CBGB, the history of a prolific musical landmark.

CBGB or Country, Bluegrass, and Blues played home to the likes of The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, Patti Smith Band, and Television during its 33-year stand in Manhattan’s East Village. It was hailed as the breeding ground for punk rock and new wave in the 1970s and still remains an iconic cultural incubator despite it’s close in 2006.

As disco echoed out of the jammed dive bars, punk and new wave took up residency and this gloriously dingy venue had scene influencers pushing to get through the door. Including Andy Warhol who made GBGB his regular haunt. CBGB was an angsty teen watering hole filled with avant-garde new romantics and leather-laden punks clutching packs of Marlboro, a place where they could find solace in being young and rowdy whilst also getting to sneak a peek at New York’s grimiest bathroom.

The Ramones made their seminal appearance as a foursome at CBGB in 1974 to a smaller than average audience, also on the bill was Angel And The Snake, featuring Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, and Fred Smith. CBGB and The Ramones became almost synonymous and their debut gig pinned a moment in music History. Danny Fields who discovered the band and later managed the unruly quartet after the 1974 CBGB debut,  suggested that they had managed to breed a new generation of artists by infuriating them with unstructured and messy displays on stage. “Look at them. They can’t play. They’re terrible! They don’t know more than three notes….Let’s start a band!”.

Daily Telegraph writer, Tim Burrows and his book ‘From CBGB and The Roundhouse’ gives a first hand and detailed exploration into iconic venues and the influence it has popular culture and the consumption of live music for millennials. It’s only 272 pages and you can buy it here [https://www.amazon.co.uk/CBGB-Roundhouse-Tim-Burrows/dp/0714531626]

Carla Langley

Is enough being done to support touring artists’ mental health?

The arts, the music industry included, forces its creators to experience life’s dealings and emotions in a more heightened way than people of other professions. Documenting personal struggles and sharing life in such an emotive way can make an artist more sensitive to critical feedback. The rise of social media and its role in the music industry has changed, it is commonly used as a marketing tool to connect with fans and promote new music. Every aspect of an artist’s human psyche is scrutinised on these platforms and critical feedback may feel like a judgment of character rather than of music.

With such a significant number of musicians struggling record labels need to draw up a code of conduct so that there are standardised measures for dealing with these forms of illnesses. In well-established businesses employees can confide in wellbeing hotlines and managers as a standardised legal practice. Musicians signed to major labels respond to an expansive amount of managers, booking agents etcetera. Having no real figure to confide in regarding mental and physical health whilst also having no legal measures can leave artists feeling neglected. Claire Scivier, an advocator of fair treatment for artists and creative coach for Green Room has expressed the need for artists to have support from teams around them as extensive and knowledgeable as the ones offered to professions such as sports stars. These professions allow employees time off, holidays and sick leave. Treating artists as employees and treating mental health problems as a tangible issue ought to be paramount. 

Beth Jeans Houghton of Du Blonde (Mute Records) stated to Fader that “Maybe every six months they could have a meeting and check how we are, mentally”. These same issues are prevalent in the apparent suicide of Avicii, real name Tim Bergling, in April 2018. In a documentary released 6 months prior to his passing entitled ‘Avicii: True Stories’ (Tsikurishvili, 2017). Within the release, depression and suicide are topics that are openly discussed. The blame has been passed, by fans, onto management who convinced him that too much money would be lost if the tour was cancelled. A true manager acts as a facilitator of stability on the road where performers are away from families who would otherwise provide emotional support. It is evident that there was a lack of duty of care and as a result anxiety and depression became an insurmountable problem. Promotion schedules are tightly constructed and performers are under enormous pressure to comply, fed the idea that a musician needs to be on the go 24/7. 

The rise of streaming services such as ‘Spotify’ and ‘Apple music’ means that artists have to continuously tour in order to make sufficient profit. The life of a touring artist can be hazardous on mental soundness, being away from family, fatigue and stress are some of the grievous elements of touring. Factors such as excessive amounts of alcohol and narcotics being readily available whilst on tour have become the norm. For example tours and festivals are becoming more frequently sponsored by liquor brands. East India Youth’s last gig where frontman William Doyle smashed equipment on stage was coincidentally also the gig sponsored by Absolut Vodka. “for some artists, substance use is not only a characteristic to creation, but it is also part of their everyday lives” (Studarus, 2017). It is a known fact that substance abuse can result in detrimental effects to mental stability and historically there has been an association between substance abuse and musicians. Not only the use in the creation of music but in the environment. For example, after parties, gigs and tours. This is still an issue in 2018 as the ‘Rock and Roll’ lifestyle of emerging artists’ progenitors has been idolised. It is in the labels best interest to maintain the emotional well-being of clients before tours have to be put on hold, and money is lost. It is not a viable option for the labels to cut lengthy tours fiscally as live performance equates to a large percentage of income for the industry, “33% of total income” as of 2017.

Carla Langley

Is Spotify a fair deal for the artists we’re streaming?

Depending on who you’re asking, Spotify is either a big green exploiting machine or a shiny, wonderful innovation.

After our years of torrenting music the idea of giving $9.99 a month to a bunch of megalomaniacs born with silver spoons in their mouths should justify a fair deal for the artists you’re streaming. However, Spotify currently pays signed artists $0.0044 per stream. That microscopic number isn’t going to make a dent in a band’s drug fund and even if you times it by 1,000 you’d have just enough for a McDonald’s meal from the saver menu.

Whilst DIY bands are rooting down the back of the sofa for a few quid to release an EP, Spotify is paying millions in lawsuits after making a dick move and not paying mechanical royalties. Unsigned bands get the shittier end of a shitty deal, bands at the bottom of the food chain earn $0.0038 per stream. So unless you’re Drake and earning $15million from the service, you’ll have to ask your mum for the drug money or work part-time in Pizza Express.

Not all doom and gloom.

Spotify can help not hinder new talent and unsigned bands. In spite of the seemingly unfair revenue from streams, it is a crucial platform for content distribution and with global reach. In hindsight maybe Spotify isn’t completely sucking the soul out of the industry after all. In 2016 ‘IFPI’ reported that the global music industry grew by 5.9%- fastest since 1997. [https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/7775019/ifpi-global-report-2017-music-industry-highest-revenue-growth-decade] Taylor Swift might still be throwing a tantrum from her yacht in Maui but streaming is held accountable for 59% of music consumption and Spotify is the front runner.

So has it saved the industry? Slightly.

Carla Langley