I learned a few things reading this Seattle Spectator interview with Orenda Fink, written in support of a Seattle O+S show. Among the story’s revelations (which are probably old news to those closer to the action): Orenda and Todd Fink now live in Los Angeles; Art in Manila are officially over, and there may be a new Azure Ray album sometime in the future. “I think what I’d like to do is have O+S, and I think I’m going to have other solo records as well,” Fink said in the article. “And there will hopefully be another Azure Ray record too … but I’m going to stop changing my name.”
I’m listening to the new O+S album as I type this. Although its billed as a loop-heavy pairing of Fink with Scalpelist, aka Cedric LeMoyne (Remy Zero), the recording doesn’t stray too far from Orenda’s other recordings, and actually seems slower and more downcast than either her solo or Manila stuff. In fact, it’s the closest thing to Azure Ray I’ve heard since Azure Ray, albeit moodier and more atmospheric. The new record drops March 24. This new collaboration is pretty cool, but here’s one I’d love to see: A full-length collaboration between Orenda and Todd — and I don’t mean the kind that walks and talks, though that would be pretty cute as well.
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This week’s column is a recast of last week’s blog entry regarding bands playing gigs for free. Among the changes: no mention of Harlan Ellison, and a different ending. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same. That blog entry has generated plenty of chatter on the Webboard.
Column 213: Playing for Free
What’s it worth to you?
Late last week I wrote an entry on my blog about bands playing shows for free. The touchstone was the benefit concert for the Young Professionals Council held at Slowdown. I assumed it was a benefit, since none of the bands that performed were paid even though just about everyone else involved — the Slowdown and its employees, the door guy, the sound guy, the vendors that sold the liquor to Slowdown, OPPD who’s supplying the power, heck everyone who played a role in the program — got paid. Just not the bands.
And whose fault was that? Why, it was the bands’ fault, of course. They accepted the gig believing that they’d make money on merch sales and would gain exposure. My take: It’s a free country. If you’re in a band and you want to play gigs for free when everyone else is getting a paycheck, well then by god you should. Certainly accepting those kinds of gigs helps define you and your band — just maybe not the way you want to be defined.
Who doesn’t want to help out a charity that they believe in? I’ve even kicked around the idea of organizing a charity concert for the Nebraska Humane Society, which I’m told is struggling these days. And what band doesn’t want to open a show for one of their favorite touring bands coming through town? They may not get a red cent for doing it, but it’s an honor and it’s fun. And yeah, there are those bands that “just want to play” and have no interest in making money. We all have our hobbies.
Serious bands (not hobbyists) seem to fall into four categories when it comes to non-paying gigs:
First there are the new bands that just want to build a following. In their minds, any chance they can get to be on stage is an opportunity. Sure, they should get paid, but their anonymity — and their lack of drawing power — puts them in a weaker position then, say, bands at the next level — the ones that know what they’re worth, and quite frankly, so do most of the venues in town who know better than to ask them to play for free (except under certain circumstances, like real benefits or opening for a band that they love for a show that could tank).
Then there’s the superstars, which really only applies to a few bands around here. I’m talking about the bands that everyone thinks are making millions — whether they are or not. Charities might approach these guys to play a gig for free thinking the band has so much cash it doesn’t mind giving it away. What the charities don’t understand is that the one thing more valuable than money to these bands is time.
Finally, there are the bands that everyone knows will play anywhere for free.
Look, if I organized a benefit show for the Humane Society I would absolutely expect to pay all the bands playing. Why? Because I would want to feature the acts that I hoped could draw the biggest audience and sell the most tickets. I wouldn’t want to limit myself only to those bands that I know would play for free. It doesn’t matter if the band believes in my cause as long as it can draw a thousand paying customers to the show (that said, I wouldn’t invite, say Michael Vick’s All Star Extravaganza to play). I’ll let the band decide if it wants to donate its earnings or not, and I’m more than happy if they don’t because they helped get asses in seats.
I know what you’re thinking: Who am I to say anything? Don’t I write my blog for free? True, true, though most of what I write there eventually ends up here, and I’m paid for it (though that’s not the reason I do it). There’s a philosophy that bloggers who write for free are killing newspapers and other publications. It’s bullshit, since most bloggers (myself included) are insignificant to the general public compared to the dailies. I can tell you indisputably that Lazy-i.com played no role in the cuts announced at the Omaha World-Herald last week.
There was an exquisite irony to the entire situation. YPC stands for Young Professionals Council. You know what a professional is? It’s someone who gets paid for doing what s/he does for a living. Paid. It’s not the Young Philanthropists Council. The YPC’s mission isn’t to build houses for the homeless or gather clothing or food for the poor. It exists as an opportunity for young pros to learn more about business and leadership so they can become more-effective leaders and hence, make more money. It’s also an opportunity to network to find better-paying jobs than the ones they currently have. Woven into their mission is a chamber-of-commerce element to “promote the city” along with themselves.
Young Professionals do not do what they do in their companies for free, nor should they. And yet, here they are asking bands that presumably view themselves as young professional musicians to do what they do for free. Well, a number of bands that were approached to become “young amateurs” for one night said, “No thanks, I don’t ask you to do your job for free, why are you asking me to do mine for free?” The organizers just shrugged and asked someone else until they found willing bands. They will always find willing bands.
Since the blog ran, a member of one of the bands said he was “doing a favor for a friend.” Good for him. Like I said before: You want to play for free? God Bless America, go right ahead. Ultimately, you’re the one who puts the price on the value of your music.
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It’s a busy night for shows. The highlight kind of snuck up on me: Har Mar Superstar at The Slowdown Jr. with His Mischief and Talkin’ Mountain. Har Mar’s alter ego, Sean Tillmann, has been known to pop up in the crowd at Slowdown shows from time to time. Unfortunately, HMS hasn’t released a new album in five years. Maybe it’s time? And yes, you read correctly, this is a frontroom show, so it’ll very likely be packed (if not sold out), especially at the $8 ticket price.
Also tonight, Merge recording artist The Broken West is playing at The Waiting Room with Blind Pilot and Skypiper. $8, 9 p.m.
Down at the Barley St. Tavern, Das Tango Boyz plays with Oui Bandits, Lincoln’s Pharmacy Spirits and Electric Needle Room. $5, 9 p.m.
While over at The Saddle Creek Bar it’s Brave Citizens with Farewell Flight and The Answer Team. $5, 9 p.m.
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