We love Terre. In fact, we love Terre so much, that he was the first choice for the ssgs' upcoming party in Tokyo. But aside from his wonderful productions and eclectic DJ sets, we also love Terre for her great mind. In a world where too many producers embody the philosophy that house music is controllable desire you can (and should) own... there is also Terre Thaemlitz.
We hate hard questions because we know the answers and don't like them. That's why it's uncomfortable talking frankly about the GWOT or the GFC: to some extent we are - and we know we are - the dependent beneficiaries of systems and processes that involve domination, exploitation, alienation and cruelty (here is a talk you can download discussing one example). It's also true that the Starbucks macha latte is delicious. These are the kinds of things that Terre is constantly making us think about through her words and music: of all those other places and sources we depend on - and depend on not thinking about - in order to be able to function and listen and own all this. But the message is also love. 'Between empathy and sympathy is time'.
So: I wanted to talk about 'music production', but not in that way. I wanted to ask about music production, music distribution, and music consumption. I wanted to generate some (hopefully) intelligent thoughts and some interesting comments from your ends. So... well, I had to ask Terre, didn't I? What follows then is the first part of a three part Q&A. I asked Terre some questions, and she responded with his first, best thoughts. I hope you enjoy reading and thinking about it, I certainly enjoyed receiving such interesting responses. Questions are in italics, topics in bold, responses written in red and pink ink (almost invisible through web 2.0 interfaces).
of text and context:
In Midtown 120 Blues you spend some time talking about the erasures of context involved in making house music 'controllable desire you can own'. I'm sort of obsessed with this phrase, which seems to me to get at the basic habitus of electronic music consumption these days... but the question: how is context constitutive or shaping? My gambit here is that it you're of the view that it lays the ground from which we create, as well as from which we hear, but that, like the ground, we only realise it's there when it falls away, when there's an earthquake ?housequake? etc... and: how would you describe the general 'context' in which the broader 'we' are relating to one another, through music, in 2011...
Just in case some youngsters didn't understand the sample's reference, it's a cut-up of Chuck Roberts' infamous monologue that defined house for a generation - only whereas he talked in typically overreaching terms about how "no one man owns house because house music is a universal language, spoken and understood by all," (tell that to my parents...), I did a Burroughs-esque cut-up to have him saying something that I feel reflects the reality of how house functions as a highly controlled, regulated, distributed product. Especially now when it's sold and controlled on a scale that was unimaginable 30 years ago, and which has made sampling so risky that this once sample-based genre of music has now become about conventional "musicianship." It used to be about unconventional musicianship, by which I mean it was not about sounding like a trained musician with a knowledge of keys, chords, studio session recordings, etc. For me, this shift toward studio musicianship indicates a conservative backlash - and that backlash is clearly the result of integration into larger distribution systems, becoming less specific and more accessible. I mean, in a tragic and ironic way, by becoming more homogenized and accessible, today's house is functioning more like Roberts was talking about 30 years ago. It is more likely to be "understood by all" because it's sonic signs have moved closer to pop sensibilities and become more familiar in public places. For example, I'm sure my mom can't tell the difference between disco and house, but she has been exposed to enough house via TV commercials or what-not that she can say house is a kind of disco. 30 years ago, she probably wouldn't have known how to describe house at all, or what to identify it with.
The chief context shaping all musics is economics. And I'd say that even if I wasn't a Marxist. Clearly we would not have Chicago Acid House if shitty gear like the Roland 303 was not utterly worthless in the realm of pop music, and could be bought for a few dollars at thrift and pawn shops, to be used in ways that were unintended. We also wouldn't have ballet if it wasn't for the feudal aristocracy's need to develop a culturally acceptable form of pornography. (In fact, the only interesting thing about ballet for me is its continued function as pornography for bourgeois women.) Every form of music, without exception, is formed by economic limitations or excesses. And of course, as musics develop and gain audiences in other cultural and economic spheres, those dynamics change. Nothing stays the same. For example, at the peak of the Acid craze, a 303 could sell for several thousands of dollars. Clearly that changed the types of people able to buy the equipment and produce Acid, both reflecting and calling into being an entirely new series of social and business relations around the music. This all seems very obvious, but for some reason there are a lot of people who still believe in concepts of "soul" and "artistry" that transcend the social, rather than seeing that they are actually defined by the social. Or, even if people acknowledge the impact of material contexts, they only do so through the lens of Americanization, in which all people with "real talent" have the ability to transcend economic limitations and get rich. The most "deserving" gangsta rapper is the one who managed to move from a jail cell to a mansion, right? This is the bullshit American dream that is applied to all aspects of life under globalization, and to answer your question, I would say this phenomenon of "Americanization" is the framework through which "we" currently relate to music and one another in the First World, as well as in the Third World countries we stand upon. By "Americanization" I am not talking about a US-controlled conspiracy, but a globally/locally proliferated ideological framework around commerce and cultural transactions that goes beyond the US.
