A version of this article was originally published on my arts and music blog on Synkretic Network, but since the issue and the angle here are much broader than music, reaching into free speech and economy, I think it has a place on this page too.
How many social protest songs have you seen in the charts this last decade? What does that mean?
a new generation now that hasn’t really experienced the great raw
energy of a large mass of people united in chanting a chorus that
expresses protest and discontent towards the establishment. “F You, I
won’t do what you tell me!” has been replaced with “F you, I will do
what this other establishment shill tells me!”. I’m an artist and a
promoter in my 40’s and I contemplate the strong possibility that I will
never again witness something like the early Rage Against The Machine,
or even Lenon’s “Imagine”, becoming largely popular. Social lyricism in
hip-hop is in a coma too. And this is how we got here:
Streaming services demonetized protesters
and streaming services are being used to take away underground’s income
sources and self-sustainability. You keep hearing Spotify or Soundcloud
are not profitable and you keep wondering how do they survive then?
They’ll always find financing, because they deliver all the music to the
audiences without making the artists’ lives self-sustainable. Sales are
a joke now. This way, independent artists become starving artists, and
it’s legal, unlike piracy.
Only selected (or fabricated) establishment minions are allowed to thrive. That means only establishment’s messages get through. To the people running the show, this is worth much more money than it costs! A perfect assassination of artistic integrity and social protest. If you hear anything, it’s sponsored. The 2019 RATM, if they re-unite as rumored, won’t be anything like the early RATM because now they need Google and Twitter and Vice and corporate festivals on their side to succeed, not the other way around. The tables have been switched under our noses while we were getting high on Facebook likes.
Of course this new paradigm generated some independent success stories, but what do they all have in common? They fall in line with what’s acceptable for the establishment. And when you zoom out and look at the big picture, which includes all artists, what do you see? I see a huge mass of talented yet starving artists and a bunch of lottery winners, a few new happy faces in the media every year keep the scam going. The middle class in music is dead too.
Social media hijacked the audiences
“Bring your fans aboard so we can disconnect them from you and connect them to our establishment-sponsored BS!”. This has been the plan from the beginning for the mainstream social media. They weren’t here to help artists, unsurprisingly. They’ve just used artists and popular figures to attract the masses and fill up their boat, and then they sailed their own course. Only 5% of your Facebook artist page subscribers see your posts now, but I bet they all are exposed to a ton of Coca Cola, CNN or The Guardian posts even without subscribing to those pages. Perfect heist!
How do we bounce back?
I’ll get massive hate from corporate slaves for saying this, but there’s only one way I can think of and I’m already working on what I preach:
More direct contact with more implication and mutual support from both sides: artists and audiences. If we don’t act now, tomorrow might be harder or even too late.
What does that, technically, mean? Cut off the gatekeepers and middlemen as much as possible, stay in touch directly, support each other directly. This is coming from a guy who partly works as a middleman too; but only because there’s still a need for that, I’ll be happy to focus 100% on my own art when I’m not meeting any needs anymore! It’s not more simple or more complicated than building and maintaining a little dedicated fanbase without letting it get leached and drained out by gatekeepers and middlemen. That means you can’t use their tools, you have to circumvent them. So now’s the best time to get creative, I await your ideas while I work on mine!
It breaks down to:
Artists need to invest more in their direct contact with the fans than in traditional marketing and media plans. Time to get personal, the industry and corporate media are not doing the job of putting us in touch anymore, they only disconnect us. I spent a good bunch of time and money to create a social network just so that artists and fans of all sorts can freely talk and support each other directly, without interference. I’ll create more tools and options for that, but Synkretic Network already offers all the tools you need for this purpose at no cost. Maybe it’s time to populate it. Or start your own.
Fans need to invest more in the artists that make their lives better, and do it more directly. If you buy an $1 song from Apple or Amazon, there’s at least 3-4 entities that will snatch 50-75% of that money before the artist has a chance to see his share. If you see a donation button, chances are that the artist will be able to spend about 80-90% of the sum you send, so drop your dollar there instead of iTunes and such. Avoid rips and leaches. If you don’t have money to spend, please help spread awareness, it’s just as helpful. Or help the artists get booked in your city. Just re-invest back in the scene some of the good energy you’re getting from your favorite artists and we’ll be cool again! Only if you want and find it necessary to have a healthy artistic life, for yourself and the whole society as well.
As a personal example, the
last couple of years I started to make most of my work, past and
present, available for free, because art shouldn’t be for sale in the
first place, this is how the whole problem started. Art thrives from
honest crowd support. Low sales don’t mean people don’t care about
artists anymore, it’s just that they’ve been reprogrammed to care
differently and they lost the habit of paying; older folks aren’t aware
that paying for listening music is a strange concept to most teenagers
I know I’ll get even less donations than sales for a while, but I’ll receive double or triple the percentage and they’ll be available instantly, not 5-6 months later, as per usual with the industry. Also fans can’t ever feel cheated as they conveniently donate whatever they can afford, whenever they can afford it, typically after enjoying artist’s work; and their conscience is the only one to arbiter how much they should invest in this. Win-win situation, that’s what alien pimping is about! Use your money and shares wisely, my friends!
Hopefully I’ll also do a good job at persuading people they need to act as soon as yesterday, and dropping a coin in our digital hats when available can make a difference; so can a few good clicks. I’m becoming a digital busker, as I’ve said before, since I don’t have what it takes to be a good street busker. It’s yet way too early to say how it will work, but I doubt there’s any other way out of this swamp.
So here’s my digital busker hat, I’m already working to thank you: DONATE
I mean, for consistence, besides other projects, I already have my next protest song in the works, it will be available for free download as soon as possible, whether you drop me a coin or not.
UPDATE + CLOSURE:
It took about half a year for life to deliver a final closure to this case.
“In response to the outrageous ticket prices a new activist group has emerged called Rage Against Rage Against the Machine”, jokes the satirical site Daily Bonnet, after they found out that the ticket prices for the new 2020 RATM tour are soaring from $190 way up.
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! Articles can always be subject of later editing as a way of perfecting them