This is India, which is a very polite way of saying this is totally screwed-up. The popscene, such as there is a popscene, is basically a bunch of big-shots pulling seniority to bully their way into headlining slots at events: if you’re a little band trying to carve out a little working niche for yourself, you’re stuffed, and all the skill and vision in the world won’t save you. As the business stands, it’s the deep-pocketed movers-and-shakers of the coffee-table alt-culture set paying to book a weekend’s worth of entertainment. You’re the dancing monkey. Suck it up.
And it’s not just the bands. This holds for anyone who, in this profession-obsessed country, has been driven to selling artistic talent to foot their bills. You know this as well as I do: you don’t sell because you deserve to, you sell because you happen to fit the needs of someone who’d like to flog your life’s work to balance their books. And, guess what, that’s fine too, because that’s life, that’s business, and there we are.
What’s really ugly in all of this, is this: as it turns out, nobody seems to extend to their little art-bitches the tiny courtesy of paying up on time. It’s bad enough that you’re slaving so someone gets to buy a new pack of scented candles for their loo each week; it’s a great deal worse when they don’t bother to pass you the little bit you’ve fairly earned once you’re done keeping up your end of the deal.
I don’t know that there’s an easy way of wrecking the greedy bastards once and for all, but here’s a start: someone’s gone and started a site called Who Pays Indeed. And the premise behind it is this, that if you’re a freelancer of any sort, you can speak up about what you did, for whom, what you made, and – most critically – when. It’s a much-needed first, because it formally collects all the financial horror stories that small-scale artists of every kind are subjected to. And, here’s what’s best: if there’s a decent bloke in there who actually pays up punctually, you find out about that too. There’s a lot of gossip floating around about who swindles you and who doesn’t: these guys plan to put it all in one place, and that’s the best idea I’ve seen in months.
The site’s just started up, so there isn’t very much on it, but the little there is is shocking. A glossy like Grazia only shells out its six rupees a word for your article a full year after it’s been seen in print. Rolling Stone holds on to your pay – which probably isn’t great to begin with – for two months. I wouldn’t know one end of a freelance photographer from another, but I can speak for a whole lot of little bands who’ve been screwed over. Do your bit: Write in to these guys and tell them how it’s been working out for you.
At the very least, anybody else who enters this business to make a living will then know what they’re getting into.
The name brands know they have you cornered, because, in this middleman dominated business model, no art directly reaches its natural consumers. There is a very strong case to be made for undermining the entire system altogether from the ground up, but, while it lasts, hold every fucker accountable for what they owe you.
Life is hard enough without the high-life hawkers cheating you out of what’s rightfully your due.