Paying Your Dues

Here is my rant.  And I think it may be different in the U.S. vs Canada.  It is a peculiarity about Canadians that they collectively look down their noses on success.  It is my impression that Americans applaud success.  “Good for you!” if you work hard, make a lot of money and enjoy the rewards of your labour (or should I say ‘labor’).  In Canada it feels as though you are bad or criminal or unscrupulous if you enjoy success…in any endeavour.

On top of this, in the musical world as in any arts-related world, there is this concept of ‘paying dues’.  If you are young and starving and scraping by in the pursuit of art, then you are legitimate…a kind of reverse and perverse class system not unlike that seen in early Maoist China.  If you’re older, successful in another occupation and return to your musical roots after establishing yourself in another career…then you’ve sold out and this is just midlife crisis…just dabbling or playing at being a ‘real’ musician.  Good luck if you’re an older, successful (in another field) Canadian writing & playing original music.

I don’t buy it.  The world has changed.  There is more music out there now than ever, thanks to the world wide web.  And it’s not because there has been an explosion in talent.  It’s because this new world facilitates getting all this great stuff out there unencumbered by the restriction of the star system of major record labels.  Interestingly, if you’re an older guy like me, it IS legit to have a band that plays covers.  Just not originals.  What’s that about?

I have as much right to expose my music as any starving artist or wealthy dilettante.  It’s you, the audience, who decides if it’s worthwhile or not.  If anyone is going to be judgmental, let it be on the basis of the work, not your address or the car that you drive.


1 Response to “Paying Your Dues”

  1. 1 Jim Bob
    April 23, 2010 at 8:23 am

    To comment on your rant:
    From my experience, the PAY YOUR DUES argument seems to be a symptom that springs up in areas which have a small music market. I first heard this in my home town in the mid-western US. I think it comes from the people who control the venues wanting to know that a performer will consistently draw a crowd.

    Think about it. In places that have had “outbreaks of creativity”, there has usually been a happy combination of an available audience/customer and some promoters ( club owners like Bill Graham or producers like Barry Gordy ) willing to nurture and promote the acts.

    Why do you think the people who have made it get the heck out of most towns !
    They really want to go where the “action” is !

    The other thing about small markets, is that those musicians who have actually got a foot hold in it will try to keep it. The talented newcomer ( or old “dabbler”) can’t expect much encouragement from the guys who want to protect their turf.
    Unfortunately, the advent of “home entertainment” means more people will get their
    music from TV, radio and the internet. All of which are coming under the control of the taste-makers at the big name music websites, limited format (i.e. Classic Rock, Dance, New Country) radio stations, and those guys on TV who call everybody they like “Dawg”.

    None of this is to say that you should give up here….
    Nobody got anywhere by listening to these guys anyway…

    keep the faith!

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