Artists – The Debacle of Respect

Apple is one of the most innovative companies in the world.  Constantly creating the next new thing that everyone has to have.  So, when the announcement of Apple Music was to be launched I was a little surprised that they were so late in the game of streaming, which has undoubtedly continued to grow.  The thought of paying $10 a month to a streaming service and having unlimited access to thousands of songs is appealing, but in my opinion streaming is more of a discovery service than an actual income stream for artists.  The more I look at streaming, I use it to listen to new music to see if I like it.  If I like, I buy it.  So, should music artist really look at it as a revenue stream, or an audience building tool?

An article by Billboard Magazine discussed how in the first three months of its free streaming trial it would not pay artists for their music that was streamed (this is no longer the case).  The business aspect of this was ‘I’m not making money so why should I give you money?’  Needless to say, it created a big upheaval in the music world and Taylor Swift took it upon herself to be the voice of the artists.  She made a statement on her Tumblr – “This is not about me.  This about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for their success.  This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought royalties would get them out of debt.  This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, but will not get paid for a quarter of a years worth of plays on his or her songs.”  Do you think this was all unselfish?  I think everyone, including the superstars in the industry had a right to be mad, but I still stand by my point that it shouldn’t be apart of the revenue budget, more like bonus income.  My question is was this whole thing a publicity stunt by Apple?  A company that is worth billions of dollars worried about paying artists for three months without a source of income from ONE revenue stream when they have numerous other ways to bring in money?

We all look at artists and think that it is a glamour field of money, fortune, and fame, but in reality it is a life struggle that these people had the courage to pursue a career that they loved rather than a career that makes bank.  Artists like Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift are a small percentage that hit it big in the industry.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in 2014 musicians/ singers made a median range of $23.50 per hour.  Now add in the cost of studio rentals, producers, songwriters, record labels, executives, managers, manufacturing, equipment, and touring and that is not a whole lot of money.  Every revenue stream counts for any artists.

The one thing that frustrates me about this whole debacle and pretty much any artist issue is that musicians are not the only artists out their trying to survive.  Dancers are in just as much struggle as the musician.  They have similar expenses such as studio rentals, tour costs, costumes, shoes, music licensing, management and development teams.  Also, there is only a select group in the public that has a passion for dance, and there isn’t as many revenue streams that can be tapped like the music industry.  Unlike the music industry where there is streaming, buying albums and individual songs.  Many dancers have to rely on a company for income (salary/ stipend for rehearsals and performances), or an agent getting them a temporary job on film, TV, a music tour, or Broadway.  There is also a ticking time bomb when you can no longer perform because your body just can’t.  Many dancers are involved in other revenue avenues like company contract work, select seasons on Broadway, sponsorship opportunities, teaching, and book writing on their endeavors in the industry.  Just like the music industry, there are dancers that are superstars and have made millions of dollars like Derek Hough or Mikhail Baryshnikov, but it took them years to get there.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median salary a dancer makes is $13.41/ hour or if you are a choreographer $21.28/ hour.   That is less than a musician/ singer.  Many dancers and choreographers are not on an annual salary because they work based on a contract and are only paid for certain aspects of their job such as rehearsals or performances.   Granted, many orchestra musicians are in the same predicament.  The amount of free projects that dancers get involved in is based on trying to network and meet new artists that could potentially hirer them. Isn’t that the same in the music industry?  You send out samples of your music to try and draw an audience, gather a fan base, and gain feedback from people you respect and admire.  I have personally lost count on how many free projects I have done like choreographing a piece for a fundraising event or driving three hours for a rehearsal for weeks on end and then performing it once or twice at a few festivals.  None of these opportunities I got paid.  Some were friends of mine, while others were endeavors that I fully supported like at risk youth and the arts.  Granted I had other sources of income like teaching ballet and working on the administrative side of the arts industry.

