Skip to main content

E.C.S.T.A.S.Y.End Consumption, Save The Air & Sea, Y'all!

A support group and discussion forum for those who want to kick the habits of consumption that are damaging the world we live in.

I'm continuing to explore alternative ways of thinking about our economic paradigm, and it's given me a new set of lenses to use when I look at the things I already do.

I'm a musician; it's how I make my living.

Recently a colleague linked to a story in the Boston Globe:

Across New England, church coffeehouses, library cafes, and eateries that pass the hat to pay local musicians or open their doors to casual jam sessions are experiencing a crackdown by performance rights organizations, or PROs, which collect royalties for songwriters.

His FB comment described them as: People trying to get something for nothing and then whining when they are thwarted.

Sympathetic though I am to the needs of working professionals, his words nevertheless didn't set well with me.  This diary is my attempt at resolving that dissonance.

I'm a musician.  It's how I make my living — but it's also how I make my life.

Sure, I need to eat, and I need to pay the mortgage.  Fortunately, I'm good at my work, so people pay me to do it.  Another, and very major, part of my work in music involves giving it away.  I've performed at open mikes from time to time, and my wife performed extensively for years at open mike nights where her only reward was the opportunity to sing a couple of songs.  I've given my music away as long as I've been making music; I've given my teaching away as long as I've been teaching.

Not everybody feels this way.  Some artists, when asked to participate in a climate concert, respond that they prefer to get paid, thereby keeping everything tidy and aboveboard.  Some musicians, regarding it in some sense as a job, won't do it without money.  I respect this point of view.

Quote from the same FB comment thread:

Only amateurs scream about wanting "music to be free." If you play for free, you are an amateur. "Donating" your music when no one will pay for it makes the donation worthless.

Professionals understand making music is work. It is a PROFESSION.

When doctors, lawyers, and grocery stores all offer their services and products for free, and banks allow you to live in your houses without rent or mortgage, we can talk again.

This framing suggests that music is somehow analogous to these services and products.  "I'll give my music away when my plumber fixes my sink for nothing," or words to that effect.  And to the extent that one regards musicking as the production of a commodity or an economically productive service, the analogy is correct.

Let's unpack it a little, okay?  The time and expertise of a plumber is measured in billable hours, and is thus (in GDP terms) an economically productive service.  Same with the T & E of a doctor, a lawyer, an automobile mechanic, the guy at the other end of the line who tells you what to do when your system seems to have crashed irretrievably.

Much of the music we encounter is commodified, to the extent that we can talk about "buying music" without the faintest hiccup of cognitive dissonance.  Some music is not commodified per se, but is produced by paid professionals as an adjunct to the smooth functioning of the consumer economy.  For example:

The stuff you hear in shopping malls?  That you hear while you're waiting impatiently on hold for someone to address your printer problem?  Somebody had to put that together.  Some of the time, of course, it's material that's been previously recorded — but for decades, musicians have been getting paid (well paid, too!) to make background music.  The Muzak corporation pays the bills for a lot of players who'd probably rather be doing something else.  

Muzak hires professionals to render economically productive service, in order that it can offer commodities — packaged music which has a particular "atmosphere."  Here's their description of a music package they provided to a San Francisco hotel:

Joie de Vivre Hotels has built its brand upon the importance of appealing to all five senses at every opportunity. And nowhere is that more apparent than at Hotel Vitale. Located on the San Francisco bay, Hotel Vitale features open, light-filled spaces and stunning water views. In addition to water and light, elements like warm wood, sprigs of fresh lavender and natural stones complete Hotel Vitale's "Luxury, Naturally" concept. This concept is enhanced by the Moodscapes music program, a contemplative mix of pleasing instrumentals — creating a serene oasis in the lobby and the soothing experience of a day spa throughout the hotel.


Background music is now integral to the processes of commerce.  R. Murray Schafer, the great Canadian composer, theorist and sonic philosopher, recalls:

"When we interviewed 108 consumers and 25 employees in a Vancouver shopping mall, we discovered that while only 25 percent of the shoppers thought they spent more as a result of the background music, 60 percent of the employees thought they did." (Schafer, "The Tuning of the World," p. 97)

In other cultures in the world, musicians go to their local village markets and play while the activities of commerce take place around them; while they are providing background music of a sort, they're able to adjust continually to changing circumstances.  And, much of the time, they know the people around them.

