Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Tax Audit Blues

This morning I spent about three hours trying to explain the world of indie rock to a couple of accountants from the IRS that have great interest in the minute details of my financial dealings spanning a number of years.  This is not an easy task.  The world of indie rock has almost no written records, heavy expenses and little financial reward.  Meanwhile the accountants sitting across from me are wired to look at things very logically.  It seemed like none of what I was saying made any sense to them.  I completely understand why they couldn’t make heads or tails on why anyone in their right mind would play music in the manner in which we do.  They both appear to be very nice people just doing their jobs, and unfortunately for them they wandered into an abyss of illogic.  They had to be thinking "This guy is full of shit.  Why would anyone do what he does and not make some kind of  money on it."

I will admit, it sounds absurd when some of the situations we place ourselves in are exposed to the harsh light of day.  For example, I remember with vivid clarity playing a show in France in the basement of a club on a Tuesday night.  The room was about the size of an American living room.  There must have been seven (7) people there.  We were playing through some Mickey Mouse amps as it was impossible to carry our gear down the winding staircase.  It was like being booked to play a gig in a U-boat.  We were about three songs into a set that was being received indifferently by these French people when Bobby Lanphier leans in to my ear and says “If you were to tell someone that four middle aged American men jumped on an airplane to fly across the ocean to play a set of songs in a storage room to seven Frenchmen, no one would ever believe you.”  And he was right.

People in the IRS don’t want to hear explanations of $100 in a PayPal account that sound like this.  “Well, the guys in the last band needed some more cash because their van broke down and the only way they could get the part they needed was to get to a wrecking yard.  To be able to get to the wrecking yard they would have to leave tonight so they could be outside my buddy’s place in Marshallville when they opened because they are driving to a blues festival in Memphis tomorrow.  So they didn’t plan on the hotel expense, so I spun them an additional $100 out of the cash from the gig, but Craig felt bad about that so he got this guy from the bar…  Manny I think?... He got him to give him $100 so I told him that I’d send that guy a couple T-shirts so just send it to me on PayPal.  It wound up being a fiasco because I sent the shirts to the wrong address and this bartender chick named Jasmine gave them to her boyfriend who’s in this other rockabilly band that Manny won’t book and then Manny was pissed because he thought I gave shirts to Jasmine instead of him when he’d spun the other band the $100.  You follow?”

It’s a lot to take in.  These IRS agents are normal people with reasonable lives that probably follow patterns and set behaviors.  It really is a lot to ask for them to understand that an expense line of 168 euros for drum equipment is legit.  “Wait.  I thought you rented equipment there.”  Yes, but see what happened was that Leo had to bring his own snare, bass drum pedal, sticks and cymbals.  The problem was that he forgot to pack about half of that.  Now I know that seems impossible, but you need to understand he was smoking a heroic amount of pot back then, so his memory was dodgy at best.  He was sleeping in the Brussels Airport and I hear him say “uh oh”, and that’s never a good idea when you hear that in general, much less the Brussels Airport.  I was really pissed.  I mean, it’s literally the only thing he needed to bring, you know?  He didn’t have any fucking money, so we are driving to Holland trying to find an open music store on a weekend to buy this shit.  You ever been to Holland on a weekend?  All that shit is closed, except for coffee shops, and those aren't coffee shops!  So anyway we find this joint open in some weird little town.  I was the only one with any euros on me so I went out of pocket.  That’s why you see that money going from the band back to me, although it was mixed in with the fantasy football money I had to send to T-bone so it’s sort of confusing.
Now that story makes perfect sense to me, but as I am spelling it out it dawns on me that we all sound like lunatics that need to be incarcerated, or at the very least placed on some sort of watch list.  What are completely normal situations to me sound insane when someone out of the scene hears it.  I feel like a total asshole as we are talking this stuff through.  “So the first time you flew to Spain for a tour you had received one letter and one fax from a man you didn’t know.  You then hopped on a plane at your own expense to stay at his friend’s house in Madrid where an alleged tour was to be based according to this other man you never met named Pepe?”  That’s right.  What?  Is that not how these things are handled? 
Most people are under the impression that with certain small notoriety comes great wealth.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  For example, people are very impressed that our music is on itunes and Spotify.  We have never received any money from either of these two billion dollar companies.  YouTube, with valuations in the billions, is a complete illusion as they don’t actually create anything.  You can listen to almost all of the Cowslingers and Daredevils music there.  Once again, no cash to the band.  If I didn’t know any better I would think enormous checks would be arriving to compensate everyone that made these YouTube clowns all their fortunes, but they decided to keep that money for themselves.  There is no band that is making any money in this wonderful digital age.  I think guys that have cool haircuts and shill products on Instagram for teenage girls do.  Probably guys that get hit in the nuts on video and sell ads do too.  Not bands.  Unless we start hitting Leo in the nuts and have a “Mountain Dew” logo in the background.

Ultimately we do this to play songs we write and see them connect with people.  It’s not complicated.  It’s fun to play rock and roll.  It is a part of who I am, and maybe when I am justifying it in economic terms it sounds ridiculous.  Unless you ever wrote a stupid song on your couch and had someone you never met before sing it back with you while you played it live, it’s hard to understand.  I sell advertising because I have to.  I play music because it’s who I am.  I just hope the tax man understands.    


At June 2, 2017 at 10:24:00 AM EDT , Blogger Ken in sunny Florida said...

"You just can't loooooooose/Tax Audit Bluuuuuuuuues"


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