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This Writer Doesn’t Think Musicians Deserve To Get Paid. A Musician’s Response


I wanted to ignore it. And I did for a solid 4 hours. But then Facebook happened. Damn you Shayna for posting the article on my wall. Or are they calling it the Timeline these days? I guess I was tagged. Who knows. But some hipster-hater out of Minneapolis got his 6 Reasons Musicians Don’t Deserve To Get Paid article (ironically) syndicated across a few of the local arts and entertainment free weekly newspaper blogs in various cities across the country. Apparently Minneapolis “music journalists” love to hate more than they love to love.

I get it. Music journalists love music so darn much that bands who they deem ‘sucky’ are a direct insult to them as ear-benefiting humans and everything said humans stand for. They walk around with Q-tips and regularly hand them out to jam bands, hippies, singer/songwriters, guitarists with Marshall stacks, guitarists with 12 strings, drummers with double kick pedals, drummers with more than two toms, singers who show too much chest hair, singers who button to the top sans tie, girls who play ukulele, boys who loop, and club owners who book these musicians and invite their throngs of ear-clogged lemmings into their establishment.

This writer in question, clearly wrote this piece to garner attention. And it worked. I was awfully confused as I wasn’t chuckling like I do when I read the Onion. I wasn’t fuming like I do when I tragically land on Fox News in a hotel room and I wasn’t nodding in agreement or shaking in disgust like I do reading most other Buzz-feed style bloggy posts out there. I was head-tilted and cock eyed with one eye brow raised wondering how this dude gets off. Well, clearly doesn’t very often.

Self-proclaimed “music journalist” who penned this confusing piece of words, sentences and occasional periods, apparently hates music. All music. Because he doesn’t believe musicians (of any genre or expertise) deserve to be compensated for bringing people joy, comfort, solace, or courage.

So clearly, every song he downloads from iTunes is another Apple-fan-boy sticker to post across his chest. The $9.99 he pays for his monthly Spotify subscription is two thumbs up to Sweden for an incredible invention that (thankfully) doesn’t pay musicians very much. He listens to the radio for the commercials. Damn those voice over actors are sexy! The $25 he paid for that concert ticket was clearly for the $3 Tall Boys. I mean, how can you pass up a special like that! Even though his ears had to be assaulted by some group of long-haired “musicians” having way too much fun on stage while he violently muttered “none of my ticket better go to this group of talentless noise makers.”

The t-shirt he haggled for (well below the asking price) at the merch stand was because American Apparel shirts are so darn comfy. His bargaining put the band’s profit margin in the red. Go team!

Shitty writers don’t deserve to be paid. Shitty plumbers don’t deserve to be paid. Shitty teachers don’t deserve to be paid. Shitty politicians don’t deserve to be paid. Shitty people don’t deserve to be paid. But, apparently these ‘shitty’ professionals may not be as shitty as you think. They may be awesome to some people. And shitty to others.

Just because you don’t like a band doesn’t mean they don’t ‘deserve’ to have a career. I don’t particularly care for many artists, but I don’t wish perpetual poverty on them because I don’t like their kind of music. Are you disgusted by all dream-seekers or just musicians? Musicians who passionately love their art so much are willing to do whatever it takes to turn their love into a career. Are you so disgusted by this that you have to chastise and publicly mock us? Musicians have a hard enough time pushing through the constant rejection, empty shows, inner-band turmoil and ramen dinners, to then be piled on by self-righteous ‘music journalists’ who get off on making people feel bad. That, my friend, is kind of a shitty thing to do, done by a shitty person. But hey, you’re getting paid for doing something you love. Or maybe you hate it and are miserably stuck in your shitty life that anyone who seeks out a bit of happiness around you is a nauseating insult to your monotony.

Musicians who are great (and work hard) deserve to be paid. Musicians who suck and work hard don’t…yet. Musicians who build even a small fan base deserve to be paid. Musicians who can’t draw a crowd for 5 years running, don’t. Musicians who are smart about their business deserve to be paid. Yes, musicians need to be great. That’s #1. But once they are, and put in the work to understand their business, yes, they deserve to be paid.

Another reason he believe musicians don’t deserve to be paid?

#3. Feeling Pain Makes You Better:

You can’t trust an artist of any medium who creates with the absence of genuine pain. That’s what this stuff is all about — communicating profound emotions through the cathartic process of creation. Contrived as it may seem, genuinely beautiful and memorable art (unless constructed by a brilliant and hollow master manipulator or impersonator) stems from an indescribable rawness that lacks a vehicle yet begs to be released. By keeping you miserable on some level, you’re being granted a favor.

I’m tired of the hipster-haters who think that the only valid musicians are tortured, broke, on drugs and dead by 27. What a miserable life. Musicians who work hard in the rehearsal space, in the songwriting corner, in the club and in the office are the ones who ARE getting paid. And getting paid well. I’ve met (and played with) so many of these tragically depressed musicians who AREN’T getting paid because they can’t get their shit together. Some of these musicians create some of my favorite music, but can’t draw 10 people to their shows because they refuse to put in any effort to their business.

Artists are three-dimensional. Believe it or not, many artists can channel their pain into their art during the creation process and then, later, once the art is created, work the business. As much as you’d like to think that ‘true artists’ are one dimensional, they’re not. The most successful artists of today are brilliant artists AND brilliant business people. Get over it.

I get it, you’re tired of all the musicians who complain about low Spotify royalties. Yeah, I’m tired of them too! But does that mean they should just roll over? Is that what you’d like to tell the teachers of Wisconsin? Or the fast food employees? Or the low-income college students? Or the average citizen who got screwed by Wall Street? Tough luck! Time to shut up and say thank you!

I’m a musician. I’ve had the haters. Many of them writers (actually in Minneapolis – what is it with this town that condones this??). But I’ve built a successful music career because I’ve found enough people who do like my music and want to pay me for it. Did I always ‘deserve’ payment? No. I sucked early on and didn’t expect to get paid for the 12 people I brought to the coffee shop. But when I pack venues, yeah I deserve that income. When I perform at private events and universities, yeah, I deserve that check. When I get streams on Spotify and YouTube, I deserve some money. Downloads on iTunes? Merch at shows? Backers on Kickstarter, PledgeMusic or Patreon? You bet. As does every other musician. And you deserve the money you’re paid as a writer. I may not care for your writing, but hey, some dude in an office in downtown Minneapolis thinks you do. So you do! Congrats on making money as a writer. Even though, by your own logic, you don’t deserve it.

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

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