Unbelievable! So many iconic music artists taken from us last year and over the years. R.I.P., Mr. Joe Cocker.
Kere Buchanan kindly brought this article to my attention. Spotify’s current business model is the death knell to the efforts of independent artists (and the established ones as well in the longer run). But this article here offers a doable, plausible solution without anyone needing to sacrifice. Actually, following this reasoning the value of music could be restored. And for the sake of keeping music alive, below described easy fix seems a fair deal to me. Thanks for sharing this, Kere Buchanan! And to those of you, who love the Westcoast sound, don’t miss Kere’s excellent albums “Starting Over” and “Goodbye Yesterday”. Also great, though slightly different in style, his debut “Kerosene”.
Everything comes to an end – sooner or later. I remember one evening at a winter ski camp in the late 70ies, when a few schoolmates gathered in the room I was accommodated in, made themselves comfortable, cut the lights and someone played a tape of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and “Dark Side of the Moon” in otherwise complete silence. Felt almost mystical. And it implanted the music bug in general and the Pink Floyd bug in particular in me for many years to come.
Hurts a little to see everything that once meant the world to me inevitably diminish in significance or effect. On the other hand: Funny to notice how I instantly remember every single note and chord in this tune when rolling it, the bluesy guitar licks, the somber organ sound, the soft synth lead sound and the sophisticated vocal harmonies along with nifty ad libs everywhere in between – they all seem etched into my music synapses for good! Oh, how I yearned to play that music and how I sat my behind down for days on end and learnt it all until I thought I sounded just like Gilmore on the record! 🙂
But everything must go, sooner or later… those days are definitely gone. Congrats to Pink Floyd for having broken yet another sales record with their presumably last album and a huge thanks to them for enriching my life and that of many others’ in many ways. “Shine on you crazy diamond”, indeed (quote borrowed from below linked article)!
“Ouch”. Big “ouch”! Even bigger “ouch”! “Why bother then”, comes to mind. Well… in my case – done tech already and will only do it again over my dead body. Or in yet different words: I’d have to be dead to allow being taken back to that career. “Abuse” galore is the “cool” and “sexy” there, if you asked me. So then… with music, I have at least a tiny chance of enjoying myself here and there, provided the fellow cats and audience are cool and pick up on the vibe I’m sending. Or something like that…
asks Paris Cesvette, herself being a consummate musician, producer, shejane, remixer, radio host and avid music scene observer/indie artist and referring to Google’s/YouTube’s plans of shutting down those indie artists who haven’t signed their latest terms in regards to streaming music and video. “For love?”, I halfheartedly intend to reply for a split second, then second think my response and go: “I can’t help, but wonder more and more about that.”, as the major music corporations seem set on driving everyone else out of their business except the acts signed to their labels – and just about a hand full at that.
So it had me thinking: Can indie artists really get a break for themselves when keeping to piggyback established artists and swarming around them and their media outlets? Knowing that they’ll never have the budgets required to drum up these big campaigns that the remaining major labels run on behalf of their artists? The co-marketing, the co- and cross-selling, the sheer presence they afford themselves in order to sell their “products”? The answer is very clear to me: No way in hell we’ll ever even get anywhere near any of the established ones by emulating the strategies and specific measures of armies of PR and media folks working for them. As an indie, you typically wear anywhere between five to ten hats – in one person. But you’re still not equipped with anything more than two hands, 10 fingers, ideally a brain occupying the cavity inside the skull and between the ears and usually working from the comfort of your home office/home studio. How are we ever going to be anywhere near as efficient as those teams of professionals dedicating all their productive time throughout the day to getting the word out about this or that particular artist and their latest single, music video, album release, musical cooperation with another artist, special appearances etc. etc.? We won’t. We’ll always be hundreds of miles behind before we can even begin to dream of the bigger picture and of getting a break.
So, what do we do? I think, the circuit of indie artists got it all wrong. You can’t expect to yield results employing the methods and strategies that have worked for the industry in previous decades – for a number of reasons. But the most apparent reason to me is: The “pitch” has to come from an entire different angle. If “we” shoot for mass exposure – we’ll inevitably lose as that place is firmly secured by the PR firms working for major labels. Then what?
