Tag Archives: independent music

Iggy Pop’s Brand of Experience

Iconic punk progenitor Iggy Pop is touring through the US this spring, and I caught his show in Portland, Oregon last month. As a huge Iggy fan, this tour was no small deal to me. Iggy delivered. Despite new physical limitations, he gave everything his body could give, and the set list of new and old tunes like “Some Weird Sin” and “Repo Man” was a fan’s dream. Ticket prices were not.

Three months earlier, Iggy revealed that he’d recorded a new album in secret with musician Josh Homme. Stephen Colbert featured a debut live performance. The New York Times ran a story. It was savvy marketing. Named Post Pop Depression, the album has generated lots of excitement because it’s Iggy’s first since 2013, and because Iggy, as Homme said, “is the last one of the one-of-a-kinds.” The album even peaked at number one on the Billboard charts ─ Iggy’s first number-one album. But with concert tickets ranging from $50 to $125 (and as high as $400 on the secondary market), people were grumbling.

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One Man’s Quest For His Vinyl and His Past

Eric Spitznagel | Old Records Never Die: One Man’s Quest for His Vinyl and His Past | Plume | April 2016 | 8 minutes (2,029 words)

Motivated by a potent mix of seller’s regret and old-dude nostalgia, a journalist sets off in search of the vinyl of his youth. And not just copies of albums he loved—Eric Spitznagel wants the exact records he owned and sold. It’s a premise that musician Jeff Tweedy describes as “not… entirely insane” in his preface to the book.  Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter of Old Records Never Die. You decide.  Read more…

How Gentrification Affects Musicians

Gentrification isn’t simply the process of urban change through the rise in property values. It involves power dynamics between people in control and people at their mercy, and often between the white majority and working-class minorities. One group affected by gentrification is artists. In Radio Silence, Ian S. Port writes about the way musicians continue to get squeezed out of cities like San Francisco, Paris and New York, about how their departure changes the character and economy of the cities that benefited from their cultural contributions, and about the impermanence of bohemia. Complicating the picture is the fact that artists and bohemians are often gentrifiers themselves, moving into lower-income neighborhoods early in the cycle in order to capitalize off of low rent. Not everyone sympathizes with ousted musicians, yet many of us who listen to music benefit from their ability to create it. Port’s piece originally appeared in April, 2015. The magazine says it’s their most talked about story.

This influx of newcomers raised unsettling questions. If San Francisco was already going the way of gentrified Manhattan—as Borsook described it, “a slightly faded kosher butcher shop replaced by an Italian fusion restaurant, what was the rehearsal space for a dance troupe become a lawyer [now tech company] loft”—where would the artists go? There’s a limited supply of dense, thoroughly urban places in the United States, and only a handful of large ones west of the Mississippi. If the newfound tastes of the upper-middle class and the wealthy made it so artists couldn’t afford to dwell in those places, what then? What would happen to bohemia when artists were shunted to more sprawling and affordable cities? A spread-out burg like Los Angeles might foster its own pockets of artistic activity, but there’s a vast difference between that sort of scattered bohemia and the concentrated energy of, say, North Beach in the 1950s.

San Francisco’s dot-com boom went bust in the early 2000s, and as its wealth evaporated, the city was jolted back toward normalcy. “For Rent” signs papered the windows of apartment buildings on Geary Boulevard from the city center out to the Pacific Ocean. Some artists and musicians who had left were able to return, bolstering the bohemian community that remained. Young people still came to San Francisco to find success in creative fields. With a little searching for the right living situation, one could find a room at a price that would leave plenty of time for making art after making the rent. John Dwyer lived on Haight Street in those days, and he could be seen riding his chromed bicycle around town during the hours normal people were at work.

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The Hard Life and High Times of Independent Musicians

The band Dead Moon is a rock and roll institution and legend around their native Pacific Northwest. Formed in 1987 by husband and wife team Fred (guitarist) Cole and Toody (bassist) Cole, their do-it-yourself approach to making music and managing their affairs has influenced musicians around the world. This September, Fred collapsed on stage during their set at Seattle’s annual Bumbershoot festival and was taken to the hospital. He’s 67 years old. In February, 2014, Callie Danger spoke with bassist Toody in She Shreds magazine about making music for a living, keeping control of their art, and keeping motivated.

She Shreds: And what are the advantages of running everything independently?

Toody Cole: It’s that you’ve got free range to do what you want with it. That’s always been a big thing. That’s why we got into having our own business. Fred used to have to work for temp labor, putting his hair up in a hat just to get hired. You guys forget how difficult it used to be, just to be weird! You have the freedom as a musician to not have to go, “Gee, would it be okay if I take off next Friday?” Because you’d just get fired. At some point, we said, “We should just create our own thing.” We’re both control freaks, so just to have the control is number one. It’s also a cost-saving thing as well, to have your own label. To just be able to go direct to the source for the mastering and the pressing. To not have to go through somebody else who would charge you for the time and labor to do it for you. We’ve always been hands-on.

She Shreds: How long do you think it took to conjure up the commanding stage presence that you have today?

Toody Cole: There used to be a big thing on the West Coast called Garage Shock that Dave Crider from Estrus Records used to have every year in Bellingham, Washington. People used to come from all over the United States, all over the world. When we went up there, it might have been one of the first times Dead Moon played. There were a bunch of these other bands—naturally, all guy bands—sitting around. We were one of the headliners. And, of course, they hadn’t heard of us. At that point, nobody really had. When I walked by, one of these guys goes, “Oh, we’re so gonna blow these guys. They’ve got a girl in the band!” I don’t get mad that easily, but man, I was so fucking pissed. “Yeah, we’ll see, dudes. We’ll see who blows who off the stage, asshole.” It wound up being one of the best gigs we ever did! [laughs] It’s a great motivator, when people underestimate you.

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