Of course, vendors and tradespeople have always had songs and cries to hawk their products; in contemporary media culture, these have become television and radio commercials, performed once by uncredited professionals in a studio and repeated ad infinitum throughout broadcast space.  The melodies and phrases of these tiny songs can trigger considerable nostalgia.

I had a student who put herself through college by being a child.  Once a month, she'd go to New York and spend a weekend in a recording studio, raising her voice an octave and cute-ifying her pronunciation into an uncannily accurate 7-year old.  She spoke what she was told to speak and sang what she was told to sing.

The encounters of working musicians with the world of commercials are often both humorous and revealing.  For example:

The bass player Trigger Alpert told bassist and anthologist Bill Crow...

...about playing on a date with guitarist Barry Galbraith, doing a jingle for Stouffer's frozen foods.  When the agency representative asked for soft, unobtrusive music behind the announcer, Barry and Trigger played some blues.  The agency rep came out of the booth and said, "It's nice music; I like it a lot.  But it sounds too much like Beef Stroganoff.  Can you make it sound more like Standing Rib Roast?"

Bill Crow, "From Birdland To Broadway," page 235

And John Cage had an opportunity that didn't quite pan out:

"One day while I was composing, the telephone rang.  A lady's voice said, 'Is this John Cage, the percussion composer?'  I said, 'Yes.'  She said, 'This is the J. Walter Thompson company.'  I didn't know what that was, but she explained that their business was advertising.  She said, 'Hold on. One of our directors wants to speak to you.'  During a pause my mind went back to my composition.  Then suddenly a man's voice said, 'Mr. Cage, are you willing to prostitute your art?'  I said, 'Yes.'  He said, 'Well, bring us some samples Friday at two.'  I did.  After hearing a few recordings, one of the directors said to me, 'Wait a minute.'  Then seven directors formed what looked like a football huddle.  From this one of them finally emerged, came over to me, and said 'You're too good for us.  We're going to save you for Robinson Crusoe.' " John Cage, "Silence," page 272

But often, musicians already think of themselves as being in the commodity business.  When the members of the Beatles were awarded OBEs, Paul McCartney noted that they were being recognized for their impact on the trade balance, rather than the qualities of their music.  They'd caused a lot of plastic to be fabricated into specific shapes which were then sold at a profit, bringing more money into Great Britain.

And it's here that some of the most interesting conflicts occur.  Popular musicians produce commodities for sale, yes — and they are also artists, motivated by concerns both of aesthetic exploration and social issues.  

Consider, if you will, the central character in this 1964 commercial:

And fast forward to 1969:

In the West, songs are often commodified.  Songwriting is a lucrative business for a fortunate few.  I know a guy who was lucky enough to have one of his songs included on a hit album.  He said, "That song put my daughter through college."

Other cultures have other approaches to the economic value of songs.  A common feature in much African culture is the Praise Song, where a professional singer will perform a lengthy poem that enumerates various attributes of the praisee — who is of course expected to pony up.  A recording from the mid-70s of the Nigerian musician Alhaji Garba Leao includes such numbers as "Alhaji Inuwa Mai Main Gyada A Kano" ("praise song to Alhaji Inuwa, owner of groundnuts at Kano") and "Ali mai sai da mai Shell-BP" ("praise song to Ali, of Shell-BP").  

In performance, here's how it works:

"He begins to improvise praise songs as the singers praise people in the audience.  Some of his supporters will dance in the middle of the open area and then rush over to sing in front of the person being praised.  This person is expected to contribute money to keep the music going.  Anyone who contributes money will have music played for him — whether the contribution is 20 kobo (30 cents) or ten Naira ($15).  As soon as money is contributed the supporter will rush in mock haste to the musicians — waving the money high in the air — seize the microphone from the singers and stop the music.  He will shout into the microphone, telling Alhaji Leo who has contributed, how much, and why.  The the musicians explode into action after a short invocatory phrase from Garba Leao."

