The Squid's Ear

Marco Von Orelli / Max E. Keller / Sheldon Suter: Blow, Strike and Touch (Hatology)


Marco Von Orelli / Max E. Keller / Sheldon Suter:
Blow, Strike and Touch
(Hatology)


Orphax / Machinefabriek: Weerkaatsing (Moving Furniture)


Orphax / Machinefabriek:
Weerkaatsing
(Moving Furniture)


Thollem / Mazurek: Blind Curves and Box Canyons (Relative Pitch)


Thollem / Mazurek:
Blind Curves and Box Canyons
(Relative Pitch)


ROVA Saxophone Quartet, Kyle Bruckmann & Henry Kaiser: Steve Lacy's Saxophone Special Revisited (Clean Feed)


ROVA Saxophone Quartet, Kyle Bruckmann & Henry Kaiser:
Steve Lacy's Saxophone Special Revisited
(Clean Feed)


Steve Noble / Yoni Silver: Home (Aural Terrains)


Steve Noble / Yoni Silver:
Home
(Aural Terrains)


Martin Archer: Story Tellers (Discus)


Martin Archer:
Story Tellers
(Discus)


Harris Eisenstadt: Recent Developments (Songlines)


Harris Eisenstadt:
Recent Developments
(Songlines)


Hamid Drake / Sylvain Kassap: Heads or Tails (Rogue Art)


Hamid Drake / Sylvain Kassap:
Heads or Tails
(Rogue Art)


The Runcible Quintet: Five (FMR)


The Runcible Quintet:
Five
(FMR)


The Elks (Kai Fagaschinski / Liz Allbee / Billy Roisz / Marta Zapparoli): This Is Not the Ant (Mikroton)


The Elks (Kai Fagaschinski / Liz Allbee / Billy Roisz / Marta Zapparoli):
This Is Not the Ant
(Mikroton)




The Squid's Ear
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John Cage:
Klang der Wandlungen
[3 CDs]
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Leap of
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The Expanding
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Elliott Sharp /
Mary Halvorson /
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ERR Guitar
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Mars Williams presents
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Songs of Christmas
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Tree Ear
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Troller /
Hemingway):
Witches Butter
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Gard Nilssen's
Acoustic Unity :
Live in Europe
[3 CDs]
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Eve Risser /
Kaja Draksler:
To Pianos
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Kullhammar, Aalberg Zetterber
& Santos Silva:
Basement Session
Vol.4
(The Bali Tapes)
(Clean Feed)



Imaginary Numbers
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Solberg):
Imaginary Numbers
(Clean Feed)



Joao Camoes /
Jean-Luc Cappozzo /
Jean-Marc Foussat:
Autres Paysages
(Clean Feed)



Steve Swell
(w/ Brown /
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Ulrich /
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Pugliese):
Music for
Six Musicians:
Hommage a
Olivier Messiaen
(Silkheart)



Schlippenbach Trio
(Schlippenbach /
Evan Parker /
Lovens):
Warsaw Concert
(Intakt)



Spontaneous Music
Ensemble:
Karyobin
(1968)
[2017 REISSUE]
(Emanem)



Musicianer
(Sinton /
Ajemian /
Taylor):
Slow Learner
(Iluso)



Sista Maj:
Series Of
Nested Universes
[2 CDs]
(Space Rock Productions )



Leap of
Faith Orchestra:
Supernovae
(Evil Clown)



Hollis Taylor:
Absolute Bird
[2 CDs]
(ReR Megacorp)



Matthew Lux's
Communication Arts Quartet:
Contra/Fact
[CASSETTE w/ DOWNLOAD CODE]
(Astral Spirits)



Tomas Fujiwara :
Triple Double
(Firehouse 12 Records)



Mary Halvorson:
Away With You
[VINYL 2 LPs]
(Firehouse 12 Records)







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  Cheek to Cheek Misdemeanors  

NYC's Cabaret Laws: Infracting Cheek to Cheek

When George Clinton wrote of a future where there was 'no boomboxes and no live bands, they're all illegal,' he was intoning his long-standing paranoia of a future without funk. But his anthem of contraband dancing, from 1996's The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Mothership, described a future that was very nearly the present in New York City.

