The following is not only an observational reality but also a personal rant about something that happened to me at a local hip hop show. No need to name specific names. I imagine that those who are involved in Nashville’s local hip hop scene will know who and what I’m talking about. I don’t want to inadvertently promote the event to those who don’t know.
“Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive.
-Paul 1 Corinthians 10:23
This is a small quote from the Bible. Paul is talking to his people quoting a saying of the time. Basically, he’s saying that just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean that you SHOULD do it; but then if you still DO it, then there is a way you OUGHT TO DO it. With that said, I was going to use this verse and the following blog post as a weapon against those that have disrespected me. That would be wrong and counterproductive to what the whole point of the verse is about. However, I do feel the need to vent my frustrations and express myself in a way that helps me vent and deal with my anger over the whole ordeal. I do feel that would be beneficial and constructive.
Here’s how it went down. The setting is me showing up to this allegedly “free” hip hop event in Nashville.
Doorman: Hey man, we’re asking for a donation to support this event. Do you have a donation?
Me: I don’t have a donation. I’m sorry.
Doorman: What?! How you gonna walk out the house with no money?
Me: If I had the money, I’d donate. As it is, I’ve been unemployed for the past three weeks. I’m just here to check out the free show.
Doorman: I’ve been unemployed for the past two years. This is my full time job. And I still have money in my pocket. How you gonna be out the house, especially as a black man, with no money?
Me: OK, do you want me to leave? How much does it cost to get in?
Doorman: (pauses) Man, go on up and enjoy the show. But next time, bring some mother-f**kin money.
I stood there for a moment, trying to determine if he had some kind of problem with me and what I should do. I decided to just go on upstairs and enjoy the show. But I couldn’t enjoy it. As I sat there, I got angrier and angrier. I had been personally disrespected. I had come up with all sorts of ignorant and colorful things to say on my way back out the door. Luckily, a friend just so happened to be walking with me out the door. I didn’t want to cause a scene in front of a friend. Really, I didn’t want to cause a scene in public. That’s not really my style. Plus, I didn’t want to show this guy the same disrespect he had shown me.
I even later tried to see it from his perspective. I had been to this event many times before. I’d never paid a donation. I’d met some new friends there & seen some good performances. I’d made repeated plans to be there. So occasionally, I had seen value in this event. However, the perceived value and quality of this event is subjective and most importantly, it is irrelevant. Yet, I do want to speak out. I found out later that this doorman actually runs and is a leader and organizer of this hip hop event. I think that if this person continues to run this event (or at the very least, if he continues to work the door), this event will have problems and may even fail.
Let’s break it down. If you want money, charge admission. Period. Charge $1. Charge $0.50. I don’t care. But don’t call it free and then get mad when people don’t pay. It’s a struggle. You want people to be there, but you know you have to charge when you’re renting a public space. I know it’s hard. I used to throw the Blogworthy events at Cafe Coco. Sometimes I charged an admission fee. Sometimes, it was free. Sometimes I even asked for a donation on the free events. But if they didn’t have the money when I asked for a donation; that was the end of that. You don’t cuss out the person for not being able to pay when it’s a free show! But forget not being able to pay. What if I am able to pay but choose not to? That’s my business. Payment is not required. That’s the definition of free. What’s the definition of donation? The act or instance of giving a free gift. A gift. You can get mad if someone doesn’t give you a gift; but ultimately, you have no right to. I give out a free EP. I also have a pay what you can EP. I don’t get mad when someone downloads one of them for free. Why? Because it’s free! The pay what you can option; sure I wish people would pay for it, but I don’t send people hate mail for downloading it for free. Because I made a decision on the price.
“Especially as a black man.” What is this supposed to mean? My race is in question? Am I not black enough to come to your show? This is such an ignorant statement that I don’t really need to waste any more time or mental energy on it.
I’m no longer unemployed; I just got a job again. When this doorman also re-enters the workforce, he may re-learn how to treat people from whom he wishes to receive money. A good tip is: Be courteous and respectful. That’s a good way to build any relationship. It’s also a good way to run a business. Make no mistake, a business is a relationship or a series of relationships. Especially the music business and the business of throwing shows. I know this because I am an artist in town, going through some of the same issues.
When I’m at a show and I’m not performing, I’m a fan. When I’m a fan at your event, I have a relationship with the event promoter. That relationship is built on trust. I’m trusting you with a valuable asset (time) and I’m hoping to have a good time while there. I also am trusting that I will feel good for being there. When I left this event, I did not feel good. I was made to feel miserable. Miserable for not having money. Miserable for not being black enough for his standards. Miserable for choosing to go to that event when I could have went somewhere else or at least stayed home.
You might think to yourself, well it isn’t bad business because in this situation I wasn’t a client. Meaning, I didn’t pay money. I submit though that my presence at a show as a fan is more valuable than a couple of dollars. If you’re throwing shows, you have to do your own math on how much you think your show is worth and how much it’s worth to you to have fans there (and then charge admission accordingly). Consider this though, a fan is valuable to the artists performing. It sucks to play to an empty room. Performing to a lot of people is better than the alternative. It keeps the artists excited and happy. Excited artists equals better show. A fan is valuable for promotion. The question “what are you doing this weekend” or “What’s goin on tonight?” can easily be answered by saying “I’m going to this show!” Or maybe a Twitter or Facebook update of “I’m at XYZ show and this spoken word artist was on point!” Or maybe a video of a performance gets posted to the net. It’s easier now than ever.
As it stands now though, not only will I not ever go back to see this event but also I will make sure this person never sees any of my money. I mean no disrespect to the event itself, as I mentioned. However, I can’t support it under the current circumstances (i.e. leadership, doorman, attitude). I would submit that it serves the hip hop community better to treat people with more respect & to take responsibility for business decisions. I hope that this will begin to happen at this local hip hop event. Will someone let me know if that happens?