I’m a musician (or so I claim, there is actually no evidence to prove it) and I am surrounded constantly by other musicians, be it at concerts, rehearsals or sweaty raves in my neighbor’s basement. Music is the greatest thing about life, with winning debates as a close second, and Nyquil in third. I can get down with pretty much any genre– and I mean it. It all comes down to the three B’s: Brahms, Bjork, and Billy Joel. Everything else basically stems off of them. I also really dig the band Say Anything, Joni Mitchell is my woman, and I grew up on U2. I just really like music. It’s important, it keeps us sane (or insane, whichever you prefer).
Here is a list of reasons why I believe musicians are 1) awesome, and 2) actually pretty libertarian. It applies to everyone from metalheads to classical performers.
1) Punk Rock and sticking it to The Man
There’s no doubt that punk rock seeks to stick it to “The Man”. I love it. However, who is The Man? What is The Man? Ever dream this man!?
Hah. (thisman.org, for you losers that weren’t on the internet in 2009)
I digress. According to Wikipedia, my favorite source, “The Man” is a slang phrase that may refer to the government or to some other authority in a position of power. The page also explained how it can be used as praise: “In more modern usage, it can be a superlative compliment (“you da man!”) indicating that the subject is currently standing out amongst his peers even though they have no special designation or rank, such as a basketball player who is performing better than the other players on the court.”
The fact that the words “superlative” and “amongst” were used to describe this slang is hilarious. See, this is why Wikipedia is my favorite source.
Let’s assume it means the government, since it has a monopoly on force and is the only power that can decide throw you in jail. I’m not talking about the emotional prison your ex boyfriend put you in. Some self defined punks might argue that it is “corporate America” that really controls us, or “the 1%” that rules the nation. So you think that corporations and money control the government? Fair enough. But why would fixing this be accomplished by more government?
I can’t think of anything less punk rock than expanding the size of the government. Yet, there’s still anti-capitalist teenagers begging to increase regulation, create more laws, and ban more crap while relentlessly “fighting the police state”. They suck at the teat of authority, exactly the opposite of what they preach.
2) Regulation hurts songwriters
I did a little research on the industry expecting to find some evidence of regulation hurting musicians. How could it not? It hurts everything else! According to the National Music Publishers’ Association, government regulations are costing songwriters roughly $2.3 billion a year in lost revenue in the U.S.
For its part, the music industry’s goal is to move to an entirely free market system where individual publishers can negotiate licensing deals with companies directly. It already does this with specific companies such as Apple for iTunes Radio, but the industry ideal would be to move to this model for all licensing deals. According to the NMPA, annual revenue for music publishers would increase to $4.52 billion in the U.S. in a free market system.
Mmmm. Free market system. Lovely. This increase in revenue leads to the next reason:
3) Equal opportunity
Music on the radio today is horrible, we all know that. One of the biggest complaints is that it all sounds the same. More money in the industry opens up more doors for risk taking, allowing more artists to be heard, creating diversity and less musical homogeneity.
Libertarians advocate for creating equal opportunity rather than equal success. You have to work hard and be good at what you do to succeed. Just like in music! Do we want to subsidize shitty bands even though they are failing, like what is happening how with terrible government programs?
Competition may not be the core of music, but it definitely plays a prominent role. Singing practically qualifies as a sport these days. Nobody knows the wonders of competition and how it increases quality like musicians do. If you want to earn first chair, work your ass off to beat out the current holder. Once you get it, they’ll practice constantly to win it back. It’s like Pong for music, and the scores only keep getting higher.
4) Licensing hurts small venues
“First, here’s how it works if you want to host live musicians who play even one “cover” song, or a song that is copyrighted work: you need a license. You can get a license from three major music rights organizations—BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC. BMI deals with the superstar artists and songwriters.
‘The law just doesn’t take into consideration small venues in small towns. I think it’s based on a big nightclub in New York City, maybe, or people who are drawing in 20,000 dollars a night in revenue. And it’s just taking into consideration that, in a small town like West Plains, even though we could seat 70 in Roper’s, most likely, we’ll have 30 or 40 on a good night—on the best nights. We’ve had nights when we had five to 10 people, or sometimes none, for concerts.'”
5) The IRS sucks
Musicians are some of the most hardworking people I know. Practicing is life consuming and you have to achieve perfection to get work. I don’t want the state to be another factor getting in their way. Instruments are already ungodly expensive, not counting repairs, tune ups or accessories, so why would we tax them to death? Save the music, damn it!
If you sell something for more than you paid for it, you have a capital gain, on which the IRS requires us to pay tax. I bought my oboe for $7,900. Let’s say it’s a few years in the future and I decide to sell it, but find that the model is in greater demand now than it was when I purchased it. I sell the oboe for $9000. Profit of $1,100, right? Nope! I don’t just have taxes to pay on my $1,100 capital gain, I have to add the total depreciated amount—$7,900.
In the past, the IRS has taken the position that old string instruments are antiques that appreciate in value and therefore are not depreciable. There have been several court cases involving this issue. The most recent rulings have maintained that antique instruments used in a trade or business are subject to the same wear and tear as any other property used in a trade or business, and therefore are deductible. Based on these court cases it appears, at least for the present, that all musical instruments, including old string instruments, are deductible as long as they are actually used in a trade or business (i.e., having the instrument in a display case or hanging on a wall would not satisfy this requirement). However, the IRS disagrees with these decisions and may still disallow the deduction outside of the judicial circuits where the cases were decided.
6) Many instruments contain ivory
A new regulation from the Obama administration is concerning some musicians, as it could end careers and reduce the quality of performances around the world.
In an effort to crack down on illegal animal trafficking, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued an order earlier this year that bans the trade of materials containing African elephant ivory. Musicians say the order could keep them from traveling overseas, because they often perform with expensive antique instruments that contain ivory.
However, the administration is looking to find a solution in exempting instruments from this regulation.
7) Private charity rules
I live in Milwaukee and hear the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra often, for a delectable student rate of $12 a show. Recently, there was an emergency campaign launched to raise 5 million dollars to keep the orchestra running.
Area foundations committed $1,192,000, with donations pledged from The Bradley Foundation, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Helen Bader Foundation and the United Performing Arts Fund, according to the MSO.
Look at what can be done without the use of coercion! Voluntary giving is so much more powerful than people realize. These donations weren’t forced, and no tax collector came by to make sure you paid your dues. When you have true charity, done by those who actually care about the cause, they make sure to use the money effectively. Voluntary action, man. It works.