chickfactor poll question: making a living

do you believe musicians should be able to make a living from music? are you? do you have health insurance?

rachel blumberg: yes I do. there are lots of different paths to do this, though. I do have health insurance but I pay for it myself. it’s just a choice I’ve made, that it’s something I can’t notafford.

stephen the real tuesday weld: yes, the nhs.

pete paphides: not all musicians are going to make a living from music, but sure, it’s a common courtesy to show someone your appreciation for the things they make by paying them for it. until recently, I made my living from music. I still earn money from it, but I have, as they say, taken “a back seat.” there are children to chauffeur; meals to cook!

james dump/yo la tengo: yes / yes / yes.

erin a girl called eddy: yes. no. no.

stephin the magnetic fields: plenty of people should and do make a living from music, but sales of recorded music have been cut in half. I make a living, but my health insurance is always precarious.

dawn cf: YES.

daniel handler: we should live in an absolute artistic meritocracy. my insurance is from the screenwriters guild. these two sentences contradict each other.

corin tucker: yes. not really. yes our family has health insurance thankfully.

hannah grass widow: I do believe musicians should be making a living. music is so important to everyone — and no one would want to live in a world without it — but people aren’t really willing to pay artists what we deserve. our culture makes us feel like idiots for spending our time making music, as if we should get a real job. grass widow has never made a living being a band. we all have day jobs. I used to think it was so not punk to license your music, but these days I’m thinking that we wouldn’t have had that money in the first place, so if someone offered that maybe we could take that money and donate it to a cause we believe in or open an all-ages venue or something. we’re not above capitalism and we definitely need money to pay rent/eat.

ian musical chairs: In theory, it would be nice but mainstream tastes and buying habits would have to change to make the numbers work for most musicians (especially indie ones). no. yes (through my day job).

shaun brilldream: of course. but too much money = bad art.

kim baxter: yes, definitely! no, I’m not making a living from music. I do have health insurance but it’s a constant source of stress.

andrew eggs/talk it: I don’t make my living as a musician anymore. I do have health insurance.

bridget st john: that would be great – but unless we can have benefactors who want to help support us – no one owes us a living in music – as much effort as you put in determines what benefit you are able to reap, and these days it is more possible with internet and downloads and self-pressed cds and live performance it is possible. I did from 1969 to 1976 – and then found it impossible in new york and found other ways to supplement my musical income. Ironically if I chose to I believe I could work a lot more and make a living through music all these years on! from 1976 to 2011 I never had health insurance — but now at the grand age of 65 I have medicare – as imperfect as that is!

joe pines / foxgloves: making a living from music is not something I could contemplate. in my country, despite endless neoliberal inroads, we still have a universal health system which I believe is the noblest creation in our history. it is the material testament to our solidarity as a society. going to a hospital is naturally burdensome and worrying, but I can also find it inspiring.

gordon the fan modine: why certainly! I make a living from being creative. It has been nice that some years music has been the main thing I was focusing on. I do (have health insurance). I’ve been buying my own for more than a decade. It is one of the toughest things for people who don’t sign on to a mothership. individual (non group) plans are more expensive. it would seem that we should encourage entrepreneurs and micro-business owners such as musicians and artists.

jennifer o’connor: it’s very difficult to make a living playing music and whether musicians should or shouldn’t, I can’t really answer. I am making a living from music for the first time ever starting just this year. I do have health insurance but I pay too much for it and it’s not good and I’m thinking about dropping it because it’s so expensive and I feel it doesn’t even cover anything. It feels like throwing money away.

tim dagger: absolutely, I’m not a musician and I do have health insurance.

allen clapp: there have been a few years I actually made a living from music, but I always keep a foot in the day-job world (I’m a writer) because it’s too darn expensive to live in the san francisco bay area without at least some kind of a back-up plan. I do have health insurance, but I’m definitely pushing it on the dental plan. now I’m scared to go back to the dentist and discover what’s gone wrong. eek!

fran cannane: musicians can make a living from music in many ways such as teaching, playing in cover bands, selling music to be in ads, etc. to be highfalutin about it, this question is not relevant to the artist. I do not think anyone musician or not has a right to make money. it is I suppose a marketplace. if enough people get to hear your music and like it and then buy it or go to shows you may make money. if not you won’t. I note this excerpt from a philip larkin interview in paris review

interviewer: do you think economic security an advantage to the writer?

