Barry Gordon: Even a poor musician must pay bills

Frank Zappa. Pic: Comp
Frank Zappa. Pic: Comp
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Here’s a question for all you Edinburgh-based musicians, actors, comedians, dancers and artists out there: would you sign up to a politically-motivated group if you knew it would (pretty much) guarantee you exposure, paid work, and in some cases, help fund your own projects?

Tempting, isn’t it?

What if you agreed or at least sympathised with that particular group’s political views, but felt a bit, you know, uneasy about getting into bed with a collective that, quite likely, would grant you an advantage over your peers?

Self-determination is a big subject at the moment in terms of the nation’s politics, so shouldn’t our city’s artists pay their own dues without riding someone else’s coat tails to prominence?

As both a writer and a musician myself, I find it conflicting. I agree a lot with what one certain Scottish political movement says; the problem is I find most forms of exclusiveness negating, and everything I’ve achieved (in music) has been a result of my own hard work.

What would the late, great Frank Zappa – one of the most politically involved musicians of the last 20th century – do? Well, although Zappa was instrumental (no pun intended) in helping younger people to register to vote at his concerts, he never told anyone which way to vote.

But of course, times are tough as any self-employed or hobbyist artist in the Capital will tell you. Despite most of us earning an average of £5-£6K a year (sometimes more, sometimes less) we’re still often viewed as lesser mortals even though we contribute largely to people’s entertainment and enjoyment, as well as the city’s economy.

Admittedly, some of us do, unfortunately, think the world owes us a living, but in the main we’re teetering above the poverty line and pulling in any form of work going just to keep head above water. In this case, then, it’s perhaps not too unsurprising that “integrity” can be one of the first words to drop from an artist’s vocabulary.