Under a little enforced ordinance that dates back to 1926 - at the time aimed at Harlem jazz clubs - dancing is illegal in New York in clubs which haven't paid for a seperate license to allow ass-moving. The original law also required that clubs with dancing employ musicians of 'good character,' a clause that was removed in the 1960s, a few years after the act was amended to allow only cabaret licenses in commercial and manufacturing zones.

The demonization of dancing stems from an era of puritan legislation (sex, of course, leads to dancing) and, it has been suggested, from efforts to put a rein on so-called “race music.” In prewar Chicago, it was illegal to play saxophone after dark, and likewise New York’s ordinance against dancing put a damper on Harlem nightlife, and left jazz as the sit-politely music we listen to today.

Whatever the roots, New York City is now taking measures to allow good people to mambo, cha cha, salsa or tango, to break a sweat, breakdance, step in time or cut a rug. In November, New York Consumer Affairs Commissioner Gretchen Dykstra announced an effort to repeal the laws that since 1999 have been increasingly enforced by a squad of 'dance police' that would make Dr. Funkenstein shudder.

'They have to expend resources and energy telling people not to dance,' Dykstra said at a press conference at the Knitting Factory. 'They don't have any community problems, they don't have violations. But people can't shake their booties when they come to the Knitting Factory. And that strikes us as a little odd.'

As the Knitting Factory has looked to build its audience from the sit-politely crowd to younger rock fans, the boogie ban has become a concern to the club's new management.

“The new DCA proposal is an elegant solution to a longstanding and seemingly intractable problem,” Knitting Factory President Jared Hoffman said in a prepared statement. “The real issue is minimizing community impact. It does not make sense for the city to legislate what types of music are acceptable. Some dance clubs are operated poorly and have considerable community issues, but many are operated impeccably. Many rock and roll or hip hop venues have impact issues and many don’t. It’s not about the style of music, it’s about the operation.”

But some are questioning the new legislation being promoted by the City/Knit partnership. Members of the New York Nightlife Association, a group of club and restaurant owners represented by former New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Norman Siegel, have challenged the new ordinance's swapping of regulations on dance for restrictions on sound.

The Department of Consumer Affairs plans to 'focus on noise and not dancing,' Siegel told The Village Voice. But they haven't actually addressed the zoning laws already on the books. 'I hope this isn't a three-card monte,' he said. 'We won't have Consumer Affairs being the dance police but maybe the buildings department will. And no one can give me a straight answer.'

In a city as densely populated as New York, noise restrictions are a necessity. The recent explosion of clubs in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn is just another part of a long history of venues opening in abandoned and industrial parts of town where there are few neighbors to disturb. But regulating noise has become a cottage industry for the city, and has only been exacerbated by the no-smoking ordinance. With smokers forced to stand outside, noise complaints have increased, and the Knitting Factory is a prime example of a place forced to keep watch on its patrons even after they leave.

A stricter noise ordinance would also be easier to enforce than the dancing ban: While police can't necessarily see dancing from outside, they can hear the music. And more violations, of course, would mean more money for a city so in need of new revenue that it is considering selling ad space on its trash cans. If the end result is dancing being allowed in clubs that are forced to keep the volume at a minimum, the victory might seem a hollow one. Until then, we can only suggest that clubbers heed another of Clinton's anthems: Shit, goddamn, get off your asses and jam.






  Ameri-chord: Johnny Cash Remembered  

Amer-chord - Johnny Cash & June Carter By Skip Heller

In 1964, Johnny Cash recorded the Bitter Tears album, which made known his feelings about Native Americans. Its centerpiece was his hit version of Peter LaFarge's 'Ballad Of Ira Hayes,' a brilliant, accusatory song about the Pima Indian who was one of the five men to raise the flag at Iwo Jima, came home to less than fanfare, and died drunk in 1955 at the age of 33.

