Monday, 6 October 2008

Top Musicians Move to Protect Financial Interests

Neil McCormick of the Telegraph runs a funny piece on a new musical rights coalition.

Thom Yorke (pictured above), Billy Bragg, Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Craig David, Kate Nash, Robbie Williams, Kaiser Chiefs and the Klaxons have gathered to form a coalition protecting said various artists' financial interests in the current changing musical environment.

It will have an independent chairman with six artists, three managers and representatives from the Musicians' Union and Equity, and a six-point manifesto which will include policies on fair compensation for musicians after deals between labels and technology companies, and a "use it or lose it" approach to copyright which prevents labels sitting on unreleased recordings.

The union will act as a single voice for all artists, dealing with the government as well as record labels and digital distributors.

As McCormick rightly points out this all sounds very sensible and financially prudent. But since when have musicians who, objectively speaking, aren't even that talented in the face of years of musical genius down the centuries, been so dull?

I thought that the whole point of the rock and roll lifestyle was one of endless parties, general excess, psychosexual trauma and relationship dysfunction, extreme highs, extreme lows followed by rehab only to relapse, to eventually enter the annals of musical obscurity and to only be recognised by die-hard fans when slumped years later outside Waitrose trying to bum cigarettes off passers by.

Mozart had debtors hounding him until his death and well-spring of divinely inspired ensembles that he was, clearly lived the rock and roll lifestyle. Musicians historically have not been rich people. They've been troubadours travelling around wowing fans with their music, living on the road and wasting cash everywhere on everything because they know they're not in it for the money, they know it won't last forever and could all end in a plane crash or drugs bust tomorrow. The whole point of suffering for your art is that you are not surrounded by comforts and the largesse of the wealthy. Maybe that's why Oasis became even duller than they already were after Noel Gallagher moved into Supernova Heights when the first album went platinum.

Say what you like about Pete Doherty's wayward lifestyle but at least the guy is living as a rock star should. I know he has made some cash out of what appears to be the dregs of the barrel of musical talent, but one always gets the feeling that he doesn't know where he will wake up tomorrow and if he lost it all he'd happily live in a YMCA and busk for his dinner, or whatever takes his fancy. Ever hounded by the press as he is, not only does he struggle in overcoming his addictions but as I saw from a couple of pictures in the Daily Mail once, has a bit of time to give to the homeless and destitute. When will people learn? Rock stars are meant to be famous, but they're not meant to be rich. If they're rich then in truth they have failed. That's why people of sense, when Bono clicks his fingers telling us that another child has just died in poverty in Africa at another God-awful concert, just don't take him seriously because the guy owns a bunch of mansions. Mansions for pete's sake!

I also hear Johnny Rotten is about to start making commercials for Country Life. I understand the humourous irony, but does he? He's still getting paid a fat pile of cash for it! Rock and Roll is dead! "Great", you might say, "I never liked it in the first place!" But what has appeared in its place? Tedious artists who have nothing to say, little passion for art and who are more concerned about their bank balance than allowing music to be a means of challenging the comfortable lifestyles of the wealthy and well-to-do. As for these guys, perhaps they should speak and play at the Conservative Party conference next year!

I don't care whether these musicians believe in God or not. But if you are going to stand on a pulpit bemoaning the CO2 emissions, G8 trade talk failures, poverty and starvation in the developing nations and the numerous injustices of capitalism then be prepared for people to laugh when you make it so apparent that your first priority is securing your future financial rights in the music industry. Because if you are going to do that remember this: You cannot serve God and Mammon.

If my band ever got big, and it's unlikely I'll grant you that, I'd like to be able to say, like Seasick Steve, "I started out with nothing and I still have most of it left." A bit more of the spirit of the talented hobo would inject a bit more life into our stale music scene.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The idea of poverty and creativity is an interesting one. I have sort of been hopeful that the internet would bring an end to the age of the super-rich superstar, and bring music closer to the community. That said, clearly some musicians are very driven people, otherwise why would they bother to keep making records once they'd finished off paying for the swimming pool (alimony payments aside)? Thanks for you comments about my article, sometimes the ducks sit up in a row, and it would be impolite not to shoot them

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