After economics, I would say sexuality is the next greatest influence on how we consume music. People congregate around various styles of music - it's often how they choose their bars or hang-outs - and within those scenes we seek sexual and social connections. Of course, we all step in and out of various scenes, sometimes openly and sometimes in secret. I think of the anti-disco movement in the US during the '70s, and how it primarily revolved around homophobia and queer bashing. If you liked disco and were male, you were a fag. (If you were a woman, it was different since disco was then considered as wiggling your ass for straight boys.) Like, it was okay for a male to be into Queen's "We Will Rock You," but if you were into "Another One Bites the Dust," suddenly everyone was concerned about Freddy Mercury being gay. Conversely, bluegrass is not so popular in most Gay bars. So the ways in which we publicly identify with certain genres while simultaneously having musical "closets" around other musics we like - even when they're by the same artist - also affects how music is consumed, shared, and congregated around.
Closets, hypocrisies, crossed borders - these have always been a part of how people move socially. So when we're talking about contexts, we also have to keep in mind that their borders are to be crossed. However, it's very important to see how these crossings occur through access to, and participation in, systems of power and domination - cultural, economic, etc. - and not through some American dream about the human capacity for upward mobility and liberal multiculturalism. That latter myth actually clouds our ability to identify and engage with the systems of domination we wish to see weakened. For example, I grew up in the Southern Midwest, and I can tell you a lot of racist rednecks love hip-hop - the more ghetto the better. So a like of music does not equate with a like of the people who make it, yet this is a huge presumption behind most music writing. The actual processes of identification are much more complex and problematic.
recording, production, inscription:
How does that broader context find itself onto disk (or tape, or whatever medium of inscription is used)? What traces remain, what tracks (like a fox's) are effaced or erased by the datasea (I think also here of the way data makes labour seem 'immaterial' a la that Hardt article I linked you to)? More specifically, as someone who is selling their music as recordings (either vinyl or data) - how does that process of transmission, transfer, exchange, decryption and re-encryption shape what you're doing (what's possible, what's necessary, what's redundant)?
Again, going back to economics, the quality of one's equipment determines the formats used, their sampling rates and bit depth, etc. True, there are plenty of lo-fi analogue instruments that cost a fortune, but in that case the term "quality" relates to some other aspect of their sound which, in the end, still has it's sound value equated with monetary value since whatever is culturally determined to be "better" - technically or aesthetically - costs more.
Simultaneously, on the consumer side, listeners are fixated with free MP3 files, free podcasts, free this and that... Record labels (including myself) usually only give away low quality soundfiles as a means of "protecting" the "real thing," but in fact these low-res files have unwittingly come to function as the "real thing." I was having a conversation with Dont Rhine of Ultra-red the other day, and he was talking about this. He said a lot of people he knows don't know anything about bit depths or compression rates, and don't really think about sound quality. Whatever finds its way into their MP3 player is accepted as-is. And I would agree, that seems to be the case with a lot of people I know, too. Taken to extremes, a lot of DJ's rip totally shit 96kbps MP3 audio from YouTube videos and DJ with them. Sad.
