In two days, the rest of the world will be celebrating the summer solstice. It is also the occasion for World Music Day, or Fete de la Musique. We just finished celebrating it here in Manila; it has become an annual tradition around these parts, and last Saturday saw yet another round of people hanging around the main stage or venue-hopping.
In the run-up to Fete, someone posted something pretty striking on my Facebook news feed. He was lamenting how people were willing to spend for four- to five-digit ticket prices for foreign gigs while the same people balk at increased cover charges for local band gigs. His sentiments were “liked” by a gig organizer I know who raised her event’s cover charges to 200 PHP for all her gigs this year so far in order to pay the bands more. If applied to Fete, a definitely free event, the question is whether the same people who are willing to watch those free gigs would be willing to support the music financially if they had to.
I was initially not going to cover Fete. Let me confess that. A week or two before, I tweeted that I found little meaning in an event where people who could afford to support the music would not need to. This was prompted, above all else, by the event’s location. We were in Makati’s tourist district. Charging even USD 2.50 to defray the cost of paying bands beyond that offered by sponsors would have been helpful in some venues and could easily be afforded by both locals and tourists. (Now that is a sea change from my unease during Fete 2011, when we were angered at being charged cover in at least two venues–but even then, I was unsure whether the cover charges would go toward the bands.) Even the main stage would have benefited from a little “I Support the Music” box so that people could put in any amount they wished, much like the theater group Sipat Lawin Ensemble’s “blank ticket” experiment for their events, including the first Battalia Royale stagings in February 2012. Sponsors could still give musicians generous rewards for their effort, like more free beer per capita than what they would get at a regular gig. But it would be less of an opportunity cost for some acts (especially those not backed by a label or not as prominent or well-off) to play at a free event if there was some financial remuneration, however small.
I will be revisiting the question of cover charges and financing the arts in another post–something I still have to finalize–but another concern that came up as I was leaving the main stage was the themes Fete has adopted over the last two years, clearly a concession to le cosmopolitisme. Last year, it was a homage to the Beatles’ first no. 1 hit, and this year, it was a tribute to Michael Jackson’s number one album Thriller. Then I just realized, during my research on a story I just finished writing on Fete 2013, that Jack Lang, founder of Fete, was (ironically) famous for his critique of Americanization. While music is universal and must be celebrated in whatever genre, form, or context, it is precisely the context of our music that must be given some prominence, and perhaps Lang was on to something in his critique of creeping Americanization in France.
An imaginative event organizer might draw connections between the revolutionary heritage of French literature and language in our heroes, most notably Andres Bonifacio, whose sesquicentennial we celebrate this year, and perhaps draw attention to how this can be, and is being celebrated musically. For example, Rock Ed is planning a Bonifacio tribute album on the lines of the Rock Rizal project of two years ago; a particular selection of main stage acts would have included the artists who are working on this project. But I suspect that one way of keeping the event attractive to a wider audience is to keep those kinds of things away from the picture.
Then again, 2013 is also the centennial of composer Lucio San Pedro’s birth. Here’s something one main stage act could have sang, just to keep things interesting.
Again, music in context should honor the context. That is all.