The Pima tribe inhabited a piece of Arizona not far outside Tuscon. They were a peaceful tribe who farmed well enough to sustain their food needs, until their water rights were taken from them and everything they worked for was either killed off by dry heat or was taken from them outright. But Ira Hayes felt a duty to his country, enlisted, went to fight for the good old USA, and became a decorated American hero. You can guess how glorious his life was upon returning. One night Ira Hayes fell drunk into an irrigation ditch and froze to death in cold water.

I saw that land had a gig in Tuscon in May 2002, driving southeast from Los Angeles on the way to a gig in Tuscon.

Los Angeles in spring is paradise. The sky is visible and wide, the mountains pose for postcards, freeways open and you realize how vast our country is. It is beautiful as long as you don't go too far east. That's when the oasis turns back into the desert from which it was carved. LA to Tuscon is about eight hours of driving, and the first four or five are gorgeous.

Arizona comes on the heels of a fairly ugly piece of southeastern California, and has nothing to recommend it upon entry. As you drive in a little more, the Indian reservation stores - with tax-free cigarettes - pop up. Past Phoenix towards Tuscon, you see a rest stop with wall displays that tell the story of Ira Hayes and the Pima tribe. Sort of.

The tale they tell is some 'see Dick run' shit and says nothing about the kind of man Ira Hayes was - to forgive what had been done to his tribe and enlist in the Marines. And they certainly said nothing of his death and who helped that tragic process along. The Pima Indians, in recent years, are noted for diabetes (studies have shown that one out of two adults suffers from Type II) and morbid obesity. It seems that, when their right to water was stolen and they could no longer grown their own crops, they had to adopt a 'western' diet, which did egregious things to their bodies.

I have a thing about Cash. Maybe it's because the only actual day he spent in jail was the very day I was born, October 4, 1965. Cash was popped at the El Paso border checkpoint. He was trying to smuggle several thousand amphetamine capsules across the border from Mexico.

If you've ever brought contraband through a Mexican border crossing, you know the drill. I got pulled out of the car once, holding a hundred 600 mg Ibuprofen capsules, sold over the counter in the local farmacia but illegal without a presciption in the USA. Fortunately, the border cops didn't look far inside a gym bag of clean clothes (although they were very thorough with the dirty clothes, the guitar case, and the glove compartment).

Mexico was wide open in '65, so Johnny - then no stranger to intense amphetamine procurement - probably thought nothing of it until they slapped the cuffs on.

June Carter - who he married and who died May 15th of post-operatory complications - got him cleaned up, helped him find religion, and helped him realize certain dreams that were not in reach for most country singers in the sixties. June was born into the Carter Family - a major American Music dynasty if there ever was one - but had enough brains and ability to keep herself from being defined by her legendary mother, Maybelle Carter. She had a viable career in country music, then chucked it and went to New York, where she joined the Actor's Studio (director Elia Kazan - who died just 16 days after Cash - sponsored her enrollment), and finally returned to the Carter Family. They became part of Johnny Cash's touring show in 1961; by '63 June was in love enough with Cash - then totally out of control on pills - to write a song, 'Ring Of Fire' about it.

Johnny Cash burst onto the scene in 1955 with 'Cry Cry Cry.' He came not from a Nashville major but that most venerable of indie labels, Sun, the Memphis label that had at about the same time sold Elvis' contract to RCA for an unprecedented $30,000. RCA would soon enough begin trying to make sister Anita Carter into a rock'n'roll star as part of a trio called Nita, Rita, and Lita. June was at the time married to country star Carl Smith, whose 'You Are The One' is a classic of the period. They would have a daughter, Carlene, who later married British pop singer Nick Lowe.

If you can find photos of country singers of the period, you notice that 1950s Nashville had nobody like Johnny Cash. Look at George Morgan, Webb Pierce, Porter Wagoner or the great Lefty Frizzell. They're colorful, extroverted. Cash was hard-looking, introverted, and dressed in black.

Similarly, listen to the typical male country singers of the period. The biggest was Eddy Arnold, a human Hallmark card. Singers like him and Marty Robbins forecasted the 'countrypolitan' movement to come and paved the middle of the road for Nashville easy listening artists like Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, and Floyd Cramer.

