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SUBMITTED ON BEHALF OF MARC RIBOT
I greatly appreciate that you published my article, but had been under the impression that the version incorporating my edits (see attach) WAS the final version. its water over the dam now, but the version actually published contains a paragraph “at this point, its neccesary to consider a counter-argument...” etc.
In the original, I rebut the counter-argument by presenting euro-squats as an alternate model of subsidy to boring fully state funded venues. Presenting the counter argument without rebuttal weakens the article’s main argument (in favor of subsidy). I appear to be admitting that subsidy doesn’t really work, whereas in fact I attempt to demonstrate the opposite.
here are the paragraphs which followed the paragraph you left in, which begins “its necessary at this point to acknowledge a counter argument”. The following paragraphs provide a rebuttal of the counterargument. I know its a lot- certainly the last paragraph (which I placed in brackets) could be omitted, and any other edits you could think of would be welcome.
Alternatively, you or I could just post the section on a website, and you could publish something saying that several paragraphs omitted from the article can be viewed at ..www. Whatever.
Again, I know it was a stretch to include as much of the article as you did, and hesitate to ask for even more space, but the paragraph you included did appear to cancel out much of the central argument of the article, which is that people should reconsider the idea of subsidy, and my reason for publishing, which is to encourage activism in that direction. Nobody is going to fight very hard for a future they dislike.
Best regards, marc ribot
“Its necessary at this point to acknowledge a counter argument to public arts funding. Even those of us with no taste for “magic-of-the-market” rhetoric will admit that competition at clubs forced to live off door receipts has sometimes produced a dynamic energy we (and our audiences) like, while the lack of competition at some large or very long-term well funded public institutions has sometimes produced a lethargic, self satisfied ‘in-group’ that books its own friends for its own friends, with little incentive to reach out to new musicians or audiences...”
But there are exceptions to the above, and they may provide a way out.
European squat venues suggest a ‘third way’ between a market whose innate drive for profits tends towards the least common denominator and a state whose innate bureaucratic insulation from market dynamism tends towards lethargy. Although often preferring to imagine themselves as enemies rather than beneficiaries of the state, and presenting a funky opposite image to the well funded public institution, Euro squat venues are also subsidized: there’s no European city or state lacking the military capacity to shut down even the most militant squat. Government decisions to not exercise this option allow squats/autonomes to exist without paying rent or taxes. This is a subsidy.
What prevents city governments from shutting down squats is their political popularity. Government officials who could put in revenue producing private businesses on squatted property don;t do so because it would cost them votes. Those squats which survive know this: they MUST at all times keep a large enough group of people passionate enough about their survival or they will be shut down. Many do this by becoming cultural centers.
A dynamic system is operating here, but it’s political, and NOT market based. Dynamic tension is maintained by a competition for numbers of people and depth of passion, NOT for how much is in the till at the end of the night. The competition is for who can generate the most support among audiences and critics, not who can sell the most expensive beer and tickets while paying staff and musicians least.
This model combines the best of both systems: the dynamism of the private, and the nurturing material support of the public. And its no coincidence that some of the best scenes in Europe have been squats in politically contested areas like the berlin oranienburgstrasse squats (such as tacheles) in the 90’s following re-unification.
[One of my favorite venues ever is in just such a situation.
The llublyana club gromka, run by a collective headed by cultural activist miha zadnikar, is part of the larger akc (cultural society) metelkova squat, started when a bunch of activists took over a former Yugoslav National Army barracks shortly after Slovenia’s succession from Yugoslavia. The city government has other plans: they want to turn the area into a shopping mall. The level of programming there is as high quality and cutting edge as anything I;ve ever seen. And the vibe is great: great enough for the people who play and hang out there to fight for. The minute this isn’t true, the city will send in the bulldozers.]
SUBMITTED ON BEHALF OF ALAN LICHT, MUSICIAN/FORMER CURATOR OF TONIC As a New York-based experimental musician I read Marc Ribot's "Megaphone" piece with interest in your May issue; but as I am also the person who handled booking, ticketing and other duties at the club Tonic from 2000 until its closing April 13 I feel I have a unique perspective on many of the issues raised in the piece. The facts are these: Tonic operated at well under 30% of its capacity (240, not 180 as the piece states) most days of the week. Jazz shows would generally draw about 30 people, (or less) even rock shows would often not draw much more than 2 or 3 times that. If a hotel, for example, was operating at less than 30% capacity, even less than 50% capacity, week-in and week-out, it simply wouldn't last--and so it was with Tonic. As Ribot points out, the benefit concerts two years ago were very well attended, and raised a considerable amount of money for the club. So where was the audience before and after those benefits? That's the question we need to be asking. The audience is not at the Stone, or at Issue Project Room, where attendance is much the same, or worse. In fact it was not musicians who "subsidized" Tonic but the long-running Friday night Bunker series in subTonic, which had techno DJs. The Bunker was routinely packed, and made a considerable amount of money at the bar--more money, in one night, than the shows during the week made. The New York club scene is not in crisis, as far as I can tell, but is certainly in transition. "Downtown" is slowly but surely being replaced by "Brooklyn", and that is where more and more people are going to be headed for nightlife, just as that is where they are now heading for more affordable housing that simply is no longer available in lower Manhattan. It may be "harder to draw a crowd there" now, but that's going to change, as surely as it was hard to draw a crowd at CBGBs at first when the Bowery was still just one flophouse after another.
Nor did waiting tables, teaching school kids, roofing houses or playing on TV jingles. If one wants to play music that isn't commercially viable, is it really too much to ask that he get a "real job" and subsidize himself?I'm a fan of Ribot's and my politics are generally very left leaning. But this city and country have a lot bigger fish to fry than to provide subsidies to experimental musicians and venues that host them. After we've got universal health care for all Americans, fix our deplorable public schools, provide adequate, affordable housing for all and wipe out hunger world-wide I might be a little more sympathetic to this cause. Then again, do I really want to hear cutting edge music in a government sponsored, antiseptic venue instead of some out of the way, edgy loft space? I'm not so sure.
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