“You have got to take back the power”. These were the words of advice from my very best female friend about a relationship of mine which has ended on pretty ugly terms.

Of course, she is right, and, “taking back the power” can certainly be used when it comes to music and the music industry.

When it comes to the latter, just as in matters of the heart, head and mind, the “enemy” is often vastly overrated. Like being the perennial romantic or “needing to be in love”, a very warped sense of “reality” and importance is created and built up. Love is Blind becomes more than just a dumb saying. It’s proven to be correct as some people truly love the NOTION of being “in love”.

http://www.cartoonstock.com/lowres/dre0543l.jpg

It’s not unlike many musicians who under-sell themselves and wonder why someone with half their talent “make it”. Perhaps they just fought harder to maintain their power and played The Power Card? Or they had a rich Daddy.

For example, today, one CAN fight “City Hall”- and win- just as one CAN take on music companies, concert promoters, websites etc and also win. It’s just that we rarely seem to REALLY want to “take back this power”, or use it. We whine, but we don’t fight hard enough. We are happy to be spectators and voyeurs.

This “power” belonged and still belongs to all music fans. We can wimp out and turn the other cheek and get screwed in the process and KNOW we are getting the short end of the stick, OR we can grow some balls and say, “NO WE CANNOT”.

All that talk of “hope” and “change” has, sadly, brought about squat. Talk and speeches read off teleprompters seldom do and 2008 was three years ago and the world is pretty much f***ed up and with music reduced to such an infinitely small and insignificant level that it hardly exists.

Music has lost its power and we have all played some role in de-valuing it by not PRIORITIZING it and, instead, turning off the sound and making music become muzak.

I mean, how many people honestly CARE whether EMI buys Warner or if Warner is sold to who-knows-and-who-cares-whom and if Gwyneth Paltrow gets a record deal?

We can, however,  look at how- and why- a Charlie Sheen Tour can be sold out in 18 minutes and  wonder why some great new musicians are struggling to get even a small gig- somewhere, anywhere- just to get their music heard- and be paid for their performance.

Again, it’s about “taking control” and, though the sad case that he is- or someone incredibly street-wise- Charlie Sheen has taken control and is fighting City Hall, or, as he says, “WINNING”. And being lemmings, “winnings” has become the new word de jour to many and Sheen is now another “YouTube sensation”. Can we please have some REAL-LIFE sensations?

The more nuttier and off-the-wall he becomes, the more outrageous the things he says and does become,the more he is “winning” and “taking back the power” and there are many who never knew him before and now see him as some surreal version of “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” on crack.

http://cdn.babble.com/famecrawler/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Charlie-Sheen-Sheens-Korner.jpg

Meanwhile, bands and acts perform for free for “exposure” and “promotion” and the more that music is given away for free, the worse it all becomes and creates a downwards spiral for everyone.

Suddenly, Big Brands come knocking at the door wanting more of your music and you, being so flattered that they could have heard of you, subserviently bow and scrape and say, “Yassir, no sir, three bags full sir” and give them EVERYTHING- for free- without thinking things through and looking at what this will all mean. It usually means that you have been had.

http://www.cartoonstock.com/lowres/dro1163l.jpg

Okay, they “promote” you, but HOW?

It’s like brand new “music” websites wanting music and dangling the “promotional button” but not spending a dime on marketing the site. So, in this cluttered marketplace, if people cannot fid the site, how can they find your music ON this site? Same with “free” gigs for “promotion” and which are not promoted. Well, no one shows up.

Like any relationship that is meant to last, it MUST take two to tango. One carrying the other all the time ends up with the “carrier” looking like Quasimodo and only good for ringing them gawd-damn bells.

http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/mly/lowres/mlyn817l.jpg

Partnerships, it’s all about PARTNERSHIPS and not selling one’s self and what one owns short: Yes, “take back the power” because you HAVE the power and people must pay the piper ‘cos there is NOTHING today as a free lunch.

I do work for one of Hong Kong’s biggest and richest organizations and where one of its middle management executives takes absolute GLEE in getting as much as he can for free from suppliers. He honestly believes he is doing his job by squeezing the nuts of suppliers and how all this is best for his employer.

He is a Corporate toadie and the sound of kissing ass can be heard as strides through the corridor reminding all of his greatness. He oozes self-confidence and creepiness.

http://images.paraorkut.com/img/pics/glitters/k/kiss_my_ass-7747.jpg

His staff complain and think the man is a total asshole, but they say nothing. They play the game and which is to be “Tommy”- that deaf, dumb and blind kid who once played a mean pinball.  

However the CEO knows nothing about him squeezing the balls of suppliers, wonders why the end product is so crap- pay peanuts and you get monkey business and there is way too much monkey business taking place everywhere- and things are not working as well as they should and could. Why? There is no partnership.

So, I side-step “Junior”, deal directly with the CEO and am trying to “restore” some form of “quality control”, taking AWAY “power” and creating true partnerships- and real team work.

If not, it’s like a doomed relationship where you are financially and emotionally carrying the other person.

The more you go through this thankless task, it almost becomes addictive and then slowly becomes “the way it is.”

