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Art Comes to Your Living Room?

Off the Cuff with performance artist Bobby Drake

Aug. 16, 2016
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Bobby Drake is an engaging 33-year-old Milwaukee poet, composer and monologist dedicated to his family, his art and the development of a successful business model for independent artists. His one-hour, one-man show Never Say Die debuts free of charge Aug. 20-21 at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts to launch his Living Room Tour of Milwaukee. We talked about art and entrepreneurship.


You’re limiting each audience to 40 at Walker’s Point?

The purpose of the show on Aug. 20 and 21 is to show you what you’d be inviting into your space when you book me for a Living Room Tour. I come to your house and perform for you and a group of your friends and I accept donations for the performance and sell T-shirts and albums based on the show. I perform my heart out in an intimate setting for a tiny group. Each show is a little different because of that. Each home is a different backdrop. You have this moment with people. It’s way more organic, way more real. If there’s an awkward moment, it’s awkward; a loving moment is loving.


What’s the show?

It’s poetry and monologues, set to music, about a guy whose love for his art keeps him from making the right decisions about his relationship and the downward spiral that takes.



The character is pieces of me. He’s in a place where life doesn’t make sense. Art is all he’s ever felt he was good at. He loves the art he’s trying to do but his love for the woman in his life keeps getting in the way. It has also to do with maturity and masculinity although I didn’t write it with that intent. As you get older you’re told to get a job, have a wife and have kids, a two-and-a-half-car garage and on and on. In 2016 it’s hyper internet for our generation and we get all these images of what a man is: a he-man and being alpha all the time. I feel that pressure from the fact that I’m a six-foot-three, 260-pound black guy. If I’m jovial, that’s not expected.


What’s the Kingmaker program?

I went to a bank for a business loan for a new album and got laughed out. I had to find out what I didn’t know. One banker gave me a straight shot. He said, you need a 720 or better credit score and a proven track record of managing mid- to upper-level figures and a guarantor. I said, that’s easy, I can do that. I can get the business to that point. I can show you on paper that I’ve managed it the right way.


I look at art the way you look at insurance. Everybody needs car insurance. I started to see music that way. There’s nothing we do that doesn’t have a soundtrack. It’s like blood in our veins. The idea that music is a more risky investment than insurance doesn’t make a lick of sense. I got the idea to develop a program for artists, designers, DJs, singers and creative professionals to bring them to a place where they could manage their own art, have the books in shape, follow the right models, make the right decisions and find investors so they can stop looking for handouts. That is the Kingmaker program. It’s a 12-hour course. I finished a session in July. I’ll run another one in October. It’s about artists being entrepreneurs.


Without selling out?

You learn to push what you do. I put poems to music. There are 20 people I can say that to and those 20 people will buy it and tell their friends and come to shows and that’s a good living. The hardest realization of my 30s is that I’m not one in a million. What do you do if you’re not a rock star? Give up the art? Say it’s OK not to get paid for it? To me it’s insane that as artists we’ve accepted that we should be paid less or shouldn’t make money from our work. I’ll keep making the art I make. I’ll write the poem and that group will hate it but this group loves it so I’ll push it to this group and work on a plan and a revenue model for this group. At that point, it’s business, right?


Never Say Die begins on Aug. 20-21 with a 5 p.m. reception. The free performance starts at 6:15. Walker’s Point Center for the Arts is at 839 S. Fifth St. To reserve a seat, visit bobbydrakeinc.com.


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