Marketing, managers, production, PR, information management, lackies who bring the coffee and secretly resent you so deeply that they routinely gob in your drink and of course the hangers on and followers who make the whole gig roll along – all the perks of a musical corporate adventure.
Self-promotion, mailing lists, endless spamming, cash-strapped production – all the perks of free music, which is rapidly becoming the more popular model of distribution for individual artists (popularity born more of necessity than choice though that may be). Does kind of make the ideal of artist control seem like a less than desirable end point doesn’t it? All the creative freedom in the world doesn’t make it any less tempting a task for a musician to devote years to studying and struggling to understand marketing and distribution systems which is almost always the task they’re faced with if they’ve got any desire to either make a living out of their work or even just to get it out there to a audience that’ll listen.
Net labels are, for now, the obvious mechanism for redressing this balance but even with the best organised and most enthusiastic amongst them it’s still a bit of a fantasy to imagine that they’re capable of filling the void left in the absence of a fully paid up and devoted support team (the price of which runs to millions at the top end of the commercial sector). And that’s no slight on the fine individuals involved, just a depressing observation about how much there is lacking from the free music resource pool which despite having a horde of very talented and very devoted people within it doesn’t have the decades of experience and training that the commercial mainstream can boast.
Still, there are other ways, shortcuts in getting the music out there which circumvent the requirements set in place by traditional labels and media – people having been getting music from the fringes heard for decades but the struggle’s always been an up-hill one and usually it ends up feeding into the commercial sector as they cherry pick off the most successful adherents of the alternative stream. A Magpie like quality which routinely reinforces to most people the fact that the mainstream has the best music and so any other system is resigned to the cultural B-team, money making a monopoly which is near impossible to break down.
Alas there’s unlikely to ever come a time where there’s either the money or the model within free music to simply pay for all of that support and expertise – that’s part of the system’s appeal in many ways, the money that there is goes to those doing the creating and the work around it rather than being pissed away on adjuncts and musically indifferent functionaries. And long may that continue but it does mean that the debate about an alternative path becomes a more central one.
One suggestion that I’d make on the issue is that, taking advantage of the sheer numbers our movement has, there should be some point of organisation, not necessarily a grand portal but at least a job-site style listing of all of those who are willing and capable of assisting labels and artists in getting things done. I know that we have an abundance of artists, writers, musicians (obviously) and people who just know about how the music industry works and who can adapt and contribute their knowledge to the free end of it – so why not bring them all into play? It’d be a fairly easy task to set up some form of social networking site for the free music community and from their to make it easier for anyone with a project to enlist the relevant people, the technical side I could even do myself but for now the concept is simply a discussion piece, so let’s see if there’s any interest in discussing it…