My Photo

the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

Follow 1michaelgray1 on Twitter

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Just came back from investigating the possibility of doing my debut gig here in France: a performance of a new version of Bob Dylan & the History of Rock'n'Roll at a local venue - a rather fine small cinema, with a good big screen for showing the bits of rare footage.

However, as anyone familiar with French bureaucracy will be unsurprised to learn, it's set up to be impossible - or at least, impossible to make a profit. First, ten percent of the ticket price has to go to the French version of PRS. No matter that 80 percent of the event is me talking and it only uses five or six song performances - no matter that this is in marked contrast to a DJ who plays dozens of records per evening and contributes very little else - the deal is the same. (And if you're a musician performing your own songs, PRS takes that 10 percent and eventually gives you back... half of it! Most of the rest goes towards social security - presumably to help all the musicians who can't afford to do gigs.)

The hire charge itself is pitched so high that you'd have to sell an awful lot of seats before you could hope to break even, and this hire charge only covers the cinema and one technician; it doesn't include any front-of-house staff or publicity or even the supply of the tickets.

Naturally, there are rules about creating your own tickets. First, you have to be a registered tradesperson to be legally entitled to sell tickets for anything at all - which is OK in this case: Sarah and I are both registered as writers with the French authorities (though not allowed to join France's writers' union because we didn't earn enough in royalties from books in the previous tax year) - but then you are only allowed to print individually numbered tickets, each of which must consist of three parts (ticket, stub and "Control", the last of which must in each case be retained for a year).

Nor can we sell beer or wine at the gig to augment our revenues, because only the mayor of the commune has the necessary kind of licence to be able to sell alcohol on the premises, even though the commune only owns the building and the cinema within it can only be hired from a different outfit altogether.

By the time we'd complied with all this, and spent a couple of weeks distributing flyers, writing press releases and so on, it's more or less certain I'd fail to make any money.

At last I see the sense behind the gaffe in George W. Bush's memorable remark that "the trouble with the French is, they have no word for entrepreneur."


Blogger joe butler said...

hi michael glad to see you back blogging. From this side of La Manche france seems like a socialist paradise, groaning as we we are after 30 years of unfettered entrepreneurship,we now enjoy dole queues, rapatious bankers, mendacious politicians, futile wars, an unelected head of state, football run by
Did someone say Sarkosi? is a conservative?
Perhaps I'll run along to Michael Moores CAPITALISM A lOVE STORY and refresh my agitprop tendencies.
You should go to Italy where true bureaucracy can be bribed.
failing all else try a good old manifestation a la '68

10:23 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Hi Joe
Glad to see you back commenting, come to that! I was about to write a post asking if anybody was still there...

Bureaucracy can be bribed here too, of course, but I can't afford to.

Meanwhile we do keep up with news from the UK, pretty much on a daily basis - putting up with the ever-worse BBC TV news, though at least we've liberated ourselves from Radio 4's Today Programme. We also subscribe to the London Review of Books, Private Eye and The Week. And every weekday early morning we listen to BBC Radio 6 Music on our invaluable digital radio, thus hearing a good deal of new music. We have a soft spot for Chris "Ingenue" Hawkins and rather admire Shaun W. Keaveny, whose show comes on after Hawkins'. Shaun is a very bright person, uses a good deal of shrewd discretion, is often very funny and sounds as if he's a decent human being.

Radio 6 also runs Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour, of course.

12:48 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

sorry if my initial post was jaundiced, november makes me grumpy

I'll check out radio 6 --thanks

i need to hear something new thats worth listening to.

11:50 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Sod's law in operation this morning, Joe. It's just like when you recommend a TV comedy series to friends - or worse, watch it with them after recommending it - and it's the worst episode ever . . . In this case I recommended Radio 6 in general but Shaun W. Keaveny in particular, and his show this morning was the limpest, least amusing I've ever heard him and contained almost no new music at all (and heaps of bad old ones). It's usually so much better than that (he says limply).

10:44 am  
Anonymous Maria said...

I know what you mean about the bureaucracy here (we've been living here 8 years and it doenst get any better). if you ever do do the French gig I will definitely be along to hear what you have to say!

5:36 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home