Saturday, July 02, 2011

Why the death of the music industry will make you a better musician.

Picture is unrelated
Originally published in 'Lights Go Out' zine.

A while back I was having a cheery chat with a friend (Edd from the 'Last Hours' anarchist collective) and he jokingly told me that life was a lot simpler when he was a fifteen year consumer focussed only on winning the national lottery.  I laughed, he laughed, we both laughed; you get the picture.  While ethics wholly enrich your life in a tangibly (and measurably) holistic way they have a nasty knack of complicating everything.

The laughter turned to thoughtful stubble stroking when I realised that life was also far simpler for the fifteen year old version of me - when I was fifteen I was putting on gigs in village halls and playing in some really cack bands, and the only thing that appeared to matter in my life (apart from the underwear section in Kays catalogue) was getting a big fat record deal.  As far as I was concerned (and as far as I knew) getting signed to a major label was all any musician ever needed to get ahead in life and to consider himself/ herself a success.  Oh boy has my opinion changed since then, but this isn't about me, it's about why anyone who is serious about music should start preparations for the biggest party ever - the party we'll have when the last major label goes belly up.

If you started playing music to get rich and famous and (to quote Catlin Moran) die on the shitter covered in whatever sticky substance you're addicted to then don't feel bad; it's the reason most of us first picked up an instrument in anger; I know it was my motivation, well that and to try and get a snog.  But if you're still adhering to that monetary motivation all these years later than I'm afraid you've got a problem.

Focussing all your musical energies on making pots of cash is like buying cooking ingredients in the hope that owning them will make you a famous chef - you can still create some fantastic food and make a significant contribution to the development of your culinary world, but the chances of you becoming rich and famous doing so are very slim.  And nobody seems to like famous chefs much anyway so why bother.  Which brings me to my final point...

The self destruction of the major label led music industry has the potential to make you a better musician because it (over time) will remove the money focussed blinkers from your eyes, and without the pressure to be commercially successful (which ALWAYS involves artistic compromise) you're free to create something truly new, something exciting, and something that genuinely contributes to the world of music.

Create music for music's sake, not for the shareholders of a global corporation.  Remove the desperate pressure to be a global sensation from your ambition and your creativity will flourish.

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