So in the wake of the election, and at the time of writing it seeming obvious that a certain orange rapist is going to win it all, I wanted to talk about laws and the music industry. Now I already talked about how getting a prenup for your band and taking care of the legality on that end is generally a waste of time for pretentious dipshits, but I also want to talk about laws that have a greater effect on your band. Obviously we are all thinking about politics right now and I want to pick apart how these things can affect your band in a tangible way – even if it feels like we are so often operating outside of the common rule of man in the independent music scene, there are a few things that it helps to be aware of, even as we try and fight the man and create a sense of freedom for those of us who feel oppressed by the day to day madness of a Western world that seems to be getting ever more painful and restrictive with every passing hour.
First up – cops. Fucking respect them. I hate the police as much as anyone else, but trust me, if you are nice to cops then your odds of your punk house/art space lasting more than a few weeks will radically improve. If you give them free coffee, treats or other goodies then cops are going to be a little bit more sympathetic towards you. Similarly, you need to treat them kindly and compassionately in your day to day – they are people too and people are shitty to them in 2016. If you’re nice to cops (And y’know, white and not too smelly) then things are probably going to go better for you and your shows. I know this sounds like a white person apologizing for police brutality, but in terms of independent music I’ve seen it work time and time again. Keep an eye out after shows too when they come to check out why there’s a mass of people outside a supposedly abandoned warehouse. Most of the time cops don’t want to make more arrests than they have to or start trouble, have faith in that. I know that cops are fundamentally bad, I agree with that – but this is the world we live in and we need to just live with it and let our own projects grow.
Second – zoning laws. I know they suck. I know that sometimes you can’t do otherwise for your punk house. I’ve lived in those houses, I’m with you brother. It sucks, and the government just doesn’t understand – Trumps America especially won’t understand. We need autonomy in independent music for this to make sense – but as it happens we don’t have this. Again – we can make strides in this, just look at how independent voices were able to encourage Bernie Sanders to open up an all ages art space in Burlington. There is a way to find punk rock sovereignty in the 21st century, even through traditional means. Just because I’m an anarchist doesn’t mean that I don’t think that we shouldn’t work within the system to dismantle it. You need to respect your communities, if you want to be taken seriously then you can’t be the shithead who thinks that the rules don’t apply to you and you can make loud noises whenever you want.
Furthermore, realize that your standard laws probably are going to end up applying to you once you get to a high enough point. I was weirded out too when I reached a sufficiently high point in my career that I had to fill out W-2’s, but that’s just part of how it goes. After a certain point you are going to need to realize this is just a weird reality. Out of underground music you will be forced to come to terms with legitimacy. In fact – it’s harder to hide your income from the scumbags in charge when you are in bands and stuff because by default you are announcing that you will be out making money when you tour etc. Sure you can fudge the numbers but the people in the IRA aren’t fucking stupid. They will be able to come after you, far quicker than I think you or I might expect. The music industry is one that is often plagued by laws that don’t understand how small the margins are, you are going to need to respect that – which leads to our most important point.
Respect. Fucking. Visas. Obviously the visa system in the US is totally fucked up and makes it borderline impossible to get in the country as a touring musician, but you need to respect it. You can’t count on it and you can’t expect it to work in your favor. In terms of Murphy’s Law visas are something that will always go wrong. I know it’s a bitch but you have to deal with it. Bands get sent home at the border all the time, it’s an unfortunate bleak reality that is only getting worse – and not just because of Trump. New legislation is passed all the time that fucks us over and shows us that time and time again we are going to suffer for our art. It costs thousands of dollars to get bands into this country and it’s a frustrating clusterfuck. Yeah there are ways around it but I’m not telling you about them, I don’t want to go to prison! It’s such a nightmare I can’t even tell you which are legitimate.
The point I think you see that I am trying to make is that you need to be respectful. I know that you are trying to be a rock and roll rebel – there is a legitimacy to that, but there is also a legitimacy to not having your shit shut down all the time. There is a legitimacy to following the ideals of that classic film Punk SLC, and realizing you can work within a system to take it down. I know that laws suck and cops ruin your shows but in the end there is only so much that you can do. You have to realize that this world is not sympathetic to the needs of the independent scene, we all need to embrace that, figure out our lives and then move forward. I know it sucks, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
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