I find it desperately hard, asking people for money – even though I’m asking in exchange for goods and services – even though I know that the product is worth it – even though (without claiming to be a woman) I think that some of the fantastic argument here could apply.
Hard not only because of cultural conditioning around money, but hard specifically because it feels like admitting that I’ve failed in not being able to do it without the help. And pretending that that’s not the case can feel a great deal easier, because there are things I’d rather forget, about why this industry is so difficult, not just in general, but in particular.
I don’t know any artist from a marginalised group who isn’t wary of being accused of playing the ‘…..’ card – but I have yet to meet an artist from a marginalised group who hasn’t been affected by the bigotry of the mainstream in some way. It’s certainly been the case for me – and, yet, I don’t like to talk about it. I don’t want to be accused of being weak, I don’t want to be accused of using it as an excuse, I don’t want people to think that I lack the talent to make it and, therefore, seek to blame a struggle to be heard on others. I know that I benefit because I’m white, because I’m thin, because my disabilities aren’t visible. But, to be honest – my alternative work in the last three years in more mainstream spaces has been hard.
It’s the managers telling you they’d love to work with you – you’re so talented – but you’re too different to sell. One manager in particular was very keen – until I refused to go down the ‘sell sob story with before and after pictures to tabloid’ route. It’s being asked to pretend that I’m a girl. It’s the constant misgendering. It’s the deliberate cruelty of certain MCs with something to prove. It’s knowing that there are performance environments it’s not fair to ask my fans to come into, because they’ll be misgendered, insulted, ill-treated. It’s being ignored as a musician, because being trans negates everything else about me, in the eyes of people who still see being trans as some kind of unfortunate freakshow.
It’s one of the reasons why I organise so many events on my own, with artists I respect, enjoy, admire. It’s the reason why performing in more alternative spaces is so much more comfortable. But, and this is the point that feels almost impossible to say – it does mean that I make a lot less money from my alternative music than some people think I do. Most gigs I play are for travel expenses only, if that. I try to play as many free and low cost gigs as possible, because god knows our community faces terrible problems with both employment and benefits. I organise fundraisers. I give away music.
I’m not trying to say that I don’t love doing that – I’m not trying to guilt-trip anyone, or claim that my life is a terrible hardship – it’s not, and I love my career, my audience, with a deep passion. But, I guess, what I am trying to say is – I can’t do this on my own. And I would really, really appreciate your help.
I know that money is tight for any awful lot of people – it’s tight for me, and I’m luckier than most when it comes to economic security. But if you have valued the work I’ve done for free over the past couple of years – if you read this blog, or my other articles, or come to Transpose, or download my songs – I would be so grateful if you could lend me a hand – in return for more music, or a gig of your own, or some beautiful artwork.
I’m prouder of Aether than almost anything else I’ve ever done – I just hope that you’ll share it with me, and let me keep making music for the people I care about (which, to be fair, is most people).
I’m now I’m going to disappear, and feel embarrassed somewhere else. Thank you.