I guess this circulation of low-res files has replaced the function of used vinyl records, and buying promos. I mean, a lot of my vinyl records were bought used, and many even have the "Not For Resale" stamp on them - before the digital age I guess that was in some ways similar to tracking down a low-res MP3. Yet, even though they were bought for a dollar, they had full sound quality (barring scratches). But I guess today, people don't even spend that dollar. Besides, a lot of shops are not selling 320kbps MP3 or CD quality AIFF/WAV files, which also says something about how quality is not a concern for the industry. It's all about economics - smaller files take up less disk space on servers, take less bandwidth to transfer, all of which cuts costs for the major distributors who have enough content that those things add up. And all of those quality control issues affect how the materials we produce in the studio are distorted and re-presented to audiences. This is not new - vinyl records, cassettes, and even CD's all have serious quality limitations compared to most master recordings - but at least with physical formats there was a predictable, material baseline for how bad things got. With MP3s, people compress and recompress until the sound is in shards, and somehow people seem okay with it. The music continues to function somehow. Maybe this is because most people don't have big stereo speakers anymore. They either use tiny computer speakers, headphones, ringtone, bookshelf systems or 5.1 surround with subwoofers - none of which are appropriate for listening to music, in my opinion. Nice headphones would be the best option in that mix. Meanwhile, these same listeners are the great "judges" writing prolific comments on blogs, etc., arguing with one another as though they are actually invested in the music they haven't even heard properly...
stay tuned for part II of III next week...
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Terre Talks [II of III]: from disco to distro (via promo)...
Without further ado, here is part II of our III part Q&A with the first lady of Marxist deep house as well as the man responsible for the love bomb that caused the house explosion in Kami Sakunobe back on 2006, Terre Thaemlitz... this time, following on from pt I, which focused on production, the questions cluster around issues of distribution and promo mo fos. Bombs away.
It strikes me that an understanding of distro is utterly essential for anyone who wants to know what kind of capitalism they're living in (generally). What is implied when such dysfunctional distributive processes and distribution systems are some of the key factors that makes or breaks artists, sounds and scenes? I know you've thought a lot about this, so I leave the response very open...
It's very difficult for people to understand the functions of distribution, since these processes are reified and become obscured even to those in the business. I mean, I've written many detailed articles on the subject, and I myself do not believe I understand the process. In a way, we are forced to function religiously because life under capitalism demands a degree of faith - and like faith in a religion, our faith in the general goodness of processes of distribution and access makes us blind to many of their corruptions... because we socially rely upon them, culturally and economically. And if we fail to trust, we find ourselves excommunicated and facing social difficulties that make everyday life nearly impossible. For example, if you were to eradicate from your life all goods with links to inhumane manufacturing processes, ecological destruction, etc., you would find not only your quality of living would change so radically that you would lose everything you know, but also that you would lose connections to family, friends, employment, etc... It's really an excommunication. So the act of critically examining capitalism is an act of blasphemy, as one can easily see in the continued villainization of Marx.
Within this context, labels and distributors buy chart placements, reviews, etc. It's industry. This hasn't been a surprise for many decades. I think after the Billboard chart scandals of the '60s and '70s most people stopped believing the popularity of an item had anything to do with the public's actual opinion of it's quality or usefulness. We're all accustomed to first-edition books hitting the store shelves with "#1 Best Seller" already printed on the cover, all of which is determined not by consumer purchases, but by the quantity of retailer pre-orders received by distributors. And retailers are pressured to place those large orders, too. These are the numbers that determine popularity. It's like the US presidential voting system - people want to believe their vote counts, but it's all about the electoral college... and even when they are confronted with this, such as with G.W. Bush, their faith is great enough to pass forgiveness and continue sharing in the myth rather than revising the system. Or it's like Catholics and abusive clergy. Most consumers are sheep, and they're okay with that. It makes life easier, and even then life is plenty miserable. So asking people to unpack this stuff, and willingly make their lives more difficult, is not something those who have been conditioned to believe in their own self-entitlement are likely to do willingly. That's all of us. In this context, music is still pretty much just as Funkadelic laid out 33 years ago in the lyrics to "Promentalshitbackwashphychosisenemasquad" (Google it).
All of this is implied in how distributive processes make or break artists, sounds and scenes. Helping make people aware that music is just as corrupt and dreamless as the rest of their lives is what I've been spending a lot of energy on over the years.
