Dave Carlock: Take time to thank a musician

Published 7:31 am Friday, January 25, 2013

“Singers and musicians are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in one year than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, they face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get real jobs and their own fear that they’ll never work again. Every day, they have to ignore the possibility that the vision they have dedicated their lives to is a pipe dream.

“With every note, they stretch themselves, emotionally and physically, risking criticism and judgment. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life — the car, the family, the house, the nest egg. Why? Because musicians and singers are willing to give their entire lives to a moment — to that melody, that lyric, that chord or that interpretation that will stir the audience’s soul. Singers and musicians are beings who have tasted life’s nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another’s heart. In that instant, they were as close to magic, God, and perfection as anyone could ever be. And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes.”
— David Ackert,
LA Times

David Ackert’s tribute to musicians and singers this past week really resonated throughout social media, particularly with musical types who felt that someone had finally sung their song and expressed insight into their lives and struggles. So I reposted his writing on Facebook. Friends shared my post, thanking me for passing on Ackert’s stirring words. But then something else happened. This post appeared (I’ve withheld the name):
“That’s all good. Everybody has a dream, and I am good with that so long as they do it at their own expense and don’t expect  other people to financially support them while they are perusing(sic) their dreams. I’m a dream chaser, too, but I’m addicted to food and shelter, which many artists might have to sacrifice at one time or another along the road to success. It’s when you start expecting others to pay your way while you party that I have a problem with.”
I was instantly reminded why Ackert’s praises meant so much, because the poster had just inferred that musicians and singers were one-sided mooches and deadbeats, at that very moment of the Musical Tribe’s rare and well-deserved public recognition. It was the Facebook equivalent of Kanye West barging into Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech.

Response required
I leave you this week with my response to the poster:
“(Name Redacted), somehow you just threw a wet blanket on the one moment of real and honest recognition that I’ve heard given to musicians and artists in a long time — from the LA Times, no doubt. But it sounds like you had a bad experience, so no worries.
However, I didn’t read anything in there about musicians looking for a handout. In fact, the huge majority of musicians choose to work for far less than they’re worth at every gig they play, the biggest reason they might be short on cash, if they are. At the gigs they do get paid decently for, it’s not uncommon for them to be treated like second-class citizens, being asked to eat their meals away from the party, if they’re offered a meal at all during their seven- to eight-hour “shift” while caterers throw huge amounts of food away after the event. I’ve seen it all in the days that I regularly played parties and weddings. All my friends in music have dealt with indignities regarding pay and classist mentality that most people don’t have to deal with in most jobs. But that’s not the point.
The point is that musicians push through an incredible amount of uncertainty, risk and adversity to bare their souls and give something to every community that they play in, to every person who can hear them. That makes them unique, that makes them valuable to the human race, if for no other reason than their motivation isn’t only dollars.
And thankfully, there are benefactors that support the arts in countless ways from school foundations to symphony boards who raise donation funding, to family members, to spouses, all the way down to the simple offering of a fan with an empty couch for a night while traveling. If you don’t find it in your heart to contribute in any way that’s OK, but I think I can speak for everyone in the tribe when I say that, when you hear live music, we’re still playing for you, too, regardless, and all we really want is for you to enjoy us, every one.
Whether or not someone believes in the value of it by paying 99 cents instead of stealing it, songwriters will still write songs that can inspire love or even inspire the despondent to take a gun away from their temples in their darkest moment, all from a simple little tune that’s playing. That’s what music can do — and we make that. That’s what music’s supporters, benefactors and fans understand. The music we create changes lives and that’s what we’re here for. Lots of love, DC”

Dave Carlock is a 26-year veteran of the entertainment business whose work as a recording engineer and producer, touring musician, and songwriter made him Googleable.