Say Hello To Hamptonwood

22 05 2007

 

By Derek Beres

Once upon a time, as all historic stories go, to survive as a musician meant being hired into an orchestra, or by a king, to play for the select royalty. Note: this did not mean you had to be paid in such regard to actually play music, but if you wanted to make an honest and successful career in this industry, these governmental entities were crucial. This applies to the Western classical pantheon as much as the state-sponsored bands and clubs of Africa in the 1960s and ’70s.

Technology helped eradicate this trend, and over the past century+ there have been numerous ways for independent musicians to go it alone. This does not imply that being bought (or created) by a major label isn’t unrelated to those court musicians of old, but the playing field has, and is, leveled out.  Artists have to rely on their marketing savvy and word of mouth to keep their ambitions moving forward.

Coming across this disturbing article in the Wall Street Journal reminds us of how far we have not come in the last few hundred years. Debuting this summer in East Hampton will be a concert series entitled “Social,” specifically targeted for the rich – the very rich, indeed. Forget that each show costs $3,000 a ticket, because you can’t buy just one ticket. Instead, you must purchase tickets for all five shows, totaling $15,000.

It didn’t surprise me that the company behind this series, Bulldog Entertainment, sought the help of a former exectuive of Warner Brothers and  Dreamworks, nor is the line-up at all shocking: Prince, Billy Joel, Dave Matthews, Tom Petty and James Taylor. The concept is in no sense new, so why would the music be in any way groundbreaking?

My favorite line comes from the end: he concert site, East Hampton’s Ross School, will put its set fee from Bulldog into its scholarship fund. But, says Mr. Meli, “We’re not obfuscating what we’re doing by calling ourselves a charity.”

Of course we wouldn’t want anyone to obfuscate, but perhaps maybe some of us remain nonplussed. I only wish I held onto an old article on the Roots where they talked about having to enter and exit through the servant’s quarters of a Hamptons gig – three or so years ago. The dividing line between “us” and “them” is not thin, but it certainly is shallow. We have to respect the social mantras artists like Prince and Joel gave us over the decades. They’re important slivers of our cultural history that remind us of who we were, and are, to keep us warm and reminiscent about times in our lives when the only thing that mattered was the hook in that unforgettable melody. Indeed, all we can do is remember, because the men behind those words are long gone, even though they continue to walk this earth.

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