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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Jessica Mauboy and Shoes for Sale

Hi there,
I don't know the real story behind Jessica Mauboy's no-show up at the mic at the Melbourne Cup but the thing that has surprised me is the reaction of many musos. On a lot of the local Facebook groups there has been an awful lot of bile about 'corporate whores' and bitterness in general about business and its involvement in music. 

We all like to stick it to The Man at times but a lot of people seem to believe current music has lost all its integrity because of today's corporate greed. The thing is, we would likely have no Beethoven, Bach or Mozart if it weren't for financial patronage in their times - whether from Monarchs, the Church or the Aristocracy. And weren't they the equivalent of corporations of the day? Many composers like these couldn't afford to eat, let alone write music for a living, without sponsorship. And let's face it, these patrons didn't provide the dosh purely for the love of art. They demanded a requiem for a funeral here, a waltz for an upcoming dance there and a sonata for the wife's birthday celebrations - composers commonly churned out classical works to the tune of the clanging of sponsorship coinage. Have things changed so much?

A few years ago my original band was invited to go to Malaysia to help promote Hennessy and Moet. I still wonder if that was all a fabulous dream. The companies hosted us in luxury for a week in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, all expenses paid plus a generous fee. In return we were to perfrom two short shows at events promoting their brands. I could sing my own songs, wear my own clothes and oh, here's the clincher...I was 'requested' to drink a glass of Hennessy on stage and to mention the brand. Then, if I didn't mind, I would be seen drinking a glass of Moet champagne after the set. Are you kidding me? I love corporate sponsorship. Not for a second did I feel like a whore - my integrity felt wholly and securely in tact. But isn't it all about personal integrity? And isn't integrity just that - personal? Hennessy VSOP Cognac is a glass of liquid heaven to me and Moet is in the top 2 of my favourite alcoholic beverages (Veuve Clicquot, I am willing to make myself available for you anytime). I am perfectly happy to endorse products like these, in a responsible way to an appropriate audience. I guess not everyone would feel the same way, after all alcohol definitely has a dark side - but we all need to march to our own drums. If McDonald's or Benson & Hedges came a-knocking, I'd have to decline their offers of private jet trips because I personally believe those companies and their products are evil and I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. I said 'no thank you' to The Voice because it didn't sit well with me, but I'm sitting on the sofa cheering at the top of my lungs when friends appear on the show. One person's sell-out is another's symbiosis, so we can only do what feels right for us.

If you decide to be a professional musician, you are agreeing to exchange your art for financial reward. When money is involved there are always strings attached - it's up to you whether you feel those strings have turned you into a corporate puppet or you're just meeting reasonable terms of your employment. I can't imagine having an issue with sponsored footwear but when it comes to other fashion decrees - perhaps when they involve what not to wear - it could be a different matter...So, the first professional singing I ever did was with a girl group and we got offered a lucrative gig at a nightclub in Asia. Trouble is, we would have had to perform topless. Needless to say, we politely turned down that offer - a bridge way too far for all of us.

OK, back to Jess. One media report says she had a panic attack because her own management and the Race Management were bickering about her sponsorship commitments (ie wearing the shoes) minutes before she was to go on. Perhaps she should have worn them as part of her contract, after all there's a price you pay for getting paid such a high price! But no matter what kind of business transactions are involved, in the end music and performance is an affair of the heart and spirit and 'business' needs to understand that too. That's why these things are called relationships right? Both sides need to try to relate to and empathize with the other.

The only way to escape the association of music and business is to not enter into music as a business, and that's a fair choice. But for me, I think the right relationships - with understanding on both sides about what both sides need - can result in a good back scratching that benefits everyone. So I say bring it on!

Till next time,