There’s been much ado lately about an odd advertising campaign which was launched a couple of weeks ago by a leading Spanish beer company. Actually, it was pretty tame stuff but because so many people are constantly poised to be offended or outraged by everything and anything these days, the whole thing got blown out of proportion to the point where, in the end, the advert had to be withdrawn. So that’s all good then.
Except it quite clearly isn’t. The publicity in question was based on a true story which involved a rock band being paid in bottles of beer to perform annually at a summer festival somewhere in Spain. Cue hoards of musicians stamping their feet in indignation, using the words ‘hell’ and ‘handcart’ a lot and yelling about this kind of stuff encouraging venues to pay artists a pittance.
To tell the truth, I’ve never understood this particular controversy. Without exception, the genuinely talented musicians I’ve known down the years have always been able to pull a crowd and thus have always been paid fairly. It’s a sad but stark truth that if people don’t come to see you, it’s almost certainly because you’re not very good and need to up your game or be prepared to play for free or, indeed, a couple of beers.
As far as I understand it, the world of entertainment works like this: an artist presents his work and, if it cuts the mustard, word gets round and lots of people turn up to enjoy the experience. If, on the other hand, it’s poor, what usually happens is that friends and family come along to a couple of gigs out of charity before remembering, at the third time of asking, that they’ve got something really important to do like defrost the fridge or empty the cat litter or something.
It all reminds me of those buskers who interrupt your terrace dinner date by waving a baseball cap over your pork chops after having played The Birdie Song and Una Paloma Blanca at a volume more fitting of Hyde Park than Paco’s Bar and Grill. Clearly what terrace buskers should do - apart from play more quietly - is produce something that actually moves you and makes you want to get up from your table, dip into your pocket and drop a few coins in the hat. Artists shouldn’t need to approach audiences; audiences are supposed to be drawn to artists.
You’ll be glad to know that I’ve never once been paid for a gig in free beer; mind you that’s probably because it would have bankrupted the venues in question.