Happiness & Penniless

Will music be crunched by the credit crisis?

Francesca Baker

Sorry if you thought that this would be an 8 page respite from the two words reverberating round the world the past 9 months: credit crunch. The media is as dependent on getting economic woes in their stories as Pete is/was/will never be again on getting his fix.

Even music is not immune to the effects of filthy lucre. Like a stone in a pond the ripples reach out and touch all – but what will be the effect of the economic downturn upon music?

There will be uncouth types with no soul who argue that our attention will be diverted to those ‘important’ things in life, ‘real’ issues, like food, water and warmth, and all frivolous entertainment will be forgotten. Bollocks. Those with real heart know that music is as fundamental as air. And that music is different from a music scene. Overpriced drinks and cool bars in Shoreditch may decline in popularity as scenesters promise to keep their pennies in their skinny jeans, but love of music will remain. Forever and ever. Amen.

The unlucky ones made redundant for a start have a sudden huge resource to spend on their love of music and discover their talents: time. An acquaintance who has lost his (dull) job in recruitment has been pouring all his efforts into his long term side project, northern band Neon Kicks. Not only is he far happier and got a spring in the step of his Converse, but their gig bookings have shot up.

The last recession spawned a frustrated youth, who went on to create the monster of Britpop.

Common People is the melodic bewilderment about them and us, those who do not really understand the plight of the masses. I’m sure there must be a song about poor bankers who will only earn tens of millions this year. Poor loves. Rock’n’Roll Star is the desire to break out of the cycle of dead end jobs. What great art that comes from struggle has is honesty combined with longing, which often results in hope.

Recent ‘scenes’ have been criticised for being pretentious, and the preserve of the fortunate. For example, The Brit School is hardly a cheap proposition. Nitty gritty working class music has always been traditionally seen as somehow cooler and poor authentic. Whether this is the case, it’s time in the sequence for the poor guys to take the lead. Could it be that the musical fashion cycle demands economic problems to provide fodder for these guys to write and play, and it’s music really calling the shots.

Alongside the romantic notion that an organic music scene will grow from people having the time to rediscover their passions it must be recognised that the music business is exactly that, a business, and money makes the world go round. Will cash strapped customers really spend their hard earned pound on the new must have song or 30 value pork bangers?

The thrill of the purchase remains. Lipstick sales go through the roof in recession. (I’m not old enough to remember a recession, I just work in retail and am bombarded with such useless facts.) There’s only so much self imposed restriction we can take – stopping ourselves buying an expensive coat/boat means that we can justify the CD to ourselves.

No one wants to forgo their nights of pleasure completely, so rather than staying in really being the new going out, I predict more and more will turn to local bands and clubs with a more personal experiences, avoiding the big venues where you have to mortgage your house just to see a dot that looks suspiciously like it could be Chris Martin. It pre dates the recession but the rise of Brudenell Social Club to become the flag bearer of all things indie in Leeds could be a symbol for how music can help revive a community and survive without big bucks.

Artists thrive without money – it’s the old cliché, an impoverished artist is a true creative. But artists are also shrewd businessmen and women, and won’t let a recession get them down. Business problems are there to be challenged – Radiohead reacted to illegal downloading by appealing to our guilt side and asking for donation for In Rainbows; no record label would promote Lily Allen, so she got attention via Myspace.

Creativity thrives in adverse times. The soul clings to ideas, meaning, escape – reality sucks, so any diversion is welcome. Creativity can be beneficial and solve problems – lets face it, doing things the way they’ve always been done, focusing on the money, has not done us any favours. Why not let the arty types give it a go?

Countless articles have been written about how the credit crunch will forces us to reassess what is really important in our lives. For so many that is music, and now is not the time to stop believing in its power to help solve our problems. As John Dryden wrote ‘What passion cannot music raise and quell!’

Published by Francesca Baker

Passionate about music, the world, exploring, literature and smiling. Writing, marketing and events for all my favourite things.

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