One word: Exclusivity. Being rare or – big word – unique. Hard to find, hard to get a hold of. It has to take an effort to find a particular indie artist and their music. What? Was I being crazy? Hasn’t the internet taught us the exact opposite? Like, e.g. easy to navigate artist websites, zero ambiguity in terms of navigating the content presented, availability on all major online stores, with iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby being a must a.s.o. a.s.f.
I don’t think, any of this is going to work at all. What are the odds your latest single appears somewhere right next to – say – Jay-Z’s latest production? Or Beyoncé’s most recent music video? In order for this to work, you’d have to know the “algorithms” placing those artists at the top of every online listing there is. And when I say “algorithms”, I mean – aw, you guessed it, huh? – MONEY, of course!. What’s the average marketing budget for an indie artist between making the rent for his studio appartment, rehearsal studio, maybe recording studio? Time. Putting in the extra time to somehow promote their work. So, that is a must-tank for sure by comparison.
Hence: Play the hard-to-get card! “Oh, you found my music? Great! Where’d you find me? How did you get there? What would you have wished to see in order to get there faster? Would you like your friends to hear about me, too?” That sort of thing. Exclusivity, being a niche product. And by asking these questions, you’re also establishing a customer relation right away and as a welcome side effect.
A single fish can only stand out from a school of fish, if they find a deserted place in the ocean. Sure, you might get eaten by bigger fish. But seriously: What’s there to lose?
The backdrop to this story is different from where I’m going to set this image against. And writing a blog post like this, where it’s supposed to be about music, is – I think a first for me. (I think… it’s not that I sit down at night going over all my other blog posts from the past…)
Seeing the picture and reading the story about the controversy surrounding it’s coming about had me remember a personal anecdote in my earlier, post-teen life. It had me remember Glenny, a US citiizen, living and working as a DJ in Sweden and occasionally taking jobs elsewhere in Europe and Scandinavia. Like so many US citizens working in the music business back then, he had come to Europe with the US Army and stayed after having completed his contract with US Forces. What made him different from most other American GIs and former military personnel was that he seemed to be more adventurous than most others I had met so far. At the very least, falling in love and moving in with a girl from Sweden – far away from more familiar surroundings – had him stand out in some way – or so I thought back then.
The other thing that had me become friendly with him was that – much like me – he enjoyed turning the night into day, often preparing a full-fledged meal in the early hours of the new day, heating up the kitchen stove in the appartment we inhabited together with the other musicians in my band along with the girl-friend I had chosen to more or less “abduct” from whatever she called home in the French part of Switzerland. Needless to say, as we were travelling and never stayed more than 2 weeks in one place, she depended upon me – entirely. Food, lodging, health care, your occasional shopping. (In hindsight: Jeez – I made some good money in those days, or else, I wouldn’t have been able to afford two people living this kind of life. We didn’t lodge in exactly the most shabby abodes where we performed and I had to cover her accommodation at the usual rates, sometimes in the hundreds per night). So, like me, Glenny wouldn’t go right to bed after the job, but fire up the stove, fix himself and me all kinds of gumbo, we’d pop a couple of cold ones, and when he’d start to dig in around 2 am, I’d keep him company, listen to his stories and ramblings and we’d talk and discuss all kinds of things – most often until the sun came up. I must have loved it or I was overly polite – or maybe a mixture of both. But somehow, I enjoyed his company a lot more then the company of my fellow band members, who’d be satisfied with either watching porn at night or trying to “score” a minor… you get the idea. I wasn’t big on either, so I’d exhale whenever the job was done for the night and they’d go about whatever business they were after, while I enjoyed some cooling off with Glenny. (On most nights, girlfriend had long gone to sleep and would barely snort in my direction to acknowledge my presence.)
