Social Parasites


pam150Changes in the music industry over the last decade have made it much harder for many talented musicians to survive playing music.  Notice I didn’t say, “get rich playing music” No, I said SURVIVE.

We know that sharing and downloading music hurts the artists, but more and more, live venues have given themselves over to the often-more-profitable DJ scene, leaving fewer venues for a touring band to play.

The clubs that do host live acts are often in a much more powerful position to negotiate lower rates for touring bands.  Some clubs, as we know, even have “pay to play” policies in place.

Merchandise has become the primary source of revenue for many touring bands.  Selling T-shirts and CDs = food and gas money to get them to the next gig. 

Teaching has become another much-needed source of revenue for many musicians in bands that have already “made it”.   If you haven’t heard of Matt Halpern’s Band Happy website – check it out!  Necessity breeds invention, and Band Happy is answering a huge need : supplementing the incomes of experienced musicians by connecting them with newer musicians who are looking for training, guidance, tips, inspiration, knowledge etc.

I’ve voiced my opinion in this column once or twice, sharing just how I feel about people who download music without paying for it. 

In fact, in a recent column entitled “Our Characters”  I suggested an easy remedy for the whole downloading music issue – “Pay the f—k up!” Simple. Case closed.

Although the debate rages on, I cannot accept that a person could steal a finished work of art, robbing its creator, and claim to appreciate the work that artist does.  It simply does not compute.

But lately, I’ve been hearing more and more about a class of people who stoop even lower.

“What could be worse than stealing an artist’s work?”, you ask.

Stealing the artist’s tools.

If you listen carefully, I’m pretty sure you can hear the sound of my blood boiling.

I’ve sat staring at my laptop, mouth agape, eyes wide, shaking my head while reading about musicians having their instruments – the tools with which they earn their livings – stolen.

Sometimes the thieves are opportunistic, hovering in the shadows while gear is being loaded or unloaded.  Sometimes they’re brash – smashing windows, kicking down doors, cutting through walls.

They take whatever they feel might earn them a few bucks, with no regard whatsoever for the damage they leave in their wakes. Parasitic low lifes.

The damage goes far beyond financial.  Much of the time, struggling musicians cannot afford to properly insure their gear, many of them can’t afford insurance at all.  Without the correct gear, a musician can no longer earn.  With no earnings he cannot replace the stolen articles. This can cause some serious fractures in even the strongest person’s spirit.  Cracks in the spirit badly disrupt creativity if it can still survive at all.  Terrible suffering, all because some dirtbag didn’t want to earn his own living.

Even in a best-scenario case in which the gear can be replaced through insurance, or back up gear – the rage that stems from being so badly wronged – can often poison creativity.  If the victim doesn’t allow rage to encompass him, then feelings of increased anxiety, vulnerability and even paranoia can start tainting everyday decisions.  Terrible suffering, all because some freakin’ dirtbag didn’t want to earn his own living.

So what can we do to protect ourselves and the people that we care about?

1. Don’t EVER buy ANY hot gear/guitars/Don’t kid yourself, someone was hurt by that theft, and you’ll be inviting a world of shit karma into your life by buying it

2. Document your gear. Yes, it sounds very administrative – but if insured, it will greatly assist to get a fair settlement or replacement, and make your insurance claims agent’s job way easier.  Take photographs, videos & physically list your items with serial numbers and as many details as you can include.  Keep all of your manuals/warranties with a printed listing somewhere that is fireproof & theft proof.  Keeping an extra listing at the home of a trusted relative is also a good idea.  Even if not insured, in the ugly event that someone swipes your stuff – you’ll have photographs & serial numbers that you can send to local police, pawn shops, music stores, and share online.

3. When in public with your gear, assume that there is someone watching and waiting for you to give him an opportunity to take yourDon’t be bitter about it. Just be careful.

I’m writing this experience, as I recently had all of my camera gear stolen. Some of it was irreplaceable, the photographs and video that were on the cards after a full day of shooting are gone forever, as well as some special equipment that was near & dear to me, and not manufactured anymore.

I’ve remained quite disciplined in that I have not allowed that dirtbag to steal anything more from me than he already got.  I haven’t given him my rage or any of the energy that it might take to fuel it.

What I have noticed is that I’m wrestling with increased anxiety and that’s just not fair.  I work too damned hard for everything I own.  So, to the parasite that stole my gear: Karma’s a bitch, Dirtbag, and no doubt, you’ve got a monsoon of shit coming your way. wants to help and will be supporting musicians who have suffered theft by offering a venue on the site on which details regarding stolen gear can be posted. We’re in the process of setting that up as I write.  In the coming months, you can expect to see a page on the site where we can post listings of stolen gear from around the world, with the ultimate goal of helping to reunite people with their gear, prevent musicians from buying HOT gear, and maybe even catch some of the dirtbags aspiring to make a living on the backs of others. 

Check back for updates.




To read more about Ashton click HERE


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