A disturbing thought jackknifed into my consciousness recently after absorbing the Golden Globes, Grammys, and Oscars. Hollywood’s self-celebratory orgies of success/excess showcase the industry power players—all “beautiful people” who represent a certain value in the process of selling programming to America, and, in some cases, the entire world.
“But where do I stand in all of this entertainment biz hoo-ha?” I pondered.
I am not a commercial force in the music industry. Record companies do not fight for my services or fear my displeasure. I sell enough downloads to pay gas bills, not purchase Bentleys or golf holidays in Dubai. Concert promoters will not put their kids through university by booking my tours. No one is going to seat me next to Lady Gaga and Elton John at the Grammys. I am invisible.
Or am I?
Just because I’m a club musician playing mostly for smiles and applause, it doesn’t mean the music industry doesn’t benefit handily from my efforts. In fact, every musician out there in the trenches—every hobbyist, club rat, session cat, pit player, casino entertainer, church performer, and, yes, aspiring star—fundamentally energizes the creative and commercial threads of music-driven businesses. I don’t believe this statement is a whiney, hopeful rationalization from a “have not.”
For one thing, as a community, “non-superstars” put down more hard-earned bucks to purchase new gear than the superstars do. I’m certain if Yamaha, Korg, Roland, DigiTech, Dunlop, Gibson, Fender, and other great brands depended solely on the revenue from chartbusters, the NAMM show would be held inside three or four Cadillac Escalades. Think about it—our buying power rules. Furthermore, every one of us contributes to the experimental forums and testing grounds for all musicians who ultimately rise to The One Percent. These savvier, luckier, and/or more ambitious performers didn’t top the charts by creating music in a vacuum. Our collaborative efforts built those suckers a pretty nice bridge. A “thank you” card would be nice.
Finally—and this is psychically dangerous, because the successful can snear that altruistic blather is the refuge of losers—why even rate ourselves by riches and acclaim? A pure and honest performer beams his or her musical soul directly into the human consciousness, looking to brighten lives and lighten burdens without expectation of reward. We do what we simply because we love making music. So the superstars can laugh at me if they desire, but I’m happy with my lot. Proud and unbowed, in fact. What about you?
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