Randall F. Grass, "A Performance by Garba Leao," liner notes to Smithsonian Folkways FW 08860

Praise songs, incidentally, are also addressed to powerful people (who may not be in a position to remunerate the performer).  The Barack Obama praise song is now a recognized genre throughout the African diaspora.  Here's an example:

I heard the story of an Indian singer whose performance of a particular raga was widely acclaimed.  He went into debt.  Having no assets, he went to the moneylender and offered to pawn the raga, saying that he would not practice or perform that piece until the loan was paid.  As the story goes, he was called to sing for the local ruler, who requested the item in question.  The singer demurred, and the Raja asked for an explanation.  Amused at the artist's resourcefulness, the noble discharged the debt and settled back to listen to his favorite melody.

In America, home of the commodity mindset, songwriters have been exploited ruthlessly by music publishers.  For decades it was common practice for people in publishing firms to attach their own names to other musicians' pieces as "co-composers" — thereby cutting themselves in on the royalties from a hit.  It didn't help that many of the composers were inexperienced businesspeople.

So-called Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) developed as a means of ensuring that songwriters and composers received proper compensation for their work.  When you look at the publishing information next to a song on a CD, you'll usually see the letters ASCAP or BMI — the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and Broadcast Music Incorporated respectively.  When I compose a piece of music, it is "published" by a phantom entity called Querdnort Music, for which BMI is the affiliated PRO.  Radio stations keep playlists of every piece of music they broadcast, and the PROs keep tabs and collect fees for this usage.  Every so often I get a royalty statement and a check from BMI when my music is used on the radio somewhere.  Paul McCartney gets really big checks.  My last check, if I recall correctly, was for $1.09.

The notion of music as commodity engenders a marvelous piece of cognitive dissonance: the same organizations that act to protect musicians from exploitation may also be working against the long-term health of the idiom itself.

If I make something to sell, I deserve to be well-compensated for my labor.  No argument there.  But should the commodity model be the default setting?

Consider the following PR disaster from ASCAP:

Girl Scouts were sad, callers were mad, and even one of Woody Guthrie's old singing pals was incredulous yesterday at a national songwriting group's order apparently blocking scouts from singing campfire songs without paying copyright fees.


Woody Guthrie wasn't affiliated with ASCAP; he was a BMI artist.  On the other hand, he was responsible for this famous "copyright" notice:

This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do.


With this in mind, let's look again at the plight of the small cafe owner who wants to open her/his space for live music:

One proprietor of a small restaurant in Western Massachusetts, who says he’s lucky if 25 people show up for live music on Tuesdays and Thursdays, has written letters to each of the PROs explaining that entertainers in his establishment play only originals and traditional folk songs, which aren’t protected by copyright.

"They wrote back and said, ‘I don’t believe you,’"
he said. "They say that the problem is I don’t know every song that’s been written and someone could throw in a song that I’ve never heard. How do I get around that? Buy a license that covers everything.’’


What's wrong with this picture? I'll spell it out.

There are vastly (vastly!) more songs that are not covered by PROs than songs that are.  The number of traditional songs around the world necessarily dwarfs the number of songs registered with ASCAP, BMI or any other PRO.

Pete Seeger, writing in December 1963:

The secretary at Columbia Records was taking down over the phone the names of the authors and publishers of various songs I had recorded on a recent album.  When I came to the title "Barbara Allen" I said "Public domain."

"Oh, thanks," was her surprised and pleased voice.

I told a friend about it afterward.  "Of course Columbia's happy," he said.  "You just gave them a thousand dollars by not claiming copyright control for your arrangement and adaptation of 'Barbara Allen.'  I not only think you're a fool, I think you're wrong.  Columbia has no right to that money.  Columbia didn't write 'Barbara Allen.' "

Pete Seeger, "The Incomplete Folksinger," page 448

The notion of music as product is only a few hundred years old at most, while people have been making songs with one another since there were people.

Other cultures have other ways of ensuring the integrity of attribution.  The Indian classical songs I sing often have the name of the composer embedded in the text, usually in the last line.  Thus, a text line in archaic Hindi that goes "Prem Piya humse nahin bolata" ("Love's lover is not speaking to me") gives notice of authorship, for the word pair "Prem Piya" indicates the song was composed by the great vocalist Faiyaaz Khan.

No royalties are collected, distributed or expected.

