The New Mastersounds’ Eddie Roberts Talks Standing Rock & Social Responsibility Of A Musician

first_imgLast week, The New Mastersounds donated half of their recent show proceeds to the Stand With Standing Rock cause. The donation was the direct result of encountering the tragic situation firsthand, witnessing law enforcement training with riot gear in the parking lot of their Minnesota hotel. Not wanting to stand idly by, guitarist Eddie Roberts goes in depth about the decision, and the fine line between musician and social commentator in this new editorial.“Shut up and play!” Does today’s musician have a role in social and political commentary?In an age where everyone with a smart phone is sharing and commenting on their political viewpoints, is it right that a musician with thousands of followers does the same thing, or is that an abuse of influence?‘Politics v Humanitarian’I am very careful about what I post on social media, and I make a clear distinction between my personal, artist, and band pages. I am very careful not to force my political or religious viewpoints onto the band’s social media. For example, I would share a Bernie Sanders story on my personal page, but not The New Mastersounds page. It’s not my place to speak on behalf of the whole band on a political matter.The simple reason is, not all the members of the band share my views. However, when the band unanimously agrees on a point, we consider speaking out.Last week, we made a stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and here’s why:  Firstly, we all agree what is going on at Standing Rock is a humanitarian issue, not a political one. We value freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest, and we do not condone the use of excessive violence against anyone who exercises those rights.Secondly, again, this situation is not political. This is corporatism, where oil investment is being valued over human life, where profit is being valued over people. The fact that Trump has a huge stake in the pipeline, and that Obama has done little to speak out about it, shows the situation is not politically motivated. Both sides are in it for the money.A third point is that we, as a band, are free to do whatever we want with our money. In the same way the ticket-buying public doesn’t get to choose what food we buy, we don’t need the consent of the ticket-buying public to donate our money from our shows. That being said, of the thousands of views, likes, shares and positive comments on our Standing Rock post, I only saw two negative comments. One said, “Thanks for the empty gesture,” and the other literally said, “Shut up and just play music. I give U money to hear music, not politics.” I could counter that with, “Shut up and listen.” What gives this person more right to comment than I do? The last time I checked, paying us to play music doesn’t confer the right to censor our opinions. I’m not a performing monkey.“I don’t care about your politics”When it comes to my personal page, I share and say whatever I please, because it is that, a personal page, the same as anyone else’s. If someone were to comment questioning my right to share my personal views because I am “just a musician”, then I would politely point out that they are on the wrong page, and should be following my artist page instead of my personal one. Obviously, not all my friends share the exact same views as me, but we all have the right to discuss our opinions with each other, as friends.Social responsibilityAs musicians, we have dedicated ourselves to a way of life. We have a vocation, and we can’t really separate ourselves, the music we make, or our opinions and viewpoints. It’s all one thing. And, as musicians, do we not have a social responsibility anyway? There is a long tradition of music’s involvement in politics and social issues: anti-war commentary, Live Aid-style fundraising for famines caused by war and foreign policy, black civil rights, women’s rights, etc. Does anyone look back on Jimi Hendrix and say, “How dare he comment on the Vietnam War?” No. He’s remembered as an important voice for peace in that time. Was that the case at the time? Or is it just looking back, when we see the right and wrong side of history? I think we’d all agree the majority of musicians take a liberal, left-wing standpoint. Is this because we’re in the business of spreading Love and Joy, not Hate and Fear?One last question I’d like to raise is: In this current climate, are less people likely to attend a show if it’s billed as a fundraiser? My personal experience with The Payback* suggests this is so, that it’s a hindrance for a show to be advertised as a benefit. For some reason, there is lower attendance at the shows I’ve organized as fundraisers than there is for my regular shows, even when the benefit shows are piled high with coveted guests and receive much more press coverage.Why is this? Have benefit shows become a victim of cynicism?  “Where does the money really go? How much of it actually gets donated? Is this just a publicity stunt?” If it was a show you’d normally go to see, does it matter where the profit goes? Are you actively against the benefiting principal, or are you just sick of being told what you should care about? Should it be up to the musicians to divert the profit they make, either to their own pockets or to a non-profit they choose? Do you ask your bank where it invests your money? Most often, benefits are not even politically motivated, and they benefit humanitarian, non-partisan organizations. Homelessness isn’t politics. Standing Rock isn’t politics. They are by products of corporate-driven policies.Helping our fellow man is humanitarian, and personally, I won’t just shut up and play!*For more information about The Payback, Eddie’s Non-profit organization that raises money through concerts for urban homeless families with children and young adults, please head here.For a donation to Standing Rock, head here.Catch Eddie Roberts and The New Mastersounds crew this Friday, December 2nd at Terminal 5 alongside the funk army Turkuaz! Details here.[Photo Credit: Tony Dellacioppa]last_img