The way the Internet produces news these days I think it’s safe to say you know this face by now. His name is Martin Shkreli and he is one of the most hated members of society this week. The story of Shkreli is as follows: after a not-so-clean split (if you call being sued for $65 million by your company ‘not-so-clean’) between him and his former company, Retrophin, Shkreli took on another venture in the exact same field. His new company, Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the rights to a drug called Daraprim used primarily to combat effects of the AIDS virus. Just like he did with the kidney medication at Retrophin, Shkreli jacked up the prices – in this case a pill that cost $13.50 was increased to $750 (you read that right).
There’s been a lot of Twitter shaming since then and in response he has gone so far to say he will lower the price, though no date or expected price was mentioned.
The story of the ‘AIDS drug price gouger’ deemed by Vice has taken national media by storm with Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders each condemning the actions of Big Pharma.
Well, there’s another facet that many don’t know about and it all stemmed from the photo above with Shkreli’s trademark evil grin, a dog (probably his dinner), and a t-shirt with the band Brand New printed on it. When this photo surfaced, tons of emo kids recognized that crooked grin. After a little investigating it was discovered that Shkreli was a silent partner funding former Thursday frontman Geoff Rickly’s independent punk label, Collect Records.
Rickly’s response at first was that of surprise, as his relationship with the man in question sounded like it was founded on respect, passion and vision. In an interview with Vice that you can read here, you can tell Rickly is torn between his love of music and art, and the direction Shkreli is taking his business in – which is certainly tied to the record label.
How do you see Collect and Martin’s involvement going forward?
My head is still spinning, and though I want to believe that there is some reason that he would do this that is some remotely positive way, the only thing I can see is that it is totally and completely heartbreaking.
I can’t see my future at all in the label. I have to see what the bands want first, and see if there is any meaning or any mission following all of this. More than anything, I want the bands to see that I hold art as the guiding force in my life. Ultimately I see this going in the same way it always does, where all the artists get blamed for everything and capitalism is never held accountable. I really think that if Collect is going to be scrutinized as being capitalism, but that is how music survives. I’m not making excuses for what has happened, but there is no corner of the music industry that doesn’t live and breathe from subsidies from business. It’s reductive and hypocritical to hold us and only us accountable though, we are all at fault in some greater way.
But shortly after that interview, Rickly severed ties with Shkreli, which undoubtedly puts the status of his indie label in jeopardy.
But hey, the world isn’t all bad. Many acts from Collect Records, such as Wax Idols, have spoken outwardly against their former silent funder. Though Brand New was relatively silent this week, last night the band put up a Facebook post saying that for the next 48 hours they would be selling the very shirt Shkreli was wearing, known as “Electricity is Dangerous” at a 20% discount. On top of that, all the proceeds will go to the Whitman-Walker AIDS charity . To me it’s a nice ‘Fuck you’ to Shkreli, who isn’t mentioned anywhere in the post.