It is the 18th of May. Well, it isn’t. Not unless you’ve waited until 2019 to read this and by chance it happens to be that date. But where I am now, typing these words, it’s the 18th of May. Glad we’ve got that sorted. There are enough arguments without having one about the calendar. I’ll leave that to the World Calendar Association (those guys put the mean in Greenwich Mean Time.) Tonight (my tonight, not yours) I’ve been to my 16th gig of the month. And on the two nights I didn’t go to gigs I wrote about music for this magazine. The gig was by Bristol-based, imaginary soundtrack composers Three Cane Whale in case you’d like to check the validity of my claim.
When I mentioned this statistic earlier, with a slightly wearied tone, someone replied, “Well at least you get paid for it.” But going to gigs all but two nights in a month is not how I make my living; it’s how I spend the money I make doing the day job I do for a living. Because this isn’t a profession anymore. Or I should say, it isn’t a profession for many people anymore. Not unless they’re also cohabiting with someone whose income is already enough to afford pomodorino tomatoes in a tray, and not just cherry tomatoes in a bag. Or they’re a posho with a generous and deceased relative. No one relying on the income from music journalism is earning enough to eat fancy fruits, or live in London as I am and do.
I used to be irked by those who’d tell me I was “lucky” to have such a job, back when I had such a job. Firstly because the concept of luck is stupid. Secondly because you’d not say that about most occupations, would you? If somebody told you they were a sewage worker you’d not reply, “Ooh, lucky you.” Not without doing it in a sarcastic voice. And yet I once knew a boy whose dream job was to be a sewage worker. I hope his dream came true and that right now he’s as happy as a pig in gainful employment.
It took sacrifice for me to obtain a full-time position as a music critic. I sacrificed doing any of the study that would’ve earned me viable qualifications. I sacrificed making any attempt to find an alternative vocation once my brief attempt at a pop career failed. And I sacrificed all my daylight hours lying in bed doing nothing until my girlfriend at the time, motivated by a passionate desire not to have an unemployed musician as a boyfriend, asked a former colleague at the NME if they’d take me on as a writer. And, remembering the kind of mildly amusing nonsense I used to pen for my band’s press releases, they said they would.
But that’s gone now, as has the NME. It’s a different time, and the internet’s replacement for weekly music papers has an inexhaustible supply of interns willing to pretend they like the new Arctic Monkeys album for free. They don’t need to pay me to say it’s dreadful guff. It is though. And thanks to this magazine’s continued survival I literally am being paid to say so, which is of some comfort. Would anyone like a tomato?