Let’s face it, the so called ‘Music Industry’ has a lot to answer for. Not just for me, but for most of us. this is not the blog post that I deserve to write, but empirically the one that I need to write.
In many ways this is not a post that I should have had to have written myself. It should be obvious. It should even Be A Thing, yet somehow it is. It Should Be Obvious. And yet, somehow it isn’t.
To say that I have worked hard as musician for a long time would be an understatement. That’s what I do and it’s something that I spend a LOT of time doing. In periods of up to months, I will spend every waking hour that I can working on my music. the routine is usually roughly as thus:-
– wake up whenever
– work for a few hours
– Have breakfast whilst thinking about the project I’m working on
– Work harder
– Work more
– Answer important emails
– Maybe make a phone call that I have to
– Work several more hours
– Be social with close friends for an hour
– Eat, watch something awesome like Avatar Korra or Knights of Sidonia with loved ones
And so the cycle repeats until I emerge with a completed project. You may recognise this pattern if you are a musician, artist, games developer or such, give or take a few steps. But either way, it’s pretty much the same.
Now, it’s worth mentioning at this point that I don’t do events or gig very often. When I do it’s awesome. I also don’t take many breaks. When I do it’s awesome. But always tiring. Fucking, exhausting.
But, the other day I was sat down over breakfast with an artist friend of mine, and it hits me: “Who are MY idols?” and “what famous people are my inspiration”,
Normally, I can roll of several dozen people and bands. Sometimes it’s fictional characters.
But this particular day I was stumped. Usually I can think of many artists who are famous. Nina Simone was a person of colour fighting racial and gender prejudice. Poly Styrene fought against classicism and poverty. I can usually name so many inspirational musicians who have fought through the lines of oppression and prejudice, and emerged champions of wonderful music.
But today way special, in the most usual of ways. Today, especially though, I could not for the life of me think of a SINGLE musician whom was/is famous whom is also wheelchair bound. Sure, I have friends who make next to no money through making music who are wheelchair users. I can name a handful of musicians with disabilities, and musicians with health problems come in lists longer than my arm span. But wheelchair users? I was stumped.
And then it hits me: I am a musician in a wheelchair. I face this shit all the time. So many music venues do not have wheelchair accessible stages if they even have wheelchair access to the venues at all.
There’s nothing inherent about people in wheelchairs that make us any less musical than the next person.
It’s a depressing thing. Even if I were to somehow fall under the ‘public eye’, would I be known as anything more than ‘that musician in a wheelchair’? Capitalism thrives off of being able to sell you something different, new, or comfortably safe.
And the truth is absolutely that I want to be none of those things. But who are my wheelchair idols? Who can I even think has ‘made it’ that far on wheels? No-one.
It’s hard to make a reputation in the music industry and even harder to maintain that. But for me, my chances will probably never emerge because I’m in a wheelchair. It’s not just that I can’t name anyone big who’s done what I do whilst in a wheelchair with great success, but predominantly it’s the fact that opportunities are so rare.
I love working in my studio and recording. I love writing music. But really, what opportunity do I have? What platform do I have? And how do I even keep hold of my integrity as an artist, even if those spaces were available to me, when all new audiences will usually see is someone in a wheelchair?
Things have got to change. I’m tired of dealing with venues that won’t even let me in, let alone “cannot” give me access to a stage.
Is my life’s work for nought? I’ll work as hard as I can. But currently there are (literally) very few platforms for me.
Let’s be frankly honest: The music industry has failed me. Tell me, how many famous wheelchair-bound musicians can you name?