Thursday, June 17, 2010

Watch your audience!

Many of us live under the illusion that musicians only play for their fans. Some of us are even uncomfortable with the fact that musicians play in casinos.

But if the truth be told, musicians make a lot of money off of corporate events. Over the years, I've chronicled a number of musicians who performed for Larry Ellison (at the annual Oracle OpenWorld conference).

True story - I once attended a sales conference run by a particular company. (I won't name the company, but its initials are HP.) Whoever was managing the sessions became very insistent on controlling where people sat. Rather than allowing you to take a seat in the back left corner of the room, the handlers insisted that you had to sit in row 4, smashed up against other attendees. This carried on all through the conference, including during the final dinner. Toward the end of the conference I was getting sick of this handling, and intentionally skipped the musical entertainment - John Fogerty. I like Fogerty, and it would have been fun to see him, but I couldn't take the overbearing person control any more.

Perhaps you heard that Elton John played a special event recently - Rush Limbaugh's wedding. If you're familiar with the two, the booking sounds somewhat surprising. Elton himself was surprised, but eventually concluded:

"Life is about building bridges, not walls."

Some fans, however, felt betrayed by the booking. Roseanne Barr was not pleased:

You sully the memory of Ryan White by performing for unsavory haters and rogue governments practicing ethnic cleansing.

The latter is a reference to Elton's Israel concert. Haaretz has noted that a number of artists have performed in Israel:

Last summer Israel hosted an array of international artists such as Madonna, Leonard Cohen, MGMT, Depeche Mode, Morrissey and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

I don't know if Roseanne is boycotting Madonna.

Of course, the granddaddy of all music boycotts took place a few decades ago, when Artists United Against Apartheid loudly declared, "I'm not gonna play Sun City." (This is not to be confused with The Sound Strike, the 21st century movement that refuses to play in Sun City...or any other city in Arizona.) As this 2005 article notes, Elton John played Sun City also.

Now it's not only the liberal commie America-haters who boycott musicians. The fascist baby-seal clubbers do it also. Note that Rush Limbaugh didn't invite Natalie Maines to sing at his wedding.

Or perhaps he would. In my view, it's sad when musicians are condemned for playing to the wrong people. Elton's "Life is about building bridges" statement rings true.
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