(I wrote this on February 2nd, but left it here as a draft. In just a few days, both Joe Rogan and Russel Brand are trending on social media. The latest is that Donald Trump came out in support of Rogan, and Spotify CEO Daniel Elk doubled down on his support for Rogan’s Podcast. Neil Young has doubled down on his message to delete spotify and support creative artists. Here’s my take on it all.)
“In our communication age, misinformation is the problem. Ditch the misinformers. Find a good clean place to support with your monthly checks. You have the real power. Use it.”—Neil Young.
In sync with the major trends on social media, over the last week I’ve been tweeting and dropping a few one liners about the latest Joe Rogan Spotify story, but I feel it deserves a longer, edited overview to explain what I think and why. I confess, this scrawl is a personal rant in parts, but it also includes parts that reference terse and well balanced critiques of Spotify and other digital monopolies. Thanks in part to Cory Doctorow for being the clearest authority on the impact of digital media, and previously addressing the Joe Rogan Spotify deal in mid 2020, and to Matt Stoller for same sharpness and sense for constructive critique.
Yes, I’ve watched JR podcasts, multiple dozens of them over a protracted period of time since it launched over a decade ago. In particular, I was drawn to those featuring Doug Stanhope (who originally inspired Joe Rogan back in 2003) and Bill Burr, and other comedians, though I often feel deflated after listening to Joe’s shows, compared to the laugh out loud funny originals of Doug and Bill, to my taste buds. I’ve watched the Alex Jones car crash interviews and the Elon Musk smoke out, I watched the Oliver Stone interview, I watched David Choe, Paul Stamets, Lex Fridman, Bernie Sanders, Brian Muraresku, Jordan Peterson (help) and now I come to think of it, yeah, a lot of other dudes, mostly dudes chatting dude stuff: Secret Cults, Hidden Mysteries, DMT Magic, Lost Civilizations, Deep State, Big Tech, Big Pharma, Covid Conspiracies and other cliches. What’s not to laugh at, what’s funny?
Yet, personally I’ve never got the swift kick from Rogan’s podcasts that I detected some others around me seemed to be getting. It’s probably me, it has to be me, maybe I’m spoiled? Or is JR just not sharp? Am I expecting too much from popular Podcasters and Youtube celebrities? Same goes for Russel Brand, sadly, a descent into solipsism. I’m expecting much better and feel let down when I listen. It causes me to think, he ain’t processed any Karl Popper but he harps on about George Soros. I sense a third rate comedy, over stretched, too long and over-marketed, too much focus on subscribe and likes, a MAGMA MAFIA method? Furthermore, most but not all of these monopolists defend against criticism with that old chestnut, “I’m not a scientist or a doctor, I just want to talk to interesting people.” Yeah, right. And then there’s media monopoly which damages independent Podcast culture and independent music culture and erodes our trust in science.
Again, look, please, dear reader, don’t get me wrong, Spotify helps millions of songs reach billions of ears, music, that sacred beautiful powerful art that I’ve spent half my life studying and playing and promoting. Yes, we all benefit from hearing it. And please, listen to what you like. The deeper issue is not JR’s content, it’s about the business practice and strategy of Spotify and it’s detrimental effect on independent art and creativity. Mega rich and powerful media entities like Spotify sponsor huge events and festivals, but which financially benefit the tiny top tier of bands and performers, another kick in the maracas.
I do not receive any payment for my work uploaded to Spotify, I never use it. Most of my artist friends who do, also receive next to zip. It’s a bad deal for the majority, for 99.9% of artists on the platform, and yes, Apple Music, Amazon, Deezer, Tidal, Sony, TimeWarner, Universal aren’t much better. Cory Doctorow writes: “Spotify has been on an extraordinary, acquisition-and exclusivity-driven spending spree, buying 15 companies, and doing deals like this one with Rogan.”
Support Independent Music Culture
Add to this the fact I’m a DJ and vinyl lover, self inflicting physical injuries so as to continue occasionally getting the chance to set up and play records in a new way, striving to play a spectrum of music and do justice to the term disc jockey, hands on. I buy records and have done for over 30 years. I’ve spent tens of thousands of Pounds and hours listening, mixing, compiling music, and often zero payment. I don’t want sympathy. I want you to support the others struggling and bring hope in remaining fiercely independent to some lucky few out there now ready to give it everything.
