(photo of us & friends in Dresden, 2013, by V.G.)
The music industry of today is peppered with endless laments about how people just aren’t supporting music anymore. Most people don’t buy CDs. Vinyl sales were back up for a while, but now the smell of a plateau is in the air. Streaming revenue is rising overall, but any relatively bright toddler with an abacus can do the math and tell you that it doesn’t add up to artists actually earning more (plus, as Liz Pelly explains in a rather frightening article, streaming is only beginning to make some of its bleaker effects on music felt). Us humans still love and need music, but being a fan of a band these days doesn’t always mean financially supporting that band.
Be that as it may, I don’t want to use this (un)limited virtual space to debate this new musical landscape. What I want to do is make a simple but important observation: whatever the relationship between music and money is or will be in the future, I am eternally grateful to the people who come see us play, send us emails, and talk to us at the merch table, whether or not they actually buy any merch (but please, buy merch; I admit to crying inside a little every time someone comes up to the table and tells us they liked the show and might check us out on Spotify). If it’s a great show packed with fun people and good vibes, we leave the venue feeling like we’re doing something right with our lives. Even if it’s a mostly-empty gig on a rainy Tuesday night in a filthy techno club and the owner sleeps through most of the show only to wake up at the very end and throw up on the floor (‘yes’ is the answer to the question you’re about to ask), meeting one or two nice people who go out of their way to tell us they love our music can be a crucial night-saver and a reason to avoid sliding into musical melancholy.
We have been fortunate to meet a mountain of really incredible people over the years. Some have started as fans but have become show promoters, like the amazing Massimiliano in Palermo, Glaswegians like Lloyd and Neil, Juraj in Brno, Max in Sheffield, or Zuzana in Banská Štiavnica. Other people show us they love what we do by coming to more than one gig on a tour, like father-daughter team Rob and Alex, Stefan of the Black Forest, dynamic trio Ross, Sandra, and Ed, one-and-a-half lawyers Viktor and Ralf, power-couples Nigel and Lydia or Simon and Claire, or solo acts like Chris the Comedian (who once went to every gig we did in the UK, and inevitably ended up on stage by the end). Then there’s people we love seeing at our shows just because they bring indescribably great vibes to a room, like Lily and Ashley of Brighton or the Thomas quadruplets of Sackville (the first time we encountered them they stood in the cold watching our gig through the window of the venue because they were underage).
There are people we haven’t met in person that often, like Monique in Edmonton or Travis in Saskatoon, who have nonetheless gone out of their way every year to let us know that they’re on our team. Thanks to the connective power of the Information Superhighway, we’ve even had fans get in touch from exotic locales we’ve never been to (Denver! Pittsburgh! Houston!) and knowing that our music has somehow reached beyond us is a very special feeling indeed.
We’re pretty good with names, but we forget more than we should, and for that we apologize. There are heaps of people I’m forgetting to talk about right here. Brains are faulty and it doesn’t mean we don’t care. Sometimes we never get properly introduced, and then it’s that situation where you’ve talked to someone a bunch of times but don’t know their name so you don’t ask because it would be awkward, but it’s also awkward that you don’t know their name, really, but you think they’re swell and would like to know them better or at the very least know their names (here’s to you, nice Nottingham couple). It’s even worse when we forget the names of children who come to our shows, because there aren’t that many in the first place and they’re so fantastic, and children are always getting forgotten, and really the size of a human has an inverse relationship to how badly we feel when we forget their name (special shout-outs in this department go to Jack, who rode a ferris wheel with me at End of the Road, and Heidi, who sang every lyric to every song better than I ever could, and very bravely got on stage with me during “Amateur Rappers”).
Photo by C.G.
Some folks have given us amazing and unprovoked gifts, like art, books, bottles of gin, packets of wallflower seeds, or home-brewed beer. Others have shared their homes with us, and a notable few have taken us back to the farm with them (not a euphemism, and we love a good farm), like Chris and Emma in East Briscoe or Vic and Deb in Clonakilty.
From time to time, people even do things like tattoo our lyrics (or even our faces) on their bodies, or name their baby after one of us. Nobody has tattooed our lyrics on their baby’s face yet, but we’d be very flattered. However, if you don’t like tattoos or babies, we want you to know that it means almost as much when folks just come and talk to us and tell us that what we’re doing is meaningful to them in some way.
On that note, and doubling back to my original point: in this and any other era, supporting music is important, and it doesn’t have to mean (only) financial support. As I’ve said in previous posts (see previous post), the best part of playing music is connecting with real human beings. Without people’s ears and minds and hearts to connect with, there is no point in doing this. Every night, I am just another bearded idiot with a guitar shouting into the darkness until someone offers a gentle heckle or strikes up a conversation after the show. So if you’re ever hanging back, feeling like it would be awkward to come and say hi and tell us a story or ask a question or show us your lyric tattoo, please don’t be shy. As long as you’re not into things like murder, kidnapping, or racism, and as long as you don’t want to talk to us about Spotify or Bitcoin, we totally want to talk to you. Your support honestly does mean the world to us.*
*check us out on Spotify here.