An Auckland-based promoter friend called me just before Christmas and we were talking about ticket sales for concerts.
At the time I was helping to plan a commando raid tour with The Lizard Kings down the West Coast. Two shows: one in Westport and one in Greymouth playing rooms of about 300 people.
My Jaffa friend pulled the carpet from under me by reminding me that in just one week Mumford and Sons, Radiohead and Coldplay had all played in Auckland and all three shows had sold out the Vector Arena. All three shows in one week. Coldplay sold out 9000 tickets in a matter of hours.
It is what he said next that rocked me. "The old brands are selling well".
I nearly fell off my hand-carved Nelson rocker. I thought I had misheard him and said, "You mean the old bands are selling well?"
But he was steadfast; no it was the old brands that are doing the business.
I shelved the conversation for a few weeks feeling provincial and suddenly fairly modest about the aim of attracting maybe a couple of hundred punters to any performance I might be involved in either as a musician or a promoter.
And then (shock horror) last week I walked into the local supermarket and saw Linda McCartney vegetarian Italian sausages for sale.
In a week when Kimbra won a Grammy for her genuine brilliance as a musician I felt buoyed and despondent all at once.
The fact is the mainstream music industry is bigger than it ever was. A world of Grammys and internet memes. (Check out the Harlem Shake which went viral on YouTube this week).
Music plays second fiddle in the Kardashian Age; the brand has trumped the music. So where do we now find random acts of authentic creativity in a landslide of mass-mediated music and culture?
Well luckily in Nelson and other provinces musicians still engage with creativity at community level just for the sake of the music.
I saw it last week when I happened to be passing the 1903 stage at lunchtime and saw the local veteran choir Off Yer Rockers performing. What a blast to see them sing their own take on old rock songs.
Obviously inspired by the movie Young At Heart these old campaigners reminded me what homegrown music making is all about.
I saw it this week too watching Aly Cook writing songs on my veranda and watching the Dovedale Choir and the Zenda Dancers performing at Dovedale Country Affair.
You see the joy culture brings at a personal level when you watch buskers playing on Trafalgar St or Kokopelli the Clown lurching into a festival crowd playing the saxophone on his unicycle.
I have to admit The Linda McCartney sausages were pretty tasty. Small and perfectly formed. I guess it is all a matter of taste.
It is not the brand, not Grammys, not mega sales and huge events that spin my wheels these days. Rather it is small, local, meaningful, random acts of music.
- More from Liam Ryan at m2m.org.nz/articles