We’re back with a brand new episode of the Death Bus For Blondie Variety Hour this cold, damaging Friday evening.
Briefly touching on calls for change within the music industry that seem to focus primarily on putting more cash in the pockets of intermediate-pro-level performers and why we think that maybe that’s missing the scope of the bigger picture plaguing all of our communities, arts-related and otherwise.
We also premier the latest Canada Post Project – a punk rock cover of The Postal Service’s Such Great Heights and today’s featured Death Cab For Cutie cover is Wheat Like Waves off the bands latest record Asphalt Meadows.
Listen now on Spotify or read on for the official transcript below.
Yesterday I received a request to answer a survey by the Liberal party here in Canada. I ignored it at first; overwhelmed by absolute apathy at the entire state of our governance and their adherence to creating real sustainable change that benefits the majority as opposed to a select wealthy few.
People have always talked about Canada in relation to the United States as though there is no better comparison to be made. As an adult, I understand why – it sounds favorable to what happens to our neighbors south of the border, but only if you’re unaware of how much better things could be like in many European countries.
People have long leaned on the fact that we have free health care as the pinnacle marker of what makes a country great and capable of thriving – and maybe for a while that was true, but most of the time people aren’t talking about the obvious collapse of our of our systems and how much they are beginning to mirror those of the United States. Based on current trends it isn’t long before Canadians will start to go into debt to cover medical expenses just like Americans are – that is if you’re even able to find the type of medication or care you require because our facilities are all understaffed and our shelves are increasingly… just not stocked at all. You can’t even get cold medicine half the time.
The country that I firmly believed myself to be living in as a teenager is not at all the one I see before me today and the leadership instilled within our courts and cabinets leave a lot to be desired.
But despite my growing lack of faith in these systems I force myself to believe in at least making an attempt to be heard and inspire the type of change you want to see within your community, because without that faith I’m not sure of much of anything at all.
To believe otherwise is to believe that everything is the way it is and will continue to be regardless of any amount of protest or work towards improvement.
And even for me, that’s too depressing.
So today I went back and opened up the survey.
It wasn’t very long, about 5 questions that were multiple choice asking you to choose your top answers for what you want the government to put its attention to. A simple ask that as I answered I couldn’t help but remind myself that most people are not very different from myself, and that had they even had the forethought to sign up for alerts that would give them this survey, most people were unlikely to take the 5 minutes to answer it.
I get it, we’re all very busy.
For the most part my answers didn’t waiver far from question to question. You could choose from any myriad of issues to address and there were no bad choices as far as I was concerned – everything listed was in its own way important.
I settled in on the issues that mattered most to me since they directly affected my own living conditions.
I put down my votes for improving the pathetic state of our public transit system as I thought about how wildly out of reach it was for me as a 32 year old woman with a job to purchase and maintain a car with gas prices overflowing into the potholes of our streets that never seem to get fixed. I put down my vote for more job opportunities for women and girls after having dealt with many of my own difficulties with sexism in the workplace. I put down my vote for more affordable housing as it becomes increasingly more difficult again for any Canadian, but especially those on minimum wage incomes, to maintain shelter over their heads. And I put down my vote for taxing the wealthiest income earners and leaving the middle class and impoverished alone knowing that this one simple change in legislature could create the money pool necessary to fix all those other issues that I didn’t have the ability to select – increased funding for mental health, for LGBTQ+ issues, for Indigenous reconciliation, for climate change.
On at least one of the questions I had the opportunity to select better funding and opportunities for the arts and I hesitated only momentarily before moving on.
You’d think that someone such as myself who has spent most of their life working towards a career in the arts, actively working in the field for most of their adult life and counting, that this would be a primary point of concern for me.
And it is. It’s as important as those other issues I pointed out that I also didn’t mark down my vote for.
Over the years I’ve seen a lot of comments regarding the arts industry and more specifically the music industry where all sorts of people are actively calling for more funding, more opportunities, more growth and attention, and while I admire and respect everyone who is putting themselves out there to try and achieve those goals, I also recognize that I don’t see the same urgency.
Do I think it’s necessarily fair or right that many bands, and I’m very much putting myself in this pool right now, have to pay on some level for the opportunity to perform shows? No, it’s silly and a gross economic barrier.
Do I think that a massive festival like SXSW or NXNE could pay their artists in more than wristbands and a $50 day stipend to perform at their festivals? Obviously – the legacy of such festivals speaks for themselves.
Do I think it’s severely fucked up that we have allowed companies like Ticketmaster and LiveNation to run absolute monopolies on the ticketing industry and effectively bully users and artists alike into using their services at profoundly high prices – absolutely. It never should have gotten to this point to begin with.
