Saturday, February 07, 2015

What the pop papers say: Toffs

The New Statesman which, erm, went off the newstands yesterday (No Rock & Roll Fun - last with the news) splashed the Blunt/Bryant 'posh people in the arts' story all over the cover, with contributions from Stuart Maconie and Robert Webb, and - more interestingly - some actual people who make music giving their perspectives.

Johnny Marr actually tried to shift the debate from background to the actual music world; record companies no longer sign up young bands with a view to long-term investment, and:

The worst part of this is the 'pay to play' culture [which] means bands have to hand over cash for 50 or more tickets or pay for whatever tickets they haven't sold, leaving many of them lose heart.
This is what's happening to young musicians all over the UK, and it doesn't matter what school you went to or what your parent's background is.
Marr is furiously committed to this idea - that background isn't important; it seems partly driven by a desperation to prove that his success wasn't aided by coming from a working-class background when that was supposed to open doors at record company offices.

But it misses the point by a Morrissey and a half - if the only way you can get gigs when you're 18, 19, 20 is by effectively bribing the venue to let you play; if your time 'paying your dues' also involves paying out hard cash, of course the family you come from is significant.

It's not just that coming from a cosier background means a parent might feel willing to dip into the Spanish villa fund to make up shortfalls on ticket sales but also the amount of time families can invest in, say, driving young musicians to rehearsal or a gig. Come to that, if you're growing up in a house which has a large garage to rehearse in, you might have a brick-built advantage over a kid with same amount of raw talent living in a two bed maisonette with neighbours who pound the walls the third time you try to work out a new song.

In sport, there's a suggestion that nurturing the success of a talented youngster can consumer about 12% of family resources; there's no reason why auditions and guitar strings are any less onerous demands than competition and racquet restringing.