Photo by @alohaburnsframes
Off sick this week. First time since a bout of the usual, in the time of, well, let’s not bring that whole period up, shall we?
One of weirdest things about being a working musician is first of all: that it works at all. I’m incredibly lucky. I don’t have a side job. Been getting away with it since 2017. Well, I host an open mic once a week for extra cash… but that involves playing a gig at the start of the night, and bringing up great musicians to the stage for three hours. So, I don’t know – still under the same hat, somewhat.
Second weirdest thing – there’s no sick pay. So, if you miss a gig, you just miss out. I missed two gigs this week. Good ones. Chest infection’s the culprit. Knocked me for six! What does that mean, exactly? Why six? Anyway, the NHS website said I’d be lucky to be better in seven… days, that is. They’re a little more specific than phrases we conjure out of nowhere to put in blogs. They also said to only seek help if I coughed up blood. It was probably a bad idea to buy red cough sweets in hindsight. That spit scared the bejaysus out of me!
I’m on the mend now, and have one gig left before I break for Christmas. Flights already booked. Rent covered this month. So, I’ll survive. But, it just goes to show, being a musician, at this level, although still the greatest thing I’ve ever done, is still – incredibly silly.
No safety net. And, for my music, no real gold mine at the end of the tunnel. An artist I really admire is Jolie Holland. She sings what sounds like a world’s worth of wisdom from a smoke and sweet-tea-coated throat. Listen, she’s fucking fantastic.
That’s kinda all I ever want to be: a niche artist who most people have no idea exists, so I can still walk around and drink coffee and shout manically in the street – if the desire strikes – with complete anonymity. (I don’t usually do that last part… but, the option is still appealing.) Also, I’d love be to able to buy things like coffee, secondhand books, rent, and occasional sandwiches.
Thankfully, so far, so good. I’ve gotten there. Never more than a week late for rent. Food in the fridge. Steady gigs. Great support from people who come to see the shows. So, I can pay rent and buy sandwiches – in fact, I’m drinking coffee right now, writing this – tis glorious! Did I tell ya I bought a one euro house in Sicily? I’m a bloody house owner?! See, the walls may be shaky – but I’m positively flying! Look here’s a vlog I made about it.
So, all’s good. And I’m on track. But, having reached out to Jolie Holland – and following her on social media, I found out, my favourite album of her’s, Escondida – featuring this timeless sounding gem – sent her aprox. 20,000 dollars into the red.
See, even if you do get signed and have critical success with an album – still, with this kind of music, you’re a slow burn. Word spreads by mouth. She brought her band on tour out of her pocket. For some shows, people turned up, some more – less than could cover costs overall.
So, even a top of my aspirations – there’s precariousness and uncertainty. I sent her an email about it and she actually responded (isn’t it mad what the internet age allows? Idols become individuals with gmail accounts). She told me patronage was a “good model” and she uses it herself to support her “favourite comedians”. For her own account, she records her rehearsals and releases a recording once a week to her patrons, who give a little each month for the privilege. It’s what keeps her afloat, alongside shows.
The oldest way to support art is making a come back. If art’s going to remain interesting, challenging, and free of mindlessly following trends – it’s the only way to go.
And, my 13 patrons at present, help me every single month, and, especially, when I get sick. If you’re interested in the doing the same for any artist, see if they have a Patreon account. Yeah, the platform takes a tiny cut, but, it’s a good platform, and far better than likes and streams which amount to a hill of beans. What makes a hill of beans, exactly? Probably six.