Do I understand at all how bars and venues are now able to charge artists for simply putting a table within the venue to sell merchandise? Whatever happened to giving the band a cut of the bar as it used to happen in Toronto in my teens – a mutual understanding of you’re helping bring me customers and I’m helping you by giving you a place to play?
We are all scavenging for scraps left under the table because we have neglected every single part of this industry – probably since about the late 90’s after the final big band and record label booms, but don’t ask me, I’m not an expert on the subject.
So now it’s 2023 and venues are closing and festivals can’t function properly because everyone willing to volunteer is now so broke that they actually have to pick up a shift serving at their local dive instead of acting as stage manager for your cities next crop of emerging artists. As a result there are increased safety violations at those willing to continue to operate and a greater chance of attendees getting sick or injured on site. Eventually, even the shadiest of festivals will also taper their doors and music venues will be limited to 3 that are all probably owned by the same guy who got lucky with a lot of business in the 80’s and was smart enough to invest his earnings into some stock holdings way back when because his uncle happens to be an accountant or some shit. And don’t even get me started on the lack of accessibility at almost every major music festival, putting wheelchair-bound attendees so far from stages that they’re lucky to even hear the muffled shouting from the stage that’s barely visible beyond the thousands other otherwise able-bodied fans ahead of them.
If you’re an emerging artist today, you’re probably trying to cut your teeth using online promotion first because no one will take you seriously otherwise, which has made you vulnerable to promotion scams that are increasingly getting more sophisticated and difficult to avoid by sheer volume of them.
If you have the money for a legitimate and good-at-their-job PR agent, then you’re probably not part of this same category of people I’m still more concerned about than any of the stuff I just listed off for you.
The arts have always primarily catered to those that are well off and well connected and that continues to be true today. Most people were fine with this for decades because they were making so much money as players in that game; This is still the same game board but now we’re making it more difficult to see with all the new pieces we keep throwing randomly onto the board with no real strategy.
You gotta be on everything and you gotta be on it often. You gotta be the first to respond and the first to break the news. You’ve gotta develop every aspect of your career as though there aren’t people who specialize in things like content marketing who would otherwise be pleased to help you, otherwise you’re inauthentic, you’re a hack, and you don’t belong here.
I’ll reiterate – I absolutely understand and respect those pushing to make better opportunities and increase pay for artists and I hope they keep doing it, but where I stand today is that.. I really can’t foresee any real sustainable change or improvements to the arts when we can’t even improve what are unequivocally more important and urgent needs – like healthcare, like affordable housing, like affordable and working public transit, like keeping romance lettuce under $4 a head so that people can actually eat a healthy meal once in a while, like resources and shelters for the homeless who just need to catch a break before they can get themselves back on their feet – instead we continue to slash their tent encampments and consider them some kind of nuisance on our public parks that largely otherwise go unused because shocker, we don’t maintain any of our parks and recreation well either.
What we are doing is removing pedestrian pathways to make more room for cars, increasing gas prices even though those rates literally have never made sense and they’re just gauging you because they can and you keep buying gas vehicles for some reason.
If the goal of arts activists is to get people on board with the importance of having access to live music, galleries, and whatever else, they need to take a step back and remind themselves why those things are important to the greater majority.
The arts is primarily a tool for driving change and drawing awareness to all these other issues I’ve made a point to mention – and way more issues that I don’t even need to get into at this stage because I’m sure you can already see my point.
If we can’t have compassion and work towards relieving those in legitimately dire conditions, how are we going to convince literally anyone to care about how much their buddy is making to play punk rock for half an hour on a Friday night – as if there’s a better way to spend your time.
There is little point in pushing for more awareness of the arts if you’re not putting equal or more effort into the very real issues that are plaguing the majority of people that inhibit this planet today.
I didn’t even have time to mention climate change and that’s the number one issue we’re all supposed to be focused on, because of the whole, without a planet literally none of this other stuff exists at all.
But where’s the outrage for that gone?
Replacing plastic straws is still not the answer to climate change just as barking at SXSW to increase the $100 payout for solo performers is not really helping the music industry or your fellow musicians.
It’s really time to get smarter about this.
Today’s featured Postal Service cover song is Such Great Heights. I originally recorded an acoustic-only folk rock version of this song for my Jestem Krzywym Lasem EP released in 2021 but I’ve always wanted to hear it as a more aggressive punk track, so that’s what I’ve done with this one.
Afterwards, stick around for the first listen of my latest Death Bus For Blondie release – Wheat Like Waves.
I was actually planning on sort of premiering that cover of Wheat Like Waves on today’s episode, but I took it a step further and just went ahead and put out my entire Asphalt Meadows album on my YouTube channel. I’ll put the link in the description and on the transcript blog if you want to give it a spin.
All that said, here’s The Postal Services’ Such Great Heights and Death Cab For Cutie’s original recording of Wheat Like Waves to carry you into the weekend.
‘Til next time.