I mean, it’s nice to pay artists for the work they do, and it’s often actively shitty not to pay artists for the work they do. “Hey you — you’re being kind of an asshole” is probably not an unreasonable thing to say to someone who seems to take a kind of perverse pride not paying for music (which is not the case in the original article, from what I can tell; being plugged in to your college radio station also doesn’t really make you an “average” music listener/downloader). But that makes the thesis of the piece “a lot of people are trying to self-righteously justify being thoughtless jerks, which is really irritating.” True! Defensive ad hoc justification is usually the first defense of a thoughtless person, though, and that’s as true of the Camper Van Beethoven dude as it is for anyone else. But would an increase of thoughtfulness fundamentally change anything?
It’s not clear to me that “direct purchasing of music as a means of supporting an artist’s living wage” has ever in the history of art been the most efficient or effective way of actually supporting “artist” as a full-time job. That isn’t to say it isn’t possible, but most of the filmmakers I know teach or do commercial work. The fine artists I know teach or do commercial work. The actors I know teach or do service work while they hold out the hopes for commercial work, let alone “artistic expression.” The musicians I know do all kinds of things — insurance sales, writing, teaching, commercial soundtracking. I think we should change the stupid maxim: “Those who can, teach. Those who can’t, teach.”
Wallace Stevens, my favorite poet, went to law school and spent his life in Hartford as vice president of an insurance company. As a guy who squirms whenever friends identify themselves as “writers,” I have little patience for the pieties of creation, nor do I think being an artist entitles one to special forbearance or indeed sympathy of any kind. While the life of a touring band isn’t the same as an execuctive’s, I don’t understand how holding a second job impinges on creativity. As David points out, plenty of writers hold them. I teach a couple of classes a semester and have a full time job at a local public university; the thought of hours to myself devoted to writing is so weird to me (e.g. Philip Roth, for example, spending days in a cabin in upstate New York without human contact churning out a short novel every fifteen months).