Apologies in advance for the rant: Chris and I have had a lot of exposure to promo over the past few years with ssgs (more and more of it)... not much of it has been positive! In fact, most of those involved seem to me to be total fucking parasites, rent seekers who exploit a nodal point in a distributive system which they set up as a 'gate' and then charge admission – pace Bono 'you ask me to enter, and then you make me crawl'. From where I'm sitting, it seems that promo has also corrupted what little critical reviewing and curation was going on on the various websites (with a few bright shining exceptions). I am continually disturbed by a percentage of online readers who no longer appear to know or understand the difference between (an attempt at) critical reflection, contextualisation, journalism, opinionated ranting, and flagrant marketing... the word 'content' is king here... and then on top of that, there's the basic situation where Artist spends a year making a beautiful record. 'Old paradigm reviewer' (PC feeling sorry for himself) spends two weeks trying to listen carefully to the record, then three hours writing a review. Content consumer takes umbrage to review and/or record, and writes an off-cuff dismissal, which also, weirdly, simultaneously enacts the auto-abrogated right to review album and reviewer, without critical engagement. but the other day, Chris received this email, which says it all:
"Dear Chris, 'XXX Distribution' is a young aspiring digital distributor for electronic music in YYY - Germany. Even though we are specialized in electronic music, we also cover a large amount of other genres as well. We would be pleased if you are interested in a close cooperation with us and may like to write reviews at your blog for upcoming releases. In exchange you will receive the releases for FREE."
(NB capslock is not mine)... question: how can we understand the dominance of promo in the political economy of today's electronic music?
Promoters and agents are the used car salespeople of the music industry, for sure. I've always understood they are part of the industry, but I try to minimize my direct interaction with them. When I license a release to a label I will generally let them promote it as they normally would since in that case I am submitting to them as an employee of sorts, but in 18 years I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I've done paid-advertising or other out-of-pocket promotion on my private Comatonse label's releases. Promotion really makes me feel dirty, which is one reason I don't do Facebook, Myspace, Soundcloud and the rest. (The Comatonse website is more of an ironic and sarcastic hype engine, which fewer and fewer people seem to find since they are always looking for content in those major websites.)
But I agree, it seems things have changed in the past 5 years, with online promotion, etc. I mean, if one blog prints something, it's almost instantly mirrored verbatim on a billion sites by spider-bots. For example, last December RA ran an announcement for a Berlin performance of finished sections from my upcoming "Soulnessless" album, and I guess the writer - who I think was also connected to the event - was overexcited and decided to write the album would be released in January, 2011 (in fact, it's still in production today). Suddenly there were 50 or more websites with blurbs about the album being released in January. I sent an email to RA and they revised their site, but it was too late. We don't live in a world of little mistakes anymore, but quickly circulated soundbites that persist in archives as facts. And this lo-fi blog journalism is accepted right along with the lo-fi MP3s they distribute. With regard to coverage of my own releases, it's also very obvious that people will copy the press release verbatim and slap their name on it. I'm sure that's how it's always been - it's the purpose of the press release - but it's lazy.
For me, the most confusing thing these days are the online shop reviews, since these can sometimes be quite thorough and well-written, but ultimately they are shop advertisements to sell the records. It's gotten to the point where I've almost stopped updating reviews on my website, since the line between review and advertisement has gotten so thin - and I'm saying that as someone whose entire website is a deliberate spoof on self-hype and over-exposure! Compared to the old days of music magazines, the journalist-middleman has been eliminated. She now works directly for the shops or distributors who do their own journalism under their own brand names (Juno comes to mind). And although I could imagine someone trying to frame this in a good light, such as processes of industry becoming more transparent and visible, I can't see it as anything other than a step deeper into the belly of the beast - if only because this act of transparency is not coupled with our critical resistance or anger. Nobody should believe anything they read online without doing further research. And I think most people know this. But again, going back to the way in which blog commentary has become as vital and entertaining to readers as the articles themselves, people seem to just roll with it. And from an industry marketing perspective, our complacency is then mistaken for "enjoyment" or actually liking things as they are - so the industry spends more money on fostering this kind of journalistic framework, and it snowballs... until you end up with something like Yahoo! News.
