We adore them. We idolize them. We pour our love out to them. Yet we treat them like slaves.
Think about the actual real life of the rock star. They are permitted brief periods of unalloyed creativity when they create their music in the studio, then they become mere salesmen, touting their product all over the world, like some kind of travelling trade show.
We imprison them in an endless string of identical, sterile, hotel rooms and tour buses, cut off from their homes, spouses, families and children. They miss all those important little events, like baby’s first steps or the school plays. They’re cut off from their means of creating new artistic works. They become human juke boxes, replaying their best selling songs, over and over again. That’s a hell of a price to pay.
In fact, we insist that they wilfully neglect and abandon every important emotional bond and human relationship, so that we may hear their music live, for ourselves. We subject them to mind-numbing boredom, as the endless miles are travelled. We bathe them in isolation, loneliness and the ennui of being prevented from creating their art, all so that we may see them in our home town. We break their hearts and destroy their souls.
Our treatment of rock stars is two-dimensional. We expect and want them to live out their self-destructive real lives like some kind of rock star cartoon characters. Their suffering, agony and ultimate demolition is only for our entertainment. We don’t care about these people as humans. They’re caricatures.
OK, a small minority of rock stars are paid fabulously and everybody screams and cheers for them, but is money and adulation enough? What amount of money would you trade your family and children for? How many standing ovations? Even if you did, would you ever feel truly content about the deal you made? How would it sour your love of your art? And how about all the rock stars that pay their “dues”, but never reap the rewards? What of them? Are they just the detritus of a cruel and inhumane industry?
Although this is under increasing threat, in 2010 we still do not permit such egregious working conditions for quantity surveyors or marketing managers. Yet, we think nothing of demanding these sacrifices of our rock stars and for what? Our fickle devotion? The business man that spends his entire life on the road very rapidly finds something more fulfilling to do with his life. I know. I’ve been one of them.
Does the music industry and we, as fans, really lack the humanity and imagination to think of a better career path for these people that we say we love? Can we really not find a working arrangement for our favourite musicians that permits them to maintain healthy human relationships with their most significant others, does not blunt their creativity with the endless boredom of travel between gigs and does not consign them to instant oblivion, the moment we tire of these disposable heroes?
We love them because of what they create. Why do we stop them from creating and insist they become our musical servants? Do we really think so lowly of these artists and their art?