|"Taylor Swift can play a mean guitar but that's just one of the perks of growing up the child of a hedge fund vampire! Thanks." - Facebook|
I picked an opposing viewpoint. Yes, her family is filthy rich. Yes, her money helped to propel her to stardom. Yes, she had the luxury of being able to focus on art instead of putting food on the table. At the end of the day, she is very talented. I believe that she is good enough that she would have been able to "make it" without the money, and that we shouldn't vilify people just for the sake of having money. Is there really anythin stopping most low-income teenage skids with a few spare hours and a $50 Kijiji Squier guitar to hone their musical and songwriting chops? Anyone can do it.
My sentiments were in the minority in that debate. I've been revisiting many of those arguments over the past few weeks and I've put serious thought into how my privilege has affected my life and musical career.
|"Surely Noel Gallagher is no better than Nick Drake just because he went to a Burnage comp rather than Marlborough?"|
I did a minimal amount of digging and read a few different articles around the relationship between socioeconomic status and artistic success.
The first article I stumbled upon cited a study that found the major reason artists and musicians are from the middle class is a result of education. Decades ago, a study like this would've been enough to appease me that success in artistic careers is completely attainable! You just need to choose the right career path and go to school. However, tuition continues to skyrocket and post-secondary education is rapidly becoming an experience reserved for upper-middle class families.
The second article explored the changing demographic of English musicians. Mumford and Sons, James Blunt, and Lily Allen were among the acts dissected as being from upper-middle class acts dominating the pop music landscape.
There is no doubt that the pop music landscape is primarily dominated by the wealthy. As a musician slowly drifting more towards writing pop music, these articles did nothing to quell my ever-increasing feeling of guilt that I continued to feel for pursuing my musical dream.
|Songs from the Suburbs|
Following high school, I began to immerse myself in the vibrant Saskatchewan music scene. With semi-subsidized (via my parents education savings) university education, rent free accommodations in my parents basement, and flexible part-time/summer jobs the world was my oyster to explore. My music was the shuck to pry that oyster open (I AM THE WORST AT WRITING WORDS EVER). I spent partial summers roving across Canada, playing shows. I looked at it as a chance to go on vacation, and explore our country. Many people will never even get the opportunity to leave their home province, let alone driving from coast to coast playing unprofitable shows.
Fast forward to today. I have a University degree in Marketing. I am currently working for an amazing crown corporation. My girlfriend and I recently put a down payment our first home. We have a Provincial government that is dedicated to supporting and nurturing their artists through financial and professional support. I possess the ability to write grants that help fund my music projects as a result of my education and professional experience. Getting to where I am musically (which isn't that far, to be honest) is a result of my privilege. I believe I would still be as good of a songwriter and musician as I am today, but there is no doubt that my financial situation has helped our band achieve more success.
Thankfulness Vs Entitlement
My entire life is the definition of privilege. I am aware of this. It has been increasingly weighing on me. Do my musical peers view my music with an asterix as a result? I respect them, and I want their respect and approval. Should I have refused the financial support to go to university from my parents? Maybe I should've moved out of my rent-free basement earlier? Am I a greedy person for taking advantage of what was provided to me?
I've witnessed quite a few attitudes of "you are the worst if you are wealthy" and I still resent that. Yes, there are many predatory, self centered, greedy capitalists. Yes, there are major flaws with capitalism. But I know lots of good, morally and ethically strong people who are wealthy or well off. I have grown to believe that a major root cause of the greed lies in how society views privilege, and what these lucky and fortunate ones do to help others attain privilege.
Our society has a pervasive culture of entitlement. My child DESERVES good grades. I DESERVE to get the starring role in the drama production. I am ENTITLED to success and wealth. Personally, I have decided to make a conscious effort to change the way that I think and act. I will strive to be thankful for the luxuries that have been afforded to me, and I will try to be better at helping others reach the same level of privilege that I have realized.
So what?I know that I need to do a better job of being thankful, and do more to help the less fortunate attain the same luxuries that I have enjoyed over the years. I need to engage people on in real life and on social media, and challenge their sense of entitlement and apathy towards the less fortunate.
While I figure out a game plan of how I can be of more value to the less fortunate, I have decided that I will donate all of the digital sales of our new EP to Carmichael Outreach. People don't really like to buy music, so it probably won't be worth that much, but it's low hanging fruit for now. I don't plan to use this fact as a marketing tool outside of this blog post, a quick blurb on my Bandcamp, and maybe an Instagram post to show the public that I'm actually donating the money. I need to be better and do what I can. I hope other people feel the same way too.