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Newsletter #23 - December 2012

Was it not Bob Dylan who said that he had no problem with music being illegally downloaded for nothing because most music wasn't worth anything anyway? And he was right, albeit from an enormously-successful-millionaire sort of perspective. But still it's a valid point - why pay something for music which is fundamentally worth nothing?

E-tailers - notably iTunes - have reduced the actual value of contemporary pop music to that of a sheet of used newspaper. At the same time, reality TV shows have reduced the content of pop to a simpering, self-regarding, deeply conservative, single-track pursuit of celebrity. Selected performers utilise their nanosecond-long careers to deliver caterwauling simulacra of what would, in earlier times, have been dismissed as middle-of-the-road, kiddy-friendly cabaret of the worst order.

Pop has been emasculated as an art form. It has had its metaphorical balls cut off. Historically, pop balanced inherent pointlessness and expressions of aimless capitalist greed performed by people willing to dress up as fictional furry animals or astronauts, with the voices of those artists who actually attempted to comment upon the world around them, who strove to rise above the pursuit of celebrity in an effort to exercise at least some autonomy in the creation of their art, who had an original opinion and an original musical voice with which to express it.

DSDSBut not today. The hegemony of casting shows has reduced pop to a bland, simulated wilderness of mirrors in which identical, replaceable performers perform material often composed by the jury members and published by the very organisation which bankrolls the reality show in the first place; the German casting show 'Deutschland Sucht Der Superstar', anchored by BMG-signed songwriter Dieter Bohlen, is part of the BMG empire, described as a 'label in partnership' with DSDS). Guess whose songs often turn up on the show?

The viewing public determines the weekly rise and fall of their representatives on the stage; with gestures resembling those used to despatch unpopular gladiators in ancient Roman arenas, the crowd show their displeasure with those who transgress the unwritten norms enforced by the media in general and the baying crowd in particular. The unfortunates who arouse their fury are propelled from their brief tenure under the spotlight, sadder but not necessarily wiser.

One way to send grenade-based feedback straight into the dark hearts of Simons Fuller, Cowell and their ilk, in retribution for their selfless contribution to the transformation of pop into pap, may be the crowd-funding model. By supporting artistic ventures that they determine to warrant their investment, individuals can reclaim their right to define the musical landscape, rather than leaving it to the unseen voices of boardroom business and the shrill voice of the crowd. Crowd-funding creates a direct and unmediated connection between artist and patron which dates back to the Renaissance.

Here we have to admit to an element of self-interest, in that Radiant Future Records has decided to adopt this direct-patronage strategy for the below release, the sixth and final installment of the Mammal Trilogy. Since the release of his 'Time Gentlemen Please' album in 2009, bassist Martin Gordon (Sparks/Jet/Radio Stars) has lain low, observing proceedings with a jaundiced eye. Finally spurred into action by a combination of penury, misanthropy and an increasing hatred of ant-eaters (specifically the genus Vermilingua peronatus singularis), he was driven to create 'Include Me Out' as the sixth part of the Mammal Trilogy.

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