Saturday, 22 April 2017
It's Record Store Day and amid the celebrations of all things vinyl & CD, there is the ever present dischord of the difficulty of making a living from music in 2017.
I wrote about Over The Rhine recently, and how difficult it is for people like them to make a living from their music.The financial risk in running a tour in Europe is huge for an independent artist. The costs of travel, and the fact that ticket sales can be a lottery at best mean budgeting a 3 week plus stay is next to impossible.
Allan Holdsworth passed away recently. A guitarist of prodigious talent feted by his peers who copied his style, admired by fans of Jazz & Rock, and who died in a financial position that left his family needing a Go Fund Me campaign to pay for his funeral. The question for me is where were all the fans who have mostly donated about $20, the price of a cd, when he was alive? His recently released compilation is £17 on Amazon. The carelessness of the online stores in pricing is highlighted by the fact that one had his career box set as a download for £6 for a while rather than £60.00. Who suffers? The artist.
I was lucky enough to meet Kim Edgar last year. A Scottish singer with 3 great albums, she was doing a short tour of the Highlands and came to Crianlarich. Her audience? Two. The Reasoning were a highly regarded Progressive Rock band from Wales. One of the factors causing their demise was the imposition of VAT on downloads in the U.K. The accounting costs moved their Bandcamp sales from acceptable to untenable.
Why are we in this position? Is the music not good enough? Hardly. If you don't like any of the above, and please try them, then there are hundreds of other artists who in a better time and place would be selling records by the boatload. Poor promotion? Possibly in some cases, but getting your head above the noise on Twitter is a struggle, the cost of physical product and distribution is a risk too far in many cases. The real answer lies in the culture of the music industry; exploitative for so long and now unwilling, or unable, to make the radical changes needed to move past the short-termism of the X Factor model and nurture artists for rewards in the future. Vinyl won't I'm afraid save the industry, it is a fad, and will fade. CDs still sell to some extent, but digital formats are where the world is going. The major streaming portals need to engage with the industry outside the few remaining major labels to achieve an equitable share out of the revenue. I recognise that they can't deal with every artist one at a time, but working with Bandcamp, CD Baby and their like would bring enough artists into the fold to encourage others to join in. Will it happen? Something has to. Something also has to be done to make music vital to teenagers, as it was in my (long ago) time. How? New music that energises and excites them as happened in the 60's, punk and grunge. We aren't going to find that on reality TV.
Part of my business Selling Service is helping artists find an audience. Talk to me if you want to learn more about getting your message out. firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, 17 April 2017
In the late 70s Virgin Record stores published a magazine. In among advertorials for whatever they were selling that month was the occasional article that piqued my interest. One of these was on a new supergroup U.K. I was just starting on the path away from Top Of The Pops and the "previously with..." list read well. I didn't buy the record then, but a couple of years later saw Bill Bruford's band on 'Rock Goes To College', and discovered the world where Jazz met Rock. the guitarist stood out of the limelight, but something interesting was going on. At much the same time (or very close, memory may be faulty here) I bought my first guitar magazine, Beat Instrumental and read about Edward Van Halen's love of Allan Holdsworth.
So armed with 'One Of A Kind' and the first U.K. album I learnt more. The solos on 'In The Dead of Night', and 'Hells Bells' opened new views on what was possible with the electric guitar.
Sometime later BBC Radio 3 (yes 3) broadcast a session of Holdsworth's new solo band I.O.U. Recorded without the vocals of Paul Williams from the album it remains some of my favourite pieces of his playing and deserves an official release. I have followed him intermittently ever since.
'Road Games', 'Metal Fatigue', 'All Night Wrong', and 'Blues For Tony' are my favourites. If you are new to his music get the new compilation Eidolon, but be prepared to end up buying the new very suitably named 'The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever!' 12 cds of solo albums heralding new improved versions of his work.
In 1990 he joined Level 42 for a tour and part of the Guaranteed album. The only officially released live work is on a box set, the solo on Love Meeting Love is sublime.
Now too soon and suddenly he has gone. The crime that has artists of his quality leaving their family's needing Go Fund Me for funeral expenses is a subject I will come back to in a later post but for now I would suggest buying the new compilation, Bruford's One Of A Kind and reading Bill Bruford's autobiography which describes his time working with Allan Holdsworth, who comes across as someone unwilling to compromise his work, possibly a little difficult at times, but commited to his vision of the guitar and its possibilities.
Bill Bruford said on his Facebook page
With enormous sadness I write to express my condolences to Allan's family on the loss of a much-loved father and grandfather, my friend and colleague. For several years in the 1970s, through my own band and 'UK', I listened to him nightly, launching sheets of sound on an unsuspecting audience, changing perceptions about what guitars and guitarists should or could be doing, thrilling me half to death.I would have paid to be at my own gig.
Allan wasn't easy, but if it was easy it wouldn't have been Allan. Like all creative musicians he was restless and relentless in pursuit of 'the perfect sound', the one that he couldn't get out of his head, the one that would never leave him alone. Now he will be at peace. Still, my guitar gently weeps.