Home > 1, Music > Book 4. Paradise to Paradise Portals, A Music Business Q and A, Seagulls In The Snow…

Book 4. Paradise to Paradise Portals, A Music Business Q and A, Seagulls In The Snow…

Book 4. Paradise to Paradise Portals, A Music Business Q and A, Seagulls In The Snow…

 We are here this fine evening, Tuts, Mary, myself and approximately three hundred others, for a concert.at Christ Church Methodist Church in Market Square. A genuinely beautiful two hundred plus year old,  “old-time House Of God” polished Mahogany rafters and pews, hanging lamps, elevated preacher boxes and discreet iconic Methodist symbols methodically placed to maximize the opportunity for methodological salvation..

 The last time I was in this Church, it was dark and very late at night. I was a  fifteen year old teenage boy, on my knees, and begging God for a miracle intervention in the  just reported pregnancy of my teenage girl friend. A Solomonic miracle was delivered, no pregnancy, but a (our) child would come anyway, only a few years later.

So, I feel an unusual reverence for and a strong personal connection to this church, and to the direct connect “paradise to paradise” portal that may still be floating from pious to pew in this magical place.

 The concert presents a brass ensemble from UVI (The University Of The Virgin Islands) along with a few young (and quite good) singers (Junior High School) and various combinations of older singers (duets, trios) from various schools and Churches around the Island.

There is some mighty fine and sincere singing and the brass ensemble fills the Church with wonderful harmony. The Church in turn, creates and returns some extraordinary harmonics. We are awash, bathed in a sea of beautiful sound, coming and going and swirling all around us, up our noses in our ears, in side and out side, from head to toe. I leave vibrating like a polytonal pitchfork, porked and done, it was wonderful.

A desperate gent from New Zealand came by “Shaky Acres” recently, asking for help. His wife is relapsing on crack. She sent him out to sell her ring and he came here instead. We spoke with him, got him some NA Numbers and sent him back to see the MD that had been successful in leveraging his wife into treatment in the first place. I gave him my number. Later, I led a ninth tradition meeting, it’s unbelievable how flipsos and dipsos and dopes, actually developed and sustain a program as radically effective as 12 step process, one that actually saves lives all day and night all over the place, all over the world. A process that  actually works if you work it.

A Music Business Q and A.  

I recently went to the UVI library and the car broke down in one of the parking lots (this one is on the very top of the hill just behind the library), while waiting for repair, I sang “standards” into the wind, for three hours. “Answer Me My Love” “This Love Of Mine’ “Mona Lisa” “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” “You Belong To Me” “Smile” “The Way You Look Tonight” “Some One To Watch Over Me” and four or five others. It was great fun. I just love to sing and I just love these songs.

I need to find a way to record some of these tunes they are timeless and wonderful..  

However, that is so much easier said (sung) than done. The whole freakin’ crazy business of making music for fun and profit, is like a  toxic mudball of megalo-maxi-maniacs, divvied up into starry eyed Tinker Pans and hook fingered Captain Crooks.” Unfortunately, it seems like the solution to dealing with these folks is buried smack dab and dribble, in the middle of the always elusive swiss cheese riddled Executive Center of the even more elusive grilled ham and swiss cheese pickled and riddled brain.

 In fairness tho, my problems with the music business is just part of my across the board problem with authority. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that I’m an anarchist, I truly do understand the value of organization and the need for empathy and practicality in governance, but I am a child of chaos (generations of active, often violent alcoholism) “blessed” with hyper-vigilance, meaning the ability to sense and see danger, duplicity and dishonesty.

Consequently while I acknowledge, appreciate and embrace the real need for an organized cooperative effort to plan for, develop and sustain any career in the arts, and fully realize (from long personal experience) that artists can’t do it all by them selves, I deplore the fact that so many of the people who have stepped in to manage and market musical artists, and the businesses around them, have been so God-awfully hypocritical, self-seeking and dishonest.

The answers to the multifaceted question of how and why the music business “collapsed” are long and multifaceted themselves. Within the larger question, are a number of less general, more specific questions, the answers to which, when added together (but not counting serendipity) provide some thing close to  the sum total of what happened.

Among them this..

The question of how many singers (and other musical artists) with great and potentially wide appeal, became pigeonholed or typecast (meaning “locked” into one type of song, one type of music) is interesting, the answer to this “secondary” question, I think provides some insight into the larger one.

