moments before the wind.

August 2, 2006

they say i’m ego trippin’, my mind is slippin’

Got a comment today on my record label’s philosophy and I’d accomplish more responding to it here, rather than in the comments.

The time has come to rehash all of that esoteric stuff about integrity and bullshit. Not because my beliefs have changed, but because Turtle Rock Records is moving into new spheres. In the beginning, I saw a lot of people get suckered, and a lot of people in fairly important places too complacent to speak up. After that, as I envisioned myself as a part of this industry, I began to feel the gigantic force of disagreement, and entrenchment, and false helplessness encroach on my own potential career path, if you can call it that. So, I started a record label with a lot of intensely strong feelings, tons of music to back it up, and pretty much nothing else.

And everything I have done since then has been absorbed with immediacy. Working for other companies in the industry has helped me develop my motivations and goals (and continues to do so). When I wrote this philosophy, I was releaseing Turtle Rock’s second CD, my own songs on an album called Matchbooks, Diamonds, Mixtapes. With fairly little money I was able to get a couple hundred CDs out there, and the return on my investment, though non-monetary, has been far beyond what I was looking for at the time. The next priority, then, is to figure out how to do it again, bringing money in to allow this thing to happen on a larger scale.

Which brings me to the comment. “Sooooo…you’re selling what now?” – he asks. That’s a good point. Back when I wrote that, I wasn’t. Selling anything. I firmly believe that recorded music should not cost money. Here are some reasons:

  • Filesharing has stripped recordings of their value. Everything else is denial, really.
  • The more I learned about the industry, the more I saw it’s been scamming artists since the beginning, and continues to do so. Why would I want to promote a business structure that everyone will acknowledge is archaic and exploitative?
  • Encouraging this increasingly disturbing consumerist force seems like the wrong way to go. Buying recordings places the value of the MUSIC in the recording. They have it all wrong. The value of the MUSIC is in the WORK that music does – binding people to other people and to memory and to places and to things that create happiness, fulfillment. Make people pay for that. Shift the thinking, shift the price tag, shift the value.

So the question is, what am I selling?

The answer is, I am still trying to figure that out. Emphasizing musical community is key, the most important effort, so obviously live performance is a top priority. Selling live performance. Definitely doing that. Selling t-shirts. (BUY ONE! ask me about it.)

So it’s not that I’m avoiding selling music. And I may not have initially been very articulate about this, but only because I myself am learning how to say what I mean. I am avoiding selling sound recordings. Music is so much more than that.

Additionally, all this stuff about creating a brand, a lifestyle, selling celebrity itself, this is definitely the solution that Corporate America has come up with. Any cutting edge marketer will tell you that. It’s disturbing though, to be selling someone’s personality. Why can’t we sell music without selling recordings? Does that sound so preposterous? Maybe it does, but if so, then it’s merely an indicator that I am still in the process of articulating my point. Also, if it sounds crazy, then it’s because we are so hard-wired to think of “music” as a CD, or a recording. And like I said, it’s so much more. Something else entirely.

I hope that clears something up, for somebody.


  1. Ali, I like the spirit, but you’re right, it still needs some baking, and I’ll tell you a coupla quick reasons why…the recording industry is not just pop…and I know I’ve been flyin’ my race flag, but there is a great wealth of recordings that were not exploitive and were about selling the music. Changing formats as per the listening medium have made these almost impossible to find, let alone get exposed to. We should not support another change in the listening medium because it only paves the way for ANOTHER change. When this happens the history is lost, and all that is consumed is the new thing, which, as anyone with a musical perspective past the white 1960’s realizes, the music just gets dumbed down because the education of musicians is piss-poor compared to what it once was. Example, we have COLLEGES where saxophone players study Charlie Parker and use technology to help that education, blah blah, and yet, there has not been another Charlie Parker…and he was a poor black country boy who was also an illiterate. Marinate on that, dive into some of the real american recording history; jazz, gospel, delta blues, zydeco. But don’t get the mp3s, there’s no liner notes, and without that there’s no perspective on what it is you’re really holding in your ears. Okay, next thing…we can’t give away music…if that was the case, the only ones who would be making music are the ones who have the luxury of throwing away money on it. Think about this…is the interesting thing about Bob Marley the whole spiritual thing? No. This has been shoved down our throats by “music journalists” (fr fuck’s sake…do they know their scales? No? Then what intelligent thing can they possibly say about music.), but how did the Wailers, being from one of the most notorious slums of the world (they bull-dozed the place it was so bad), get instruments? Equipment? Teaching? A rehearsal space? Anyone who’s tried to put a musical project together understands that you’re sunk without the gear, the space, the education (musical…of some kind, not necessarily what we call it in our classrooms today). Who are all the young pop bands right now? Kids who can afford to live away from home and not really work a job. Where did Yellowcard come from? They have parents with money who also have entertainment connections…like any other j.o.b. Marinate on that. But, here’s some positive fr ya, and I know you’ll feel me on this…first, you can’t ever tell anyone that what you (whomever “you” would be…y’know, like anybody) have is more authentic, the real thing, the good instead of the evil, because people are stupid and they have what they like without any real wisdom involved with that decision…we all love music, but few of us can actually read, write (like penmanship, not song-writing), or play, yet everyone has an opinion like an arsehole on our backside. Second, you can’t ever sell your product for as much or more than what is out there already…you’re telling me I have to spend $12 on your CD when I could spend $12 on the James Brown joint I don’t have? Instead, oh, $3 for your CD? I can take a chance on $3. The only drawback is the amount of volume, but what unknown wouldn’t want hundreds of his/her own work out there? You can make the money if you use the technology of home recording and burning to keep the costs low. There are limitless angles to market and promote a CD…you just can’t decide who your audience is, and that’s the hard part for most people. The lady from Pakistan who works at 7-Eleven? She may love your music more than the scenester who would look “cooler” at your concert. Anyway, that’s that. You’ll find more depth to these opions in my books. Peace.

