OK, a little backstory – the marvel that is Billy Bragg wrote a piece for the New York Times last week about how social networks are ripping off artists, and we deserve a piece of the cash when they sell for hundreds of millions.
Billy’s logic is fine, it’s just a little out of date, and as the post I’m about to disagree with vehemently says, if that’s the problem, don’t put your music on there. It’s a trade off, and our best way to deal with it is to get involved with the unions and collection agencies that are supposed to be fighting our corner but won’t be able to accurately unless we tell them what our corner is.
Anyway, in response to Billy’s piece, Michael Arrington of Tech Crunch wrote a response entitled These Crazy Musicians Think They Should Still Get Paid For Recorded Music.
I’m not a big fan of his abrasive writing style, based on this post, but here’s the quote with which I take most umbrage –
“Recorded music is nothing but marketing material to drive awareness of an artist.”
See, I can understand that from the point of view of an artist whose whole Raison d’être is playing live. Great, use MP3s to give away. But to suggest that the art of making a great record is JUST there to drive awareness is horseshit.
Why? Because records changed my life – there are records that have become part of the fabric of who I am, how I see the world, have even brought me together with some great friends. The ART of making records stands alone as an artform in its own right, it’s not there to serve a marketing need.
The need to market, to recognise that attention is a monetizable currency in the new media world is vital, the need to spread the word about what we do is paramount if we want people to connect with it, but we as artists need to hang on to what’s important.
As I commented over the weekend about the danger of social network marketing changing the way we write, this new media model can really fuck things up creatively, in just the same way that record companies desperate for singles scuppered the careers of album-oriented bands for years. Some triumphed (Talk Talk, for example) and made great records DESPITE it. Some other acts no doubt took the challenge and wrote some killer pop songs that became part of the fabric of our lives. But to have such a heinously mechanistic view of the art of making records is anathema to what we do and love, and what made the records that changed our lives so special.
I’m sure Michael writing about it from the perspective of Tech Crunch is going to skew his thinking in a mechanised techie direction that ignores what music is FOR. The inference in his post is that the music is there to serve a market, when the opposite has to be true if you want to create ART. And I don’t mean ‘art’ in any pretentious lofty sense, just music that’s anything other than a glorified jingle. Music-as-advert is a million miles away from everything that makes music special to me as an artist and listener.
The big issue is how we keep that artistic integrity in a world where we don’t have other people to do the marketing side of things for us. In an ideal rarified never-existed-in-the-first-place version of Music 1.0, record labels left the artists to create, and got on with the marketing. Now we have to do it all, and keeping the two separate requires mindfulness, and doesn’t require us to listen to the ill-conceived BS from tech-heads like Arrington.
So, comment thread – what were the records that changed your life?
mine first (incomplete and in no particular order) –
Stealing Fire – Bruce Cockburn
Hypocrisy Is The Greatest Luxury – The Disposible Heroes of Hiphoprisy
Dusk – The The
Michael Manring – Thonk
Hejira – Joni Mitchell