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Sunday, 12 July 2020

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE 1 by Dave Bessell

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."  Hunter S Thompson.

Well the music ‘business’ has changed a lot since Hunter’s day but many musicians would still recognize the sentiment behind this. So welcome to the alternate reality of the modern freelance musician. This is the first page of an ongoing diary that reports back from the front-line for your enjoyment. There may also be some random thoughts on wider music related matters as we wander across the creative landscape together. Hold on tight the journey is bound to get a bit surreal at times.

Thinking about writing this what sprang to what passes for my mind these days was the way musicians are now expected to multi task to an intimidating degree. I have noticed that the more successful freelance musicians are really good at online promotion, booking performances, generating video’s of themselves, recording, playing, mastering, getting themselves on streaming services, managing downloads, dealing with copyright and a whole host of other things I have probably forgotten that I did yesterday. Perhaps this is one of the main changes since Hunter wrote his iconic critique. Most musicians have to wear way more hats than used to be the case. I can confirm that my own hat cupboard is bulging fit to burst!

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Well speaking for myself I enjoy some of these new hats, while others are just a chore and take me away from time I would rather spend making new music. I don’t take the point of view that the new disruptive technologies that have shaken the music world over the past 20 years are all necessarily bad. It has created a whole new class of independent musicians who now have direct access to an audience (in theory at least) without having to grovel to the gatekeepers of the old school music ‘Industry’. The surviving old style major record companies still hang on to the top end of the mass market of course but hey – isn’t that where all the boring music resides these days anyway!

I would imagine even those of us not directly involved in making music have encountered the rumblings about the negative effects that downloading and streaming have had on musicians but it’s not all doom and gloom. In my book good guys include: Bandcamp who do a wonderful job of giving independent musicians a financially viable way to reach an audience, the many independent internet radio stations and podcasts who support specialist music and new artists (you will know at least one of those if you are reading this!), the multitude of online magazines and bloggers who support all genres of music but tend to excel at small label and independent artist support. There are also many small online labels that provide a home for freelance musicians and some sense of mutual support. I am thinking of labels like DiN records who I record for myself, Spotted Pecary, Ultimae and too many others to mention.

So let us raise a glass to the good guys in this wild west of a music world that we find ourselves in. My glass is half full, how about yours?

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