But it is the names of the artists who have yet to grace those stages, the artists the public do not yet know and risk never knowing, that we should be talking about. Grassroots music venues aren’t about the past of our music industry, they are about its future.–Mark Davyd.
Yes, I’m an artist, musician, but a professional? (not if you base it on my income) many of us, if you hadn’t noticed, are not in this for the money and fame. This is a therapy for our friends, family, extended audience, our perceived enemies and above all therapy for ourselves, as all else flows forward from self. Until the government fully supports creative arts properly, in all sectors (during a pandemic or not) citizens will be wide open to foreign state interference and the toxic tip of disinformation.
I used to joke twenty years ago that the local Job Center should make “Job Seeker Records” due to the fact all the musicians I knew were either signing on or had to keep a day job to support their artistic calling. DJs were lucky to get twenty quid from a gig, often paying to play when organizing their own events, independently and paying to release their music with little hope of commercial success, exclusive dubplate culture among DJ’s was not for profit. Those who were fortunate to get signed with an advance, equal to the money earned from a regular 9-5 job, were not viable in their home town and enticed to the largest city nearby, or London. In the 1990s I witnessed successful people moving away from their nests to larger cities where the action, the work and the money are at. This sad fact seems wrong-headed and would be unnecessary if local support were provided. The consolidation of industries under the neoliberal surge in the 1990s is responsible for driving creative talent away from where it is currently required most, home.
If big tech and government and the music industry wanted to solve this they’d create a local infrastructure to support/fund creative arts, business with the same effort and pride with which they support the international finance sector, the arms manufacture sector. Yes, artists and creative industries need the money to pay rent and eat and survive, yet at the same time, we could all benefit from a new relationship between the arts and commerce, where the state and its corporate backers come together to support a decentralized and rotational network of independent artists, capable of being seen and heard equally with market giants like Ed Sheeran…without having to resort to Apple Google Facebook Amazon and Spotify for all their distribution and licensing.
Most but not all artists and creatives I know are left-leaning, it comes with the territory of open sincere exploration and experiment, the opposite of absolute conclusive conservatism. I get the sense that the current hard-right conservative government in the UK enjoys bashing the left and creative arts culture, an excuse to underfund, look away and inflict intentional suffering. This is nothing new since the 1960s and 1970s the Tories have attacked the liberal arts, working-class creative culture and generally they supported massive corporate takeovers and consolidation of the music business industry (Labour too), up to its current domination by the five big tech companies and two or three major labels.
Every artist I know has questioned and fought for independence, probably with more passion in the early days, “we’re never gonna’ sell-out or play that pants commercial shit” type attitudes. Then they get married, have a family and play in a Ted Nuget cover band at retirement homes. I’m not judging, but there remains an underground, experimental, abstract…in it for the sheer exhilaration of making it new every time, authenticity in great art and artists. The attitude and life of Thelonious Monk as opposed to Jeff Bezos, to make a stark contrast.
I’ve two suggestions, start-up local “Job Seeker Records” imprints, modelled as if you were funded by the state. (See Scarfolk Council for examples) Demonstrate how much future creativity lies dormant and untapped. My second suggestion is more on a personal level, try to support people in their early artistic endeavours and experiments, encourage the following of one’s intuition in combination with healthy research, study and practice. As many great musicians and artists repeat, music is a therapy for them, the process is part of the journey, the destination unknown and when the voyage is over when you find yourself with your creation, is only a part of the creative process. To campaign for keeping governments, the recording industry and finance rotational and decentralized should not be exclusive with leftwing politics, but the progressive movement toward an equal humane society of self-owning ones, united in a common process of sharing resources, intelligence, imagination and beneficial tools worldwide.
The Covid-19 Pandemic has brought us all into a world that musicians have been familiar with for decades, the recession of bands, labels and funding, tours, independent venues, and markets due to consolidation by big tech and the major labels. IF…artists had thriving and viable systems based on the Bandcamp model for example, in conjunction with grants and support from the multiple billions in profits generated by the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and their shareholders, they could thrive and create freely without having to worry about paying rent, eating and/or paying medical bills and health expenses. These would be first world benefits of living in Great Britain, America, and some of the other richest most technologically advanced societies on earth, and most importantly the artistic productions would be subsidized to become freely available for everybody on earth!
Yes, art and music should be FREE, FREEDOM! But only with the support and subsidy provided by the state and corporations taking the cream off the top and giving very little back. Universal Basic Income would already cover the immediate challenges to most of the people I’m concerned about here, it has a similar result, not starving and having the means for self-therapy that can be shared with others, a win-win in any caring society. This new vision I’m riffing on (dreaming about) would also benefit a nation’s identity and status on the world stage, bringing altruism, equality and balance to a nation’s entertainment-media ecology. Instead of the Euro-Vision song contest, we need something more like the Eurovision–who supported the most artists to create the most songs, which in turn created the most shared revenue and employment for that nation–competition?
Local bands and local folk music, experimental non-commercial music must have an equal footing in the mediasphere with Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga and Kanye West. The audience can still choose to tune into whatever they wish, but they feel warm in their hearts that the creative arts are open and seductive as a viable career for some, a form of therapy and community for others. Either way, it is subsidized, so no need to second guess. To trust that taxes and all working communities everywhere are happy to support the arts in equal measure with the rest of the economy, ballooning with finance, arms manufacture and pharmaceutical trade. Those who claim that funding the military and army and navy is more important than the arts do not understand or do not want to understand the current battlespace of disinformation warfare. Art and creative industries like gaming have been hijacked from creative artists and weaponized to support populist hard-right movements, see Pepe the frog, Trump 2016 and the Vote Leave campaigns for appropriation of art in service of anything but support for artists.
Imagine if Banksy were foreign secretary, Stephen Fry Prime Minister, Brian Cox and Roger Penrose as education ministers, Jamie Oliver as Health minister, Gary Lineker as minister for sport, James O’ Brien as minister for communications. Why not? They’re arguable the best at managing those domains.
How have people ended up voting for the dullest most blatant liars and cheats, while going further than not supporting artists and creatives, attacking them and joining the hard right in stereotyping them as the enemy in their vulture culture warfare.
I’d like to continue this thought with the hope of refining some points and counter-arguments.
–Steve Fly (29/10/2020)