 Here’s an attempt to illustrate how this sort of thing occurred..

Singers are one thing, audiences are another. If a singer sings a song that is particularly moving or satisfying or rewarding for an audience member, the audience member is likely to want the singer to “do that again”. What could be more natural?

 If the audience member actually had some control over the singer they might be tempted to use that control to try to recreate the satisfying reward experience for themselves. That’s fairly natural also,

However, while a singer might  do a few “requests” the singer wouldn’t turn the control over what he or she sings to an audience member for long, as that would be silly and potentially self destructive. Simply because the audience member will naturally try to create a series of reward experiences primarily for them selves.

If the musical judgement of the singer is permanently superceded by the subjective reward seeking judgment of an individual audience member, chances are good, the outcome will be bad.

If the audience member is in fact a record executive (generally, a group of people with no more musical talent or taste or knowledge than any other group of lawyers or accountants). and the reward that the executive gets from the singer singing a particular song or type of song is money and job security, then it’s easy to understand why they would want (and if they had the control, make) the singer do the same type of thing over and over until the reward response is exhausted.  At that point an audience member (or executive) might say I don’t like him as much as I used to, he’s not as good, he’s just not that interesting anymore,…and move on to the next singer, to repeat the same cycle all over again.

 Of course, It isn’t smart for any artist/singer to allow that to happen to him or her however, once you signed with a record company, the contract specified, (for most of us), that they had the control over every thing..including selection of material, producer, arranger, musicians,  when, where and what you would record. And,..releases. Who, what when and which recordings to release and to promote and when and what to spend on the promotion of the recording, and finally, when and what to give the artist as payment,

And remember,  for the most part (with the exception of the break out up and coming “new guy” who was quickly absorbed by the established biz) the  music business executives were a small, relatively closed fraternity made up of men who knew, agreed with, were protective of and supported one another.

 So while it wasn’t smart or creative or satisfying, you didn’t protest or resist it, or you might wind up as a sixty four year old “broke to the bone” singer, fighting mano a mano with sixty pounds of angry mosquitoes over a vienna sausage, down in the steaming hot bongo isles. Theirs was the only game in town, and the great majority of singers (and musical artists of every kind) have had their lives, their art, and their careers compromised and all too often, seriously damaged by it…not to mention how cheated the real audience was and is,  of all that music, that they never and will never have the opportunity to enjoy.

 I think any one can see, that it’s not good business for an executive to have that sort of control over a musical artist because..

1.     That kind of constrictive thinking immediately narrows the potential and appeal of the artist, and then it’s only a matter of time before the audience gets tired of the same old thing over and over again.

 2.     The singer or musical artist is by nature (or performance experience), more musically in tune with the broad spectrum of audience likes and dislikes than any individual audience member would be. Therefore, the musical artist is the one most appropriate to make the musical choices. Their job is to “take their audiences with them” for as long and as far as they can go. If a artist were free to  give their audiences diversified  interesting offerings, it could mean life long interest and product sales. Ah..kinda like the Beatles.

 3.     The old paradigm approach was short-sighted, exploitive and destructive to the Art of music, the Artists that made it, and the audiances who loved the music. Destructive to the very things that the business of the music business depended on.

 And now that the short-sighted have blown their paradigm, without laying the ground work for a new one, they have left themselves, their artists and their larger audiences up crits squeek with out a paddle.

 Other “so called” smart people have literally stolen the music business away from the music business, and while the new “smart guys” haul in the digits hand over fist, Artists are in an even more vulnerable situation than before.

 I hope that Artists will be able find a way to organize themselves (and their multigenerational audiences) to take control of the entire chain from creation to collection, because it is painfully clear that these new raptors, ah I mean business men, care even less (if possible) about the Art of Music, the Artists that make music, and the people that they make it for, than the previous raptors, ah..business men did. We shall see. I will try.

Seagulls In The Snow

I looked out my window in the states this morning, and by God there were seagulls in the snow. They were diving and dipping and flying in crazy circles, and who knows why. I am presently a hundred miles from the Sea, but one block from the Susquehanna. I’m not surprised that these guys go where they wanna go and do what they wanna do, they are fantastical.

I see them as romantic flying herds of diminutive, ravenous, omnivorous Dinobirds, singing a wacked out song-a-lingo that stirs the heart and has stood the test of (millions of universal “circle the sun” units of) time.

What a pleasure to see and hear them here, I hope our song lives as long, I like ‘em.


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