    Comment by Forrest — August 3, 2006 @ 6:20 am

  2. That thing about Charlie Parker is right on. Some other stuff isn’t, like the dissing on music journalists (being one myself, well, you’re just wrong, dead wrong! – like everything else, there is a scale, and people fall on every single notch of it).

    And, um, I definitely dont love mp3s, i dislike iPods, and am obssessed with the importance of liner notes, especially vinyl-sized ones, so you’re preachin’ to the choir on that one.

    But here’s the thing. American music is not either “black” or “white,” as in, there’s the “black” music – jazz, blues, etc – and the “white” music – pop, I think you mean?; Every single one of these genres are yes, stuffed down our throats by the industry (though not the journalists, if you ask me), but more importantly, every single one is a result of the mixture of black and white. No one lives in a vacuum, even the delta bluesmen. Nor did Elvis Presley, which I am sure I don’t need to remind.

    There’s Folk music and then there’s folk music. see this post for what I mean by that.

    Comment by alimarcus — August 3, 2006 @ 8:10 am

  3. Well yeah, there’s jazz and then there’s jazz, of course certain things are better executed than others of the similar ilk. Fuck journalists, and if you want my expertise check and look up reviews by JiveSide, that’s me. Most pieces on music NEVER MENTION THE DAMN MUSIC, it’s just this artist used to do this, or they did this, or they did that to this boy with their fist. And I’m sorry, but there is black and there is white. If you think that an idividual’s or individual group’s music comes from their personalities which come from their life experience, it would be stupid to say it’s all the same. Have you heard of Wattstax? Of course not, most white folk haven’t. But we’ve heard of Woodstock, and that was not only smaller, but the musicians far less talented, and the event far less of an actual social statement. Fuck the legacy of Woodstock…who really listens to most of the crap that was there anyway? Who can name five acts other than Hendrix and Santana? Bore me to tears. I like to say fuck 🙂 fuck fuck fuck fuck. This is fun.

    Comment by Forrest — August 3, 2006 @ 9:56 am

  4. Oh, and Elvis was just a singer/performer. He was given the music to play. The Sun records stuff is all white music, rockabilly and vocal. The famous shit is all the black stuff that was already famous, in black america.

    Comment by Forrest — August 3, 2006 @ 9:57 am

  5. Wattstax was nowhere near as big as Woodstock. There’s just no way. Be careful of accusing people (ahem, music writers) of not knowing their shit, and then not knowing your shit. Not that I actually know myself…but I have a very strong feeling. Common sense. Multiple-day festival on a farm versus a concert in LA. Were the Watts Towers around back then? Have you read Underworld? Or House of Leaves?

    Comment by alimarcus — August 3, 2006 @ 10:06 am

  6. Okay, one day…over 100,000 people, most of which were rival gangs and ethnic groups that WERE NOT getting along. There were neighborhood riots and all kinds of bad stuff. Wattstax put everyone together without a single problem. Woodstock was out in a field and it was the same people for three days. It was not called Wattstax because of the towers, it was a a promotional idea that Stax records out of Memphis put together. And think about it…where are there more people, on a farm in the middle of nowhere or L.A. And Wattstax was only a dollar per person. I don’t mean to offend or anything, I’m just helpin’ you out with some extra things to think about. It’s all to easy to resist the system that one has been told is the one. This country was really, and continues to be, more than one country. Segregation. Immigration. Gated communities. Language. Just ’cause I pass someone on the same street everyday does not mean that I am intertwined with their experience and vice-versa. The only way to free one’s self is to get out of the box and scuttle around in all the other boxes in the room…there’s a lot of boxes, it’s impossible to see it all, but it’s better to roam than to stick ’round and moan. Y’dig? I dig…through empty boxes.

    Comment by Forrest — August 3, 2006 @ 10:46 am

  7. forrest, where you been all my life? shoulda stopped by the show last weekend… could have seen me make a fool of myself and sing some (white) music w ali. hehehe…

    Comment by a — August 3, 2006 @ 4:03 pm

  8. I completely blanked on the show…I would have loved to see some good white music…hey, bottom line is the good, and I don’t doubt for a minute that Ali is anything less 🙂 Who dat, by the way?

    Comment by Forrest — August 4, 2006 @ 5:29 am

  9. Is it? Could it be? A dam? I got internet now…as it’s painfully obvious anyway. write away.

    Comment by Forrest — August 4, 2006 @ 2:03 pm

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