A Brutaful Smile wrote:So if The Long Winters signed to a major label and John started dating Winona Ryder would you say they were no longer "keeping it real"?
That's not really my point. I wouldn't, personally, have a problem with it. It would be an example of a musician who has worked very hard over a number of years to achieve something artistically getting his fair shake. I pretty clearly dispute the validity of the concept of "keeping it real."
However, should the Long Winters' ascent to pop glory be so fruitful, it will undoubtedly disillusion a great number of people who will view the band as carpetbaggers or sellouts, despite the fact that one lives a pretty spartan existence in order to commit themselves to their art. It's hard to hold down a job and tour, and it's hard to make money touring in the first place, unless you're lucky enough to be a guaranteed draw coast-to-coast.
When the Apples In Stereo licensed their song "Strawberryfire" to Sony, Robert Schneider put it very aptly
: "You know the person who wrote that letter is 18. And they're right, from that point of view. It's part of the sadness of bands getting bigger. You understand it better as you get older. Our band might not be able to keep going if we couldn't do this."
Schneider and his wife have a small child, and their licensing arrangements have meant that they're able to provide him such luxuries as health insurance (which many/most indie rock artists, including Ted Leo
, who recently damaged his vocal cords, and Tim Kasher
, who last year suffered a collapsed lung, cannot afford - and they're in the enviable position of being able to sell out midsized clubs in most cities!). The sensibility perpetuated by many observers in the indie rock community is silly: that the Apples shouldn't have done that in the first place. It hurt when I saw a Death Cab For Cutie song being used to soundtrack a Sundance Film Festival ad in a movie theater, just like it hurt to see a beautiful song like "New Slang" in a McDonald's commercial, but in the end I can't argue with the logic.
I can't come down solidly opposed to artists who seem to mortgage their credibility for financial success for a reason I touched on earlier: I'm taking out eighty thousand dollars in loans to finance my college education. That predicates itself upon the same amount of hope that any indie rocker worth his salt possesses: that that eighty grand, like someone's $80,000 advance and tour support, is going to pay itself off in the end. They're going to sell enough records to pay their label back and support themselves, and I'm hopefully going to get a decent enough job in the end to pay my student loans and raise a family, or whatever I decide to do. What I'm doing, and what millions of people like me are doing, is not viewed as a deed of questionable ethical merit: it's a means of bettering myself. Attempting to create a successful artistic identity should not be in and of itself a disgrace. Trying to take Elliott Smith down a few notches because he's on DreamWorks instead of Kill Rock Stars is hypocritical when you yourself are five figures in debt to Sallie Mae. (Speaking of which, I need to call about that deferment.)
Obviously, I'll be disappointed if the Land O' Lakes people come calling for "Unsalted Butter," but if it means that nobody in the Long Winters has to worry about finances for a few months, so be it. A financially stable musician is a happy musician.