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Thursday, April 18, 2013

In St. Louis Music, Life Is a Never-Ending Conflict of Interests

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2013 at 9:00 AM


Art and life cohabitate, informing, imitating and enriching each other constantly. Each week in Better Living Through Music, RFT Music writer Ryan Wasoba explores this symbiotic relationship.

Two months ago, my wife and I began renting a building in Edwardsville, Illinois, and moved our home studio into a commercial space. I have not written about this life-overtaking process because it could be seen as a conflict of interest. Nobody has directly said, "Don't write about the studio," but I don't think I'm supposed to write about the studio. I don't think I'm even supposed to mention the studio in the context of a sly anecdote about how I'm not supposed to mention the studio, like an Inception version of plugging myself.

Conflicts of interest are inevitable in a city this intertwined. Our musical infrastructure supports such professional mingling. It is very difficult to make a living strictly by playing music in St. Louis; it is possibly impossible to do so by playing your own material. Henceforth, musicians tend bars and work at record stores and write about music for the one local outlet that pays people to write about music. Boundary crossing is inevitable.

Joseph Hess and Mabel Suen are both RFT writers, KDHX (88.1 FM) DJs and members of the band Spelling Bee. They are the best I know at compartmentalizing. You will not hear a Spelling Bee track on their Wrong Division show, and they probably don't have enough breath between their physically demanding songs to plug KDHX during a set -- especially if it's during the pledge drive. But could anybody be rightfully offended if they did? Should anybody?

There is no direct consequence for crossing the streams, but the violator has the potential of being viewed as money-driven. Underneath most music is money, however deep in the crevices of shows and albums and instruments. Because of this, most mentions of anybody's musical ventures could be seen as an advertisement. The rules of business state there is no such thing as a free lunch. The dozen or so guilt-purchased seven-inches in my closet are a reminder that there is also no such thing as a free show.

Yet, there can be an advantage to interest confliction. The people who stand to profit from something are also the most invested and likely the greatest experts. Who better to write a thoughtful essay on Pink Floyd than the guitarist in a Pink Floyd tribute band? Yes, this will likely draw attention to the writer's band, but the actual result to his pocket is less than negligible.

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