Dear friends, a message of hope.
They say everything comes in threes. Cut back to yesterday afternoon:
1) 2.30pm…I was driving in my car to pick up my newly repaired Alessis Quadraverb (don’t ask) when the radio chirped up with the news that for the first time since 1935 Kodak would no longer be listed as being on the Nasdac 500 – or some other financial top 10 list – because it was felt that its performance was no longer a reflection of the current business and financial marketplace. My translation: Everyone’s buying digital cameras and the K-people are fighting a losing analogue battle against the digital tide.
2) 3.25pm…Back home with my newly repaired and cuddly Qudraverb the e-mail kicked up with two messages. The first was that 4 people I knew who worked as video commisioners and had at various times given me jobs that put serious amounts of cash in my bank account had got the boot. The second was from a dear friend in London, who’d just been let go from Virgin U.K. – I told him to go and drink some beers and destroy all his Mike Oldfield albums. By the time my message arrived it appeared he’d already beaten Ommadawn into a pulp and was using Tubular Bells II as a beer-mat.
3) 530pm…The morning’s post arrived as it always does at my house late in the afternoon (Go Postal!) and with it my Daily Variety with the headline: EMI faces music – label cuts 1,500 jobs.
Do you feel like me that we’re at a huge crossroads in our industry? I think it’s safe to say that the business to which I’ve dedicated 40% of my life is in the worst state it’s been in since I walked excitedly through the front door of Stiff Records in September 1977. It’s monstrously depressing and I can hear fear in the voices of everyone I speak to. It’s even possible that things could get worse before it gets better. What should we do?
Perhaps there’s nothing we can do…except believe. When I started my motorcycle messenger gig at Stiff all those years ago I got paid fourteen pounds a week. The hire-purchase repayments on the bright red Suzuki I needed to do the gig were seven pounds a week. The other seven quid went on rent and food. I was deliriously happy. But after a month with the company I realised that the place was a financial mess. Every week it seemed we would go under and would never re-surface. But quickly I realised that my paltry wage was paltry because I wasn’t being paid to worry about bankruptcy or the tax man or Ian Dury’s album sales. So I quit worrying and things got better and I worked there for five years.
Moral: Dear friends, we’ve come this far and we can continue if we believe. Most of us are not paid enough to worry about the solutions to our ailing biz. We do great work, we just need to keep believing.
For myself I know if it comes down to it I can go back to being a motorcycle messenger or a cab driver as I once was. It’ll be a kick in the balls but I’ll certainly have some wicked stories to tell: “The airport? Of course Madam, which terminal? Would you like to hear a story about Slash & Kenny G?” Last week someone told me to check out a hilarious web site called True Porn Clerk Stories and the quote that made my day was: “The Zen lesson of my job is this: just because I do not want to be a video clerk doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be the best possible video clerk I can be.”
O.K. everybody back to work. We can get through this.
P.S. Tubular Bells II is a really, really crappy album. It doesn’t even deserve to be a beer mat. And I should know – I bought a copy.
AND HERE’S A REPLY TO MY POST FROM MY OLD PAL PHIL BARNES…
All I know is I treasure every moment I’m able to earn a buck in the music industry (or associated to it). Since I bought my much beloved MP3 player (some 5 years ago) my love for music has been nhanced ten fold – and I listen to more than I ever did. I have bought more music in the past 5 years than ever before. There is more music available out there (if you look) than ever before – and some of it is really fantastic (both from old gits and young kids). With any luck, one day, the record industry will figure out how to make money out of those facts. In the mean time we have to watch them stumble through all their piracy paranoia whilst they embark on their usual periodic culling spree. It has been proved time and time again that the music industry listens to the money men (to their detriment) from time to time – then realises it’s made a mistake and listens to their heart and soul. New exciting labels will (hopefully) be born out this mad multicorporate take-over. On-line sales are growing – new artists are learing how best to get their music to a wider audience. The music industry (as ever) will be the last to respond.
If we stay youthful in our approach to the new industry (because the digital music indusrty is a new industry) then, with any luck, we’ll not get hacked down during the cull! Music and visuals now go hand in hand – however you end up listening or watching it (TV, iPod, PDA, DAB, Internet, DVD, 3G whatever…). Onward and upward… personally, I can’t wait for the next revolution. I just hope it doesn’t revolve around gangs, bling and slappin’ yer bitch up. My daughter deserves an intelligent and rebellious voice. There’s one out there… somewhere.