There's a Problem in San Francisco: Selfish Artists...


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Yesterday, there was a room filled with community-oriented, music-loving people from San Francisco. It was about 30 or so in a corner at SF MusicTech Summit, trying to figure out how to cultivate a better local scene. This wasn't about monetization or maximizing service fees; it was really about music and the place they lived. And it was a surprisingly honest discussion that kept landing on the same theme: selfish artists.

Or, at least anti-social, overly competitive artists. Artists that play on a bill, but ditch right after their show. Artists thatgenerally keep to themselves, and don't really hang out with other artists. Or, show up late and leave early, without making too many connections with others. “There's sort of this 'give me mine' mentality, no one's sharing the pot," one organizer relayed. “If you get some, I get less is the [mentality] for some of these artists."

Social faux pas aside, the bigger problem is the effect this has on music communities, or the lack thereof. If 'scenes' are the holy grail, and the nexus from which creativity, money, and cultural legacy flows, then overly-competitive artists seem to undermine that.

One person pointed to the pressures that a high-priced city like San Francisco presents. Extremely high rent, plus deepening economic worries simply make it a lot harder to hang out, to chill out.

Another suggested that artists oftentimes like to get into a zone before a show, one that doesn't involve socializing or trading stories from the road. And what about the ten million things an artist is thinking about these days, like merch tables, FourSquare check-ins, stage tweets, Ustream footage...

I thought about a cab ride I had into the city with a sociable, older hippie. He was a native of the city; growing up he used to take the bus into the city to hang out with the beatniks and hippies. The driver described the different waves of people in the 60s and 70s, and shows where everything was passed around: weed, acid-laced wine, alcohol, whatever. “There weren't seats, you just went in and sat cross-legged," he waxed, with that lightly-burnt out, 'hey... man' voice.

The two conversations couldn't have been more different.

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This story appears courtesy of Digital Music News.
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