‘Lost Girl’ and a lesson in Music Economics and Ethics
So I’ve been watching Lost Girl1 which is a Canadian supernatural crime drama that recently premiered on SyFy. The series follows a Succubus, Bo, as she negotiates her way around the newly discovered (to her) Fae world while she remians unaligned (the Fae are divided between the “Light Fae” and the “Dark Fae” who have an uneasy peace between them due to the actions of the “Blood King“–yeah, I know, way too much backstory to relate in a blog post–read the links above for more info).
The most recent Canadian episode titled, “Table for Fae,” which aired January 29, 2012 had an interesting scene (well, two, actually) that betrays the reality of a “career in music” (you can read some of the blogs I’ve been posting about this here, and here, and here, and here, and…well, you get the point, right?). This is a dinner scene with Bo and her Dark Fae boyfriend, Ryan, and Kenzi (Bo’s roommate) and her childhood crush and now current squeeze, Nate (played by Aaron Ashmore, who also plays one of my favorite characters, Steve Jinks2, in another fun SyFy series, Warehouse 13). Nate is a musician and was on a concert tour that Kenzi accompanied him on and so is relating a show experience at the ritzy restaurant.
(N = Nate, Kenzi’s boyfriend; K = Kenzi; R = Ryan, Bo’s boyfriend; B = Bo)
N: So by the time that I get back this guy is so drunk…
K: So drunk!
N: That he’s passed out on the stage.
K: Yeah, they had to finish his whole final set with him just lying there.
R: I don’t get it, why didn’t you just call security and have him removed?
K: I don’t know babe, why didn’t we call security?
N: Security, well…uh…there’s actually only 15 people there so… *shrugs*
R: Wait, this…this whole story that you’ve been telling was about a gig for 15 people?
K: Actually for Cedar Rapids on a Tuesday that is like amazing!
R: No, no…I don’t doubt that but how is this possibly worth your time exactly? I mean how much money could you have possibly made on that? A hundred bucks, maybe?
N: Fifty Five.
R: Fifty Five…
K: Hey, Richie Rich…it’s not about the money.
B: No, Nate is doing what he loves.
R: Totally! That’s…that’s great! I…but…I…I have no doubt that you will be successful at it one day…
B: I think it’s pretty fair to say that Ryan is a little out of touch with the Indie Music scene.
Near the end of the episode, Bo gets into an argument with Ryan about, amongst other things, his setting up a meeting with The Morrígan3,
who is the Dark Fae leader as well as a Fae who happens to feed off the artists she manages as a talent agent. If that isn’t a commentary on the music business, then I don’t know what is. Here is the argument:
B: Kenzi told me about the Morrígan.
R: I was trying to do her boyfriend a favor…you know that Evony makes people’s careers, right?
B: Yeah, until they die.
R: We all have to die sometime! Nate’s an amateur guitar player. He plays two-bit coffee houses for fifty-five bucks a week! Evony could have him selling out Madison Square Garden4 in six months. You don’t think he’d want that?
B: Well that is not your decision to make.
R: It’s not yours either!
R: I gave the kid an opportunity. Who are you to say what’s best for him?
So we have some very typical tropes found from the music (and arts) world in these two excerpts. The first quote deals with the Starving Artist and Doing It for the Art . The second excerpt highlights the trope of the exploitation of artists as we expect to see in especially the recording industry.
Obviously, if your goal in life–as it pertains to music-making–isn’t sustainability, then none of this above matters, but the above isn’t too far from the truth (the experience and the pay). I know–I’ve been there. In fact, I’ve played for an audience of zero before (unless you count the barista at the coffee house as an audience member) and for negative money (pay-to-play shows, anybody?).
As I’ve said elsewhere, this is where most musicians are at on the economic totem pole. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
On the other hand, if you do want to “sell out Madison Square Gardens in six months” then the only road to that is, well, by fictitious Fae Magic. Sure, there are occasional Superstars that just rise to fame in what seems like an instant, but for everyone of those, there are dozens of Superstars who had to work their tails off. For every one of the latter superstars, there are hundreds of full time working musicians in Symphonies and Special Events Bands. For everyone of the latter there are hundreds of Freelancers who might manage to carve out a living, and then there are the many more hundreds that are the rest.
In the end, you have to know the reality of the situation so you can figure out how you can create a realistic vision of what you want to do with music. In its own way, this episode of Lost Girl highlights the economic prospects of music making while laying bare the fantasy of selling out a stadium concert.
1. Though I don’t generally watch TV–we didn’t even own one till I received one as a gift from my father who had recently bought a large flatscreen–I have spent the past year or so “catching-up” on a number of Sci-Fi and geek related series mainly due to the fact that being a Klingon musician has brought me into contact with tons of folks who live and breathe these series. Had to do my research, right?
2. Interestingly, in this episode, Genelle Williams (aka one of the Dark Fae Serket sisters, Hessa) portrays Leena in Warehouse 13.
3. Evony [Fleurette Marquise], The Morrígan, is a Leanan sídhe Fae. As the Lost Girl Wiki states:
The Leanhaun Shee (fairy mistress) seeks the love of mortals. If they refuse, she must be their slave; if they consent, they are hers, and can only escape by finding another to take their place. The fairy lives on their life, and they waste away. Death is no escape from her. She is the Gaelic muse, for she gives inspiration to those she persecutes. The Gaelic poets die young, for she is restless, and will not let them remain long on earth – this malignant phantom.
3. Madison Square Garden seats roughly 20,000 for concerts.