Contemplating a generation that will never pay for music...
Thea Gilmore with special guest Matt Owens (Noah & The Whale) plays Worthing’s St Paul’s on Tuesday, May 28 – on the back of Thea’s Small World Turning, her first new CD since 2017’s The Counterweight, her third successive top-40 album.
The album release was as exciting as ever – the latest step for a performer who has been in the business since the age of 16: “My plan was always to be in it for the long term and not buy into the boom or bust. But there has always been a certain amount of sacrifice. You know you are never going to be Bruce Springsteen or Ed Sheeran, though I am sure Bruce Springsteen has a lovely time, but it must be so hard maintaining that kind of persona. I think being in the public eye must be so exhausting, I really do. You look at people who are constantly in that kind of spotlight, and I just don’t know how they do it.”
But that doesn’t make it any easier to continue in the business at the mid-scale level that Thea has achieved. Having two children, though, is certainly a blessing.
“They are 12 and seven, and like any working person, you just have to juggle and sometimes you feel guilty. But I am lucky that I am able to take the kids on the road when they are not at school, and it means they are able to meet some interesting people and have some interesting ex-periences. And having children makes you more assertive, I think. Having two small people that you are custodian of makes you realise what is important and gives you a different perspective.”
Helpful in navigating changing times: “I never had a grand plan. I don’t really plan anything. There was no plan behind it all when I started. I didn’t know what I intended it all to be. I just wanted to make music for as long as I could.
“There have been peaks and troughs, and the music business is a more difficult place to be than it was back in 2006 or whenever. I think the streaming culture while great in some respects has been detrimental in how the consumer views the value and worth of music. They don’t really consider that it is worth anything. That doesn’t go for every consumer, of course. There are people of a certain age that remember when you had to part with money for music and still under-stand that it is important that a musician makes money from the music they make. But we are breeding a whole generation of people that will never have to pay for music. My children will never ever have to pay for music, and I don’t think you can stop that.
“I think musicians are just going to have to develop and find new ways of making a living out of music, and there are various models out there. Some of them are brilliant, but they do rely on people valuing music and the arts. You see the erosion of the arts in schools and children not having to pay for music… it isn’t good.”
Inevitably it puts the emphasis on live performance: “But you get into that position where artists at my level, the mid range, are all struggling to make a living. There is so much choice and so many performers.”
Fortunately, the pull remains strong: “If you are a musician or an artist, you do it because you do it. You will do it any way. You just have to find a way of making it work.”
In the meantime, Thea is delighted with the new album: “I am trepidatious about it. It is my first one on my own label since 1998. It is going to be interesting and a bit scary when absolutely everything comes back to you, every decision is yours. But I am very proud of the album. I love the album. It is very much an album of our time that speaks about some of the stuff we have just been talking about…”