A lot of what we do is paid for by entities other
than the band. For instance, when we went to the Grammies (thanks
to Dan being nominated for best songwriter) we stayed at a rather
plush Los Angeles hotel. Each of us has a single room with fluffy
towels and a vase with a rose. "A French Touch" read the
card next to the vase. When Semisonic foots the bills, we double
up at Super 8 and fight for control of the television remote.
It's this distinction between the corporate budget
and one's own wallet that allows the fancy hotels to exist in the
first place. The 'expense account economy' as I call it makes it
possible for the luxury industry to stay in business. How else could
hotels get away with charging $2 for each toll-free call made from
your room and $70/day in parking fees? Last week in Boston, I awoke
in the middle of the night with low blood sugar (I'm a type one
diabetic). I went over to the mini-bar in my room. I opened it and
saw a pack of M&Ms. I also saw the price list for the mini-bar
items. M&Ms were listed at $3.20.
$3.20!! I actually sat there in my glucose deprived
state wondering if staving off insulin shock was worth paying a
400% markup on candy. To make matters worse, this particular hotel
referred to its mini-bar as an "honor bar" meaning "You're
on your honor to pay for what you've consumed" meaning "People
who care about obscenely marked up prices on candy have no honor."
Why not call it a "Chump Bar" instead?
I caved in and ate the M&Ms. When I woke up the next morning,
I went down to the gift shop where the same item was $1.75 (a mere
200% markup). I bought a pack and snuck it into the honor bar and
exited the hotel with an extra $1.45 jangling dishonorably in my
Sometimes we are taken to dinner at fancy restaurants
where flocks of door openers, coat checkers, hosts and hostesses,
waiters, and wine stewards attend to everything but your breathing.
This is where the honchos of the music business feel most at home.
We were taken to such a place last week. I went to the bathroom
where a bathroom attendant manned his post. I thought to myself
"How powerful do you have to be to not care if someone stands
there as you use the toilet? How rich do you have to be to actually
want that guy standing there to turn on the faucet when you finish?"
Attendant: How was your crap sir?
Rich Guy: Capital!
Attendant: So I gathered. Soap?
Rich Guy: You mean wash up?
Attendant: It is advisable.
Rich Guy: Will you make it all sudsy?
Attendant: Rubber ducky sir?
I looked around the restaurant realizing that every
table was covered by some expense account on some huge corporation's
budget. That means it's all tax deductible. That means the taxpayers
are paying for the attendants who literally wash the hands of the
As I always say capitalism may not be a perfect
system, or the best system we've got, or even a good system, but
it is a system.