But we should be clear the snowball didn't start with the internet. Talk about serendipity, earlier today I was looking at the gatefold cover to Miles Davis' 1970 album "Bitches Brew," and it contains all of these same elements. The vinyl inner sleeves are printed with Columbia Records' in-house promo-zine cleverly titled, "The Inner Sleeve." The sleeves are designed to look like a newspaper, with editorials, articles and reviews about other Columbia releases including, "Laura Nyro: a three-year-late listener's guide" by Pete Fornatale, "Wars Are Such a Devilish Thing" (remember, this was during Vietnam), and "Country Music, What Is It?" The centerfold of the album jacket itself has a diarrhetic rant about "Bitches Brew" by Ralph Gleason, which predictably starts, "There's so much to say about this music. I don't mean so much to explain about it because that's stupid. The music speaks for itself." Then, as promised, he goes on endlessly talking about nothing. Around the middle he writes, "I started to ask Teo how the horn echo was made and then I though how silly what difference does it make? And it doesn't make any difference what kind of brush Picasso uses and if the art makes it we don't need to know and if the art doesn't make it knowing is the most useless thing in life." This is exactly the model of contextually transcendental "soul" and "artistry" I was bitching about earlier - the value of which is always determined by "making it," although that doesn't matter, right? That would be shallow, and we're not shallow, right? Idiots. Clearly, there is plenty of usefulness in knowing that which "doesn't make it." Otherwise, all we have left are histories filled with cathedrals and castles, and I find no resonance for that kind of cultural tourism. That is how we've already become tourists within our own cultures.
As a DJ, another issue with promos is the endless mailings we get to download music. Of course, sometimes we get lucky and find ourselves getting serviced by amazing labels - it's similar to the euphoria of olden days if a DJ managed to get into a hot vinyl record pool with tons of amazing promos. But most of these MP3 promo sites have gotten increasingly complicated, asking for comments and rankings of tracks before we even download them, all judgements being based on the sound of low-quality web players. If you type comments without thinking, you later find that they've printed your comment in advertisements as though you are someone who wants to promote the project or have your name tied to it. It's not enough that we might be willing to play their track in a club or something, like in the '80s. Now everything has to be logged and documented. I don't like this at all. Especially the creepy YES/NO buttons asking, "Do you support this release?" What the fuck does that even mean? Do I support it? No, I don't fucking support it, whether it's an amazing track or not! At that point I'm just trying to get hold of the higher quality download so I can listen to it properly. And after I spend my time downloading it I will then decide if it goes in the trash or not. It's way too soon in the relationship to ask for a commitment, whatever "support" means! And clearly the nature of the question pressures people to click "YES," since clicking "NO" probably means getting dropped from the list... I assume? I'm lucky that I use an old Mac running OS X 10.3, and its web browser is no longer supported by most of these newfangled websites, so I can't hear them anyway. If a promo mailing seems interesting, I'll usually email the label and explain my browser issue, then ask for a download link to check them out without leaving comments. (By the way, it's completely messed up that so many sites require the latest web browsers, since software upgrades are clearly an economic privilege - and particularly difficult in poorer nations that First World people like to feel the internet is helping elevate so much. News flash: Your "global" sites are inaccessible! It's usually just because the site developers want to say they are using the latest Java or Flash, despite not utilizing new features... and of course with the newer sites there is a lot of back-end server-side marketing and research is also being accumulated, customizing advertising shown on your screen, etc.)
Provided the Pacific Ring of Fire keeps quiet, stay tuned next week for our final, third installment...
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Terre Talks [III of III]: from distro to consumpto, with many ambi♥alent returns...
well, following on from parts one and two of our extended Q&A with Terre, here's part III. This time, the questions turn to focus on use and consumption, with a slight return to some of the ridiculous aspects of promo, and a brief and revealing glance at the Mille Plateaux morass. This Q&A in its entirety is quite text heavy, we know, so please consider printing the beasty out and having a close read – I promise you Terre's insights bear the closest possible scrutiny. Once again, thank you to Terre for her time and thoughts, and thank you to you all for being patient with the uneven publication schedule here.
selling, buying in, selling out:
What are some of the strategies (including the oblique and counter-intuitive ones) that you have developed for selling your work on your terms? I'm really fascinated by the way you've done this, especially the way you've managed to do so many things that others have failed at? What's the secret please, M(r)s?