larkin: the whole of british postwar society is based on the assumption that economic security is an advantage to everyone. certainly I like to be economically secure. but aren’t you, really, asking about work? this whole question of how a writer actually gets his money—especially a poet—is one to which there are probably as many answers as there are writers, and the next man’s answer always seems better than your own. ¶ on the one hand, you can’t live today by being a “man of letters” as easily as a hundred or seventy-five years ago, when there were so many magazines and newspapers all having to be filled. writers’ incomes, as writers, have sunk almost below the subsistence line. on the other hand, you can live by “being a writer,” or “being a poet,” if you’re prepared to join the cultural entertainment industry, and take handouts from the arts council (not that there are as many of them as there used to be) and be a “poet in residence” and all that. I suppose I could have said—it’s a bit late now—I could have had an agent, and said, look, I will do anything for six months of the year as long as I can be free to write for the other six months. some people do this, and I suppose it works for them. but I was brought up to think you had to have a job, and write in your spare time, like trollope. then, when you started earning enough money by writing, you phase the job out. but in fact I was over fifty before I could have “lived by my writing”—and then only because I had edited a big anthology—and by that time you think, well, I might as well get my pension, since I’ve gone so far.

interviewer: any regrets?

larkin: sometimes I think, everything I’ve written has been done after a day’s work, in the evening: what would it have been like if I’d written it in the morning, after a night’s sleep? was I wrong? some time ago a writer said to me—and he was a full-time writer, and a good one—“I wish I had your life. dealing with people, having colleagues. being a writer is so lonely.” everyone envies everyone else. ¶ all I can say is, having a job hasn’t been a hard price to pay for economic security. some people, I know, would sooner have the economic insecurity because they have to “feel free” before they can write. but it’s worked for me. the only thing that does strike me as odd, looking back, is that what society has been willing to pay me for is being a librarian. you get medals and prizes and honorary-this-and-thats—and flattering interviews—but if you turned round and said, right, if I’m so good, give me an index-linked permanent income equal to what I can get for being an undistinguished university administrator—well, reason would remount its throne pretty quickly.


today’s 20th-anniversary poll question…

how has your record collection changed in the past 20 years?

stephen pastel: bigger, better. stricter adherence to cataloguing principles. new, old… I feel I can find it and connect it up. in a good place with this.

hannah grass widow: when I was really young, I would sometimes buy records because the album cover looked cool. maybe the band name sounded familiar but in general I took a lot of risks. I didn’t have a cool big sister or the internet. I had the radio and my local record store.

stephen the real tuesday weld: I have one now.

jeffrey honeybunch: gone back to used vinyl, which I originally pared down due to routine changes of address. have become much less preoccupied with objects in general, and am fine with just having the song on a file. totally done with CDs — too much of negative impact on the environment, and simply not that satisfying to hold in your hands.

daniel handler: it’s ballooned out of control. not being broke will do that. but the pop-to-classical ratio remains about the same, I think.

rachel blumberg: it’s gotten more eclectic. I’ve learned about so many more genres of music.

andrew eggs/talk it: I have more records now.

gaylord cf/wfmu: I have more jazz and classical LPs; not so coincidentally, that’s music I can enjoy live in venues with seats.

clarissa cf: the “things I love” section grows, and not as slowly as I’d have guessed it would at this point. the “things I can’t get anybody to take off my hands” section is completely out of control.

gordon the fan modine: I’ve never had more than a small rotating collection and now I listen to a lot of internet radio. you don’t really need much more than WFMU and RDIO these days.

fran cannane: in essence probably not much except for addition of MP3s.

james dump/yo la tengo: it’s a mess.

corin tucker: I try and only buy a few vinyl records a year that I think are classics, due to space. I still have my favorites I’ve collected on tour like x-ray spex, prince 7-inches and weird finds like that.

pete paphides: I don’t much bother with CDs anymore.

stephin the magnetic fields: I’ve given up on following both rock and disco, which I used to think of as the two poles of pop music. I have a lot more folk, and I have everything ever released on numero. their amazing eccentric soul series makes me hear the 70s in ways I couldn’t have at the time.

