The Beatles). I do admit to an 11 year old moment of Shaun Cassidy, which, looking back, was pop trite. A glamourous girlyboy dressed up to appeal to the Teen Beat sensibility. That's cool. I practiced kissing my pillow thinking of Cassidy. I have no shame about it.
We can stamp our feet and demand our XM/Sirius, our Paste Magazines, our No Depressions, our podcasts and Little Stevie's Underground archives. We can dust off our The The records and wallow in a beautiful despair, just like we did in 1988.
BUT. We fail ourselves and our world at large when we don't accept that the music industry, the art world, the theater, the movies, the books are all dumbing down not in spite of us, but BECAUSE of us. Its our fault.
We are not getting off our asses and going to live shows.
We are not pledging a bit of money to community-run radio stations.
We are not finding the local art gallery and checking it out.
We are failing our local bookstores by shopping online.
Just sayin....and this is for me. A reminder. To not sit at home and be a dumbass.
Live venue ticket sales are at an all-time low. Many are closing.
Festival sales were 30% down this year.
Many radio stations are being forced to change their formats to all-classical/all the time and get rid of the volunteer-run specialty shows we love (think Vin Scelsa).
I tour the country all the time. I'm grateful for every show I do, for every single person who gets out of the house to pay the small amount of money to come support me and hear me sing. If I don't thank you personally and directly, please accept this as me on my knees thanking you for my career, for me being able to do what I love the most in the world and share it with you. Yes, I'm talking to YOU. You there in the coffeeshop, you over there, feeling a bit awkward because its raining and only 4 people showed up and 2 of them seem to be old friends of mine, so you feel exposed there, a stranger in a tiny audience, feeling a bit sorry for me, having taken a chance on a poster and an unknown artist. Thank you for doing that. (and p.s. just so you know, yes, its disappointing and sometimes difficult to play passionately for a tiny house, but be assured that I've done it and been surprised at how sometimes those shows are my BEST and those nights are the memorable ones)
And for those of you who email me the next day saying "Damn, I wish I could have come but... Just let me know when the next time you come to town" I want to say something and I hope this comes off grateful but truthful. There's a chance that I might not be able to come back because of my 50 fans who really wanted to come but it was raining/something was on TV/etc., only 5 showed up and the reality in our world is the venue has to make money on me, not lose it. So I won't be invited back and there might not be a next time, no matter how many Facebook/Myspace friends I seem to have. So please, next time, if you like what I do and I'm coming your way, please come join me.
Nicole Atkins, a kickass rockstar of a girl from Asbury Park, who has toured with The Avett Brothers, recently stopped by to play a show at a bookstore/venue owned by a friend of mine in Baltimore called Cyclops. Andy Rubin, my friend the owner, has been booking amazing folks to come through and play shows. And the audience is trickling in. And if you hear Andy tell of the night Nicole Atkins played, this almost famous chick sat down with a guitar and personally serenaded the few people that were there. She has played the Big Club in town. But on an off night, she played this bookstore. How cool for those 4 people who trudged out in the November night. And how sad for those that saw the poster and thought "Hey, that might be cool, but you know Grey's Anatomy is on so I think I'll just go home...."
I've been lately really into the Local Food Movement. Granted, I live in my van, so "local" is relative to me, and I haven't yet been able to implement it into my life in a daily way, but I'm fascinated by it and think it makes at least philosophical sense. How about a Local Art Movement. I lived in the NYC area for many years, my last address being Jersey City. Every October there's a Jersey City Artist Studio Walking Tour. LOCAL! But there are neighbors who said they'd never done this, never heard of it. I knew of a metal sculpture studio down the block. I never went. Shame on me.
Local community theater companies keep art local, keep it small and cost-effective. Give the community a way of creating something together.
Local art galleries showcase local artists.
Local live music venues showcase local musicians. And national musicians, who are bringing their music directly to you.
If you go to a show and you like the music, buy the CD directly from the Artist. The money you give them goes to them. If you wait, and buy it on I-Tunes, the money might go to a 3rd party (a label, etc.) and never really trickle down to them. EVEN BETTER: buy it in advance of the show at the small, local CD/Record store (My favorite: Tunes in Hoboken!!!!) -- even if the Artist might lose a bit of money to the label or the distributor, you and the artist are teaming up to keep that small record store alive. A place that probably has the $1 bin where you could come across an import of "All Things Must Pass" for $6, a place with a turntable and headphones to preview your purchase, where you can linger by the comic book section and meet like-minded music freaks. Of course, if the artist isn't coming to you, then by all means, surf Amazon and I Tunes to your hearts content. Just so you get the music in your hands.
But if the artist is coming your way, support them. Go to the show. Take a date. Take your 16 year old daughter. Take your mother.
We can't blame the destruction of the music industry on Rich Men in Suits Who Run Major Labels, or The Taylor Swift Phenomenon, or Clear Channel. We can point the finger in the mirror as a call to arms.
My good friend Paul Reisler's mission is to teach songwriting and music to children to encourage them to be "Creators not Consumers". I believe this. I believe that even if you can't pick up a guitar and write a song, by sharing in the community of live music, going to a show or pledging $50 to a .org radio station at the far left end of the dial, you are joining the Creative Community in your own way.
Go see the grassroots acts and then watch the grass grow. I.e. Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Ani DiFranco.
Ok. I'm stepping off the bucket in the corner of Hyde Park and taking a nap now.
With love and respect, your adoring fan-