Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Day The Music’s Engine Died: Gas Prices Ground Indie Artists

This blog post contains explicit lyricsDisclaimer: This blog post contain explicit lyrics and should not be viewed by children.

Another heaven-ordained American right is under attack by rising fuel prices: the right to inflict your music upon others.

Gas prices have touring bands ending on a sour noteLong known for their frugality in touring, indie bands are finding that they can’t even break even when playing in remote locations thanks to the rising price of fuel. As quoted in an AP article on MSNBC, 23 year-old indie minstrel Steven Garcia had this to say about budgeting for his now-canceled tour:

“Once I ran the numbers it was a ‘There’s no (expletive) way’ kind of moment.”

Indeed, such an articulate sentiment will strike a chord with any driver these days. It’s surprising that we haven’t seen more artists tackling this issue in their music. Allow me to seed a few songs:

Punk

Gangster Rap

R & B

Sixty bucks to fill my tank?
This must be some kind of prank
F*** you Exxon, F*** you Shell!
You oily pigs can go to hell!
My baby mama toll me she need money fo’ gas.
Now da b**** is Super-Leaded ‘cause I popped a cap in her a**.
So I’m doin’ hard time, but you all is da chumps;
Droppin’ soap is still better than getting’ r**ed at the pump.
Oh baby, baby, you know you’re my world; it’s true.
I’d drive three-quarter miles just to be there next to you.
Call me, baby girl, and you know that I’ll come
You’re my baby (You’re priceless) You’re my Super-Premium.

With CD sales already on the decrescendo, it has been suggested that artists would have to adapt and drum up most of their money through concerts and merchandise, as Prince did when he gave away copies of his latest CD in the U.K. to advertise for his concert. Under these circumstances, however, it’s questionable if young bands can avoid losing money, let alone make it. The East Coast has a greater density of towns which affords artists there a slight advantage over West Coast and Midwestern bands, who have a lot of awe-inspiring, wide-open spaces to suck their wallets dry between cities.

A two-horsepower bandwagon to combat gas pricesI have a possible solution: In the past, I’ve recommended teepees to solve the housing crisis. In a similar vein, I say we resurrect another bit of Americana to keep American rock and/or roll alive—the wagon train.

If these musical pioneers are willing to cram seven people into a single van and hit the highway to hell with half a ton of equipment designed to be as noisy as possible, then they can probably manage in a covered wagon. This “bandwagon,” if you will, might allow musicians to save money, to grow rugged and to connect with American history. As an added bonus, it’s eco-friendly...like when Sheryl Crow toured using only bio-fuel, except without the smug self-righteousness.

It seems, though, that some artists will still be getting around the old-fashioned way (as opposed to the old-old-fashioned way). Ann Yu, singer of indie band LoveLikeFire, has this to say in the AP article:

“What else can you do? It’s just the battle scars of trying to get your music out there. And for every band that doesn’t or can’t do it, there are other ones that can and will.”

Ms. Yu is probably right. The road to fame has always been arduous, and high gas prices are just one more stumbling block, and probably less damaging than band politics, drug addiction and the stress of divvying up groupies after the show. More than ever, artists must have serious dedication and financial savvy (or a trust fund) to make the cut. Which is to say, whatever their "sound" may be, they all sound more and more like one thing: investors.

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