Chorus and Verse
Larry Kirwan
Chorus and Verse Blog
Posted: December 13, 2011 11:02 am (-06:00)
Larry Kirwan
Musician/Novelist/Activist - Leader of Black 47
Killing The Thing You Love

Looking for New Year's Eve plans? Don't miss Black 47's 22nd New Year's Eve gig at Connolly's, 121 W. 45th St., NYC - 212-597-5126. $20 - Doors at 9pm. Tickets on sale at Connolly's or Closest gig to dropping of the ball!

Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

Oscar Wilde wrote many a brilliant verse but none more troubling than the above.

I was reminded of it recently when a young man spoke to me about his hope for a career in the music industry.

Oddly enough, I never thought of such a step back in Wexford. Music was something I more or less fell into.

The conditions were very different; rock music was then on the cutting edge of politics and social change. Few people saw it as a business.

The genre has very little connection to politics nowadays as demonstrated by its pathetic reaction to the War in Iraq. Hip-Hop has long supplanted it as a vital social force, though more so internationally where it continues to fuel the Arab Spring.

I considered warning the young man about the heartbreaks ahead but he had the fire in his eyes. Besides he could spend his life in many a more boring and equally financially insecure career. The once $20 an hour jobs that he might aspire to are being downgraded to $10, sometimes even less; not to mention that most musicians get to sleep late in the morning!

Rock music, unfortunately, lost much of its social drive – and some would say, soul - when it was co-opted by MTV and the advertising industry in the plastic 80's.

How ironic though that fans of the genre are now themselves killing the very thing they love by both legal and illegal downloading.

Not that there won’t be interesting "serious" artists and even superb cookie-cutter pop; those with the fire in their eyes will adapt to the changing fortunes of the biz. But the era of the independent rock & roll band touring the country is winding down because of the imminent disappearance of the CD.

Why so? Well, sales of CDs subsidize traveling bands, particularly if the musicians retain their proprietary rights and can manufacture them inexpensively.

What about downloads? Well, an album of them retails for $9.99 at the most, whereas a CD brings in $15. Do the math!

But even worse, most people nowadays download individual songs for 99 cents rather than whole albums. Give Steve Jobs his 30% and the vendor who has set up the deal another 10%, and you get the picture.

But that’s only a start. Many managers now advise artists to give their music away free; and they have a point, since 90% of downloads are illegal and available at no cost.

And forget about Spotify and all the other new fangled rip-off platforms – do you actually think musicians are getting much of this pie – no it's a carve-up between the old baronial record companies, the few platinum artists and the new digital cowboy start-ups funded by investment bankers.

Depressing? Each man kills the thing he loves? Well, it’s just the way of the world. My generation downsized to groups from the larger showbands who in turn had shrunk the big band ethos. Life goes on and we’ve entered the age of the downsized, economically viable unit.

It often amazes me how few musicians are aware of the shifting ground beneath their feet. Don’t get me wrong, I love albums/CDs – the idea that an artist can stretch and deliver a work defined by a concept, sound or series of lyrics.

Unfortunately, "it's the economy, stupid!" The new breed of musicians will more likely be entrepreneurs who record a series of singles at home using computers; they’ll come to terms with the financial reality of iTunes and Spotify, and supplement their income by branding themselves in the worlds of advertising, fashion and pop culture.

They’ll love music just as much as Kurt Cobain, Bob Dylan, Brendan Bowyer and Benny Goodman. Hopefully, some will be real innovators and, while creating music, will change society rather than merely reflecting it.

And perhaps they won’t kill the thing they love and prove old Oscar wrong once and for all.

Larry Kirwan

Larry Kirwan is the leader, singer/guitarist and composer for the Irish-American rock band Black 47. Black 47 has released thirteen CDs for both major and independent labels. The band has appeared on Leno, Letterman and O'Brien and been profiled in most major magazines and newspapers in the US. Their album, Trouble in the Land, was recently voted the "top album of the decade" by readers of Bankers and Gangsters, Black 47's latest CD, was released in March 2010 by UFO Music.

Kirwan has also recorded Kilroy Was Here and Keltic Kids as solo efforts.

He has written twelve plays and musicals, five of which are collected in the book Mad Angels. Liverpool Fantasy, his best-known play, has been produced Off-Broadway and at the Dublin Theatre Festival. He has also written a novel version of Liverpool Fantasy (translated into Japanese, Spanish and Greek), a memoir - Green Suede Shoes - and Livin' in America, a collection of songs and stories. Rockin' The Bronx, his latest novel, was recently published in the US and UK/Ireland.

Kirwan hosts and produces Celtic Crush for SiriusXM Satellite Radio and writes a weekly column for the Irish Echo.

A political activist, he has long been involved in Irish and American causes.

He is currently working on a new novel about the aftermath of 9/11 and a musical with Thomas Keneally of Schindler's List fame.

Connect with Larry Kirwan on:
Black 47 Official Website Black 47 Official Website
Black 47 on Facebook Black 47 on Facebook
Black 47 on Twitter Black 47 on Twitter
©2011, Chorus and Verse
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