Sunday, February 17, 2008

The impresario of Pinsk…

You could be a Rock and Roll Jesus of Vitebsk!
I got a letter from another long-time musician friend who suddenly had the idea of bringing his band to Belarus. I don't know, maybe the Chilly interview inspired him to want to come around and see what the Beautiful and Interesting Republic Of was really all about.

But as usual, I started to get the feeling that his perspective and/or understanding of what the story is here in Belarus was a little on the American/Canadian side, which basically means that he didn't have a clue and had used the conversation to tell me all about my own shortcomings and character flaws which of course are associated with anybody who works at the wage levels I do now. Obviously to him, this was simply a lack of bootstrap up-pulling and he was just the guy to tell me all about it. This was accented by a phrase I wrote to him asking him to "please refrain from finding me more work." I wrote the following to him this morning and thought to share it will you today because, you know, it seemed to be one of those universal, BEING HAD sort of things.

In America they say don't so business with friends. In Belarus, we are all friends already so there is no choice. So as far as that goes, please, don't worry about it.

I think what the phrase "don't offer me more work" means is that I get a lot of people who give suggestions about how I could make more money when what I needed was people who thought to invest in the actual money making activities. There have been, over the last few years, not many but at least several ways to really make some money, but of the people who have got to talking to me, there have not been so many who have been willing to open the old wallet. And believe me, this is something ALL Belarusians know a lot about. Money talks and hearing the words but not getting the old palm hit has always been the big difference. And probably, this is at the root of what is going on with Gasprom and its "pay us or we nuke you" attitude. I mean, Europe talks a good game with its freedom and democracy, but god old fascism actually feeds the kids, or so we find it around here.

Of course there is also the fact that people from the west never, ever seem to have even a shred of a clue as to what is going on around here or how things work; they always just figure that if there is no money, everyone here must be nothing but lazy bums or something and that if they were here, they would straight away be Jesus of Vitebsk and solve all of the country's problems with their golden words and shimmering presence. Basically, Belarusians just shake their heads at this and always have. As for myself, I work way too many hours for way, way, way too little money to see the validity of any argument from any outsider. If you haven't been here, you just don't understand. And as far as me being the lazy bum, I defy you to live my life for a few days and then open your mouth.

But this is not to say that I wouldn't help set you up if you had a mind to come for a visit. In fact, I think the whole deal should be a lot of fun. The only "but" I might have is that I would prefer to be involved in an orderly enterprise that makes sense. The obvious reasons for this are my own reputation, which I protect to the point of violence, and the fact that we would be doing business with Belarusians who, in case you ever heard about it, are the most practical, simple and work based people on earth.

So, that you have been going for the electronic grass roots effect in your marketing will work really well because the audience out here are actually pretty sophisticated computerwise and could very easily buy into your project from that perspective. And, I will tell you that they have discovered pot out here which means both that they have found a new way (other than vodka) to addle their brains, and they also now believe themselves to be cool. So this is a plus for any would be, one-night-only artist who would in fact be willing to do that one night in Minsk or Brest or, hell, even here in little old Pinsk. Or, what this also could mean is that it is quite possible you could simply sell yourselves as Canadien/American artists with a quirky message (what you already do minus the "I must pretend to know everything because my ego is smashed from dealing with a fucked up American culture" twist.) and just go for it. In this way of thinking, you would probably be given the benefit of a doubt just for being a group who is "willing" to come to a place which doesn't have such the ability to pay them so much money.

I really hope you can understand this last point because if you can find it within yourself to divorce the place from its politics or what you think of the president, this is really the whole truth of it. If you simply said that you were into Belarus because it is there and because you wanted to be there and that you wanted to see for yourself what it is like, you would be a winner in people's eyes here. And of course, if you do win them over here, you would be a winner back home as well.

Anyway, this is my vision of a proper road for the project and basically, while you are around, I will find as much time as I can to both hang out and keep things together, just like any friend would from anywhere in the world. And hey, the vodka really is only $3 a bottle!

I mean, what else can I say? Of course I would be happy to help you out and to help finding the right people and seeing what I can do to get your discs available and a place in a couple of clubs for you guys to work out. And I am looking forward to seeing you again. You should be free to think of this as a visit with a friend (which costs $1000 each) AND a concert tour though Belarus and Ukraine AND a quirky "I chose to tour fucking Belarus because this is who I am!" sort of career choice for back home, because all three are valid. And of course it would also be a cooler than Antarctica video opportunity.

So really, please don't worry about buying or selling me. As far as compensation is concerned, just cut me in for a legitimate percent of either the expenditure and/or the profit, just as you would be cut in it with me for any work you did on my behalf as far as the case, or Poland or the blog might go and I am with you till the end.

I mean, that sounds about right, doesn't it?

More soon…


Blogger Chilly S said...

well from NY to Madagascar - to Cornhuskers in Nebraska - I'm cooler than Alaska.

Certainly I can somehow work Belarus/Minsk/Pinsk/Shminsk into my rhymes and make a visit out there.

My lack of understanding the market there for music is - how to make the trip worthwhile for my entire crew (3-4 people) who are looking to make 3-4 G's for a week, in addition to properly compensating the people on the ground (like Adam G.) who would be involved in setting the whole thing up. From what it sounds like - purely on ticket sales this is not possible and the artist must come prepared with a product to sell besides the performance alone.

Monday, February 18, 2008  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

And this is exactly the point. My guys from Canada (see the ad for the Avenue at right) were also thinking to try and get the job done by doing a little traveling to distant lands and thought of me as well (They read your interview). On my side, this is really not my business, but certainly I have a few contacts with people who are doing these things and knowing somebody is how it works around here so getting an artist set up is really not all that impossible to do.

What is hard though would be finding the sort of money you are speaking of, which would be your $1000 each for a week in Belarus. This is not to say it can't happen, but we would seriously have to have a lot of people very interested in you. (If you would like to know the cost of club cover charges in Minsk ($4-6), please check out the Minsk Blog) And in this of course lies the problem because aside from Belarusians not having the disposable income to pay a lot of money for cover charges (not to mention the beer), they also are also most probably not going to pay $15 for a single disk of a relatively if completely unknown artist from a foreign country. I mean, they can pick up an entire artists career for $5 so why pay triple for seven songs? And of course you have the competition with local bands that all have their own followings, etc...

Again, this not to say that the shows themselves can't happen or that we might be able to defer or even pay for you flights and expenses. I just wouldn't think of the actual trip itself as having the highest possible money making potential. As an adventure/experience/photo op or even an eventual marketing deal for local gigs, it absolutely has value. But you simply can't do Belarus just for the money and everybody knows this. Europe, yes, Maybe even Moscow- but Belarus? It just can't be about that and of course, this was exactly my point in the blog. It's hard out here Ringo. We're trying, but it's really, really hard.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008  
Blogger Chilly S said...

i see what you're saying - i think the only proper way to do it is to hit Belarus and Russia/Ukraine on the same trip if one hopes to come back with any sort of change or at the very least cover his travel expenses.

Or one can just buy adds on buses and build a big enough buz where they are just throwing money at you ;-)

BTW - I like the picture for this post. Little Joe-C RIP

Tuesday, February 19, 2008  

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