I think we all have to ask ourselves some hard questions – why are we creating art?  Why are we creating music?  Why do you dance or choreograph?  Would I feel this way if this was a hobby and not my livelihood?  I think that the general public looks at art as it is owed to them.  I see it constantly working on the administrative side of the business.  Your taxes dollars do not pay the nonprofit employee’s salary, nor does your tax dollars pay to take care of the art work or support the programming that happens in a dance company or art institution.  People have this thought process that the arts are a right not a privilege.  We are privileged that artists feel strongly about their work that they want to share it with us.  I look at artists as superheroes.  They are brave.  Laying everything they have out in the open for the public to be loved and criticized at the same time.  Apple took a risk.  Was it wrong – yes.  Should we respect artists for their work – absolutely.  The next time you hear someone on the subway stop and listen.  If you enjoy it use your Tumblr or Twitter and promote it.  Don’t steal work that belongs to others.  I think if artists want the industry to respect the art and the artist, it needs to start with the public respecting the art first.

“All I’m askin is for just a little respect…”


The Runaways – Inspiration to Female Rockers

The Runaways redefined music with their all girl punk rock band.  A sound full of guitar solos, slamming bass, rebellious runawaysdrumming, and raw lyrical powerhouses Cherie Currie and Joan Jett.  The girls were fifteen and sixteen years old.  Young, full of hope, and new to the music scene. Kim Fowley (music producer/ manager) met Sandy West (drummer) and Joan Jett (guitarist/ singer) who ultimately got together to form what would become The Runaways in 1975.  Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, Sandy West, Lita Ford, Jackie Fox, and Vicki Blue broke the status quo of male dominated rockers and led the path for other female artists to push boundaries in the industry.

Recently, I watched “Edgeplay: A Film About The Runaways.”  The film had interviews with the girls in the band, family members, and Kim Fowley who was the band’s producer and manager 1975-1978.  The Runways signed to Mercury Records in 1976.  They released four albums.  The band was not popular in the state during the time of their release in 1976, which I feel is due to the fact that they were a female rock group (society loves change).  They were heckled by male fans who called them sluts and rejected by a male dominated music industry who believed they were going to be a flash in the pan because they didn’t have that “hot girl” look.  Fowley was constantly using the lead singer Cherie Currie to push the “hot girl image.”  In the beginning, even though they weren’t big in America, overseas they were huge, especially in Japan; “Cherry Bomb” launched them into fan frenzy overseas and brought on new success.  Soon the girls were headlining sold out shows with opening acts like Cheap Trick, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as well as played a three month tour with The Ramones.  Bands that are permanently in the history books of music.

The Runaways had a sad story.  They were brought together by the love of music, but they fell apart because of people in the industry who took advantage of them and didn’t protect them.  When I was 15/ 16 years old I spent my free time in dance classes at the studio, played with my brothers, spent time with family, and were around adults who looked out for my best interest, but these girls wanted to write history; they left home and Fowley promised them the moon and stars.  Instead, they were exposed to the lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, sex, emotional and verbal abuse, hole in the wall motels, and inappropriate men who had a tight grip on their careers.  The girls were encouraged to be jealous and competitive with each other.  There was separation in the band among the girls.  Joan Jett seemed to be the peacemaker in the band, trying to keep everyone together; to be focused on the music.  The official statement was that the girls ultimately disbanded in 1979 over musical differences, but I think it was more than that.  It was four years of turmoil, anger, verbal abuse, multiple changes of band members, and music industry execs exploiting these young kids.

Without The Runaways we may not have had Sleater-Kinney, The Bangles, The Raincoats or The Donnas.  All girl rock groups that have taken that punk rock sound and continue to push the boundaries of music today.  In the music industry their are millions of dollars being tossed around which can change people.  People can become greedy and take advantage of others for their own benefit.  Maybe The Runaways were destined to fall apart.  You can’t really be a runaway once you are an adult.  The rebellious nature has to grow out of you at some point.  Without the disbanding of The Runaways, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts would have never been formed, Blackheart Records may not exist, society would have lost out on songs like “Bad Reputation” and “I Love Rock n’ Roll,” and the better bond and forgiveness that has formed among the girls may have never happened.  The Runaways changed history.  I hope one day they are inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame because they deserve to be there for not only being the first all-girl rock band, but because their music created a revolution that any girl can pick up a guitar and be a rockstar.

Click here for some of my favorite music by The Runaways.  Below are some great interviews with Joan Jett and Cherie Currier.

Interview with Joan Jett & Cherie Currie – CNN

Interview with Cherie Currie – HitFix Blog