To be clear, it's never on my terms. I make concessions and compromises all the time, even if some of the people I'm doing business with think I'm a total stubborn asshole who refuses to budge (but there are also definitely people with whom things go very smoothly, and we get along just fine - there's no telling how things go). If anything, most of the strategies I've come up with are last resorts born of desperation and hopelessness. Take the "Dead Stock Archive" offline alternative to online MP3 downloads. It was the result of my frustration from trying to get my illegally uploaded Mille Plateaux albums removed from iTunes, Juno and other major online distributors, and the utter distrust that experience fostered in me towards the major distributors who refused to respond to my correspondences for years. Back then I had absolutely no idea who had uploaded the files (it was Rainer Streubel, who uploaded all the Mille Plateaux back catalog he could lay his hands on without permission in a desperate attempt to earn back his investment after buying the Mille Plateaux name after the 2003 bankruptcy), and the distributors were absolutely not cooperating with my requests for them to tell me with whom they were in contract. That's why I was so quick to go public about the original MP catalog's re-upload into Beatport last year, sending emails to a bunch of press people. What took 4 years to come down the first time took 4 days the second - amazing. But that was also my first real awakening to the viral nature of today's music press, with everything being spammed across a gazillion websites. So I've become a bit uncomfortable with that, too. I mean, I was not expecting that amount of visibility on the subject. I guess I still live with old concepts of low-circulation distribution for "underground" or "independent" or "alternative" journalism. But, anyway, the point is that it's really difficult to get stuff pulled down once it's online. No joke.
I guess my key strategy - if you could call it that - is to bite the hand that feeds me (us), since it's also a hand that smacks me (us). I mean, I'm thankful as hell that I somehow got lucky enough to not have to work in an office environment or something like that - for the moment - but it requires a lot of social sacrifices and living very sparsely. It also means no retirement plan, I no longer qualify for credit cards (even those ones "everyone" can get), etc. I'm not talking about being a pissy egomaniac artist wheeling his white grand piano into the swimming pool because the round bologna doesn't match the square bread (although that will always be one way people see things as filtered through dominant mythologies of what it means to be a musician). I simply believe if one is truly grateful for all one has, rather than relish in one's privileges (as few or great as they are) it is necessary to constantly draw attention to the injustices and imbalances of the lives we lead, and the associative violence our lifestyles enact on others. This means criticizing one's own comfort zone, too. Otherwise we're all just Uncle Toms, no matter what our station in life.
On a major website the other day, the first 'comment' (don't get me started on those) to an album was as follows: 'AMAZING. Perfect for working all day at my desk.'
on another login only promo site, the following two comments, one after the other, both telling
from: XXX YYY (laptop community), 2011-01-18 12:35:02
YES!!＼ this is so good, pure magic. please can i have the mp3s＼?
from: AAA ZZZ (cleft palate recordings), 2011-01-18 12:22:38
＼ i like this collection of tunes. it is funky in its own way. i will support this release.
What can the above comments tell us: who are we, if this is how we are relating to music through each other, and through each other with music?
There's that creepy phrase, "support this release." It's awkward, right? Well, both of these last two posts are clearly by people who frequent sites offering downloads for commentary. They're just fishing for files. The first one - yeah... I mean, we all work while looping an album or something, but to make that the defining point of how one likes the album, it's a little embarrassing. Muzak has changed over the years. It's amazing how every kind of store, restaurant, or office can blast the noisiest rock-hip-hop-alterna-techno-shit these days. I'm always very aware of the elderly walking around in these situations, wondering how it manages to function as white noise from their perspectives - is it easier or harder to ignore than an orchestral version of "Riders in the Storm"? These days a lot of department stores play house classics, so that just about sums up what shit robot pawns we house producers are. I was at an EU airport and the muzak was Ame's "Rej." Like, when I was 13 or 14 years old, that would have been the sign of some utopian future. But all I felt was sorrow.
laptops, piracy, long haul flying and drugs:
In a certain way, electronic music is comprised of the four elements in the title above (or, at least, it would be radically different if you remove one). So... why do we take laptops and long haul for granted, and why can't we talk about piracy and drugs? And/or what would happen if we talked piracy and drugs a little... ?