ian musical chairs: it’s expanded exponentially as I’ve gotten into record-dealing. I listen to a wider range of music now, though I still love a great pop song as much as ever.

dawn cf: I buy fewer 7″s.

joe pines / foxgloves: I now have 3 copies of 69 love songs: one that gail o’hara instructed me to buy in greenwich; one that I bought so the band could sign it; and one that leonard honeymoon diary gave me because he’d realized he didn’t actually like it.

jennifer o’connor: my record collection has always been in flux even when I was more of a collector, but yeah, now I have quite a range of everything from vinyl and cds to mp3s, etc. I have a hard time sometimes knowing which format to purchase a record in.

allen clapp: it became more digital over the past 10 years, but now it’s getting more analog again. I kind of forgot for a while how much fun it is to listen to music on vinyl, reel-to-reel, etc…so now I have records and jackets scattered all over my music room feels wonderful. it’s still as eclectic as ever.

bridget st john: physically it is less cohesive and quite scattered = some of it is digital downloads lurking on my computer, some cds and still have some cassettes and some vinyl – I find there are fewer albums that I have bought that I want to listen and relisten to as a whole.

gene booth: chronologically ordered (almost there!); also, 1969 has grown by like two feet in the last two years. no vinyl yet in 2012.

the legendary jim ruiz: it’s just gotten a lot bigger. I love the “let’s empty the vaults” attitude taken by labels concerning ’50s and ’60s artists. want everything lulu released on decca between 1964 and 1966? no problem! I can’t imagine the lengths you could go or the money you could spend to get even most of those tracks in 1992.

tim dagger: more cds, less vinyl (though I still do buy vinyl) and I still don’t download things.

michael white: much like myself, it’s larger and has too much ballast.

shaun brilldream: just got bigger.

gail cf: it got larger, then smaller: I wish I could have my record collection (vinyl) back, all the stuff I got rid of when I moved.


today’s poll question! chickfactor parties

can you recall something memorable that you’ve witnessed at a chickfactor party?

stephin the magnetic fields: james mcnew (dump) playing “sunshine, lollipops and rainbows” right after september 11. everyone was sobbing.

daniel handler: I remember my slowly realizing that lois was lois, but I think I kept pretty cool about it.

bridget st john: being completely ignorant of the aislers set’s music and briefly exchanging words backstage with a seemingly reticent linton – and then watching their set and being much affected and surprised by her powerful presence and energy – I love this band!

gaylord cf/wfmu: at the most recent chickfactor party in new york, I saw more people of color than ever in the audience.

janice cf: adrian tomine showing up for the softies set!

michael white: the aluminum group, at the 10th-anniversary soiree in new york, not so much playing a gig as performing a tag-team sit-down comedy set that happened to be broken up with some of the best love songs of the past 20 years.

clarissa cf: I once accidentally walked in on [redacted] making out with [redacted]. it was cute.

rachel blumberg: seeing both small factory and aisler’s set reunite. never imagined either might happen. both were amazing. more than memorable. I can think of something very personally memorable to me, which was when a certain person and i got love potion dumped all over us or something during the first night of the shows at the bell house. ahem.

gordon the fan modine: stephin merritt debuting a dozen or so of the 69 love songs at under acme on a uke way before the record came out. you booked that right? (yes. —editor)

jennifer o’connor: lots of things. 3 favorites include: seeing dump doing his solo  looping pedals thing for the first time, aislers set at the 10th anniversary show at fez, gail singing “fuck and run” during the cover girls set.

fran cannane: chickfactor parties are always in the wrong hemisphere but my memory is appalling so I would not recall anyway…

corin tucker: have I been to one? that one at fez? I remember mary timony on stage in braids?

dawn cf: mary timony/joan wasser (later to be policewoman) duo performance.

james dump/yo la tengo: I saw the cannanes beat and rob an audience member at a 1995 CF show at acme.

kendall mascott: I loved seeing brilliantine at the blue cabaret.

gail cf: more euphoria than anyone should be allowed to have. I have a record of them that I will someday publish. along with some footage!

tim dagger: sigh…have never been to one.

chickfactor 17 is out this fall on paper!

