Q: How do you become a millionaire in the independent arts?
A: Start off as a multi-millionaire
This article is supposed to my thoughts on the D.I.Y. culture that has grown in Cork in the last few years, but like all singer-songwriters I have only one real subject I can write about and that’s myself.
Apparently I am a fervent member of the D.I.Y. culture in Cork, but why I don’t know. If I am I don’t think about it like that, I put it to you that putting on a gigs, or creating something in anyway, be it art or event, is like riding a bike. The first few times you are nervous and aware but really quickly it becomes second nature. It gets to the point where you are surprised when someone says they can’t cycle. “Why not?” you ask, “it’s so easy”. When people point out to me that I always have a flyer for something, I feel like asking what is so weird about that? People, who are happy with drinking 8 cans at home, moaning about nothing happening, bemuse me.
Five people drinking €20 of beer each is also enough to rent a really good small PA, hook up your guitars/ipods/walkmen/record player and suddenly it’s an event. I know of at least 6 places where you can get a room for free. All five of ye text 50 people in your phone, that’s maybe €25 in credit. Charge €3 in and if 40 people pay in you will make a profit. Sure you might lose €30, but what would you have done with that anyway? Write it off against the time your uncle bought you all the pints one night last summer, and wouldn’t let you put your hand in your pocket. Or that fifty quid you’ll get off your granny next Christmas even though you’re 26. But you might just make €100, you’ll already have the money you need for next time, do it ten times and you can pay to hire someone you really like, maybe that guy who you’d love to see play in your club – Squarepusher? Shellac? Ray D’Arcy? They are all just people like you, get in touch with them. Making things happen is simple.
For D.I.Y., I read that as independent, people who will follow whatever path they want to follow, and will somehow scrape together the resources to do it, be it an album, an exhibition, a publication or a film. But it doesn’t necessarily mean bravery, it really is just stubborn-ness; like Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke, “just stay down Luke, stay down!” – it’s not that he keeps getting up, it’s that when he does stay down it’s on his terms. You know how the only person who can make the right cup of tea is you? Well, if you ever criticized something in a club/pub/movie/exhibition that means you know there are other options. Why not prove that you were right, there IS a better way to do it. Sitting around and saying it will get you nowhere.
A lyric I heard once on a hip-hop mix-tape that I’ve always remembered but forgotten who sung it is, “being independent doesn’t mean we’re broke, just means we’re self sufficient”. The people behind the Kino, the skate park when it was open, the lobby, sub fm, the folk festival, bandicoot, even the where’s me culture? group itself, I don’t see them buying rounds for the whole bar, I don’t see them clutching prada bags on pana, or driving a jaguar to the ivory tower for lunch but you don’t see them borrowing money to pay for coffee, or buying the cheapest bread in Lidl. I don’t know their private finances or anything like that but my point is that they manage to live their lives AND do what they want to do in terms of culture.
But what is D.I.Y. culture? I don’t know, is the launderette gallery on McCurtain St an example cos Ray opened up a gallery exhibiting people he wanted to see but none of the established galleries would do it. “Yeah fuck it, I’ll open it, I’ll make it break even in the first year, make a few bob in the second and maybe retire/get a real job in 7 years.” Or is it an end of the D.I.Y. lifestyle for the artist he is exhibiting and them finally dealing with “the man”?
Is the Kino the ultimate punk idea of running a cinema, where they can sell the exact coffee they want, show films by unknown Canadians with no agent or distribution and have a party there if they feel like it? Or is it a business, just like a plumber or mobile phone shop? I don’t know, what I do know is that my mam hates the idea of buying an apple tart because “you can never be sure how they’ll taste”, especially when she can bake one herself. Now that principle only works so far with my argument, but if you see sense in her argument, you can see it in mine
You might see me cycling around the city, (I bought my bike after a gig I put on went particularly well), I wear glasses and a red cycling helmet. Stop me and ask me for a bit of advice, chat or a hand doing something, I’ll try my best. Or stop me and tell me I’m an annoying little arty bollix. Or ignore me cos you don’t need any help to do what you want to do. Just do something. We must create, ladies and gentlemen, we must create.
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