|Margo Price sound checks before her Troubadour show|
Margo Price and the Price Tags @ The Troubadour
I like to consider this blog a single narrative. 2006-2008: Early beginnings, local music scene, show promotion, cat dirt records. 2009-2015: Zoo Music, Dirty Beaches, Crocodiles, Dum Dum Girls, national indie music scene 2016: Margo Price, national music scene. Margo Price is about a year into the three year virtuous circle of a new artist with a hit record. Her current album sales are in excess of 30 thousand. The recent appearance on the Anthony Bourdain show on CNN led to a 200 percent increase in album sales, following similar bounces from appearances on Saturday Night Live and CBS This Morning. Since the release of her record, Margo Price has signed a publishing admin deal, she has touring package offers on the table, and she's already booked significant festival gigs for 2017. Her reception certainly exceeds anything I've witnessed on the Indie side in the period between 2006 and 2015.
I remember, for example, reviewing the sales figures from the Dirty Beaches double LP, an album which received a Best New Music from Pitchfork and benefited from perfect PR and physical distribution across three continents and thinking, "Damn, this is it." As in, "this record did amazing and it's still barely worth while from a financial perspective." It wasn't break even but it was small enough to make me wonder- this is in 2014- whether the whole idea of making things work at an indie level is an inherently unsustainable project.
It's like, when you start a creative project the question is, "Let's say it succeeds beyond your wildest dream...how big is that?" With Dirty Beaches and the other projects I've witnessed first hand, the answer was, "Not big enough." That is no reflection on the artistic merit of the specific projects, just a statement that financially speaking, getting involved isn't "worth it." One of the thing I picked up over the last couple years is that there are certain parts of the music business where success really does mean success. Pop music of course. Hip Hop. And Country.
And it's gratifying to see it all play out in real time, for such a deserving artist. I spent last night watching the show with Margo's mom in the balcony. Midwest Farmers Daughter is as much about her as it is Margo, and I can testify that everything on that album- every single line- is true. It's interesting to see the impact of sudden success on people. One thing I've learned is that solves zero problems. Like, if one day, you are broke and addicted to drugs, and then the next day you win 10 million dollars, it doesn't wipe out all the experiences that led you to where you were before the 10 million dollars.
With Margo Price, she really struggled in a way that I know is very familiar to anyone who has participated in the local music scene in any number of cities. And her mom struggled too, which is something we talked about as we sat there, watching William Tyler, the opening act, play an excellent set of solo, acoustic guitar, heavily weighted towards songs from his new record, Modern Country. My point is that success doesn't wipe away those years of struggle. And in my experience- this has nothing to do with Margo- people are just as likely to look back nostalgically at the pre-success "good ole days" as they are to revel in the moment.
I can honestly say though, that I'm glad I wasn't there for the struggle. Having witnessed the struggle in San Diego first hand during my years of involvement in the local music scene, I don't see it as something to be treasured. Much better to jump on the train the moment before it leaves the station. Being there in the beginning only means you are far more likely to be left behind at the end.