So Chicago’s got a new mayor — something that doesn’t exactly have a huge effect on my day to day, but I kept an eye on @MayorEmanuel (NSFW for mountains of profanity) like several thousand other people. I noted it with mild interest when I saw that Jeff Tweedy was doing a benefit for Rahm Emanuel, but didn’t think much about it. As we saw last month, my interest in Jeff Tweedy’s politics tends to lie in other directions.
And then on Tuesday, Jim DeRogatis linked to this post in the Beachwood Reporter, in which Steve Rhodes calls out Jeff Tweedy for his support of Emanuel in light of Emanuel’s ties to Live Nation/Ticketmaster. DeRogatis has written about this himself; his post is interesting reading about an issue that’s cause for concern for anyone with an interest in Chicago music. Back to Jeff Tweedy, though: is Rhodes’s virulence justified? Has Tweedy in fact broken our hearts?
I’ve gone through the comments on DeRogatis’s Tweedy-related post, and I’ve spent a few days thinking about Rhodes’s post, and there’s something I haven’t seen anyone bring up yet. In the last couple of years, Wilco has made efforts designed to get away from the Live Nation/Ticketmaster juggernaut. For ticket presales, Wilco has largely moved to independent companies such as Front Gate Tickets and Brown Paper Tickets, and away from Ticketmaster. They also moved their merch store to Kung Fu Nation around May 2009, and away from Musictoday, which was bought by Live Nation in 2006.
So if that’s been the band’s direction in recent years, why did Tweedy put his support behind Rahm Emanuel now? There are several interesting possibilities. Tweedy could have been doing a favor for his friend Rahm Emanuel (though Rhodes’s post suggests otherwise). Billy Bragg’s opinions, as presented in Greg Kot’s 2004 book about Wilco, could be accurate. Tweedy could want to reverse the path the band has been on for the last few years — which is intriguing, considering Wilco’s new label — for any one of several reasons, up to and including Rhodes’s suggestion that Jeff Tweedy’s personal politics may lean anti-union. Tweedy may never have signed on with the idea of moving away from Live Nation in the first place. Tweedy may find himself in need of a favor in a few years. Or Tweedy just may not have done his homework about Rahm Emanuel’s ties to Live Nation/Ticketmaster.
This is one of those things where we’re going to have to see how it plays out before we can conclude anything at all — but Rhodes and DeRogatis have raised a few more concerns in my mind than I had before. Wilco’s next record is going to be their first ever on an independent label. And if there’s one part of Steve Rhodes’s post that I agree with one hundred percent, it’s this:
Is it fair to judge Tweedy for his political choices? As long as he’s using his influence to put money behind those choices, absolutely.
Where Tweedy chooses — and where anybody chooses, because this isn’t just limited to Jeff Tweedy — to put his influence matters. If you’re going to support something, know what you’re supporting, especially when it impacts the livelihood of thousands of people. The connections between Emanuel and the companies that Wilco has tried to move away from can’t really be denied, and as someone who’s a fan of a lot of Chicago artists, I really hope Chicago music won’t suffer as a result of these connections — and should that come to pass, I really, really hope Jeff Tweedy isn’t going to play a part in making that happen. I certainly don’t think Tweedy’s benefit show decided the election, but I also don’t think it hurt Emanuel’s campaign, either.
We’ll see where we are later with Jeff Tweedy, his political connections, Wilco’s new record and label, etc., but I’m a little less optimistic about it all than I was at the beginning of the week. Further updates as events warrant.