April 6, 2010

The Problems of Boyfriend-in-Band


One of the first things that drew me and Keene together was our shared love of music, him as a musician and me as a fanatic show-goer. Almost immediately upon meeting, he sent me rough MP3s of his band and it's a good thing he did. I mean, really, how far could our relationship even go if I didn't like his music? As is evident by my Buzz articles, I'm not one to hide my feelings for the sake of a positive review. Luckily, though, I loved his band's music. Whew!

(Nevertheless, when he later sent songs from previous bands, I listened, listened again, then moved the files to my desktop recycling bin with an "Um, no.")

Because of my excitement at watching the band unfolding, I tried not to be annoyed at the occasional 4-days-a-week practice or the many "Sorry I can't hang out, I have to practice" moments. I even started babysitting his daughter once a week (and later, twice a week) to allow him to practice. Yeah, Girlfriend of the Year, right here.

(Although I would have to promptly give back that award if anyone knew the arguments that resulted...I'm not really good at that whole selflessness thing.)

Anyhow, the time finally came for the first show. Yay! All the frustration of being a band girlfriend paid off in one night. Well, mostly...but who's keeping track?

(And a quick note about band girlfriends: have you ever noticed that band girlfriends always stand at the front of the stage, holding a purse? Nobody else brings a purse to a show--or they bring it, but leave it in the car or at the booth. But the girlfriends bring purses. And they stand at the front of the crowd, sometimes watching the show, sometimes turned to the side, talking to friends. In honor of this tradition, I broke out my dusty, barely-used purse and stuffed it with whatever I could think of--hat, camera, book, apple, markers, a cat--because an empty purse just doesn't convey the right message.)

The show was great, the guys all played very well. The crowd loved them. I was oh-so-proud of my gorgeous, rocking boyfriend. After their set, we hung around and watched the next band, who was also great. I thought, "What a great show tonight! I can't wait to write about it!"

Screeeeeeeeeech. Whoa, what? "No, Kelli, you can't write about it." But why not? Personal relationship, conflict of interest, huh? "If you write an article, you must disclose your relationship." "The band doesn't want people to think they're only getting press because of who they know. People will think they're riding the coattails of their connections." "And Keene really should stop shouting to anyone who will listen that his girlfriend writes for a music magazine." (To his credit, he's just as supportive of my writing as I am of his music.)

What is this, West Side Story? The musician and the music writer, two people from opposite sides of the media tracks?

So, confused and a bit hurt (at sudden cold shoulder and at my ethics being questioned), I settled on the decision to still write about the show--omitting Keene's band altogether. I would just write about the second and third bands, pretend I arrived late as an uninterested third party or something.

But then the next situation popped up: their Facebook page. While working on it, I went over my list of friends, wondering who would like to see it. I thought of the other music writers I knew. We often suggest bands back and forth via Facebook. Just as I would recommend any awesome band, I decided to recommend Keene's band to them. But then the words "conflict of interest" popped into my head.

Was this unethical? Was I supposed to just pretend this band doesn't exist at all? Was I not allowed to tell people about them because I'm dating the bassist? Or did I have to preface any communication with, "Hey, check out this great band that my boyfriend belongs to!" If that doesn't scream groupie, I don't know what does. Isn't my vow to stay objective, regardless of personal connections, good enough?

So, Keene and I talked a lot about this issue. And we decided the only thing to do is to break up.

No, not really.

But we realized we shared the same view: who cares if we're together as long as we stay honest and objective, which is in our nature anyways? He tells me when an article I wrote is musically inaccurate or when he disagrees with something. I told him when a particular track sounded like they used a drum machine. Honesty. Every relationship should have it.

If I am excited about this new band and want to share it, great! If they put out their first CD, however, and it ends up serving as my coffee coaster at work, I will say so. Because along with the bonuses of knowing people within the industry, a band must also accept the potential drawbacks (such as possible bad reviews or criticisms).

So, in conclusion, Keene and I decided to take our own approach to the whole matter which is to remain supportive and honest with each other, naysayers be damned. Because you know what? Even if I never uttered a word about the band, never wrote about them, never recommended them to anyone else, never allowed Keene to accompany me to staff parties, never helped them with their Facebook page...the minute a resentful person discovers that connection, they will still attribute any of the band's success to "who they know." It's the nature of jealousy: rather than focusing on how hard the band has worked or how skilled they are naturally, it must be something (or somebody) else that gave them the boost they needed, right?

Moreover, the music industry is built on connections. Anyone who says otherwise just hasn't found their connection yet.

If a band is good and they network, they will meet people. These people will spread the word and encourage their friends to go to the shows. And maybe one of these friends turn out to be a music writer or producer. Introductions are made and a connection is created.

Nevertheless, a connection doesn't make or break a band. If a band sucks, no amount of publicity will ever change that.

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