I’m not, and have never claimed to be, a musician. What instruments I do own sit silent in the corner or under the bed. But I do have opinions about music:
Spending $200 to see any band is just stupid.
Ninety percent of the stuff that you hear on commercial radio is overproduced garbage.
Fugazi remains the most honest and socially responsible band ever. I’d like to think that all bands should be like Fugazi, but then there wouldn’t be any bands to bag on.
I’ve hung out long and late enough with my musician buddies to understand that making a living making music isn’t easy. I respect their work ethic as they navigate through a profession where the “art” often gets the shaft by the “business.” A lot of working-class bands are underpaid, and a lot of people moan about paying a cover to see something good, saving their money until they have $200 to see something lame. That’s why most of my musician buddies have day jobs.
If you’re an up-and-coming musician, or you’re just interested in a good read, I’d suggest the blog of a musician named Danny Barnes. The banjo player of the beloved punk-grass band The Bad Livers has spent about four decades in the business, from band member to solo musician to side-man. He’s written some extensive text about how to survive in the business, suggesting ideas like being original and unique, keeping your overhead low and to keep needles out of your arms. “Don’t be a jerk” is in there somewhere. All pretty good guidelines for non-musicians as well.
Many of Durango’s local musicians are in it for anything but stardom. Bluegrass picker Robin Davis, who has dabbled in and out of the biz and understands the big music business bullshit, knows the art is his job.
“A musician plays a different game and lives life for the intangible, rather than something you can pick up and hold,” said Davis via email. “Basically, I love playing music. It really is an obsession, and every time I reach a crossroads in life, music down one road and greater stability down the other, music always wins.”
Or just follow the advice of local musician Robby Overfield, who has that day job and has drawn a firm line between work and passion.
“I have come to terms that music is not my life, yet it has become a very important financial and therapeutic part of my life. Music and its perceived success is easy when you have more in your life going on than just music,” said Overfield. “I feel like everyone wants to be an “artist” nowadays. Whatever happened to having an OK job with some pretty cool people in a nice place, and then using other time in your life for your passion? When you realize it’s just music, and you know why you got started in it in the first place, business and your success becomes whatever you want it to be.”
Please, someone tell that to Kanye.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected]