A lot of things have been pissing me off lately.  This is one more…. 

Listen while you read to a very rough scratch recording of  “Arizona Cloud”, a piece Chi composed in about 15 minutes upon stopping for the night at a shit-dive motel in a hamlet in the middle of the desert in Arizona on a road trip doing an odd job in early July 2013.

Aug 2013

I often hear people who represent various organizations and institutions say, “We value creativity”, and it annoys the hell out of me. Why? Because it’s an absolute steaming load! How so? Well, for starters, “creativity” is a HUMAN trait, and with rare exceptions, humans are NOT valued at all!  What is valued is what we (the “creative” humans) produce TO THE EXTENT THAT someone is able to make money off of it. THAT is what is valued, NOT the humans doing the creating.

Those of us that do the creating (well, I’m speaking from my own perspective as a musician, but I know it’s also true of actors, writers, and most likely dancers and visual artists as well) are expected to give away our creative “product” and/or performance skills for free since everyone seems to believe that the only entities in the creative content supply chain entitled to profit from the output of creative people are the corporations that manufacture the gadgets to play it on, and then “they” (the people/entities that profit from it) take a big, steaming dump on US (the creators) while they laugh their asses off all the way to the bank.

Another thing that really grates me about this is that it is apparently next to impossible to sell anything truly “creative” and “original” since what sells is the safe and familiar same old same old. No one will take on the financial risk of booking a performer that does something new and genuinely original until they have become established — which is just as much a function of luck and “people skills” and hoop jumping gymnastics as talent and chops — to the point that they have become the safe and familiar same old same old. That takes a MASSIVE “market development” effort, which typically requires a metric assload of cash and/or some supernatural skills in persuasion, networking and leveraging the efforts of other people.

People seem to derive some sort of sadistic pleasure in seeing the rest of us humiliated, impoverished and broken down, taunting us with patronising platitudes such as “well, if you were any good, you’d have a label deal, wouldn’t you?” (I am not going to unpack how off the mark that one is here!) until we “get over ourselves” and fall into line on the boredom treadmill of living death, having finally been “put in our place”, and given up on our artistic pursuits out of sheer economic desperation, while those who are not able to do anything else either continue to exist at the mercy of a long-suffering partner or parent who grudgingly shoulders the financial and emotional burden of curating them and the array of demons that often plague highly creative people, such as mental/personality disorders, substance abuse/addiction issues, maladjusted/pathological behaviours, etc., or they end up joining the untold 10’s of thousands of people living on the streets of L.A. after moving here to “follow their dreams”.  (I’m speaking of L.A. because I live here.)

Ah, there’s another one: “L.A. is full of people following their dreams!” That makes it sound as if they are making a decent living doing what they dream of. Bullshit! People with dreams come to L.A. only to have their dreams smashed to tiny little pieces unless, once again, they have exceptional “people skills” combined with a very serious work ethic (and a lot of good luck as well as talent and creativity), which may not be a realistic expectation since most of the highly creative people I know tend to have quite lousy interpersonal skills and next to no work ethic or marketing savvy at all. And this does not even account for what could perhaps be a significant number of people who are highly creative and talented, but haven’t had access to the means to develop their talent. One more vitally important swing factor in becoming “successful” as a creative person is being a skillful, compliant “hoop jumper”, and few creative types are in my experience. Many of them in fact resent having what they should be creating dictated at them by some bell-end in the marketing department of their label.

In Chi’s case, he just happened to meet and team up with someone (me) that had advanced skills as a musician as well as arranger /orchestrator, and was also willing to take on the horrendous, crazymaking challenge of teaching myself how to do video editing, audio engineering, web design and a whole array of other highly specialized stuff with a precipitous learning curve that I had absolutely no background or natural affinity for (while working a full-time day job to support the whole house) in order to get his/our music to the point where it was available for other people to listen to and share, purchase, etc. At the same time I also had to put up with shit like this until it got to the point where I had been pushed up against a wall at which I had pretty much run out of practical options other than to declare emotional and financial bankruptcy and ditch, which would have led to catastrophic losses for both of us, and god knows what would have become of Chi. Quite possibly something like this:

 So what do we do about these people? Dump them on some hapless family member or partner who may or most likely may not be in any position to take care of them? Or just throw them out on the scrap heap of humans that are too defective to make any money off of because it’s not convenient or cost-effective to provide for them and/or put their creative output into a saleable form?  Yeah, we value creativity, motherfkr!  There is no easy answer for this.

One possibility might be to provide something like a homeless shelter complete with not only basic healthcare facilities as well as mental health and drug rehab/addiction management services, but additionally appointed with design studios, art supplies, instruments, rehearsal rooms, recording studio, etc., and have some robust security in place too since a lot of these people are so fucked up that they do not recognize glaringly obvious consequences of their behaviour, i.e., “if you steal the mics from the recording studio and hock them at the pawn shop to feed your drug addiction, you won’t have them anymore, and neither will anyone else.”  They don’t give a shit about that, since by and large, the only thing they give a shit about is themselves and whatever-the-fuck they happen to want at any given moment.

Then again, the existence of such a facility does not in any way guarantee that they would use it since it has been proven time and time again that human stupidity cannot be regulated or controlled.