In his lengthy profile of Grizzly Bear for New York magazine, writer Nitsuh Abebe goes into great detail about the band’s past and the sometimes-contentious sessions for Shields–your typical topics for rock writing. But he gets the band to open up about some other issues as well, specifically the financial predicament most music acts face these days.
Describing Grizzly Bear as more of a “risky small business” than a creative force, Abebe details the band members’ dissatisfaction with some aspects of their lifestyle. Yes, Grizzly Bear have Billboard-charting albums, do sold-out tours, and sell their music for commericial use, but, as singer Ed Droste says, “People probably have an inflated idea of what we make. Bands appear so much bigger than they really are now, because no one’s buying records. But they’ll go to giant shows… Obviously we’re surviving. Some of us have health insurance, some of us don’t, we basically all live in the same places, no one’s renting private jets. Come to your own conclusions.”
At the core of the band’s argument is the age-old tug-of-war between art and commerce. Should an artist be paid for their work, and how much? Elsewhere, Droste expresses yearning for a middle-class life, but he seems resigned that it’s not feasible if you’re in a band that is essentially middle-class: big, but not big enough to supersede the various expenses, like agents, lawyers, tour managers, merch employees, publishers, manager, etc.
Abebe writes that “rock bands are generally obligated to express profound gratitude for any kind of success” and he concedes that Grizzly Bear do just that. But the article raises the kinds of pop music economic issues that keep bubbling to the surface every week, and it’s interesting to hear it straight from the Bear’s mouth. Read it here.