Gear Junkies: The Downward Spiral of Endorsement Deals

Like virtually all realms of social life, the music business is a miserable place with a few lucky souls on top raking in gajillions of dollars and the 'eternally damned remainder' fighting over the scraps. Typically, those that 'make it' are either (a) temporary corporate shills that look good and move around well on stage until the next big thing comes along, or, (b) mega groups that become multinational corporate entities in their own right, that team up with other multinationals to cram products down our throats whether we want it or not (Yeah, I'm looking' at you, U2).

The people left scrambling for the crumbs that 'trickle down' find themselves giving lessons, playing in less-than-glamours venues, and trying to attract the attention of media, fans, and, of course, entities that provide the means of production, i.e., vying for an endorsement deal.

Now, the musicians life is hazardous and there are seemingly endless sad cases of life gone sideways: wearing tight leather pants in your 60s, playing songs about dragons and rainbows in your 50s (while wearing tight leather pants), the overdoses, the addictions that make all your teeth fall out, the suicides, the bankruptcies, the overdoses....uh..... There are a lot of things worse than a bad endorsement deal, for sure, but where suicides and addictions happen quickly or unfold in private, nothing is more public and potentially humiliating (setting aside dragon castle rainbow songs) than losing your endorsement deal and having to beg downstream from a company with a lot less prestige.

One day, in your late 20s or early 30s you're on the cover of Guitar Player magazine sporting a new guitar from MegaCorp and 20 years later you've been dumped by Mega Corp, Macro Corp, Meso Corp, and Mini Corp and now you're dragging around your new signature guitar, the GulagGreed SUX made by a Slumsonesian subsidiary of Obnoxicorp Ltd. You spend your days giving lessons to kids who don't even know who you were back in the 80s, they don't want to learn that ridiculous lick that made you famous back in the day, and you spend your nights streaming your own back catalog on Spotify in the mistaken belief that doing so will earn you a few extra bucks.

When you finally arrive on YouTube shilling this abomination while blinking into the camera like a traumatized prisoner of war it's time to call it a day and move on to your next gig in life. As Hegel said, there are things worse than death -- such as leather pants and shilling poor quality wares that nobody needs. Why is that you ask? Clinging desperately to any or every endorsement deal that comes along signifies to the world that you will cling in fear to this thing called "musician" to the detriment of being a person; and worse, that you are a willing slave to the commodity form and corporate masters -- that your being is coterminous with sales and transactions. You are not a free being in any way, shape, or form, and have lost what it means to be a human being rather than being reduced to a pathetic tool for anything that presents itself to you. When you arrive at that moment in your musical life it is time to admit that facing the unknown outside of the music business (where you function as a gear junkie) is better than being a dreg and spectacle within the music industry.