This came up the yesterday in a couple of discussions on solobasssteve.com, the idea that random things can often provide the impetus to think about what we do in a more focused way. Particularly in this post by Mike, which this post is basically a very long response to…
One example of this random accountability was the way that record companies – even if their input was unhelpful – provided a degree of focus to the creative process that disappears if you’re not answerable to anyone.
The same goes for the cost of releasing music – if you’re spending £2000 on putting a CD out, that provides a certain level of clarity in making sure that what you’re putting out is worth that much to you! Is it the best you can do? It’d had better be, cos you’re two grand in the hole if it turns out it’s crap and no-one wants it. At least if it’s the best you can do and it doesn’t sell, you’ve still got a thousand presents you can give away that you’re deeply proud of.
Some people have the motivation and focus to be able to apply those kind of criteria to their creative process without the help of a mediator or the risk of financial ruin.
For the rest of us, we’re in a quandary – how do we put back that useful inspiration that pushes us to the next level, and after that, how do we build structures that are even more helpful, rather than just being accidentally helpful because some record company schlub who knows eff-all about what we’re trying to is breathing down our necks?
One possibility is the idea of Creative Accountability Collectives. These could work online, or in person. They could be geographically defined, or genre-specific. They could be totally democratic, or could function as a series of overlapping ‘councils of reference’ for the individual artists.
I have a range of people that I send works in progress to, who have over the years earned the right to have an opinion worth listening to about what I do by demonstrating that they get what I’m trying to do and what I’m capable of.
For my last solo album, Behind Every Word, I had my friend Sue who’d just moved to New York act as remote producer. Much of her input consisted of emails and chat mesasges saying “great idea, however, you can play it better than that, so do it again, you loser” Almost invariably. She was right. She provided encouragement, support, advice, and the right kind of critique that meant that Behind Every Word was a much better record that it would’ve been if I’d just locked myself away and released whatever I happened to record in that time. (Sue’s now working as a jazz producer in the states, so the experience is one that obviously worked well for her too )
It’s a lot to ask of someone to get them to do that for you, so forming mini-collectives that do that kind of support work for eachother seems like a smart way to go.
However, the tricky bit would be defining the terms of the relationships involved – cutting words, quickly spoken, can be really damaging, so as well as choosing carefully who we allow into our collective, we should, I suggest, also have a ‘terms of engagement’ document.
So that, dear commenters, is where you come in. What kind of things would expect from someone who was invited in to help you up your game, to get the best out of a particular project. And what kind of support would be be able to give?
The floor is yours…by