In the same culture it was once the custom to sing distorted versions of a song text when an artist suspected a member of another musical "school" was in the audience.  Thus if rival vocalists learned a piece from hearing it in concert, their version would have incorrect lyrics, and would be stigmatized as inauthentic.  It reminds me a bit of map traps, phony streets included in published maps to aid in the detection of copyright violation.

I make no claims to solving this dilemma, but I know which way I lean.  I'm a copyleft kind of guy; Richard Stallman and I share the same philosophical stance with regard to the notion of intellectual property.  (That's why I keep encouraging people to steal my letters!)

Those cafe owners and open mic hosts are doing something people have been doing for thousands of years: making a public space where other people can sing for one another, where they can learn to present a song and listen to others try their hands as well.

Public singing is an unambiguous good.  It's an indicator of quality of life, a part of what Juliet Schor calls "Plenitude."  If the commodification of music makes public singing even more endangered than it already is, I'm against it.

While I'm sympathetic to the economic requirements of songwriters and composers, I do not think of songs as things or objects.  If I teach you a song, it is my fervent hope that you will be able to mold it to suit your own voice and your own way of doing things.  

Every world culture has its own way of approaching and understanding the notion of intellectual property.  The commodified Western paradigm is one with an unfortunate side effect: limiting the free flow of ideas and making shared art less likely.

Ultimately I don't think this conundrum is resolvable as long as our society is built around the model of consumption as a desirable mode of life — a sustainable society cannot use its intellectual and artistic resources this way.  To the extent that I as a musician can influence the development of a new conception of musical property, I put a small balance weight on the other side.  Giving away my music is a simple way to do this.

On the scale of things, a song shared between humans isn't going to make a big dent in global warming.  But if we humans can't recover our ability to sing together, how can we work in concert to resolve the truly big problems we face?  

Thank you for reading.


Here are a few important links:

  1. Annie Leonard's crucial movie, The Story of Stuff.
  1. An invaluable tool for calculating the ecological footprint of your lifestyle, from the good folks at Redefining Progress.  What's your score?
  1. The Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping
  1.  SCRAP - a creative reuse center, store and workshop space.

Donations of high quality, low cost, re-usable materials such as textiles, paper, jewelry findings, wood, buttons and plastics are collected from businesses, institutions and individuals then sorted, displayed and distributed by SCRAP for artists, educational and community groups.
For more creative reuse centers around the country, click here.

  1. Profound and stimulating philosophical perspectives on sustainability, civilization and the role of human nature from Technoshaman Jason Godesky.
  1. Freecycle.

The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 4,793 groups with 7,208,000 members across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer (them's good people). Membership is free. To sign up, find your community by entering it into the search box above or by clicking on "Browse Groups" above the search box. Have fun!

If you have a resource that should be included in ECSTASY diaries, please include the link and a few words about it in the comments.

ECSTASY diaries will appear most often on weekends and Thursday evenings.  All diaries dealing with the problems of living in a Consumerist society are potential candidates.  If you think you've got something to contribute, please contact WarrenS and he'll schedule you in.

The ECSTASY series thus far:

February 28: Introducing ECSTASY.
March 7: The Work of Julian Lee and Juliet Schor: Two Voices of Sanity.
March 10: G2Geek's Measure The Power.
March 14: Earthfire promoted Annie Leonard's appearance in Washington, DC.
March 21: RL Miller tells us about Chickens.
March 24: G2Geek prompts an unbelievable discussion about the
difference between Consumerist Time and Hunter-Gatherer Time.

March 28: citisven shares a thought-provoking and aesthetically satisfying look at the ways that one person's trash is another person's art materials.
April 4: WarrenS gives us the good word on Making Homemade Musical Instruments.
April 7: G2geek talks about what makes for robust and sustainable technology.
April 11: B Amer tells us how to find ECSTASY on our bicycles.
April 18: rb137 reviews Judith Levine's book, "Not Buying It!"
April 25: mwmwm's powerful rumination on our collective complicity in consumerism.
April 29: G2geek discusses the need for a new economic and emotional narrative.
May 2: WarrenS offers Eight Thoughts About Timescale.
May 6: G2geek talks about the ecological implications of Where You Keep Your Money.
May 9: rb137 gives us a powerful review of the role of "blood metals" in our consumer electronics — "Your Cellphone is Killing People!"
May 13: G2geek gives us the backstory of neo-feudalism, with more promised in the weeks to come.
May 16: Milly Watt tells us more about the power of feedback in reducing our consumption of electricity.
May 23: G2Geek presents part two of The Backstory of Neofeudalism
May 30: WarrenS asks an important question about consumerism and parenting: Can a Middle-Aged Dad Find ECSTASY?
June 2: Citisven delivers a kind indictment: we are all complicit in the horror that is the Gulf of Mexico.  His piece is called "You Can't Wipe That Spill With A Kleenex®" and it's well worth your attention.
June 6: WarrenS discusses the fallacy of the GDP, and looks at some other ways to quantify the health of our economy.