chickfactor 17: sneak preview poll question!

how has music changed in the past 20 years?

allen clapp: seems like there’s more tolerance for melody now than there was 20 years ago. everything back then was so aggressive and serious! ugh. I think the world has loosened up a lot since the early 90s. thank goodness.

dawn cf: lots.

stephin the magnetic fields: the enormous changes in every genre between 1972 and 1992 are obvious. changes since ’92 are subtle (country, dance music, children’s music) to nonexistent (cabaret, rap, metal, musical theater, rock, gospel, jazz, soundtracks). In chickfactor’s core genre of cheaply made strummy rock, there hasn’t even been a new guitar effect.

gordon the fan modine: hmmm. has it?

stephen the real tuesday weld: there seems like there is an awful lot of it.

corin tucker: obviously the format has gone digital and people find new music in a different way now. there also seems to be many many more bands than there were in 1992. unfortunately there are still very few great bands.

james dump/yo la tengo: haven’t really been paying attention.

ed shelflife: more bands and less labels.

jeffrey honeybunch: everything is accessible which has its good points (josef k video’s on youtube) and bad (I can’t tell if the josef k–influenced band is new, or something old I missed out on).

michael white: it barely has; only its delivery systems have been revolutionized.

gaylord cf/wfmu: music has changed more between 1960 and 1970 than in the 42 years that follow.

shaun brilldream: we have a healthy post-oasis indie scene now. more record labels too.

andrew eggs/talk it: the 1992 music economy is unrecognizable today because it depended on narrow channels to distribute music, channels that are by and large irrelevant now.

bridget st john: It’s a more level playing field – with the will and a little wherewithal any one who chooses can make music and has a good chance to be heard.

clarissa cf: there is much less new music that is my idea of a good time, and much more that is 20-years-younger people’s idea of a good time. I’m fine with that.

fran cannane: a lot of use of the vocoder. more silly talent shows encouraging bad music. a lot more cover versions being hits perhaps?

gene booth: popular music is incredibly subtle and diverse now — thanks nirvana you really did change everything.

jennifer o’connor: the idea of what passes for a song in many cases these days is a joke.

pete paphides: it’s more freely available and, as with anything which is more freely available, its monetary value has gone down.

gail cf: the underground disappeared in the 1990s when the internet happened and maybe even before.

daniel handler: has it? I keep hearing music that I think is new and turns out to be old, or vice versa.

ian musical chairs: the mainstream has embraced an indie sound; indie bands have embraced commercials and other licensing opportunities (now the only reliable sources of income for bands). most commercial rock music is otherwise basically the same as in 1992 (grunge) and aside from the occasional interesting production job, top-40/dance music seems pretty the same too except for the overuse of auto-tune which will sound silly in a few years.

tim dagger: mp3/downloads.

joe pines / foxgloves: the sundays stopped. belle & sebastian started. I got better at writing songs, and was lucky enough to record some of them with a few tremendous people. it arguably became easier to filter out what you didn’t like. which may, come to think of it, mean that contemporary culture is even worse than I think.


chickfactor poll: what is your dream gig?

what is your dream gig?

from the archive, chickfactor 16 (2005)…

greg the saturday people: I’d like to be an executive assistant.

jonathan lambchop: any gig where I’m onstage in my underwear.

lupe pipas: gal costa/stereolab/sun ra/anonymous french ye-ye session musicians/the aislers set + the lucksmiths + the frenchmen + free loan investments + vashti of course.

claudia the magnetic fields: playing in barcelona, outdoors in a medieval church courtyard at the twilight with gargoyles and swallows swooping overhead. and it really happened!

clarissa cf: I dreamt a few months ago that I just happened to go see the b.p.m. lineup of unrest—they weren’t making a big deal about being “reunited,” they just happened to be playing. it was happy. I woke up with longing in my heart. this marks me as a relic of my era, I realize.

mike alway: to begin with, it would have to be at lunchtime.

bliss blood: playing for 100 people who are listening and making $100,000.

slim kill rock stars: a captive audience.

stephen the real tuesday weld: the bar of les trois garcons with al bowlly guesting.

josh gennet: anything that (1) pays and (2) number of people you don’t know in crowd exceeds the number you do know. if they clap it’s a plus.

