moments before the wind.

June 9, 2006

watch yourself while you are eating

Filed under: authenticity, business, digital, distribution, indie, labels, music — alimarcus @ 8:47 am

The other night I got to talk to my new friend John about the music biz. I smelled new blood (a.k.a. someone who hasn't heard me rant yet) and unleashed a few of the frustrations I've encountered over the years and what they taught me. We talked about the independent track as a kind of remedy for all the badness, or at least about our independent tracks as a reaction to all of this – an idealist's practicality, or something like that.

He then later wrote in an email: "I am so with you in complete alienation from the record business." Rather than write him back I decided to address that comment here for all you lucky people to read.

The music biz is not alienating! It's frustrating, yes; disappointing, yes; incompetent, yes; shameful, yes; but i have to believe that these qualities can be eradicated by the force of a movement. Even if it's one tiny little movement where 50 people get happy – that's worth it. Really, that's inspiration to shoot for more, 100 next time, 200. All of these bad qualities – the exploitation, the compromising – this doesn't have to happen. There are chances out there. And if there aren't, there sure is the hope that you create some. As some wise ladies once drilled into my head, inveniam viam aut faciam.

Sooooo many people that I've met – whether they are musicians or label people or radio people or other industry folk – they have good intentions and they are aware that despite their good intentions they are "doing what they have to do" under the illusion that it will actually get them somewhere.

As if feeding the hand that bites you is a productive activity.

As some people would say, feh!

Luckily, there are people who do some pretty admirable things, which goes to show the kind of power folks can actually harness, if they figure out how. Derek Sivers of CD Baby is one. Jenny Toomey & Co. of Future of Music are another. Larry Lessig at Creative Commons.

It is hard, even for super-indie labels, to think outside of the paradigm. I've seen small record labels and unknown bands model various elements of their business after the majors, actually using the justification that "this is how it's done." Who says? To me, that is the kiss of death, to look to the very institutions who created this exploitative environment as role models. How backwards is that? And labels that the general public perceives as indie hallmarks – they are subsidiaries or otherwise affiliated with the majors, and guess how their business practices reflect that? Just guess. Is this about levels of evil, or is it just about evil? I hate to turn it into an argument of morality but I'm not sure how to avoid it.

People think that you have to work with the majors to get anywhere. That may be true, but the conditions of collaboration have yet to be equally distributed. But it may also not be true, in which case, the internet would turn out to inspire a true revolution in music, rather than just a relocation of the playground.

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