Originally posted to WarrenS' Blog on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 11:05 AM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for all you do (9+ / 0-)

    I might be willing to lend a hand in this series (finally) sometime soon.

    I'll send an email.

    And good work with your concert as well.

    The best way to save the planet is to keep laughing!

    by LaughingPlanet on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 11:33:00 AM PDT

  •  Just went to your website. Your vocals (6+ / 0-)

    on Raga Madhukauns are excellent and remind me of another MA ethnomusicologist in the same register, Tim Ericksen.  Do you know him?  I believe he's also dabbled in Indian music.

    "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you can succeed." -Nancy Pelosi, 6/29/07.

    by nailbender on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 11:44:40 AM PDT

    •  He was actually performing... (4+ / 0-) Passim's on the same night as my recent climate concert, so we weren't able to meet.  Where is he based?  And you?  

      Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

      by WarrenS on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 11:48:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hadley MA. Laura Clawson (dKos FPer) knows him (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        trashablanca, WarrenS, Eric Nelson

        well and, I believe, lives near him.  She actually performed with him in the Academy Awards performance, which Tim directed, of the Cold Mountain theme.

        I've only met him a few times up in ME where I have a home in Camden (though I'm doing an extended work stint in HI right now), but I'm good friends with one of his producers who lives nearby in ME.  She was just here in HI to visit and gave me his recent collaboration CD with Omar Sosa.  Very beautiful and interesting.  She's also finishing a shape-note CD with him right now, I believe.  SHe also manages the Appleseed website, which might explain how Tim was on a recent Pete Seeger tribute CD they published.  

        Here's his website.  Definitely a guy to meet, since you both have very similar voices and, apparently, interests.  

        "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you can succeed." -Nancy Pelosi, 6/29/07.

        by nailbender on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 12:21:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Interestingly, I performed at Passim a while back (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        trashablanca, WarrenS, Eric Nelson

        on their "Pass It On" series, which is an open mike deal they used to do (it's been over a decade since I did that).  The lady I drove down from ME with told me that in order to perform we had to write a song that had something to do with "passing it on."

        That's weird, I thought, I mean, what a weird theme.  Anyway, I dutifully wrote a song, but when we got there I found out my gig-mate was wrong (any original was fine), and since my "pass it on" song was so new and relatively unrehearsed, I did one of my older tunes instead.

        But that song, over the years, became one of my favorites.  Here are the lyrics:

        I never told you I knew that you lied
        But now that those dreams have all died
        And all those old feelings have finally begun to subside,
        I guess I just pass them along to the next one in line;
        Maybe he'll listen and maybe he'll hear me in time

        But time is a curious thing
        Like winter dissolving to spring:
        My feelings they change like the wind and the tide and the moon,
        So maybe I'll pass them along in the form of a tune
        And maybe you'll listen, and maybe it won't be too soon.

        Or maybe I won't pass them on
        'Cause maybe those feelings are gone
        The world is revolving and so, baby, are you and I
        So maybe the next time I see you I won't need to try
        And maybe I'll finally be able to pass you on by.

        "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you can succeed." -Nancy Pelosi, 6/29/07.

        by nailbender on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 12:39:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Wonderful diary, Warren. (4+ / 0-)

    Interesting and thought-provoking, an all-too-rare phenomenon around here of late. To make any real and lasting changes, the consumption obsession - and the resulting waste - must end. But where do we start? Here in Germany almost everything is recycled these days, I drive a car that looks like an oversized roller-skate, but gets about 65 miles to a gallon (it would never be permitted in the US), and my power comes largely from energy produced through alternative sources.