Until now I hadn’t mentioned that Glenny was black, have I? Because it never mattered in whatever regard to me. It wasn’t until him catching hell with the boss of the establishment we were both hired for that I got introduced to the fact that racism is real and happens just about anywhere. I didn’t know any of this at the time and took it for a random occurrence. Gosh, I was so naive… but I’m digressing. Glenny was a DJ, as I said. Back then, being a DJ meant hauling your vinyls all over the place. In Glenny’s case these came as two humongous flight cases, each probably weighing some 150 pounds or more. I was used to carrying and setting up heavy equipment at the time, seeing as the Porsche-loving guys in the band rather saved money for gas then affording us one or two roadies or stagehands. Anyway, I just meant to say that Glenny’s cases were really heavy! (and it was me at most times, who’d kneel and crouch down in the tour bus to accommodate all the speakers and amps and whatnot and then drive that mother to the next venue…). I began to wonder, how he’d be able to travel alone. What about his clothes, suitcases and other “road-gear”? Anyway. We’d sit down and talk a lot. And sure enough, at some point Glenny confided in me that the owner of the establishment we were working in had a problem with him. And somehow it seemed to revolve around the fact that the boss had eyed a particular lady at the club, who – on the other hand – had layed eyes on Glenny. Beginning of drama – and you’d think, only ladies do that? No, Sir, sorry to burst that bubble!
Long story short: Our contracts had a catch. You had a kind of probational period during the first three three days of the contract. In other words: Club owners were given the opportunity to check you out for an entire three days until they were supposed to commit to the contract. I had never been aware of this as I was touring with a band, who apparently had risen above those standards as far as contracts were concerned (P.S. Do I want to know exactly how our manager had established this situation? I probably don’t want to know. But I have any number of ideas in that regard…) Anyways. Glenny caught hard times, because this cheap fuck of a club owner had gotten jealous of him. And as naive as I had been around that time: It was plain to see and hear. Whenever they talked to each other – which was rare -, not one kind word was said.
Come day three, Glenny was fired. No more late night meals, no more bonding in the wee hours of the morning over a couple of beers. I saw a different Glenny. Despondent. Scared. The same person who had boasted statements like “Most white people wonder, why we’re still around” had trouble suppressing his tears and fear. Because he hadn’t gotten paid yet. No advance and what little money he had brought along he had spent on calls with his far away girl friend and food and supplies during the day. He was effectively stranded in a foreign country with barely any cash on him.
I talked to my girl friend about this. We’d have to make some more cuts into our budget in order to afford him a train ticket back to Sweden. But it didn’t take too long a discussion until it was a done deal. We’d – make that “I” – would buy him a ticket, so he could at least get home. I will never forget this moment. He barely kept it together and so did we. We’d drive him to the train station in that Swiss town and all of that was against the express consent of my band. They threatened me, too. They’d say, we’d be kicked out as well and there would be a fine, which I would have to cover all by myself (fines ranged from a couple of thousand Swiss Franks to several tens of thousands, depending on the contract). I didn’t listen nor care. So, on day four we had arranged to pick up his baggage, including these two flight cases, each holding about 100 vinyls and weighing a perceived ton, haul all his shit into the truck I drove at the time, take him to the train station, pass some time together for the last time over a cup of coffee and wait for the train to take him home.
About two months later – I had a few days off – I receive a phone call on the rotary dial phone at my aunt’s, where I stayed over. Glenny was on the phone. We had exchanged phone numbers and he had insisted on taking down my bank account information. I was more than happy to help out and didn’t even want his money back, knowing it’d probably be another few months until he’d make just enough to pay for the ticket. (there was a “tops” cap we had agreed on and he had decided to get some small things for his girl friend, which I was more than happy with). So the phone rings, Glenny’s on the phone and inquires, whether the money he had sent was put in my bank account. I confirmed to him that yes, all the money had arrived.
So, the moral of the story: You think an ill-fated photograph is a problem? Or the media’s and social media’s response to it? Well, baby-girl and -boy: In the real world it’s about despair and not knowing where to turn next instead of egos getting mildly bruised with questionable “art”. Eat this for a change.
Wow. Guess, they never saw that coming.