Here are two free downloads, moved across to Bandcamp from Soundcloud:
a BBC Introducing: South session with my previous live band…
…and a studio track recorded at the same time as Lilith and In The Evil Empire
Please, feel free to pig out on all of the above.
sour grapes or the cold, sharp wine of truth? You decide. But it’ll cost ya… well, nothing actually
There’s a debate – which can only get more heated – about whether music should be free. About the dynamic created for makers and consumers of music by the Free Culture – or Freecult, as I prefer to call them because it sounds stoopider (of course, they’re too numerous to be an actual cult, and are in most cases motivated by the prevalent tech-enabled custom of lax, myopic greed rather than any coherent ideology). To clarify, these are the people who collect music like stamps – and never listen to 90% 0f it – rather than downloaders who then buy the product, or some of it anyway. Yes: Product.
Of course money should be involved in music. It’s been inextricably entwined with art since art existed; without patronage, no Iliad, no Odyssey, no Velvet Underground, no sustainable dance/electro music *ever* beyond the first amyl nitrate whiff of excitement, no X Factor (okay, baaad joke at the end there). True, the major labels are getting what they deserve. Unfortunately, the artists aren’t; while many I know or know of haven’t any problem in principle with giving stuff away – and this includes me – to “donate” the whole lot is, in essence, shutting out loads of artists who can’t afford to do that and sustain themselves or their work. As well as carrying a stigma of bargain-basement loserdom. This stuff tends to get downplayed in the current atmosphere of Future Boomer righteousness – or it did until recently. Strange that it’s taken so long to be examined at a grass-roots level: and what it took was a common enough, albeit unthinking, admission from a National Public Radio DJ (hardly the big bad Music Biz Man).
So yeah, £££. Obviously, it’s all in who the gelt comes from… corporate sponsorship, crowd-sourcing, arms deals… and who it goes to. On any lower echelon than superstar, it’s a vexed question (and I’m sick of labouring it, so will stop biting the hand that… sort-of… feeds now). Besides which, you can chop logic about the moral pros & cons all day, but personally? On a selfish level, I don’t really give a shit.
Perseverance for pennies: gotta be done, innit? Well, up to a point. Beyond that, it’s just slaughtering the golden goose.
If I could think of a viable strategy to get round this impasse, as hopefully someone will sooner or later, I’d be a fucking entrepreneur rather than a musician. Or possibly a writer for sites like Gizmodo.com who “refuted” David Lowery with a barrage of meaningless stats. But my point about sustainability – affordability – stands. In effect, it’s like a new form of something I’d hear horror stories about from the bad old days: Pay to Play. Who in their right mind wants that? (And uh, don’t quit the day job btw – assuming you’re lucky enough to have one.)
A Footnote: speaking of Pay to Play…
Putting together a tour without the cradle of logistic and booking support, I’ve noticed something interesting. I’m sure a lot of musicians in my kind of semi-legit position have run into something similar.
The era of literal Pay to Play (in London): a lot of venues demanded an upfront fee for the privilege of gigging to six uninterested alcoholics, the scarcely-more-animate sound engineer, and maybe two mates who were just there because they wanted into the keyboard player’s pants. A promoter with a great deal of sense and integrity (and taste, obviously, as an ally of mine) urged me on several occasions: Never, ever, ever, pay to play. It just encourages the practise, which must be stamped out. It’s clearly a self-defeating way to go, and I won’t insult your intelligence by hashing over why this individual was quite right. But a lot of venues – feeling the bite, so I fling no blame – are now getting into the habit of asking for a hire fee rather than actually promote a gig. Often, in context, this is fair enough; but the implications are uncomfortable.
This may seem rather off the point of the rant above. (God, I’m starting to moan as much as that St Saviour woman…) But it’s a symptom of the same fucked economic model. One alternative is free no-frills gigs, which in theory sounds nice but in practice means variable quality-control: there, see? Free stuff sucks. Can I buy some soil off you, please?
SOPA won’t wash – hur hur hur
By and large, as a musician I expect to get ripped off occasionally; it’s an age-old occupational hazard. This is why I’m not too bothered about torrent sites or other internet-based free music distributors beyond my control. While I might find the principle behind them bogus and annoying, it’s just about possible to accept in return for the (theoretical) publicity it can generate. And let’s face it, other options are limited.
Just before This Mucky Age was released, a ton of pirate downloads appeared on the net; one of the promo copies was ripped by a journalist and spread like a rash. The only objection I could think of was that it messed up search results for this site; otherwise it was vaguely flattering, in a creepy sort of way… but begs the question, Why?!? Somebody even went to the trouble of photographing the packaging. It’s a decent pic, too; so ironically enough, I’m going to steal it.
While checking this out, I found bands begging to be pirated (the arse-kissing clowns) – either from wanting the extra exposure that these sites supposedly offer, or perhaps to be seen as inside the great big wonderful inclusive internet tent, instead of having a surly wank out in the rain. And to an extent, there’s something in the righteous notions the… bootleggers? Musketeers? Cyber-scamps?… bandy about, of Opening Up Music’s Furthest Horizons Without Hindrance or Limit For Everybody, of sticking it to The Man, etc etc etc (when they bother to make excuses – usually making a bid for the moral high ground).
Still, it would’ve been nice to be asked. At one point there were 80-odd leaked versions out there; not many in the scheme of things, but enough to say Okay, now you’re just taking the piss. It can be remedied with a little effort, though: get a DMCA takedown notice issued, and the dark grapes of villainy wither on the vine. Eventually.
This is why the US House of Representatives’ proposed Stop Online Piracy Act & Protect Intellectual Property Act are disproportionate and inappropriate. The main argument against is that these pieces of legislation are so vague and potentially all-inclusive that they could hobble the internet in the name of copyright protection – a concept that, as the proposals stand, can be extended to mean censorship (by blocking) of pretty much anything. All this in the hands of a closed group of private interests. But so what?
…After all, it sometimes feels like the www could do with a good witch-hunt purge; times when it seems to consist almost entirely of 2nd-hand crud – endlessly-circulated photos of dogs in fancy dress, people who can’t spell screeding out massive reviews of long-forgotten 80’s horror films, regurg’d gossip and contention, whatever. Arguably it also devalues musical product – artistically, not just commercially – by reducing it to a bunch of files. Burn the internet!
Yeah (that’s quite enough devil’s advocacy thanks), then what? What’s left, other than scorched earth and Adele? A slippery slope indeed.