Friday, May 15, 2009

Transfer Industry into Community

As always, what I will relate is just my humble opinion, as I'm not a songwriter, nor do I make a living as an independent musician. I am certainly not an expert at anything, but only a fellow human being with another opinion! I am merely one who loves the art of music and believes in the artists right to have control over their art. I also realize the sacrifices the independent musician has to make in order that those sacrifices will hopefully bear fruit. I also believe in the power of the music community's organizational culture and it's shared goals and values. That said, here is my take on the issues brought up by Bob Lefsetz which Jim Kloss linked to yesterday.

I'm sure they are doing the research, but if those who do the research continue to have ties with the old music guard, that research is going to be filtered to show those ties. What is wrong in the music industry mirrors the turmoil within our little planet's social and economic structures. These structures based on "who can get the most marbles wins"...are dying, and the handlers of these 20th Century models are scratching and clawing to hang on to their power over the artists in the music industry.

As Bob Lefsetz mentions, if suddenly the artists had control over the rights, it would be a whole new ball game. But unfortunately it will not happen suddenly, there will not be a clap of thunder or a bolt of lightning which will bring about the shift of power. Due to the power pooled in the top of our little pyramidal structure, it is going to take a consolidated effort on the part of the artists and their fan base; and it will be a slow turning...not an overnight U-turn. This is the very reason I became part of the Whole Wheat community back in 2006; because of the potential for artists and listeners to organize into a vibrant and active independent music community. A community which places the value and love of that art above the bottom line. Like I mentioned yesterday, to me the ideal community embraces the principle of "Give according to your abilities, receive according to your needs!" Perhaps I am a little naive and maybe I do dream a little too much...but if a person does not believe in positive change, it certainly will not happen.

I've read and heard all the alternatives that have been introduced by the music futurists and industry pundits, and all seem to somehow keep one foot in the existing corporate world as some sort of appeasement of the beast's ravenous appetitie. The existing corporate music biz does not want a diet; it is not capable of tightening it's belt; it will feign approval just to sate it's unending and unsustainable hunger of profits! Profits which it needs to maintain it's power structure of the few at the top and the many at the bottom supporting it's mass weight. While I respect many of the enlightened authors and activists who are attempting to create a vision of the music industry's future...I'm afraid they must extricate themselves from the prominent, yet outdated structures of the past. In order to build a sustainable model, they must go beyond what is accepted and take that leap into the unknown.

I spoke yesterday about The Wall that keeps all of us in a state of obedient subservience to the existing order. This wall is not a physical wall, but one built of our own fears about changing what is accepted as the current reality. This article comes from the hearts and minds of union reformers and workplace democracy advocates, but it is just as pertinent to all people who find themselves in structures that just do not make sense, or fail to offer any end to the injustices which are by-products of the current systems in place. We have to be willing to take those steps; willing to walk that unlighted path towards something sustainable that works for all of us!

Take Lefsetz quotes of Malcolm Gladwell from the New Yorker, David only beats Goliath if he puts in incredible effort and is willing to do what is "socially horrifying". "Socially horrifying" means you challenge the rules, and break them. Or as Gladwell states, "He couldn’t fight the establishment, because he WAS the establishment." "The price that the outsider pays for being so heedless of custom is, of course, the disapproval of the insider."

Socially horrifying and most certainly the disapproval of those who still work within the current system. It takes guts to stand up to power and build something completely outside their realm. My background is steeped in organized labor and it's struggles, but the struggles are the same. It has always been the same. It's always been a powerful few who want it all against the rest of us! The power has always lied within the hands of the people and their willingness or foresightedness to come together under common goals and values. This is where communities such as Whole Wheat Radio or other like minded communities hold great potential to pool like minded people, artists and fans alike...who believe in the power and justice within grassroots organizations.

Yes, it will be a slow turn as we morph from the "ME" social standard into the sustainable "WE" model. Yes, it will not be easy, power never concedes without a fight, but to quote Lorde...When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.


Blogger Alex said...

I am very moved by this post. As an independent singer/songwriter, I have first hand experience with how discouraging it can be to try to function in the existing hierarchical system. I really appreciate having the reminder that it is in our hands to remake our way of being in the world - from ME to WE, from "trying to get ahead" to "trying to get together". Thank you, Thank you! (And I'm also grateful to the Whole Wheat community the link to your thoughtful and thought-provoking comments.)

Friday, 29 May, 2009  
Anonymous Jeff Coleman said...

The problem with wresting power from the powerful is that somebody is going to want to organize things so that they can become the powerful themselves.

It's inevitable.

The answer, it seems to me, is to ignore power. When it comes to music, it's entirely possible to do this.

The individual has the power to support the artist- directly. A few thousand individuals can easily support an artist comfortably.

There are no rights involved, no middle men. Just support the artist, and spread the music far and wide, for free, as advertising.

Knowledge is power...

Friday, 29 May, 2009  
Blogger atuuschaaw said...

Alex, I'm thinking all the thanks go to you my friend! It always does my heart good to hear from someone who believes in the people themselves, and the power of change they hold within their own hands.

Jeff, I agree that there are always other opportunists who will try to fill the void created by the vaccuum created by a redistribution of power. As you mention, a group of individuals can support an artist comfortably. This is where a collaborative community of artists and listeners can come into play...a cooperative of sorts where both the artists and the listeners win!

Friday, 29 May, 2009  

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