WTM #1068: Gallons of Gallant Gals

wReck thiS meSS ~ Radio Patapoe 88.3
Amsterdam ~ Ethno-Illogical Psycho-Radiographies
7 September 2009 // 17.00-19.00

The book is my potato crop. If it fails it will mean that I must keep on drudging, with a knot or two taken in my belt. But I’ll squeeze a smile out of the corner of my mouth, somehow.  And if it succeeds! Oh … if it succeeds!… Then it means that I may have a little thin layer of jam on my bread and butter. It won’t mean money – at least, I don’t think it will.  A first book never does. But it will mean a future. It will mean that I will have something solid to stand on.  It will be a real beginning – a breathing spell – time in which to accomplish something really worth while – independence – freedom from this tread-mill…
• Edna Ferber, Dawn O’Hara: The Girl Who Laughed

[photo: 3 generations of 3D Femmes]

Alien Bog > Pauline Oliveros paulineoliveros.us/ [Alien Bog / Pogus ]
Midnight Blue > Sainkho
We Are > Emily Hay / & Marcos Fernandes [ We Are / Trumerflora]
Air à la tirolienne avec variations, Op. 118 > Cecilia Bartoli
Bo Mambo > Yma Sumac http://www.yma-sumac.com/ [The Ultimate Yma Sumac Collection / Capitol]
Hi Hello, Hi Hello > Anouk
Nah Mix Nah Mingle > Lady Saw
Sambhalo Sambhalo Apna Dil > Asha Bhosle
Harlem Yodel > Dandridge Sisters & the Cats And The Fiddle
Sorry Song (Rio de Janeiro) > Malko
Geekspeak > Pamela Z. [Bitstreams / Various / JdK]
Twilight  > Pauline Oliveros & Miya Masaoka [Koto Accordion / Deep Listening]
Shadow & Light > Joni Mitchell [The Hissing of Sumer Lawns / Asylum]
Repressed Love > Mankind [Ice Machine / Ambiances Magnetiques]
Shoplifting > The Slits [Cut / Antilles]
Interpretation > Kiki Smith
Wordy Rappinghood > Chicks on Speed
I’m Liquor > Lizzy Mercier Descloux [Zulu Rock / Ze]
Late Night Call > Emily Hay & Marcos Fernandes [ We Are / Trumerflora]
Volare > Connie Francis [Sings Italian Favorites / MGM]
Duets6  > Shelley Hirsch http://www.shelleyhirsch.com/
Space Station Blues > Mankind [Ice Machine / Ambiances Magnetiques]
Concierto En Canto – Sobre saltos > Fatima Miranda
All Tomorrow’s Parties > Nico & the Invisible Girls  [Zero: A Martin Hannett Story / Big Beat]
I’m Lonely > Lee Morse
Misslebones_88a > Shelley Hirsch
Daddy O > Bonnie Lou

Every so many months I do a show devoted to women artists I like. I have been doing this since I started doing radio in 1986. The reasons are many and varied from I felt like it to this concentration being a kind of audio-erotic device especially in the periods when my beloved was elsewhere in the world for instance. OTHER REASONS have more to do with the politics of macho and sexism and also the conundrums of gender divisions of labor. For the most part women are relegated to the glorious surfaces of many music endeavors. Women are the face, the voice, the lead singers, the flamboyant one, the seductive one. This can have its advantages for sure. Look at Debbie Harry. But what is amazing in music, for all of its idealism and artistry that it represents, very few women are conductors in classical music and although there are plenty of women in classical orchestras and choirs, there are fewer composers. The same is true in jazz where renowned women musicians – come on, name some! – is limited to Candy Dulfer and Carla Bley [of course there are many others but compared to the fame of their male peers, there are VERY few. This is, of course the reverse when it comes to vocalists in ALL musics including pop and rock and other genres. Lead singers are often women. This probably has a sexual / sensual aspect in the same way that women in ads sell stuff.

The paucity of renowned women in electronica, ambient, hiphop, reggae is pronounced. Then we haven’t even begun to talk about production, mixing and everything that happens behind the mixing boards. This is probably a result of the early engendered cultural prejudice that is reinforced at almost every level of society the moment a kid is born. Boys are good with stuff. Girls are good with emotion. Anyway, this periodic focus on women artists is my way of encouraging a cultural shift.

Danny Goldberg on the Digital Music Revolution June, 2009: Steve Knoppers’s book “Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age” is an entertaining, well-written attempt to chronicle the economic decline of record companies, but his thesis echoes conventional wisdom that numerous tech-friendly journalists have expressed in recent years. It is heavy on schadenfreude and ridicule of record executives and light in grappling with the major questions raised by the digital world’s damage to the economic value of all intellectual property.
The damage to record companies coincided with a convergence of the interests of venture capitalists, avaricious Internet entrepreneurs and techie philosophers and fans, who combined to create a popular philosophy that brandished the phrase “information wants to be free” like a sword of futuristic wisdom. The Internet explosion made this argument irresistibly hip to many young opinion leaders, and the enormous profits of the Internet bubble gave political power to the companies that were benefiting.

