Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist, and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
Dear Fan, There is a boutique amp manufacturer who I've had a relationship with for seven years who makes amps that I love. They give me a huge discount on amplifiers and ask nothing in return. I've visited their shop a few times, and that's where my problem starts. The owner of the company has politics that I can't stand. Not just differing views, but really extreme, uneducated and uninformed. And they definitely aren't shy about it--there are posters all over the shop, bumper stickers on the company vehicle, constant talk radio blasting vitriol. I've been thinking about getting a new amp lately because every time I play through my current amp I just think about this person's politics and get bummed out. What should I do? Your pal, "Rick"
Dear Rick, What a timely question for this divisive election season! It's good you are thinking about what you are lending your reputation to. We've all been eager young gear hounds at some point, seeking out an amp head because our hero/heroine had one on stage. Given that you are in an internationally touring noise band with a dedicated fanbase of audiophile weirdbeards/fellow musicians, your set-up is of particular interest to them.
Companies know that even passive endorsements are incredibly powerful--perhaps even more so than direct endorsement. I remember a decade ago when Red Bull started striking deals with midwestern emo bands (most notably Get Up Kids) for them to put cans on top of their amps on stage, to appear they were drinking them during their shows.
I think that if it's bothering you and on your mind whenever you are playing, you need to honor your conscience and trade it in for something that is agreeable. It sounds like you can do your homework and find a small manufacturer that is in line with your political orientation. Your focus should be on your performance, not whether you are tacitly funneling money to someone who could be funneling it into a scholarship fund for Glenn Beck's Patriot Camp.
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