Mandy’s Uncreative Democracy – A Thinking Rant, Goddamnit!

Mandy’s bill has caused a big stir amongst creatives of all types. I am predisposed to listen to the music ones, but have also read writers’ and other ‘artists’ comments on the matter. I was totally against the bill in the first place, believing that it purely benefits the fat cat business people who, yes, have their place in the creative industry helping those right brainers with their left brainy things, but who, unlike their right brainy clients, are not able to think outside the DVD box set and come up with some new ideas for exploiting (in a mutually beneficial way of course) their creative clients for financial gain. I still believe this bill benefits these people more than anyone, and slimy, stinking Simon Cowell types (who we will come back to later) more than the right brainers, but I do have some sympathy for artists who are not credited for their work that seems to be flung all over the tinternet willy-nilly by un-academically trained bloggers/tweeters/facespazers, etc. Maybe this is the new challenge for the right brainers to be creative with their creative output and ditch the lefties all together?

Take Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, for example, who successfully ditched his lousy record company after trying to take control of HIS creative output, and released countless musical outputs, staged live shows beyond belief, collaborated with exceptionally talented unknown creatives, and did it all under his own control, with the power balance redressed and distribution exploitation exposed by the rightful owner – HIM. Yes, some might say he can afford it now thanks to the record company’s initial marketing input, but that was in 1988. These left brain skills are now taught as part of music education at all levels and the technology of today makes it easier than ever to be a bedroom sensation, especially with the ‘hot geeks’ revolution who could potentially mutually benefit creatively from collaborating. Collaboration is only possible with freedom of information otherwise it will always be in the box (set), unknown, unshared, uninspirational. Is it time to take the power back?

Experiences are where the new creative industry’s income is at, but fat cats are too stuck in their ways to see it. The CD is soooo 1990. The DVD is too, but there is some leeway to offer something extra with this to add value and make it special. Of course some of us consumers do have morals too and will not accept a copy of our favourite band/comedian/performer on any format because we want them to gain some (if only a small percentage) financial gain from our hard earned spending, now that we can afford to of course.

My point is that if you’re a creative person you output your creative product and IF IT’S ANY GOOD people will want to buy it. Most creative people accept that some free shameless self promotion is a good idea, especially when trying to get established, and are happy to post their stuff on THEIR OWN website/blog/twit/facespaz ready to be distributed and shared amongst the world. This is a good thing for us consumers too for we get to sample before we decide to buy. However, if you, as a consumer, really do appreciate something your fave right brainer has conceptualised then you will surely want to objectify them by purchasing a hard copy to drool over at your leisure and show off to your mates. This is why DVDs have ‘extras’, why CDs have ‘hidden tracks’, and, most importantly, why the live experience is something so totally unique that cannot be reproduced on the tinternet. Yes, you can illegally record the ‘gig’ on your crappy phone and post it on YouTube, but it looks and sounds shit and I would not be a happy bunny if I got presented with a ripped off collection of clips filmed on the Nokia Walkman fone for my Xmas prezzie – the overload of crapness which could of course, a la NIN, inspire the band to actually make a quality fan recording of the gig via quality amature recording equipment expressly permitted by the venue, via orders of Mr Trent, edited and released by said fans with express permission and creative consent FROM THE ARTIST – There is so much so called creative output available via the internet now that maybe it’s time there was some kind of social quality control crap filter that meant only the truly good stuff really shines through.

I go back, now, to Simon Cowell. Mandy’s bill benefits Mr Cesspit Cowell immensely because the drivel Mr Cowell relies on to pay his high-trouser tailor and dentist bills comes directly from the old, worn out model of selling CDs/DVDs via ‘personality’ and ‘air time’ aimed at 8-13 year old girls who are more than manipulatively capable of badgering middle class daddy to buy the objects of their desire for Xmas. Middle class daddy, on the other hand, couldn’t care less what the dollop of crap wrapped in the box is as long as his princess is ignorantly happy, just as she was with last year’s Barbie doll and next year’s last year’s iPhone. These things are the equivalent to materialistic fads that come and go with fashion, and in no way equate to the historical recognition of actual music being produced that will go down in historical musicology musings for their quality and ACTUAL CREATIVITY.