Honky-tonk, on the other hand, was nowhere near so repulsive. This was a harder Southern urban sound, with walking electric bass, and a cracking drumbeat that cut through the din in bars and dancehalls. All the guitars were electric, too. Webb Pierce's fantastic 'Honky Tonk Song' was not hill music, although his voice stayed in close touch with the high lonesome sound. 'Honky Tonk Song' was a 12-bar blues streamlined in Nashville, and it's not wussy music.

To my ear, Cash was most influenced by Ernest Tubb. Both made unpolished, minimalist records. Tubb was from Texas, and sang in a low, craggy voice. His records of the '40s are very proto-Cash, with sparse electric guitar up front. Cash covered Tubb's 'Thanks A Lot' while he was still on Sun, and you can hear how close to Tubb Cash really was.

Cash was not immediately invited to join the Grand Ole Opry, but Louisiana Hayride, which was more at home than the Opry with mavericks, like Elvis Presley, Jimmy Martin, and a few others who were a little dangerous.

The more famous Cash got, the more rebellious he seemed. He left Sun because he wanted a higher royalty and to make thematic LPs. The subject of royalties is always dangerous, and LPs were then a novelty for country singers. In 1957, Cash became the first artist to have an LP on Sun. The following year, Cash had a new album out - on Columbia.

As his success elevated, Cash became a speed freak. This was common in country music back then. Lots of driving, being on the road 250+ days a year, often having to drive back from wherever you were to be back in Nashville to do the Opry or Shreveport, LA to do Hayride. Early morning broadcasts after playing 'til midnight or later 300 miles away from where you did your morning broadcast were common. It was a rough life, and the pay wasn't great. But it was the job, and benzedrine helped many get it done.

In those days, tour buses were a rarity. Bands traveled by car. If they were lucky, they had a station wagon and a little trailer. You'd strap the upright bass to the roof. Cash and his band made about $150 per week each on the 1961 package tour. June Carter fell in love with Johnny Cash under these conditions, which speaks volumes about his appeal and her intestinal fortitude. It sure wasn't about the money.

Very few artists can achieve some of their highest achievements in their art while being up to their eyeballs in chemicals. But Cash was on an artistic roll through the 1960s, before, during, and after the period of his El Paso arrest, with groundbreaking thematic LPs. He also appeared at the Newport Folk Festival, where he finally met Bob Dylan, whose 'It Ain't Me Babe' Cash had been performing for some time.

In 1968, he recorded the Live In Folsom Prison album, followed shortly after by Live At San Quentin, which contained 'A Boy Named Sue', his biggest hit of the decade. He was not new to playing prisons - Merle Haggard was a member of the captive audience when Cash performed at Quentin in 1959, and said afterwards that the sheer force of Cash's performance turned his life around. By 1968, largely because of June carter, Cash had turned his own life around, trading drugs for fundamentalist Christianity. Whatever works.

Around that time, Cash got his own network TV show, pretty much unheard of for country artists at that time. Unlike other music shows of the time, his show was often a showcase for cutting edge music of the time. His guests included Merle Haggard, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins and even Bob Dylan, who at that point was largely allergic to TV cameras. But Cash was held in such high artistic regard that someone like a Dylan or a Joni would do TV if he asked.

Because of his celebrity at that point, June Carter's contributions are usually reduced to her appearances on records like 'Jackson' and 'If I Were Carpenter'. But it was she who first told Johnny about a janitor at the Columbia recording studio who was writing songs. His name was Kristoffer Kristofferson.

People don't recognize it now, but Kristofferson was a threat to Nashville's status quo. Cash was tough enough for the local establishment to deal with, but he came from nothing, and Nashville always likes a Cinderella story.

Through the 1950s, Nashville's GNP was not music but insurance. It's nickname (self-imposed, I'm sure) was 'the Athens of the South.' Nashville has Vanderbilt University and a full-scale replica of the Parthenon.

Kris Kristofferson was a former Air Force pilot, Golden Gloves boxer, and a Rhodes Scholar. And he chucked it all to go starve in Nashville. I'm sure the attitude towards Kristofferson in Nashville was that local society would be better off with less songwriters and more Rhodes Scholars.

