Note from the Editor
LOVE AND DEBT
Originally published in Arthur No. 33 (Jan 2013)
“Follow your bliss”… “Do what you love, the money will follow…” —probably the two worst pieces of counsel that can be given to a young person seeking career advice—unless the counsel-giver is a credit card company, in which case they stand to profit handsomely from young people going into debt while following their dream, expecting the money to flow right in.
Jack Rose, a working musician who died suddenly three years ago this month at the unfair age of 38, knew that this kind of life advice was utter horseshit. Nothing magically comes to you because you do what you love. It can be hard for solo practitioners to stand up for themselves, to merge commerciality and hustling with artistic creation and expression. But there’s no getting around it. Jack made sure he always got paid, and he was justifiably proud of it. Jack knew that you gotta get compensated for your work, or have another source of income that funds your labor of love, or else you go into debt.
I got Arthur into a lot of debt. Giving away the magazine for free from 2002-2008 while relying on revenue for the enterprise from advertisers didn’t work. There were never enough advertisers, and all too few of them paid on time. Arthur was always short on cash. Writers, photographers and artists labored for free. By the end of 2008, when Arthur ceased print publication, I’d worked my way into six-figure nightmare debt trying to keep Arthur going, becoming a constant walking bummer to close friends and family. When Wall Street brought the global economy to a halt in September 2008, it was impossible for Arthur to go on. We weren’t alone, of course—countless other folks saw their worlds collapse as the economy contracted that winter.
But Jack Rose’s world kept getting brighter. Not only had he found a rich artistic path to follow, one that so many of us were eager to listen to him tread, he’d figured out a way to pay the toll for the road. That said, Jack wasn’t ever just about himself. Quite the opposite: Jack’s tenacity at getting audience members to pay a pitiable cover charge for performing musicians at Philadelphia house parties was legendary. I found out later that this was not an activity limited to Philly.
Jack looked out for Arthur, too. In early 2009, not long after we put the magazine on hiatus, sweet Michael “Mountainhood” Hilde organized Arthurdesh, an impromptu benefit concert for the magazine in Brooklyn, produced by the wonderful Todd P. Jack was one of the first performers to donate his services. Jack not only played onstage that night—a set that, typically for Jack, shushed and awed and moved a crowd waiting for louder fare—but he also helped hustle stuff at the Arthur merch table, standing there next to fellow performer Peter Stampfel, perhaps the most effortlessly hip/soulful odd couple I’ve ever been lucky enough to gaze upon.
Four years later, we’re back in action. I like to think that Jack would be happy to see Arthur alive again, and happier that we are charging five dollars for it, so that contributors can get paid, and nobody goes into debt doing it. Lesson learned, Jack.
Thank you for supporting our efforts by paying for the rag you’re holding. It’s good to be alive again, doing something that we love.
You might even call it a collective dream.
Joshua Tree, California