Take, for example, Jimmy who loved Steve Vai in 1990, read an article about him in some magazine where Vai states his musical influences, for example, the once god-like, financially successful in his time Frank Zappa. Now, Jimmy, being only a spotty teenager with minimal fiscal income and a guitar permanently welded to his appendage, naturally wants to find out more about this Frank Zappa guy who influenced the god that is Vai. So, being an enterprising, and slightly geeky, teenager Jimmy takes himself to his local, seemingly well equipped library and borrows a Frank Zappa tape. He listens and he absorbs and what he hears melts into his creative assemblage. He tells his mates, one of whom has a fully paid for Frank Zappa tape and lends it to Jimmy. Jimmy listens and absorbs, but concludes that although he does not belittle Zappa’s somewhat egocentric output, he still prefers Vai. Then Jimmy commits the illegal act of copying the Zappa. Jimmy doesn’t have the finances to contribute to the now defunct estate of Zappa and doesn’t emotionally value him as much as Vai, for whom he will pester his middle-class parents’ pockets to produce more objectifications of Vai’s work in the form of CDs, videos/DVDs, etc. At the age of 23 Jimmy becomes the new virtuoso of guitaring and gains recognition and validity from his peers, fame, a loan from some left brainers and lots of adoring fans. Would Jimmy have got this far had he not been able to melt some Zappa influences into his creative butter sauce? We don’t know that he wouldn’t or he would; only his creative unconscious knows. But when Jimmy has his article published in some magazine and cites the great Vai as a major influence the cycle starts over and the Vai CDs/DVDs are passed around from mate to mate, from creative unconscious to creative unconscious, inspiring, hopefully, some form of qualification to their own output.

The point is WE NEED THESE INFLUENCES. It’s like democratic creativity. History is important and knowing where one comes from gives a sense of self and validity. All creatives are not born into money; notoriously the opposite in fact. Are these people therefore less entitled to their own musical education than the single mother, mature student who qualifies for £3000 a year plus fees and non-repayable grants? Creativity breeds creativity; that is how it works.

In short, you cannot change a culture by making a law, and you cannot change a law so it allows you to change the law whenever you want. That is taking le piss! There are deeper issues here about social economics/deprivation that affects all of this and the majority who are working hard to be fair and just, to learn from, and preserve real influential history should not be penalised for the few dishonest ‘throw away culture’ tossers, especially the ones making their own profit from something that isn’t remotely to do with or appreciated by them! Only Lilly Allen would disagree. Before we all go off to buy some of her CDs and copy them and sell them for £5 because “as long as people pay something for it, it doesn’t matter where they get it from” consider this: ignorance is clearly the problem here, along with the continued meaninglessness of quality, not creative democracy through sharing inspiration.

and here is a link to an article proving that live revenue is benefiting from the apparent epidemic of illegal file sharing which benefits the artist more than the record lable…
http://labs.timesonline.co.uk/blog/2009/11/12/do-music-artists-do-better-in-a-world-with-illegal-file-sharing/

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2 comments

  1. Great article.I like what you're saying and it's very well put across. The only bit I don't agree with is the Simon Cowell-bashing. I know it's controversial but I respect what he does, and the fact that he unapologetically makes this year's Xmas presents for Middle-class daddy to buy his princess is in no way a negative thing.Neither, incidentally, is it a new idea. Ever heard of Motown? Stax? The Supremes? Elvis? The goddman Sex Pistols? They were ALL manufactured, they were ALL presented to a particular market for express commercial benefit, and they all happened at a time when they was plenty of "true creativity" available to the record-buying public. I don't believe that these "creative" artists suffered at all, and I don't believe that the likes of AFP, Trent Reznor et al are currently suffering from Cowell's empire.

  2. Hi EltonbearThanks for the compliment :)What you say above about relating Mr Cowell to the Motown era is absolutely true. My problem with that is that Motown was innovative in its time (well, along with Sun Records) and considering the oppressive nature of music, and black artists generally, before that Motown produced some very innovative stuff. Simon Cowell is a product of now, not of 1960. The business model of the music industry in 1960 is should not be the same 50 years later, but Mr Cowell continues to hold on to this cumbersome model which is more based around the marketing and PR machine to create wealth for his pocket than it is to promote real creative output that has some form of quality instead of throw away fashion. I'm sure established artists like Trent aren't suffering, however, I could go into a rant about the amount of innovative unknown musicians and bands, and indeed artists of different media, out there who really deserve a break instead of the karaoke dreamers Mr Cowell prefers to exploit…er, I mean promote, but that's a whole other rant in itself! Orange Unsigned started to get the idea.Anyway, I think Mr Cowell is obviously a very clever business man, as was Pete Waterman who did the same thing in the 80s, and confirms to the norm in the establishment's favourite status quo way. However, the fact that he has picked the music industry in which to exert his business acumen is to the detriment of real creativity within it and not to its benefit. I think he should diversify into bananas and cakes.

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