My inbox has been filled with an e-flurry, seeking my thoughts on the ongoing “photography makes concert impossible for artist”, “unprofessional artist leaves stage in huff”, “selfish musician robs fans” dramas.
These are, in my view, nothing more than the most recent occurrence of an inevitable tension caused by the laudable attempt of artists to operate in the marketplace while being free of its values. The marketplace dictates that live music is a commercial relationship: the audience pays money and is entitled to a set quantity of entertainment (which evidently must include encores). In an alternative world, the money is necessary to fund the costs and work required, but this is not a commercial relationship about quantity, but an opportunity to participate in bringing a quality into the world. If one seeks to set a standard for live music performance (something which cannot be done without the active participation of the audience), and the actions of the audience mean that the artist cannot honourably continue at the standard which he expects of himself, what would we have him do? Muddle through and play badly? This would not only be a denial of everything he stands for, but would mean that the band the fans came to see was no longer on the stage even if he remained. We must remember to handcuff musicians to the stage in future, even if it means they cannot move to play their instruments properly. Damn the artistic temperament!!!! (Oh yes, that’s why we love their music.)
For those who do not understand, I would suggest that you prepare the perfect delivery of a poem, and then try performing it to someone who is not only not listening, but who is actively trying to distract you. The transcendent moment for which you practised so hard is impossible.