In 2022, I’m rewarded for my 25 years service to music, both as a DJ and recording artist, by copyright infringement notices on Youtube (sometimes for my own works) and audio censoring on Twitch, and stipulations about what is and is not a DJ mix, or radio DJ mix, or a remix, depending on what platform and/or territory: Soundcloud / Mixcloud etc. My point is that I paid money for physical records, I’ve supported local record shops, independent labels, artists, small venues and clubs, for three decades across the United States, Holland and the UK. What better record of integrity than a record of playing records with integrity? I’m lucky in many respects, I’ve had breaks and gigs and releases and some very fine co-conspirators, god help the next generations coming up who have to navigate these shark infested digital waters.
The question remains, how, HOW do we better evaluate art and artists in 2022? How can we support independent artists to do what they love and keep it local and make it pay and give a glimmer of hope that some fortunate few may make a living off art? Blockchain, I hear you say, Spotify, I hear you chant, surely it’s not social media or bust? It’s either Facebook or no luck, if you want to promote your indie project? The elephants in the room are for-profit digital music monopolies, and variations on media monopolies. Is it hard cash and hard throttling of the competition based on numbers favoured by shareholders, internet spiraling down into a click-bait moneyball analytica con.
“taking something from the federated, open, competitive web and sticking it inside a walled garden. It’s the App Store strategy, the Facebook strategy, the AOL strategy, the MSN strategy.”Cory Doctorow, 2020.
Yes, I often moan about what goes viral but does not fit my own quality control. It’s tricky to avoid embittered whataboutism, and yes, artists can bring out the best and worst in purists. As the saying goes, a jack of all trades is a jack of no trades. But let’s not forget the good advice from Karl Popper, Marshall McLuhan and Robert Anton Wilson. A pinch of pluralism, multi model-agnosticism enriches the communication and experience of negotiating culture through the lens of art.
Besides the great thinkers and legendary artists and musicians, there’s the great unknowns, those millions of musicians and bands and performers who are aching to be seen and noticed, acknowledged. They deserve that break, that chance. Yet, pre and now post (ish) pandemic, artists have faced the colossal five headed beast MAGMA (Meta Amazon Google Microsoft Apple) and the new digital landscape where your latest work can get shared and played around the world a million times before you can afford to pay for a large coffee with the profits, after the skimming and scheming of the MAGMA posse. Cory adds, “Why does Wall Street like this? because acquisition-driven growth is a great way to establish a monopoly in which rents are extracted from suppliers and customers to the benefit of shareholders.”
Spotify is reported to be worth around 58 Billion USD. Joe Rogan was paid 100,000,000 by Spotify for a deal. Am I missing the part where Joe Rogan sets up 100 independent record labels, or opens a series of community music studio’s, or radio studio’s, starts indie record labels, supports local art music scenes? With 100,000,000 Joe could really help make a cultural impact on music, specifically, because that’s what Spotify does right, music culture? How ss a podcast like a musical composition, how is it different?
Specifically, who benefits financially most from the JR Podcast boost? Jordan Peterson? Elon Musk, Alex Jones, Daniel Elk, Jeff Bezos, MAGMA? Is it those who lean into the intellectual dark web, have books and book tours and films and albums? Or the up-coming creatives, future Podcasters and musicians? And what about other super wealthy billionaires, why don’t they support indie music culture and put their money where they’re yacht is? Governments? Aren’t they also supposed to be here, having this conversation about funding and support and helping musicians and labels and venues and festivals burst back into life again, safely, the regenesis of culture? The discussion and action should tackle the root of the problem: paywalls and digital monopolies, and freeing creatives, leveling up with the big guys, and preventing cannibalism. Why is there so little support for local and independent artists and groups and bands and labels, journalists, writers, why not give them equal air-time with deep-state conspiracies and spurious pseudo-science?
When compared with the relatively speaking, waffle, on whatever political hot potato is in the oven that week, independent art and culture and music get very little air-time and that’s a shame. Coincidently, it’s similar to the strategy of Spotify and most other digital beasts, algorithms deciding what song to play next, or what fringe subject to exploit for maximum click bait. Vice media also comes to mind here. And sadly, the listeners don’t seem to mind, in a world where vinyl DJ’s are a thing of the past. It’s a digital matrix multiverse, I suppose, and we’re all trapped here behind a paywall like an imprisoned Tron.