Kristofferson was a longhair from Texas, and his songs were a little raw by the standards of the time, which were getting a too loose for the locals anyway. Texans had always been a problem, ever since Bob Wills brought drums to the Opry stage and Floyd Tillman wrote unapologetically about cheating. Kristofferson lines like 'the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad so I had one more for desert' did not fit the image makeover Nashville was going for, which was typified by the string-drenched records of former honky tonk great Ray Price. But Cash was all-powerful. And June Carter was the power behind him.

'Sunday Morning Coming Down' was a remarkable song, and Cash turned in a performance that came from hard-won field research, and it was a hit. Cash started doing tunes like 'Cocaine Blues.'

Cash was definitely the only '50s country performer who could fit in with the 60's songwriters. June Carter, who was a very intelligent woman but who was also duty bound to country music tradition because of her family, was likely the key to his ability to expand so gracefully while never forgetting who Johnny Cash was.

The '70s were scattershot for Cash. The hits didn't dry up completely, but he was no longer a constant on the country charts. He became something of an actor, and made The Gospel Road, a documentary about him in the Holy Land. There was a Christian comic book chronicling his fight with pills. He played a great many benefits for Native Americans, especially in Arizona.

Johnny Cash and June Carter had come into that Louis Armstrong place where they were genre symbols about as much as they were musicians who still occasionally had hits. By the 80s, Cash had been dropped by Columbia, who refused to grant him the respect they gave Miles Davis. So Cash went to Mercury, and, for the first time, put out a few shitty records. He also teamed with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kristofferson for a group called The Highwaymen, who had a few hits but nothing all that memorable.

By then, June Carter got back into acting, and wrote a couple of memoirs. She had a clear eye about her life and the people in it. She took a role in a fine Robert Duvall flick, The Apostle, and turned in a great performance.

Cash was like the great unmined resource come 1994, and Rick Rubin signed him to American, recording what has become known as The American Trilogy, which started with a solo acoustic album and went onto records of Cash covering a multitude of songwriters, some of whom weren't really right for him. But Rubin's involvement created a ton of buzz, and Cash was again hot shit, written about, analyzed and dealt with as a viable music force.

From 1995 on, Cash was hip again. Kind of pissed me off that a comeback ploy was needed to restore Cash to credibility. He'd always been a killing live act - but that's what publicists and buzz are for. Around this time, it was announced that Cash had a variant form of Parkinson's disease.

In 1999, June put out her first real solo album, Press On, and it's beautiful. Her sisters had passed on while she was making the record, which probably accounts for the way the whole record feels. It's a record that could only have come from Mother Maybelle Cater's daughter, with the autoharp up front, and a voice that had humor, wisdom, and spirituality. Like Mother Maybelle. Except that Mother Maybelle would not have commented on Tarantino movies as June did.

For the first time in her career, June Carter got some press that looked at her less as a Cash than as a Carter.

Cash's tenure at American finally resulted in The Man Comes Around, which spawned the lauded video for 'Hurt.'

June Carter released a second solo album, Wildwood Flower. Johnny sang a great deal on it. The title track is an American music staple, and the arrangement of precedent was by Mother Maybelle Carter. June's health was so bad when she was making that beautiful, unadorned record that she would soon join her sisters.

Cut to May 15, 2003. I'm in Seattle to play a club date, and I turn on the radio to get the women's basketball scores. The Seattle Storm had played the Sacremento Monarchs in a pre-season game the night before. The speaker crackled as an announcer said 'who is survived by her husband Johnny Cash...'

I felt terrible for Johnny. His disease had been winning, but he wasn't alone in his fight. Now he had lost the person for whom he hung on. His own death was inevitable.

I'm sure I can read something into that Cash went gently into that good night a few hours after 9/11 of all days. Cash was an American hero and he embodied our spirit of tradition and rebellion. Pragmatism prevents me. And so does my need to observe the dignity that his work embodied. Not just his dignity, but the right to dignity for every working man, every woman, any child - for anyone that ever had love for the world.

There were TV tributes, radio tributes, print tributes, Web tributes, tributes onstage. Every kind of tribute to Johnny Cash.

