How Things Have Changed Over The Years in the Music Business

Friday, February 5, 2016 9:00 PM Posted by Tondeleo Lee Thomas
Tondeleo: I ran across a quote by Hunter S. Thompson that made me think about some of the things that Doc, Marilyn, and their friends have said about the music business and how ruthless it can be. Here it is:
"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."  -  Hunter S. Thompson

I read this to Doc, Marilyn and Big Dave when I was visiting the other night, and got their responses. Marilyn, of course had the most to say about it, even though she is the youngest, and has only been playing and singing publicly, for well less than 20 years. Doc put her to work playing and singing in the streets and passing the hat when she was 10 or 12 years old. Nevertheless, the quotation sparked a fire in her.

Marilyn: Tondy, I don't know who that Mr. Thompson, but he is RIGHT. We know that, and we are just nobodies! But we have experienced a lot of that. People promise you all kinds of things, especially when you don't have a job and are hungry. Things like good connections, good money, and other things, and then you find out that they don't even have anything themselves, and are hoping to just use you to get things for themselves! Like, they act rich and like they are looking out for you, but they are not. A lot of them are broke and owe money to everybody, and are hoping to use you to make some money for them! Like, they line up a gig, and tell us how wonderful it's going to be, and how many hundreds or thousands of people are going to be there, how much money "we'll" all make, meaning how much money HE will make, and then when you get there, it's just something we could have got on our own! Then they introduce us to MORE people who want a piece of the action, and talking about how well connected they are, and how they will open major doors for us...

Big Dave: She's right, Tondy. I've been doing this all my life, and it's always like the next big gig is around the corner. If we play at this crummy little dive, it will open the door to the really BIG crummy dive. After a while, you just stop believing in any of them. They are all a bunch of no talents who want to be big shots, and want to pimp whoever they can...

Doc: I decided a long time ago that ain't nobody gonna pimp me but me. I've had times when it was just me living in my panel truck. Well, me, a couple guitars, an amp and a dog, and when you're broke, everybody wants to take a vantage of you. and you have to smile, you have to pretend you're happy, you have to put on a show like everything is all fine and dandy, even when you're dying inside. That is the show part of show business. You got to "show" that you're happy and that everything is good even when that ain't your reality. 

Big Dave: But this ain't nothing new Tondy. It's always been like that, as far back as you go. If someone's got talent, there are always a dozen people who want to pimp them and make as much money off them as possible, and then when they have worn that person down to nothing, they are through with them and move on to the next one.

Like, one thing that happens is this. I was in a band with a so called agent once. He said he'd take care of all the bookings, travel, food, hotels, everything. He wanted a ten percent commission. So we went for it. He had us playing a lot of good gigs, colleges, resorts, festivals and all that. So at the end of the Summer, he's explaining why there's no money left for us!

Here's why: He CHARGED us for like every phone call he made! He got the cheapest prices he could get for airplane travel, but charged us full price for all of it! He got discounts on the hotels, but charged us full price, marking it all up as much as he could. He'd tell us to go ahead and get room service. Why? Because he'd mark it up so he made a profit on everything! Then he'd take it out of our money, PLUS the ten percent commission on every one of our bookings! Everything he touched had a giant sized mark up on it, and it all came out of our pockets!

Doc: I ain't never had an agent. I had an Asian once, though... that's a joke, Tondy! Anyway, for me, it's better to just do our own bookings, do our own music, work with the close circle of friends that we have, and let whatever happen happens. heck, I ain't never had no money anyway, and I still need to lose 20 pounds. What do I want to be rich for? I ain't never wanted to be rich - never wished for that, and my wish came true!

I have been totally down and out as far as society is concerned, but I have always been able to find food to put in my belly, some clothes to put on my back and a shelter to sleep under. Kings can't do any better than that. Plus I have always had friends. A lot of kings don't even know if the people around them are really friends, so I'm better off... in my book.

Tondeleo: So you've always played music, always gotten to eat, sleep and had friends. 

Big Dave: Right, That's true for me.

Marilyn: It's been true as far as I can remember. Even when mama ran off with that piece of trash from the carnival, Uncle Doc took me in, and made sure I had clothes, food and a bed. I can only wear so many clothes, and only eat so much food and can only sleep  in one bed at a time. Why would I want more than that?

Doc: Yeah, and we're still the same as always. We ain't never been famous or well known. But I'm still high energy. Marilyn's high energy. Our band is a very high energy band - more energy going on than a lot of teenaged bands… 

But I CAN say that when we were young, we'd play and there'd be girls throwing their panties up on the stage… and that still happens sometimes. But, they're a lot bigger now… and sometimes it's boxers what's bein' thrown up on the stage. It IS a little different, in that respect... But that's the music business!