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The Thaddeus Gazette

Becoming Kirk

Preaching to the choir is an old and honorable occupation, though one somewhat lacking in practicality. It's a tossup whether you're getting more benefit from the exercise than discomfit from the waste of breath. In the arts, the matter can be compounded by the numerous opportunities to turn a waste of breath into an income stream as a critic or giver of advice. But even us mizzable civilians can wind up flapping our jaws at each other in the endless discussion of tactics and strategies of Biz.

The vicissitudes of the recent past in regards musicking for monetary gain have had a definite effect on the rank and file. Between downloading and proliferation of plant capacity, recorded music without a gigabuck publicity budget is rapidly losing any value it ever had. More and more, artists are turning to live performance as the last bastion of income before they give in and go into the tee shirt business.

In my own particular corner of the market (the slightly tatty one under the stairs at the back), matters have taken a dire turn. The acoustic performance field is saturated with refugees from the pop and bar band war zones, older, wiser, considerably more tired and looking for a warm quiet room to play their James Taylor covers to. All this at a juncture in the history of entertainment where the older, wiser audience is snuggied in their warm quiet home theaters watching reruns of 60's sitcoms on Netflix. The impulse to go out to see and hear a warm body create sound vibrations has been put ingloriously to uneasy sleep by a half century of overstimulation and corporate manipulation.

Now all this is enough to send the average songartist right down to the basement to find that big ol' noose they've been saving for just this occasion, humming an offkey refrain of "The Times They Are A-Changin' " through their nose the while, or at least to seek out some other form of hemp. And of course that's perfectly fine with the other 99 ozillion acoustic guys and gals still out pounding the pavement and haunting the open mikes and posting on Facebrick and Twitbreath and such. Hope springs eternal and all that.

What all these people are hotly pursuing is a phantom of a bygone opera, namely a venue with a built-in audience. Somewhere, they just know it, there's a snug little club with an espresso machine and a couple cute waitresses where the hip and passionate listening crowd that still goes out congregates, there to appreciatively snat their fingers at frighteningly intelligent and intense entertainers who bear a curious resemblance to whoever's having this folkie wet dream. And with that as your heart's desire, how could anyone be satisfied with the usual acoustic venue, donations and treats at the local cybercafe with a attentive audience of three open laptops and a grumpy barrista who isn't getting tipped either?

But hey, buck up, bucko! Turn that frown upside down! Don't you know it's the Age of Enterprise? Why, our rugged pioneer forebears would hoot, simply hoot at such bleating self-abjuration! Shoot, Sparky, any punk worth his safety-pinned sneer can give you the Word, and the Word isn't a word, it's an acronym!! DIY, lads and lassies, DEE EYE WHYYYY.

This last, while obviously an advertisement from the Wage Reduction Council Of Greater Industrial America LLC™, is equally obviously Hobson's Mare for the unconscionably large majority of us who weren't popped out of the chute clutching a trust fund in our fat baby fingers. Like it or spike it, there ain't no Man With A Cigar coming down from the 99th floor of the Brickyard Building to put you up under the lights where you belong. If you really want it that bad, you'll just have to Do It Yourself. Which, in long and overwritten form, is the substance of the sermon I've been peddling to fellow inmates of the Folk Asylum for, well, purt' near forever. Or perhaps it only seems like it.

But in all the time I've been flushing this particular line of fluffery, I've seldom if ever gotten down to brass knuckles and actually, um, Done It Myself. My personal history of self-employment is a lot longer in the discmongering and budget handyman sectors than performing. And my cheap excuse has always been that to give in and accept that you're not the second coming of [insert semi-divine artist of preference here] with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto is tantamount to admitting that Mom was right and what you really needed was a degree in industrial relations and a nice pension plan and to put that guitar away and study for your algebra exam. That you are, in fact, not too good to get your hands mucked up with dirty, dirty commercialism. Awww, precious.

Now I've done my best to hide my witless self-aggrandizement from myself, blithely blithering about how unfair the biz is and how you need to know people and live in LA and be 30 years younger and 20 pounds lighter and promotion is so impolite and fake and it's haaard. And you know? It's all true. Even the successful guys admit that.


What else are you gonna do? Anyone over forty who still believes in the tooth fairy isn't immature, they're willfully self-deceptive. And like Toranaga says, never lie to yourself. It's fatal.

At this point, I've given up on the choir and started in on my own sour self. I may not be all that, but I'm all I've got, and I might as well pick it up and take it down the road a ways. If I'm not going to kiss 40 years of experience in music adieu, it's time for me to grow some vertebrae and take on the role of James Tiberius Kirk, commander of my own personal Starship Enterprise.

Who knows, it might even work. And even if it doesn't, they can't say I didn't try.

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