In fact, the phrase “information wants to be free” was first used in the nuanced speech of Stewart Brand at the first “Hackers’ Conference,” in 1984, in which he said: “On the one hand, information wants to be expensive because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free because the cost of getting it out is lower and lower all the time, so you have these two things fighting against each other.”

In the shrill euphoria of the next two decades, the word information came to include anything that could be digitized, and the concept that there were any moral grounds to balance the ease of distribution with the cost and difficulty of creation and marketing was drowned out. Brand’s thoughtful formulation was reduced to a five-word bromide that was deployed against record company executives and musicians who sought to protect the value of intellectual property. As a guide to social policy, “information wants to be free” was, in retrospect, the ’90s equivalent of the equally seductive and equally intellectually untenable slogan “Don’t trust anyone over 30” that had a brief vogue in the 1960s.

The best part of “Appetite for Self-Destruction” is a detailed history of a series of unsuccessful and sometimes laughable efforts of record companies to deal with the tectonic shift brought on by home computers and the Internet. Knopper’s argument is that more intelligent, ethical, tech-savvy record company leaders would somehow have avoided the decline of the record business, hence the term “self-destruction.” However, he betrays a bias by throwing in sensational music business dramas irrelevant to his theme, such as pages devoted to real and alleged payola, and various forms of drug abuse and thuggery that cropped up in the business over the last few decades.

Early in “Appetite for Self-Destruction,” Knopper quotes former Warner Records and EMI CEO Joe Smith as observing, “This business ain’t full of Martin Luther Kings.” It says something about the emotional power of music that anyone would expect sainthood in its executives, but in the real world the absence of “Martin Luther Kings” is notable in virtually all businesses. Internet romanticists liked to ridicule the often implausible claims of record execs that they were looking out for the artists, since these were, at times, the same companies that had been successfully sued by artists for inaccurate accounting. However, the venture capitalists were not funding business plans to advance a utopian vision. The tech companies were every bit as self-interested and just as much driven by short-term profits as the most venal record company execs. At least the record companies sometimes paid artists something.

There is no denying that the major record companies made mistakes, which leaders of other media were able to learn from and avoid (although not with demonstrably better results). There is, however, no evidence that there was any strategy, regardless of who ran the record companies or what decisions they made, that could have stopped fans, especially young fans, from legally or illegally copying or downloading music instead of buying it.

The greatest hits of record company failings are chronicled by Knopper in a series of brief interstitial chapters the author calls “Big Music’s Big Mistakes.”

Knopper implies that if record companies had been nicer to their customers, if they were run by corporate saints, then things might have worked out differently. If only they hadn’t charged so much for CDs even after the per-unit manufacturing cost went down; if only they hadn’t abandoned the commercial single when it ceased to be sufficiently profitable; if only they hadn’t cooperated with Best Buy and Wal-Mart at the expense of indie stores; if only they hadn’t sued customers for illegal downloading, etc. etc. Referring to the fact that some of Sony/BMG’s ill-fated watermarked CDs damaged some computers, Knopper writes: “This lack of empathy reinforced Napster-era beliefs that the music industry was more interested in suing and punishing its customers than catering to them.”

This litany of real and imagined insults to the consumer ignores the central reality of what caused the decline of record sales: the ability of fans to get albums free. The problem wasn’t the price. In the eyes of many consumers, it is simply impossible to compete with free. Many of the same people who won’t pay $15 for a CD will fork over $20 for a T-shirt or $30 to $200 per ticket for a concert by the same artist. This is not because the IQ or moral compass of concert promoters or merchandising companies is higher than that of record executives, but because it is infinitely more difficult to get into a concert without a ticket or to shoplift a T-shirt than it is to burn a copy of a CD. Security guys at arenas are not particularly empathetic to people who try to sneak in without paying, but that hasn’t hurt the concert business.

Missing from Knopper’s narrative is the story of the incredible wealth that was accrued by a few hundred computer and software entrepreneurs and executives who fueled and exploited the cynical notion that music “should be free,” that music was a “killer app” that drove traffic, computer sales, etc., at the expense of artists and the people who worked with and invested in them. The fact that many record company executives were inept at PR, wildly outspent in Washington and in some cases personally unappealing did not mean that the society’s swift capitulation to the devaluation of intellectual property was a good idea…. [continued at Truthdig].

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s