The day he passed, I was walking down Hollywood Boulevard with a friend, and we heard music blaring from speakers. As we got closer, we could hear people shouting along.

A drunken vigil had gathered at Cash's star on the Walk Of Fame, where a bunch of guys in their early 20s had put flowers and religious tracts and candles. And they were drinking beer and shouting along to the recording of 'Cocaine Blues.'

They knew all the words.








  The Upside of Dowloading   by Scott MX Turner

This is what it's come to: A 12-year-old girl in New York was sued by the Recording Industry Association of America, those asswipes, for fileswapping / filesharing / downloading.

The mighty mouthpiece of megacorporate music. Hey, I like that alluring alliteration, so much so I'm gonna upper case it. Those Asswipes, The Mighty Mouthpiece of Megacorporate Music ... suing a 12-year-old for acquiring 'If You're Happy And Your Know It, Clap Your Hands' without paying for it.

A fucking campfire song.

As you know, Those Asswipes are suing hundreds of filesharers throughout the land in the belief that free downloads are killing music.

How adorable!

Those Asswipes are on a nostalgia trip, just like the rest of us. They're reliving the good old days of 'home taping is killing music,' 'radio broadcasts are killing music,' 'recorded music is killing music' and 'sheet music is killing music.'

They're so cute!

Especially since it's music that's killing music.

More precisely, the music biz that's killing music.

Here's why sales are down so badly that Universal has reduced suggested retail prices by a whopping 30%:

1) CDs are obscenely overpriced;

2) The music biz promotes increasingly smaller numbers of acts of increasingly worse quality;

3) CDs are obscenely overpriced;

4) The biz capriciously switched formats, from vinyl to digital, and now has to lie in the cold and soulless bed it made;

5) CDs are obscenely overpriced;

6) Said format change has reduced fans' appreciation and need for artwork, making downloads a less unattractive alternative;

7) CDs are obscenely overpriced;

8) Politically and culturally conservative Clear Channel is locking up radio stations nationwide, rendering radio itself a wasteland of Lee Greenwood anthems and Timberlakeian pop drivel...the opposite of 'limitless possibilities.'

9) CDs are obscenely overpriced.

Since I subtly got you thinking about the retail price of today's compact disc, let's have a little look, a little see...

For indie artists like myself, a CD costs $1-2 to manufacture on an order of 1,000 discs - the standard order for most bands issuing their own releases. The larger the pressing order, the cheaper the discs. Indie bands have learned what the major labels haven't: You don't need to blow million$ to make a great album.

Obviously, the Megacorporate Music Labels get much larger bulk discounts on the manufacturing end. They just refuse to pass the savings on to you.

And obviously, Megacorporate Music Labels spend more on one artist's in-store posters than most indie bands make in a year.

They're entitled to the discounts - they do press a lotta discs. But not the immoral expenditures keeping their publicity juggernauts afloat.

Unlike P. Diddy and Sir Elton, indie bands don't generally put a gun to their labels head for overwrought videos, Courvoisier and Lear jets. More to the point, indie labels can't afford it. Major labels should urge spoiled brat superstars to experiment with anatomically impossible solo sex acts, and instead divert the money to signing good bands, getting 'em out on the road, and really bringing down the price of CDs.

Sticking to the basics means better music at cheaper prices.

The Megacorporate Music Labels haven't learned that one just yet, even though screams of 'ohmyfuckingGodwe'redoomed!!!' can be heard coursing through the hallways at Bertelsman, AOL Time Warner, Sony, Universal and their megamates.

Now that the expected bumper crop of the analog-to-digital forced march - everyone buying the CD version of Dark Side Of The Moon to replace their vinyl copy - has waned, the big labels are running on fumes. Weirdly, they're only starting to learn how to use the Internet to make money. The biz is like your old, grouchy Uncle Fred, the one who never gets it and won't take anyone's advice.

Then again, how weird can it be when you're dealing with people who couldn't predict the utter ease of counterfeiting and bootlegging digital releases?