Without you even knowing it, you have become a Yes Person leading a No-No life and wondering why you are going nowhere and nothing is happening. You have lost your “power”.

http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/rma/lowres/rman5430l.jpg 

Today, when I see some of the demands made by music publishing houses and how much is asked to cover a song, the ridiculous prices need to be questioned as they are STUPID. And if Junior you are dealing with is some pencil pusher, well, take it all the way to the top and if you get no joy from up there, take to Twitter and call out these con artists. Enough is enough.

Same with some music company signing you up as a songwriter, or your band- but with no advance. Well, why do you need them? Surely, you can do what they can- and which is sitting there and sending your music “out there” the same way to everyone else and with the names changed to protect incompetence?

Monkey see, money do and do you see how paying peanuts attracts mediocrity? Plus, we get into a ROUTINE, or as I believe is far more the case, we lose our power, we give it away without knowing it, we get into a RUT and the rut causes betrayal, it brings on depression, it causes anxiety, and all this STUFF creates negative energy.     

http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/rma/lowres/rman8892l.jpg

 Power: We all have it. Let’s just use it for some GOOD and to bring about some REAL Change. And it starts today with you and me.      

  1. Fernando says:

    My epiphany was back in 2004, doing the Future of Music course with Dave Kusek. It was pretty clear then that the music industry was going to crack. Of course, the major labels just fiddled while Rome burned.

    In the seven years since then, the world has changed and the old days are never coming back.

    What breaks my heart is meeting people who seem to think nothing much has changed, that getting “signed” will fix everything, that putting a few tracks on MySpace or giving music away no strings attached will fix something. And, as for streaming – I’d rather pull my hair out.

    But, I’m glad to see the positive vibe on your blog lately and it looks like you have some plans. Great to hear. Not sure how I can help, but I look forward to what you have in store.

  2. Tex123 says:

    Great one Hans. Hope you are starting to get your power back. I will be a constant reminder. Love the bit about ass kissing. Totally get it !!!!!

  3. Cat says:

    Excellent one Hans. I was at CMW to meet someone yesterday, I normally refuse to go to these conferences (although I spent a whole 3 hours at the Royal York) – to any of them now…just another way to squeeze cash out of these poor pockets and get NOTHING in return except a little schmoozing. Yes, we can meet some very fine people at these conferences – however, if one must travel over the entire planet to do the same thing we can do on skype – unless we’re out for the party, I can’t see wasting what little cash we have left in this.

    I honestly haven’t heard a single good thing come out of them in recent years except for some of those who are trying to open some doors to the east and west. The sad thing, a pop rock band from Spain – like many other musicians, stopped to give me a demo cd. My friend and I asked, how did you come to travel to Toronto? One told us they were invited. Of course the next question was, ‘Who paid for it’? Of course, the band paid for everything. Damned huge out of pocket expense for a band to give away a couple of demos in order to be listened to.

    All this nonsense – is music a product OR is it a service? OR how about all those NEW platforms – like Spotify and the like, or even how ITunes has opened the doors to digital delivery – damn – this is all just delivery – unauditable delivery. Can we trust any of these – HELL, NO!

    Yes, we’ve devalued the most important part of this entire problem – the creators. This is now a monstrosity of a problem created by those who HAD the power and cash and who didn’t see it coming – only to be hit them between the eyes because of their lack of ‘focus and due diligience’ – the labels, networks, the greed for instant cash gratification etc. and who are now complaining and pointing fingers and living off past sins as so on.

    Speaking of b’tching…enough of us haven’t done it enough. PSA’s – YAY. My daughter and I had this discussion – she told me, Ma, the absolute best commercials I’ve ever see – at least the most memorable ones are the PSA’s from when she was a kid. Those that told us to Stop Smoking, Don’t Drink and Drive, RECYCLE – are the ones that have stuck with her over the years.

    The industry, whoever they are, have been shrouded in some kind of strange secrecy over the years keeping the general public and artists they have signed on with, in mystery. So now that NO ONE has a clue what anyone actually does or how they get there, over 70% of the general population feel that this ‘magical’ system can now afford to give them their music for free…hmmm…advertisers – as in TV?

    Maybe it’s time we actually TOLD them what it takes to produce their beloved music, art and the written word – the costs involved and the reality that NO ONE is making any cash now – with an upfront message that it’s everyone’s responsibility to pay for the service or products – whatever, they love so much – the intangibles such as the written word and production of music.

    A little info can go a long way. Keep it coming Hans!

    • We-Enhance says:

      Great email. Those RIAA-endorsed PSAs were more like celeb VOX pop spots and with the impact of a flea on an elephant. “PSAs” can no longer be some celeb “scolding/warning” people. It should have evolved to something else. Again, those in “charge” of running the music industry have f***ed up. So, it’s up to us to do and show THEM how it’s done…Of course, it will mean some people pooling their time and talent, but we need more of this so that there is Us and Them…Right now, there is little of “us” to make any difference.

      • Cat says:

        Whole heartedly agree. Nothing wrong with working together for the greater good…many spread out talents. And there’s a lot more of ‘US’ that we think…meet them all the time. It’s just rough to get people to commit time when everyone is struggling…onwards and upwards.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *