Cat Power Gets Sick, Atlantic Wire Declares Indie Music Dead
from the misdiagnosis dept
A story from Atlantic Wire has been making the rounds recently, with a headline forcefully declaring that There's No Money in Indie Music. Why? Because one particular indie sensation is broke:
You know times are tough for indie musicians when even Chan Marshall—who released a Top 10 Billboard album and played sold-out concerts this year—is bankrupt. The singer known as Cat Power has announced a likely cancellation of her upcoming European tour because of financial and health problems.
Now, there are a lot of things I could say about this. I could point out that the financial troubles of one musician, no matter how popular she is, are not a barometer for the entire industry. I could point out that "bankruptcy" says nothing about revenue or earning potential, and is almost always caused by bad money management—or that plenty of highly successful people have gone bankrupt one or more times throughout their careers. But those points would just lend credence to an idea that is fanciful speculation at best, and total bunk at worst. Why? Because the source of this sad news about Cat Power's bankruptcy is nothing more than a single message posted to Instagram (which appears to have been since removed from the photo it was attached to, but Pitchfork has the full text):
I MAY HAVE TO CANCEL MY EUROPEAN TOUR DUE TO BANKRUPTCY & MY HEALTH STRUGGLE WITH ANGIOEDEMA. I HAVE NOT THROWN IN ANY TOWEL, I AM TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT BEST I CAN DO. HEART BROKEN. WORKED SO HARD. GOT SICK DAY AFTER "SUN" CAME OUT & BEEN STRUGGLING TO KEEP ALL POINTS OF ME IN EQUILIBRIUM : MIND, SPIRIT, BODY HEALTHY CENTERED & GROUNDED. I AM DOING THE BEST I CAN. I FUCKING LOVE THIS PLANET. I REFUSE TO GIVE UP. THOUGH I MAY NEED TO RESTRATAGIZE FOR MY SECURITY & HEALTH.
Marshall is obviously struggling with her health problems, and her fans reacted by offering lots of support—but what does this message really tell us about her finances? She used the word "bankruptcy" once, off-hand, and it doesn't even look like she meant it literally. Even if she did, it takes a huge leap to get from there to "there's no money in indie music"—statistically about as sensible as concluding that indie music causes angioedema. But, it's almost certain now that she didn't mean literal bankruptcy, just unforeseen expenses. A more recent Instagram post announced:
EUROPEAN TOUR IS ON. WITHOUT STAGE PRESENTATION. HARD MONEY WASTED.
Then, a few days later, another post announced that the European tour would be postponed until early next year—primarily for health reasons, and to get some more time to potentially find a way to bring the full production to Europe.
The stage presentation in question is a huge gorilla-themed light show that, one imagines, would be quite expensive to ship overseas. Whether the "money wasted" refers to the sunk costs on the display that now may be staying behind, or to her new medical expenses, is not clear, and neither her nor her label offered any additional information. But what is clear is that this is a pretty unsensational story that says nothing about the indie music world as a whole: international tours are big, complicated operations, and sometimes money runs low and plans have to change; our bodily health is a ticking time-bomb that can derail anyone's career in any walk of life. It's sad to see the naysayers brigade exploiting her personal struggle to spread doom and gloom about the modern music industry and the huge variety of opportunities that exist for the independent artist.