Look, watch Joe Rogan and do the dance if you like, I really don’t care. This best critique is not about the specific details of his content, it’s the deal with Spotify and support of digital monopolies, while claiming to stand and speak for freedom and just a bit of a chat. I hope for a deeper conversation about digital monopolies (big tech?) which demonstrably, JR, Russel Brand and Jordan Peterson, my three punching bags, have problems getting to grips with at times, perhaps because they depend on others to do the monopolizing for them: Spotify, Google-Youtube, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Meta. We need to talk about this on a neutral platform, if one exists? Bring back public assembly!
I’ve Seen The Stylus And The Damage Done.
Today, I supported an independent second hand record shop, I purchased physical discs that hold musical information and can be further manipulated with innovative hand movements if so desired. The digital platform monopolies and their main promoters don’t understand this or care. As Bruce Sterling summarized: whatever happens to musicians will happen to us all eventually. Support your local record store, library, band, artist, label. Boycott the main offenders, if you really want to fight, put your attention where your mouth is.
The repeated, demonstrable lack of a clear ability to communicate scientifically about science is not entertainment. If saying, “I’m not a scientist” gives you a license to not at least attempt to communicate like a scientist (climbing toward an operationalist language that defines the instruments used to take measurements,) that’s a shame. See: Neurological relativity. I’m going off course again.
JR’s coverage and selection of guests during the Sars 2 CoronaVirus pandemic, speaking about the Virus and the Vaccine and the Lab Leak turned me even further away from him, and changed my slight revulsion of the bald wrestling MC into something else, darker and even less funny and seemingly pandering to what’s best described as the Intellectual dark web, as floppy of a term that maybe. I thought JR’s video about Covid and Ivermectin and throwing the kitchen sink cocktail was irresponsible at best, outright dangerous at worst, but it sure got some traction and mileage on the old social media, just like Trump’s equally irresponsible proclamations.
I fear that we’ve come to a dark-side digital meritocracy without the need for any helping hidden hand, no need for a nefarious secret cabal to insist we display our social tokens (like and subscribe?), instead of being led by a totalitarian dictator, the faithful and vulnerable follow happily singing of “Freedom” behind the likes of JR, RB and JP, believing they truly care about us, our independent voices and our creative community more than they care for book sales and tours, and paywall payouts.
Break The Monopolies.
Support local artists and with luck they with help you speak and communicate and gain agency in your society by means of cultural transformation, towards a new better place where every town and city can have it’s independent journalists and podcasters and media platforms, where we can all embrace these digital simulations beamed at our senses 24/7 for what they actually are: media monopoly games for a shrinking few MAGMA players.
Naturally I’m also wrong, hopefully less than 51% of the time. I’m not saying these podcasts or books or videos should be censored, but I am saying that a market monopoly on the means to communication, when combined with hazardous health advice, is an explosive recipe. Popular figures have a growing responsibility to study science, logic, reason and suspend their judgment and check their prejudice, in a post Q-anon world. With increased size and popularity comes added responsibility, climate awareness, mental health awareness and MAGMA monopoly awareness.
I support Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Nils Lofgren, and others that challenge the media monopoly of Spotify. I’m not onside with some third rate edgy material that might get banned on some other platform because it’s toxic or harmful. I’m siding with beautiful music and a lifetime’s dedication to the artform, that’s where my heart is at. Plus, to me, the crazy horse sense of removing music based on their revulsion to edgy toxic misinformation, so effectively boycotting their label and/or platform, shows a degree of integrity lacking across entertainment media in 2022.
Platform/Label, what’s the difference besides the pay? I concede that Neil and Joni are rich and famous enough to get away with such a boycott, but they did it, and I can’t see clearly how they benefit from this, which suggests to me they’re sincere. JR is not sincere from where I’m sitting. He should have me on his show, I’d love to serve up a roast, he can invite Jordan Peterson and Russel Brand too. Let’s go. As long as I can have my band with me to demonstrate what we say and how we say it, how we play it. I’ve no need to delete Spotify, I’ve never used it and always stood for independent homegrown culture.
Michael Parenti, Democracy Now, 2009.
“It was Marx who said one capitalist will kill many other capitalists, that the system begins to consume itself.
02/02/22 (edited 04/02/22)