    That's the easy part. But the arts? Some are still very heavily subsidized here (theatres and opera houses, for example), and I know there is an organization that ensures that composers get their royalties, but don't know the details on how that works. However, I doubt they send personnel to music clubs. There should be a happy medium, as with so many things.
    PS: I'm so glad your concert was such a success, what a relief after a period of worry.

    A proud supporting member of Native American Netroots

    by translatorpro on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 12:15:11 PM PDT

  •  cafes use the music to generate $$$/profits... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WarrenS, translatorpro

    cafes etc use other people's music to make a profit by attracting people with music. When they start giving away all their drinks and food for free, then your defense of their use of music will be valid lol


    •  I suppose that's one way of looking at it. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WarrenS, dRefractor

      But the owners of cafés I frequented when I lived in NYC probably never got very rich. I felt the main motivation (for some, at least) was to provide a place for people with a common interest - i.e. love of certain music genres - to gather or socialize and enjoy themselves. So "using other people's music to make a profit" seems somewhat of an exaggeration to me. There was a time when profit was not the be all and end all of everything. Having studied and worked in the theatre, I can appreciate the arts for their own sake. Earn enough to make a decent living? Yes. Become a millionaire? Hardly.

      A proud supporting member of Native American Netroots

      by translatorpro on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 01:14:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I am pointing out the logical and ethical... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dRefractor, translatorpro

      ...conundrum that is inherent in the situation.  

      What would you say if cafes used the music to generate enough profits to pay for a portion of the space where the music is presented?  Since the drinks and food are already priced to generate profit, they should not enter into the question.  And I have yet to meet the proprietor of an open mike type venue who is well off.  Genteel poverty usually sums it up.

      Who comes to open mike nights?

      Oh, yeah.  You and your friends who've come down to cheer you on...and the other singers and their friends.

      Does the person who books the room, cleans up, does the promotion, takes care of the sound, etc., deserve a salary?

      It's not as simple as you make it out to be.

      Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

      by WarrenS on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 01:16:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Very nice exposition, thanks! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Having talked with many performers who work for tips, I have yet to meet one that wasn't also being fed by the place they were playing at. Open mic is a different story, but that PROs are scrounging around in these types of venues for coin is pathetic. As you say, it's not like anyone is getting anywhere near being rich off of this activity. Music as an industry needs to die.  

        The art of listening is the ability to pay attention to that which is most difficult to hear

        by dRefractor on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 02:14:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  And now... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    translatorpro, Eric Nelson

    ...I have to go and get my car window fixed.

    See y'all later!

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 01:17:49 PM PDT

  •  What goes around comes around (4+ / 0-)

    Playing for community -- for the joy of the music -- has other rewards. Quite a few of my CDs were bought from musicians that I would never have heard (or bought their music) if they hadn't been playing in the park or at a farmer's market or in a cafe. It is a great way for musicians to widen their audience.

    Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber. ---Plato

    by carolita on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 01:28:29 PM PDT

  •  The fairly recent history of the PROs (0+ / 0-)

    is closely tied into the concepts
    of profit and industrial consumerism.

    They were first started when composers
    like John Phillip Sousa noticed that venues
    were profiting handsomely from the performances
    of their creations with the aid of sheet music.

    So I can understand the economic interest,
    but like you, I have always felt that many aspects
    of our system of patent/copyright, designed and
    implemented to reward artistic and creative endeavor,
    often neglects the very "public commons" wellsprings
    from which all such creations emerge.

    I think that the present day PRO structures are
    wedded to a vanishing model, but as the corporatist
    mindset seeks to maximize short term profit, they
    neglect their own long range survival and existence.

    It really should be, and for the most part is,
    based on venue and or audience size and income.
    I am sure any musician who has any experience
    performing in our modern bit diffused era can relate
    to many incidents of outright exploitation, if not theft,
    and most "songwriters" I have met will readily admit
    that they have simply overheard some stranger speaking
    their best and most creative "works of art".
    Which they so craftily "fix" in a tangible form.

    The PROs need to be a bit more flexible in their
    formulas, and those who would profit from others
    efforts should strive for balance and mutual benefit.
    But it wouldn't surprise me if neither actually did.

    Nice work, WarrenS, once again.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site