Clearly because piracy and drugs have legal ramifications that the other two subjects do not. I don't like to talk about drugs because I don't do them - by which I mean I've never even tried a cigarette or finished a beer in my entire life - and I know for most people that instantly disqualifies me from having any understanding of chemical issues, in the same way people who have kids get all preachy and asshole-ish with those of us who consciously do not. But absolutely, we are in the employ of industries - legal and illegal - which use us as ambiance for their chemical pushing. I've said it before, I think the reason my memories of the New York house scene are so much bleaker than the usual stories one hears is because I was taking it all in sober. My memories were not filtered by coke or X or K.
As for piracy, it really depends on what you are pirating. I mean, technically we are pirates every time we sing "Happy Birthday to You," the melody for which was written by Patty and Mildred Hill by the way. It's also very different if you are talking about pirating something born of a corporation that has taken on larger cultural meanings or has become a cultural icon. My favorite example of the cultural hypocrisy around these issues is Andy Warhol's Brillo boxes or Coca-Cola prints, which clearly duplicate copyrighted logos without permission, whereas the Warhol foundation will sue your ass off if you reprint an image of one of Warhol's works without licensing it! How do they make that work?!! Warhol's early works were so important, yet his foundation's legacy is just one huge BM on it all. And everyone in the art world feels the same. It's precisely why I left the visual arts. In any case, I think if one's actions become "piracy" simply as a side-effect of attempting to consciously interact with the culture imposed upon them by industry - to somehow "possess" what has been engrained into them - that is very different than "abusive" or "exploitative" piracy. And exploitation does not always correlate with profit - despite his latter wealth, I do not consider Warhol's prints to be exploiting Brillo, but I do consider the Warhol Foundation to be exploiting Warhol's legacy, and even then they are clearly acting in "defense" of having Warhol's works exploited by the larger art marketplace. So it's all a huge mess with everyone fucking everyone, with very few reach-arounds being offered.
Personally speaking, I took a huge risk with the "Dead Stock Archive," wondering if it would end up torrented. I really don't want my works to be so widely circulated, because they are not intended to function as "pop music." (Even my most "popular" albums have globally only sold a few thousand copies at best, which is as I feel it should be.) But I have to say the handful of people who have bought the "Archive" thus far have been very considerate about not uploading it. I feel they really support my views on file sharing, which is not about advocating for a culture of anal-retentive control, but about responsible use and support... not only financial support of producers, but cultural/ideological support as well. And - particularly within today's cultural climate of over-information (but never the right information) and free everything - there is a power to withholding information from the usual routes of circulation, authorized or unauthorized. It means that the information is used deliberately, and in relevant contexts. It is the reaffirmation of context. And that comes along with the reaffirmation of uncommon or alternative use values that can only be born of "failure." Those same things Gleason called, "the most useless thing in life." I know the common attitude is to put anything and everything out there so they can be "used" (ostensibly in a good sense, as opposed to "exploited"), but amidst the dominant cultural demands epitomized by Gleason, withholding is also a valuable way of keeping non-standard things from becoming defined as "useless."
finally (this old Marx-n-Foucault chestnut):
Who benefits from the situation as it is? And how could things be otherwise?
The rich and powerful. And it won't be otherwise. I realize that sounds incredibly reductionist, but there you go... And the fact it will never be otherwise doesn't mean stop resisting. It's the reason to resist. Non-violent non-cooperation in daily life whenever possible! If only Americanization's language of "dreams" and "hope" could be replaced with a conscious analysis of the unacceptable, filling our minds with the urgency of the moment rather than tainted aspirations of where we'd like to be... which for most people is sitting atop a pile of money, taking revenge on those who used to be above them. We never learn. We never break the systems. Not communally and not for long, anyway. We just regurgitate them, showing the thoroughness of our brainwashing, and the shallowness of our common values. *Sigh*
thank you! hugs (not rugs) P