Saturday, May 30, 2009

Music: Passion or Commodity?

The issue of the performance rights organizations has reared it's ugly head once again, and as in the past, this issue has once again taken over my thoughts on another sleepless night. In early 2008 a Royalties page was created on Whole Wheat Radio concerning the effect SoundExchange would have on our little Internet radio community. SoundExchange, which is an offspring of the RIAA, quickly became the most prominent corporate oligarchy with the help and blessing of the federal government. The U.S. Government and the U.S. Copyright Office basically privatized and outsourced our national copyright system over to RIAA. Now the RIAA ignores the Copyright Royalty Board Judges who once made our copyright determinations. Since SoundExchange was put in charge of collecting royalties by Congressional legislation back in December of 2006, it has taken on the appearance of a syndicate strong arm collector for the RIAA Corporate Mob.

I have witnessed the world which corporate power has created, and I have seen how corporations through lobbying efforts and payoffs have successfully converted our government from a people oriented form of democracy into a oligarchy that represents an elite few. It has been painfully apparent in my eyes, that we have allowed this to happen so easily with very little opposition. That does not mean we have to continue to keep our eyes closed to the corporate hegemony and it's dominance of our culture. It is simply not the model of governance in which I want to participate...and I certainly do not want to support such a socially detrimental system for our future generations. What I do want to support is a more sustainable model of community interaction. An interaction between the artists and the people who love their art.

Is music a passion or is it merely a commodity? I for one am tired of the consumer society, and do not see art as a commodity to be consumed. Music is a passion...artists are passionate about their music and this passion is passed on to their listeners. For the life of me, I can not see how music can be defined as a product, it goes way beyond the labels the corporate world places on it!

I found Whole Wheat Radio back in 2006, and I found something unique and reviving about the place...so I stuck around a while. I was exposed to a world of independent music I had never known existed, and I have never looked back. I have purchased so many CDs through our community I have literally had to move and rearrange furniture to compensate. When I exhausted those options, I had to begin burning them to a new hard drive and either sharing the CDs or storing them in containers. Now I am just one member of the community, so just multiply that times all the members of our community who have found the same amount of extraordinary independent music via the music library and Whole Wheat House Concerts. Yes there is another way to do it rather than the existing unsustainable model. We have found out it is possible, and we have also found out how important it is to share in the building and maintenance of a community that supports independent artists. It is a shared experience in a collaborative approach for the future of music. Maybe even beyond that, perhaps it is a shared vision of what our future communities will look like and how we will mesh our local and virtual communities into one!

There is a quote from the documentary Before the Music Dies that is so profound in my humble opinion...

Never have so few companies controlled so much of the music played on the radio and for sale at retail stores. At the same time, there are more bands and more ways to discover their music than ever. Music seems to have split in two - the homogenous corporate product that is spoonfed to consumers and the diverse independent music that finds devoted fans online and at clubs across the country.


I truly believe the power of change lies in our willingness to support real non-profit grassroots communities similar to Whole Wheat Radio. We can either decide to take those steps necessary to oppose those who have corrupted the common good of the people, or we can continue down the same road that got us to this unsustainable state in which we now find ourselves. As always, our future in this quickly changing world lies in each of our hearts. We are the change and it is in our hands!

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