Leisure and business, bubbles and other music

Late capitalism has brought us its bubbles, those business opportunities that grow and grow in search of profit beyond the consistency –and interest– of what they sell us.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
25 August 2023 Friday 10:29
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Leisure and business, bubbles and other music

Late capitalism has brought us its bubbles, those business opportunities that grow and grow in search of profit beyond the consistency –and interest– of what they sell us. From the housing bubble to the start-up bubble. And the music festivals? Are they also a bubble? Judging by what the journalist Nando Cruz (Barcelona, ​​1968) tells in Macrofestivales. The black hole of music, in the particular case of Hispanics, without a doubt they are.

The Spanish geography hosts, according to data from the industry itself, almost a thousand festivals. Of these, in 2022 five exceeded 200,000 attendees (Primavera Sound, Mad Cool, Arenal Sound, Viña Rock and Rototom) and another eleven offer figures above 100,000. Growing is, as in many other areas of business, an objective in itself to stay afloat. And therein lies precisely, according to Cruz, the crux of the matter: "The size -he says- is the origin of all his problems". And at the same time, this growth does not necessarily translate into a more satisfactory experience for the public. Rather the complete opposite.

Cruz's analysis, knowledgeable in the field of the subject and researcher of the matter after several decades dedicated to music journalism, is quite devastating and calls into question a leisure and business model, which in his opinion should contribute to a greater rooting and diffusion of musical culture in the territories where the festivals take place. On the contrary, he says, many of the cities that have joined the summer festival circuit are authentic cultural deserts for the rest of the year.

Virtually none of the edges that make up the macro-festival model fail to be analyzed in the book. The economic aspect is not minor, starting with the role of public subsidies, often decisive for the start-up and survival of festivals. As determinants are the sponsorships of private companies. In this field, the beer companies, the main investors in the festivals, deserve a separate chapter in the book; although they are not the only companies that have seen in these events an ideal showcase for their promotion. The issue, according to Cruz, is that "whoever pays for the party influences its content." And that translates into the fact that the macro-festivals are actually a great souk for consumption and, furthermore, they are increasingly standardized, with a predominance of musical genres that are determined by the interests of the sponsors. If to all this we add the interest of international investment funds to get a good part of the pie, the resulting picture is not exactly encouraging.

And it is not, says Cruz, neither for the musicians nor for the public. For musicians, because the big festivals have generated a monopoly in hiring artists that does not favor the development of live music beyond those same festivals or the circuits they control. In addition to a hyperinflation of the caches of the big stars parallel to a pauperization of what is offered to those who do not play in the first division.

But neither is it good business for the public, who must pay high prices for subscriptions, with services that are often deficient (queues, shortage of toilets, poor visibility, exorbitant prices for food and drink...). And also victims, and paradoxically, of the oversupply, which forces you to choose which are the many concerts that you will not be able to see because they overlap with each other. All of which can even lead to anxiety for the viewer.

Overall, the portrait is rather bleak. But Cruz also says that the macro-festivals are here to stay and that fortunately there are also plenty of promoters who work on more reasonable and less conflictive designs. And it is that a music festival is also a reflection of society.

Perhaps this book will not end up enthusing music lovers or bird lovers, but both would do well to give it a try. Because the naturalist and ornithologist Lyanda Lynn Haupt has dared to mix both issues and the result, Mozart's The Starling, is a book that deserves a good grade. Initially because of his daring, but above all because of his ability to intermingle two of his passions, music and birds, in a story in which his own vicissitudes of living at home with a starling and the story of Mozart's relationship intersect. also with a bird of this species.

It is not that the author has discovered that the musician lived in his Viennese house with a starling for three years, because it is something known and that is documented - already from the notes that Mozart himself used to write -; but until now no one had given much importance to the matter to the point of inquiring into how this coexistence influenced and is related to Mozartian compositions.

Haupt immerses himself in an investigation about the musician, inquires into the relationship of songbirds with music and, to tie it all together, tells us about the incidents of his own coexistence with a starling –which he baptizes Carmen–, a decision he makes to immerse himself in on the object of his book not only through scholarship but also from experience.

And from all this comes this book that is also read as if it were a novel but that also provides us with knowledge. On how the vocal abilities of birds work. About Mozart and his world and his relationship to the natural world. And about how that world, embodied in a specimen of starling, is also reflected in his work; either in one of his characters –Papageno from The Magic Flute–, or directly in one of his compositions.

The only dissonance in this whole story is provided by Carmen, Haupt's starling, who seems to have liked Bach's music more than Mozart's.

There have always been artists who circulate and create on the margins, whose work is often more praised than heard –or read, or seen–. Javier Pérez Corcobado (Frankfurt, 1963) is one of them, one of those who, for better or worse, carry adjectives such as cursed, marginal, underground... which, in any case, has not prevented him from amassing a considerable musical work, whether it was like Corcobado or with groups like Mar Otra Vez, Demonios Tus Ojos or Los Chatarreros de Sangre y Cielo. Born artistically at the time of the movement, his was always a particular story, difficult to classify, in addition to flowing, also personally, for that reason we usually call the wild side, that of sex, drugs (many in his case ) and rock'n'roll.

Between rock and the avant-garde, melodic song and popular music, as a marginal crooner or obscure neobolero player, Corcobado always found a faithful group of followers who can now broaden their approach with this book, La música prohibida, in which he offers an extensive Review of his life from his childhood. Jumping from here to there, written in the third person, grows in interest when it is more similar to the fictional story, when it crosses life and literature, than when it is closer to the story of the adventures as a musician. Almost as sharp as his songs, it is also a good review of a few years of Spanish history that have never been told enough.

It is not necessary to go into many details to affirm that in the world of music in general and in the world of rock in particular, machismo has been rampant. And, surely, even today it has a lot to improve. The presence of women on stage is not enough. It also takes the will to fight and change things. And that is precisely what this book is about. Of some women who in the early nineties of the last century became aware of the sexism in which they lived and decided not to shut up.

Riot Girrrl. The girls in front is the chronicle written by the journalist and teacher Sara Marcus of that movement that vindicated the anger of a group of young women in the face of discrimination and fear. A movement that grew above all in the punk scene of some locations in the United States but whose significance goes beyond the musical, although in its history the names of groups such as Bikini Kills or Bratmobile stand out.

While the world focused mainly on grunge and its successful boy bands (Nirvana at the forefront), they fought to be heard with a message of what several decades later we call empowerment. Its trajectory as a movement was rather brief, but its residue surely resonates with the new waves of feminism.