The other day I was driving, listening to a college radio station, when a Siouxsie and The Banshees song came on. I was immediately taken back to the early aughts, when I would dance in a sports bar that had been “transformed” into a dark lair, where candles would flicker and clove smoke would burn my eyes. Other like-minded individuals — and some slightly miffed locals who insisted that there was an Islanders game on — would stand around, wearing appropriately black and ornate garb, flashing their most apathetic, black-lined stare at anyone who dared to meet their gaze. Yes, in my former days I was a secretary, but I was also a goth.
Listening to Cities In Dust in my VW, it dawned on me in that moment of nostalgia that those days are as dead as the vampires those kids idolized. I will never dance to German industrial techno again. Alas, my days are too full of words and work, my nights that were once seduced by self-professed “creatures of the night” are now influenced more by Anderson Cooper and being sleepy. I might not be a corporate drone, but I’m certainly a working girl. So, I asked myself, how does a committed goth make a living?
Other than the bartenders at Chunky’s (actual name of aforementioned sports bar) the DJs were the only other people who seemed to walk away from the evening with more than a hangover and black smudges around their genitals. One of the spiky-haired, many-ringed individuals who manned the ones-and-twos was a fairly celebrated mix master in Manhattan, so the night itself had some semblance of legitimacy, and the guy drove a pretty nice car, with vanity plates that read KILLJOY.
Though it varies by city and state, typical DJ packages for big events run about $600, while amateurs can rake in around $150-$300 a night at a party or club, not bad for under four hours of work. But, really, it depends on several factors: how long the set is, if there’s more than one DJ, and if mp3 programs like Serato are being used (carrying crates sucks, just ask car-less Simon, who spun in Portland for years, lugging his crates upon crates from cabs upon cabs into clubs the couldn’t have cared less.) Other things, like whether or not the DJ will leave drunk or with the girl in the leather bustier, may or may not play a role in the earnings.
Outside of Chunky’s, and the BDSM clubs that I, er, wandered into, I’ve only seen authentic goths in one other location: the mall. Though it may be devoid of sarcophagi, and have more soft pretzels than Sisters of Mercy paraphernalia, shopping malls seem to be the place to be for the avid Anne Rice fanatic. Usually I’ve spotted them in the food court, but that’s probably just because they were on their lunch break. Yes, after all, the mall is where Hot Topic hocks its really awkward, post-90s wares.
For the sake of reference, general retail earnings tally up to be about 30K a year, but often it’s less, since many workers only take in minimum wage plus commissions. There are a lot of factors, but, obviously, being a clerk at the mall isn’t the quickest way to buy a yacht. Boutique owners, too, are subject to a lot of flux when it comes to what they bring home, but it can average out to be about 33K yearly. But what about the store that is the self-professed professionals selling “everything about the music,” can you make enough money to get your daily ration of blood (read: a medium Wendy’s Frosty)?
If you work for Hot Topic, you get more than an education in folding band tee-shirts and dusting off leopard print “personal massagers.” There are discounts for workers that extend beyond the Hot Topic store and into fellow alternaclothes vendors Torrid and Shockhound.com. Hot Topic also offers low-cost healthcare, even for part-time employees, and, believe it or not, there are stock options, a company-matching 401K, band grants, tuition scholarships, reimbursement for concert tickets, and monthly bonus opportunities. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a company based on “damning the man” and inviting in anarchy offers a structured, well-balanced company management plan. Sort of ironic, but somewhat inspiring. Not to mention that CNN Money voted Hot Topic one of the 100 Best Companies To Work For in 2006. Take that, Mom and Dad.
Where else could a goth work? I wondered. A cemetery seemed fitting, albeit there’s a lot of manual labor and paperwork involved in that kind of job. Becoming a mortician might work out well, but those folks are usually bonafide creepy, not MTV creepy. What skills do goths have, what do they enjoy? And then it dawned on me that makeup artistry might be right up a their dark alley.
Freelance makeup artists can potentially earn several hundred dollars a day, while the yearly salary for those patron saints of clown paint can vary from 15K to 45K, depending on the amount of experience that they have and if they are doing theatrical work. Of course, gaining experience requires building a portfolio and applying makeup in some semblance of a professional setting, which would be good if there are no openings at Hot Topic, as there are usually makeup counters in the mall. Just don’t spray me with any perfume samples, Cobweb, unless you want me going Bruce Lee on your Cure-loving ass.
Perhaps this post is moot, ’cause I haven’t seen any tried-and-true goths lately. I’m not talking about teenagers with fishnets, bullet belts, and My Chemical Romance tee-shirts, but the thirty-something, washed-out, beaten-looking darkwave fans that I used to cut in line for the bathroom and saddle up next to at the bar. Maybe it’s ’cause, like me, they were broken by the crushing reality that there’s nothing more somber than poverty. Or maybe they each found their calling and opened up shops selling occult accouterments or limited-edition Skinny Puppy 7″s, and are reaping the benefits of a financially secure future, spending their spare change on personalized coffins and cemetery-patterned iPod skins. I’m not sure, but I couldn’t find any salary information available on looking scary.
Drop me a line, you children of the night: AinsleyDrew at the gmail one. Thank you to everyone who donates! I dedicate my next Ian Curtis impression to you.
Hire us, and have your company rise from the dead.