Monday, February 11, 2008
There's no business like "toi-business"
Akerke and her friend Sabir came to my place for lunch yesterday, and since Sabir works for the Department of Cultural Affairs here in Almaty (and is himself a painter), we had quite an interesting lunch conversation. One of the topics that came up was how musicians make money around here -- it's not like in the States, where you can get signed onto a big phat label and they just throw money at you, promote you, etc. Here, the artist bears most (if not all) of the costs involved in recording an album, recording a music video, broadcasting the video (Akerke told me that this can run about $200 a pop -- that's per broadcast of the clip), and putting on concerts. The only way many musicians can even afford to do these basic things is to find a "sponsor" - often a welathy friend or relative, and in some cases corporations. For that reason, a lot of the locally-made clips you see on Almaty's music TV programs are just young rich kids with minimal talent but lots of Mom and Dad's cash to splurge on making themselves into pop stars. Needless to say, this is not exactly a stimulating environment for the *real* musicians to work in.
As a result of these tough conditions, many musicians make the large part of their performance-related income by getting hired to play at restaurants, private parties, and weddings. In Kazakh, a wedding is called a "toi" - this can also mean any sort of celebration or party. So instead of show business, Sabir told me, they have "toi-business." :) I'm really interested in looking more into this scene, if you can call it a scene since it's so spread out and individually-based. I know that Akerke has done many of these types of gigs, some of them extremely lucrative if the party-giver is particularly well off. I'm hoping that I'll be able to tag along if and when she does future performances...