As for radio - the free downloading of choice in the '70s, '80s and '90s, thanks to blank cassettes - the Clear Channels are making sure that less, and less imaginative, bands are coming to the forefront. Very few commercial channels are freeform these days. Not the hippie freeform playlists of 20-minute live tracks, but rather djs being allowed to think for themselves ... having the freedom to choose tracks they believe in.

The last remaining bastion of alternative radio, smallpower college stations, are under attack from the FCC, local religious groups, conservative on-campus student organizations, and funding cuts at universities across the land. The FCC periodically makes noise about repealing college stations' exemptions and forcing commercial-standards compliance they can't possibly meet.

Know this: the battle over downloading is the same as any other socio/political/economic struggle in the world today, a war between the haves and the have-nots.

The haves, represented by Those Asswipes,

Here's how most musicians make money these days: live dates, touring and selling merchandise. Record sales are the primary source of income for a small percentage of musicians.

How could they be? The average pre-taxed take for major label musicians on their album sales is 3 to 7 cents on the dollar. If you're in the MetallicaLLCoolJ stratosphere, you're making a lot of money from cds. If you're on any of the lower levels, you simply use cds as portal to earning a living.

Those Asswipes and the Megacorporate Music Biz are gonna have to change their way of thinking, buying, selling and promoting. If they wanna stay in business, they're gonna have to sell cds at fair value prices, prices that support a decent salary for working musicians (whose pay scale must be increased) and trim the fat from label heads and superstar artists (whose pay scales must be slashed). The more radical idea - that times have changed and recorded music now plays a support role to live music, not vice versa - must be embraced, and music labels need to make the shift. It doesn't mean layoffs, it just means learning new modes and skill sets.

And what of the kids? Those sweeties who spend their campus days searching for WiFi hotspots to download music? Are they part of an evil cabal to deprive us musicians the right to earn a living? Do they truly hate Metallica and Dr. Dre and - no! - Those Asswipes? Are they ... are they ... un-American in their refusal to embrace free-market capitalism?

Probably not, since many support bands whose music they download by purchasing t-shirts, concert tickets, books and magazines with their heroes on the cover. A lot of 'em end up buying the albums anyway.

People who download become music fans. Or they already are, and want to expand their horizons. In other words, just the kind of informed consumer Those Asswipes fear. Because the more access music fans have to music, the more support they give to musicians. Downloaders don't sit in front of their computers, gleefully rubbing their hands and churlishly celebrating depriving musicians of a salary. Rather, they're trying to remain music fans in the face of overpriced cds of limited choice.

And that's terrifying to a business controlled by Those Asswipes, their megacorporate clients, and the Clear Channels of the world.

Musicians should be paid a fair wage. We shouldn't have to nickel-and-dime with club owners and record labels who, without us, wouldn't have a pot to piss in. There need to be more organizations like the old Noise Action Coalition, which worked hard to fuse labor activism with the New York downtown scene in order to earn fair pay for musicians on both fronts.

The thing is, downloading and filesharing ultimately aren't about who gets paid, but rather, about new models for the distribution of culture. That, and our increasing independence from the old models, which have stood for exploitation of music workers and condescension toward music buyers.

And if that makes you happy and you know it, clap your hands.






  Musical Activism: An Open Call   By Marc Ribot

On tour in Europe during the first twelve days of the recent invasion of Iraq, I witnessed something close to bereavement among audience members at the apparent consent of most Americans to Bush's agenda of war and empire.

It was exhausting, in addition with all the other pressures of performance, to deal with expectations to represent 'America' in this situation. Although it felt strange to speak about the war during performances - I'm a guitarist, not a lecturer - it felt even stranger not to. The one thing about which I felt certain was that the incredible level of anger and opposition I witnessed was no longer simply about one lousy political decision, but had become a critique of the legitimacy of the power of empire, and it wasn't going to stop when the war ended.

Indeed, it hasn't. It remains nearly impossible to get on stage without addressing (or failing to address) the context within which, whether we like it or not, our music is now heard.

This database project described below was conceived as a means through which artists and musicians will be able to say what needs to be said politically in the formats where it will do the most good, to help to change a political context which, simply put, has become intolerable.

