The Economy and the Music Industry

ALLSTON, Mass.—One thing is clear about the state of the economy in the United States: business is down and people are spending less and saving more. In the music industry, though, the change may not be as obvious or predictable as expected.

Morgan Nagler, lead singer for Whispertown2000, an indie-rock band out of Los Angeles, spoke about the current economic climate on Tuesday before playing at the Great Scott in Allston.

As [the economy] gets worse the arts and entertainment become more important to people,” Nagler said. “People are struggling and it’s important to connect to people in the world and share your experience right now.”

This is all part of what Nagler called the “economic backlash” in which people come together to unite in their troubles. However, her suggestions do not mean that this is the time to drop out of high school and start a band. Tod Adrian, guitarist, bassist and drummer of Whispertown2000, says that they expect the same profits from this tour as tours in the past.

“There are definitely more people coming to shows, and that’s partly due to the fact that we’re still a new band and we’re still getting more fans.”

To Adrian and Nagler, having more people at their shows across the country does not add up to more income. When asked about financing the tour, Adrian says this tour has been what they expected.

“I want to say normal just because more people know who we are than on our last tour. I don’t know if more people are buying shirts and stuff. Gas is $2 cheaper than last time. Mostly just our personal finances are different, which is what everyone is thinking about.”

Things look different for a band that isn’t just getting their feet wet and has been firmly planted in the music industry for some time. Maria Taylor, who headlined the show at the Great Scott on Tuesday, said that this tour has been noticeably different.

“I’ll make less money on this tour, which is kind of weird because you want to make progress,” the 32-year-old singer-songwriter said.

Taylor, who got her start in the Omaha music scene as a part of the duo Azure Ray, is used to a certain amount of fan support that may not be as strong as it used to be. “Even for shows people want to see, they’re like, ‘oh, I’ll see her next time because I have no money.’”

Despite less fan support, Taylor is still in it for the long haul. “My whole thing with this industry is that I love music and I want to be a part of it; but the industry grosses me out. I have to play the game a little bit even though I don’t want to.”

Maria Taylor and Whispertown2000 are saving money on this tour by being resourceful. The two bands share members as well as a tour van that holds all 9 people. Less band members means their paychecks get split fewer ways. It is by no means the famed life of a rock star that the public admires, but it isn’t a poor man’s life either.

“We have gotten to a point where you can’t sleep on couches every night. This is our life and we’re adults,” insists Adrian.

Though this tour may not have accrued the same number of fans Maria Taylor is used to on her cross-country musical voyages, the concert at the Great Scott may have marked the backlash that Nagler foresees. The venue filled almost to capacity with an enthusiastic and engaging crowd by the time Taylor took the stage. Nearly every voice in the small venue—lit only by the neon beer signs that hang on the brick walls—was singing along to every song, including those off of Taylor’s latest album, Ladyluck, which came out only two weeks ago. Just before midnight, Taylor stopped in the middle of her last song, in order to lead the audience in a round of “Happy Birthday” for Casey Wisenbaker, the drummer for her and Whispertown2000.

Even if such a backlash doesn’t occur, it seems to be of little importance to Maria Taylor and her friends in Whispertown2000. “Even if no one came we would be having a great time,” Taylor said. “That’s how you know it’s going to be a great tour, because we just have fun with each other.”