Philly/Temple University

(kristin and jay, loading the van)

It�s almost a week in and there hasn�t been a minute to write. I knew it would be that way until we got past Boston and on to Buffalo that we�d be in the meat of tour. The long drives that let you know that you aren�t just playing a weekend show. In the 15-passenger van now with 7 hours of remarkable autumn leaves between hotel and rock show there finally seems like a second to process what�s happened so far.

Philly was a whirlwind. It was a speaking date and a panel and two shows� The whole thing went by in a flash. All but my speech, which is still about 20 minutes too long. (Note to self� fix that before California). The speech was well received and followed by a panel of mostly lawyers who mostly disagreed with me for a variety of reasons.

The fella to my left wanted us to believe that the internet would fix everything through disintermediation so my speech was unnecessarily alarmist. He seemed to be arguing that we should just sit back and watch the revolution. Of course he made no mention of how trends towards increasing limits on internet architecture are already narrowing our access to information and control at an atomic level. His later comments about the beauty of the unfettered free market economy underscored what I suspect is near absolute faith in the unquestioned truth of capitalism.

The three fellas to my right thought I was being too critical of the major label music system. One of the three, who was among other things, Grover Washington Jr�s lawyer, talked at length about how much he loved getting huge advances for his clients and how great it was to have a label paying 3 million to radio to get an artist airplay. It wasn�t until the end of the panel that he had to admit that he makes his living as a percentage of that advance. The resulting laughter in the audience was one of the most reassuring moments of the entire event for me.

Later there was some common ground established when he admitted the difficulty that even he (and most lawyers) has with negotiating certain clauses out of label contracts. When we discussed things at that level there is no question that we had more in common than �in conflict� and yet it was very important for them to dismiss my critique of the current structure and to fix themselves firmly on the side of �other�. They also tended to paraphrase my statements in extremist terms as if, for example my elucidating the negative aspects of the major label advance system is the same thing as attempting to abolish it. It�s very interesting to me that the dominant music business model which predetermines how we find music and what music we find and which makes it super difficult for other models to flourish or even compete, is also seen by some as above criticism and requiring of absolute defense. One of the panelists even framed it in those terms. That we could either control everything by disallowing radio station payola and making positioning fees at large chain stores illegal or we could not control anything and allow the beautiful freedom of the market to take care of everything. He actually said that we had �two choices�. As if! We never have �two choices�� I certainly have never found myself represented with in the language of one of two choices. It�s also willfully a-historical�as if the government hasn�t already established the legal precedent that the process of payola is illegal. As if there was no history of anti-trust law in the US. As if an artificially constrained market place could ever function as well as a legitimate free market economy.

The most disheartening panelist was a lawyer/composer who had completely internalized the concept of musical Darwinism. He seemed perfectly happy to have the entirety of the experience of the musicians expressed through those few human vehicles who had historically placed themselves in that role.

One of FMC�s main critiques of the history of the creation of most music and technology legislation is that artists are not invited into the room when the legislation is drafted. To this, the composer panelist offered the historic fact that many of the original music publishers were also composers and that with people like Gershwin and Victor Borgia in the room representing artist�s
rights he felt �fine�.

When Professor Post asked him if he thought those publishers represented a broad range of artistic experience he acted confused. Later he grudgingly admitted that maybe all perspectives weren�t being represented but only after Post pointed to the financial disparity between superstar publishers (who incidentally have twin interests (at least) at play in any artist negotiation), and the overwhelming majority of incredibly poor musicians who are never invited into the negotiation chamber. When I asked him to agree rhetorically to the fact that representing a diversity of musician�s experiences was important, he said �yes�, but it seemed he was comfortably invested in an elitist system that equates success with merit and not money.This seemed particularly sad considering the fact that he himself and the odd instrumental music he makes is locked from an audience by the same system he nonetheless supports.

When it was over David Post congratulated us on being able to hold our stake in the middle ground. It was good for him to remind us of what we are trying to do. It�s strange�that is our real goal. To balance spin and power and precedent with information. Still, it�s getting to be a bit exhausting spending so much time doing the important (though redundant) ground work substantiating the failures of the established models. I�d much rather be propping up and helping to build the new ones. It reminds me of my undergraduate thesis at Georgetown which talked about sexism in language and the transcendent power of poetry. I wanted to spend the majority of my writing focused on the ways that context sometimes removes or twists the baggage of sexist language but instead I had to spend 50 pages explaining that there WAS this thing called sexism in the world and that that sexism is woven into the language that women use every day.

Ah well� when the panel was done David Post opened for us in the rock portion of the night in a Temple Law Lecture Hall. He played acoustic guitar covering Bob Dylan songs and dragging other students up on stage to play with him. Apparently they take regular trips to the Law School roof to jam and call themselves the �roof rats�. For his finale David did a version of Woody Guthrie�s �This Land is Your Land� reading out Woody�s irreverent copyright postscript from the originally published sheet music which says that anyone who plays this song without the permission of the author is to be considered a good friend.

(amy and jean)

We took the stage shortly afterward and the set had all the earmarks of an unprepared beginning of tour show. It was Jay�s first show with us and he was still working some things out�and for me�well it always takes me a couple of days to get out of activist head and remember how to play my songs. In the midst of the chaos there were some very nice moments and considering every other thing that was distracting us I was pleased to have the first one behind us and be safely speeding towards NYC in the rental car with Jay and Jean and the Impressions blasting.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.