I’ve been making music in various underground music scenes for the past ten years now. I’ve enjoyed it a lot. Generally you find great people in underground music scenes, people with a lot of passion and dedication who truly love music. When people are able to strike a balance between their underground aesthetic and being organized, special stuff can happen. But there are many times when people can’t strike that balance. One of the ideas that I’ve run into again and again in this world is the idea of ‘doing it for the scene’. On one level this is a very respectable idea: doing something not out of self interest, but to benefit the larger musical community. The problem I’ve encountered with this is that taken too far this can seriously undermine one’s ability to continue to function.
For example, let’s say hypothetically you are a small record distributor. You do it because you believe in the music, you want to support emerging artists and labels and you don’t care about money. You set up shop, take product on consignment from any unknown player with a willingness to press their material and start doing business. Consignment is when you take product before paying for it, warehouse it and pay when it sells. You continue to operate on this basis but because you have so many unheard of records released by labels with no business model or capability to promote them, sales are slow. Eventually, basic costs start to add up. The rent on your office is due every month. The bill for your shipping provider is rising. Eventually there comes a time when you have backed yourself into a corner. Nothing is selling and while you were hoping for an improvement you passed the point of no return. The shipping company has cut off your access to shipping because your owed bill is so high. Your landlord is initiating eviction proceedings against your office where you warehouse your product.
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