Blacklisted

On 15. July I held a talk at Spektrum in Berlin in which I explained why it is a bad idea to perform at that very artist-unfriendly venue. Here is a résumé of the talk.

I arrived to sound art relatively late. It happened right at the start of the century. In the last century I dedicated all my time to writing. Zan Hoffman and Jeff Surak, two artists deeply involved in the sounds of noises (or the noises of sound) accepted my presence immediately. I was amazed how open-minded they were. Playing together with them, being a complete newby, went without hindrances or comments. It was a joyful excursion and one big pleasure.

It took some years, before I knew how to get my sound work out on stage.  I arrived late, so I needed to make a lot of experiences and encounters to get to know the marginal world of sound. I criss-crossed Western Europe, got hosted by a lot of people, slept at their apartments, sometimes in a hotel. I played jeux-de-boules in Bordeaux. In Porto we had drinks in the bar where, during the Salazar regime, the police seated on their horses entered to chase the demonstrating students. Everytime I landed in Bilbao we went to a loft and played for hours, thinking we were transmitting to ships passing in the deep of night. I met good people. They tried everything to make a good turn out. And everywhere I went, I got a good share of the door money, which covered for my expenses.

Living in Berlin I came to the conclusion that after so many encounters during which I was given a lot, it was time to return the favor. I started to organize shows myself. And I set up a lot of shows. I always sat at the door, making sure that everyone paid. I was more tensed than the artist. I felt terrible when there were only ten people or less in the audience. This meant I could only pay a handful of euros. But it felt so good if I could give 100 euro from the door. And it was ALL the door money that went to the artist.

I never exchanged emails on a personal level with the people who run Spektrum in Berlin. When I was invited by Robert Pepper of Pas Musique, I got a mail from Spektrum that directed me to their website. I had to fill in a form. A series of yes-answers took me to the final page. One of the yes answers was in relation to their condition regarding the door money. They would keep a minimum of 60 euro plus 35-45 euro for GEMA (The copyright police in Germany). After that they would take a 33% share. But maybe I do a miscalculation here, and the 60 euro minimum is not taken in account once the door money exceeds 225 euro. Entrance fee is 6-10 euro.

I considered not playing.(Because why drag a 20kg suitcase all the way from Krakow to Berlin and back again and spend extra time on setting up and packing again?)Knowing myself I would keep on talking about it. I decided to go, not play, but talk about it in the place itself.

In comes the guy who runs Spektrum. It is still early. There are four people sitting at the bar. They are the musicians after they did the soundcheck. Did the guy say hello; did he introduce himself? No. He walked straight to his place behind the bar. Now he was facing the people who were to play at his venue. Did he say hello? Did he introduce himself? Did he say anything at all? No.

Shortly before PAS Musique goes on he speaks his first words to me, still from his comfortable position behind the bar. I needed to pay the entrance because the show would start. I bent a little bit over to him and whispered that I was performing this evening.

I stood up. Three of my friends had just arrived. The guy who runs the place was making an attempt to have them pay. I told him they were my guests. I noticed how he froze for a tiny instance. And it was in this very instance that he showed his greed.

Robert got 80 euro. We were four performing. I took 20 euro. If places like this can spread their philosophy, it will become impossible for artists to go on tour. Some say that this place Spektrum is the new NK. That’s an insult. The only thing NK and Spektrum could have in common is that they both finished their activities.

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