We're inviting touring artists to participate in a pilot project version to be launched around February 1, 2004. Anyone can back out at any time, but expressions of interest/commitment (along with brief bios if possible) are needed to apply for grants to build the database.

Best regards, Marc Ribot Musicians Solidarity Database [correspondence may be sent to msolidarity@squidco.com]



WHAT: The Musicians Solidarity Database will connect internationally touring recording artists/musicians with anti-war and global justice organizations local to their touring dates.

The Database is an initiative of the Musicians Solidarity Network (MSN). Although open and useful to all artists regardless of origin or tour destination, the actual possibilities will probably reflect the current touring routes. The intent is for participating artists to be able to integrate whatever degree of activity on behalf peace/democracy/social justice organizations they feel able to commit to into their regular tour itineraries with a minimum of effort, and for the organizations to benefit from cultural support.

HOW: Touring artists enter their upcoming tour schedules, tech needs, and other necessary info and preferences into the database. Major peace/ democracy/social justice organizations access the info and cross-reference the dates of their planned events with touring artists' availability. The organizations then send the musicians/artists a set of proposals (for example: to speak or perform at a demonstration). The artist accepts whichever proposals they choose, and forward their acceptance along with whatever time or tech specs apply back to the organizations. The organizations confirm the date.

Even if tour schedules are too tight to allow for an artist's participation in outside events, artists can arrange, through the data bank, to make merchandise/ literature table space available to organizations they support.

Great care will be taken to make the data-base user friendly to both artists and organizations.

WHY?: An enormous divide has opened in political understanding between the US and most of the rest of the world, particularly in Europe. Most touring artists and musicians are already well aware of this.

But artists who speak out against Bush's agenda of war and empire, particularly in the US, run the risk of alienating fans or even being subjected to radio and other forms of blacklisting.

In Europe, things are different, at least for the time Being. Manu Chao's 'Clandestino' was a hit because of, not in spite of, his close identification with the social forum movement. Whether this will always be true is difficult to say: the same forces that created Bush are also pushing Europe steadily rightward. But it's true now.

The database is a way to turn this political differential into a force for progressive change in the US, enable artists who want to be active to do so, provide organizations against war and for global justice with a constant stream of performing artist support, and build a global network of artists and activists.

It will help artists to limit the economic risks of activism by connecting them with activists and audiences who share their views.

For example, contact with non-US activists and anti-war audiences will enable US musical/cultural figures (and global cultural figures who wish to sell in the US market) to speak out. It's no accident the Dixie Chicks spoke out against the war while in Europe.

As more artists risk opinions outside the US mainstream, it will change the political math that has discouraged dissent by encouraging fans to question their mass-media enforced opinions. And contact between US audiences and European/international artists willing to speak out will help break the US media censorship of the depth of world opposition to war and empire.

Of course, the issues affecting us all aren't confined to the US: the same political/economic forces that put Bush in power in the US are alive and well in Europe and elsewhere. The problems are global and gestures of solidarity from touring musicians are needed to keep the spirit of opposition global as well.

A secondary benefit of the database involves musicians and artists rights issues. There are some issues of interest from anti-war, cultural, and labor perspectives. For example, the role of the Clear Channel monopoly in censoring opposition to the war, blacklisting anti-war artists, and even organizing pro-war demonstrations in the US is both an anti-war issue, and an infringement on artists' freedom of expression.

SPECIFICATIONS Filters, both passive/automatic and active/human will ensure that participating orgs are major and respected, and that participating artists are at a sufficiently professional level to be of use to them.

  • Access to the database will be strictly limited to approved organizations.
  • Contact between artists and organizations will take place within a database 'mailbox' so that artists/managers run no risk of having personal/business email accounts flooded with requests.
  • Whatever form of participation the artist chooses - be it a gig, a single song, or a brief statement - the database format will ensure that all necessary technical requirements and conditions are met, without extensive back and forth between artists, managers and organizations.
  • Artists will have access to full information about events they are being invited to participate in and about the organizations asking them to participate.
  • Artists' participation in the database will be confidential (although at this stage, we may need to list participating artists in grant applications) unless the artists themselves choose to make it public.






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