rebecca cf: seeing the pixies reunion tour in 2004 was, pretty much, my dream gig.

candice p: I would have liked to see the clash, dusty springfield, and al green. that would be a pretty good show.

david silver jews: csn and m: crosby stills nash and me.

joe the pines: roger mcguinn, johnny marr and neil clark: duelling 12-strings

amelia tender trap: magnetic fields supported by beat happening at la guinguette inparis. I would have queued overnight in the snow for that one.

gail cf:: I own my own nightclub which is a combination of les trois garcons and the old town bar in new york. we have concerts, parties, exhibitions, screenings, readings, and salons. I have a partner with cash so there is endless funding. we use the stage during the day for filming silly chat shows. we have a vegan cafe fully stocked with superstrong coffees, homemade ginger beer, and veuve clicquot. it’s open 24 hours with a full service bar and kitchen. we have our own shuttlebus service! I hardly have to ask anyone to play because everyone wants to play here and people call me!

tim dagger: love (circa forever changes), beach boys (circa pet sounds), nick drake (circa anything), belle and sebastian, and the modern lovers end it with “roadrunner”!!!

lisa cf: the national book award.

john phosphene: pink floyd at the ufo club, late 1966/early ’67, with syd upfront and people alternately dancing or lying on the floor.

sam brumbaugh: the left banke did a show at the london school of economics and the opening bands were bill fay and fresh maggots. any 70s eater show or anne briggs impromptu pub performance.

ld flare: any one where people can sit down comfortably. ideally in a theatre with a proscenium.

peter straub: um, the one I have right now.

alasdair the clientele: I thought it said “pig” for a minute.

louis philippe: I was there—brian wilson playing pet sounds at the festival hall in london.

aliccia slumber party: I had a dream that I was a country music singer. playing a show, on a large dark stage alone with a brilliant, beautiful, white acoustic guitar with inlaid abalone. and a head stock I didn’t recognize. it was old and haunted. I wish that would happen.

john true love always: I’d love to back up george michael in his timberlake/ flaming lips-style image remake. I am holding my breath.

james dump / yo la tengo: trouble funk, santa claus, an octopus, my 3rd grade teacher, and sherilyn fenn, but I’m stranded somewhere thousands of miles away in my underwear.

dawn cf: like a gig that happens in my dreams? I had a dream that chelsea clinton was singing antietam’s “walk away”. I have a feeling this isn’t what you are asking. gig of my dreams:

stephin the magnetic fields: walk into next room, find tuned (and self-tuning) ukulele ready to go in specially designed uke stand, discover my hearing damage is cured, play all-new set of beautiful songs I didn’t know I’d written, fronting a band such as tito puente might have led. the show is filmed, so I never have to play live again, and I don’t.

frances cannanes: I think we had it in new york one time. music went well, I was drunk enough to think I was being funny and there were lots of people there. but also in byron bay when there was no one there and also in northampton in a cellar and also in tokyo last visit on first night…I guess they just keep happening.

stephen cannanes: so many really, easy lug!, good sound, good engineer, good lineup, lots of mates, guinness rider, upstairs accommodation with a party room, recently it’s been doing three set evenings where it’s all pretty relaxed and people dance a lot, you always seem to have a good time when the crowd are getting down!

daniel handler: writing liner notes for a saint etienne album. if I say this enough perhaps it will come true.

david grubbs: it would involve people who’ve never heard me play before. old people in the first several rows, smiling. outdoors at night. cobblestones.

alistair tangents: it would be a two-night show (not a festival) with the velvets, byrds, felt and the clientele on the first night, and then fire engines, hellfire sermons, mccarthy, the wolfhounds, the playwrights and the pipettes on the second. the show would be at the silver factory, andy would be projecting his films, edie sedgewick would be dancing and billy name would be taking photos for posterity.

the legendary jim ruiz: the would-be-goods, max eider and I on a package tour of the netherlands and belgium, by bike of course.

kristian airliner: for watching? the beatles at any venue in ’63 or ’64. for the way they looked more than anything else.

jeff aden: at this point, I’d settle for a nice, high-paying show where we don’t actually have to play music. oh yeah, with chili-dogs on the rider.