There's No More Room For You - An Open Letter to Jello Biafra

Dear Jello,

I'm going to begin this letter by saying that I grew up a fan of THE DEAD KENNEDYS, have enjoyed your collaborations over the years, love a majority of the bands on your label, and have even, on occasion enjoyed your Spoken Word even when it clears a room (#1).  I am grateful for the work you have done to actually support independent bands (having signed many of my friends bands, and bands I'm a fan of to your label), your work for the West Memphis Three, your stance, against Trump, etc... I have also over the years enjoyed, in small doses, conversations with you about music, politics, pop culture, whatever, and don't dislike you as a person at all, but its time that someone calls you out on your bullshit...

I grew up in SF (born in 1979), third generation in fact, so knowing of you was a part of life growing up here in The City, with you being a local celebrity, via your band, your run for mayor (#2), etc..

As a kid and teenager figuring out who I was and where I fit in, I would often see you at shows at The Troc, Berkeley Square, Gilman, etc.. and feel "cool" and comfortable in my own skin, seeing you at the shows I was going to, thinking that wow, JELLO likes the same music I do, cool... Later on, as I got turned onto the weird side of the music/performance scene in the Bay Area (melvins, bungle, neurosis, f-space, srl, crash worship, incredibly strange wrestling) I again, felt that feeling of comfort knowing that YOU were into the same weird stuff I was into and it made it easier to be who I was and like what I liked...

 

You were at all the shows, and always chatted up the bands, got a record or two, maybe a shirt, and were super available to talk to and approach, and I admired that about you, as other famous local musicians I admired weren't as down to earth and as easy to talk to. It wasn't until later in my life after I started working in the nightlife/music/service industry that I realized what was actually happening and who you actually were...

I would see you at shows I worked, and nine times out of ten, you would be "on the list" even if you weren't (#3). Thus depriving local and touring bands of the money your cover would have contributed to their small take of the door at the end of the night. I'm sure you remember being a starving musician in the era of PAY TO PLAY before the DIY Movement you helped create (#4), so you know the difference every dollar makes at the door... (#5)

This extends even more to record/merch sales, as this is how a band truly survives on the road, and again, how what appeared to be you supporting the scene was really you ripping it off... All these years of seeing you chatting up bands at the merch table and leaving with stacks of records I has assumed that you were paying for them, and helping support the bands, but then I began to see you and your ways. You would use your "social cred" and "status" to haggle for free records and shirts from bands, taking even more money out of their pockets. You OWN A FUCKING RECORD LABEL, you know the cost of producing vinyl and the dynamics of how much a band gets per record sold (who owns the royalties, having to pay back advances, etc...), and often having to buy copies from the label to sell on tour. So your "free" record not only didn't put money into the bands pocket, but it literally took money out of it.

I know you have this whole Anti-Capitalist vibe, but you are also the owner of multiple businesses, make appearances (most likely paid or at least compensated) in tons of music documentaries, and have had multiple successful bands that have toured the world without having to pay out of pocket for expenses hoping to make enough on tour to get from one city to the next and put food in your stomach, so how about if you want to actually SUPPORT YOUR SCENE and LIVE MUSIC, you start paying the fucking cover from now on and pay bands for their music like you want people to do with yours. I'm sure you wouldn't like it if you found out everyone got in free to one of your shows or got a bunch of free AT Vinyl every time they went to a show, would you?

I get it, you're JELLO BIAFRA of the DEAD KENNEDYS, so how about making that mean something respectable again, as opposed to an annoyance? How about setting an example, and not only paying cover, throw in a couple extra bucks to help the bands out, buy them a drink, or a sandwich, throw some duckets in the tip/gas fund basket, and truly support your scene!

 

Michael Madfes
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Michael Madfes
:: subliminalsf ::
visual and auditory mind control
https://www.subliminalsf.com
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FOOTNOTES

#1 - The first West Memphis Three Benefit at the Pound SF, you performed a Spoken Word set between bands, and you literally drove half the crowd away and they didn't come back for the remaining bands...

#2 - For those unaware;
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jello_Biafra#Mayoral_campaign

#3 - Listening to you haggle over a $5 Cover for a local show, because you were supposed to be on the list made you look like such a douche...

#4 - You certainly talk about your early years enough in almost every music documentary these days

#5 - I could write a whole other piece on the concept of the "guest list" and comps, and will admit using my connections to get into shows for free, but I never do it in a situation where I can totally afford the cover, and usually only ask if its either a huge show at a larger corporate venue where the bands have a guarantee so it doesn't affect their income, or if the show is already sold out and I want to see my friends play and then I overtip at the bar and BUY merch.


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