Why Working Artists Don’t Always Feel Free

Some people are set free by the art they create. Some people are confined by the art they create. Art should set you free. That can only happen when you create with no regard for how others might critique.

Some people are set free by the art they create. Some people are confined by the art they create. Art should set you free. That can only happen when you create with no regard for how others might critique.Criticism creates limitation in the minds of artists. Commerce creates rules in the minds of artists. Unless you are currently under contract for something specific… STOP CARING SO MUCH about what others have to say, and do what you are driven to do.

The output from that has a much higher likelihood of succeeding. More and more people are getting in touch with what they like. They were trained to look at “the numbers” over the past decade, and they have come to the realization that… it confined them.

For those of you who primarily want to get paid… it’s almost a certainty that you will benefit financially when you put yourself in that mindset.

if you CHASE dollars though, it could take a long time before you catch them.

People want to be free.
Use your art to free yourself and your fans.. Then success will find YOU.

Hanging With Jess The Ska Kid

Jess The Ska Kid

This is a situation that is going to happen in the life of every artist. When you are on your way “up” you will meet random people. However you treat them at that point is going to have an impact on you years later. A long time ago I used to play with a group known as The Drastics. They toured the United States and Canada, building up a significant following. Their musical repertoire ranged from Ska to Jazz, but was centered on Dub.

Shouts to Fada Dougou for inviting me to play with them.

During one of our shows (at a college in Wisconsin) I remember a bright-eyed kid asking a lot of questions about our varying lineup, the meaning of the songs, the twist we were putting on traditional ska, etc. She was really interested in the music (which is rare in the midwest), so Fada and I stayed behind to answer everything. That same young lady would go on to brand herself as “Jess The Ska Kid”.

Fast forward some years later. I put off touring to raise kids and the scene changed. Although I have been places and done great things, the music industry has essentially collapsed. Let’s face it. Putting aside the expected reduction in my own popularity, I am returning to a barren wasteland as far as opportunities are concerned. My new strategy is to go around “the Industry”, directly at fans no matter where they may be.

Re-enter Jess The Ska Kid with an invitation to appear on her daring, Wayne’s World-styled home show. She explains that after helping build the radio station at that same Wisconsin school there was a new management coup. Instead of begging and holding on she struck out on her own. She didn’t know what to expect but handles issues (like Facebook LIVE copyright muting) in stride. The show is now booked a full year in advance, with even internationally touring bands adding her as a stop.

All things mimic the cycle of life and death. The music industry is no different. It was always a predatory and destructive element however, so I do not mourn its destruction. The ones who rise through its rebirth will be in a unique position to create life-worthy opportunities. I am putting my money on people like Jess The Ska Kid.

Music Today: Fake Artists Are Making Real Money

As the music INDUSTRY moves further and further away from…. music, an interesting trend has emerged on the steaming services. According to an article on MusicBusinessWorldwide.com not only are fake artists emerging at an increasing rate; their plays are actually showing up within random user accounts. This means paying customers are seeing plays of artists they have never heard of.

This is an ingenious, but sinister way of defrauding the industry overall, because users of the Spotify platform pay a blanket fee. They are not charged more or less for spins in their accounts, so attributing plays to them doesn’t affect the price. What it does however, is allow a non-existent entity to participate in a share of revenue which was intended for artists. The Fake musicians are also being playlisted while Spotify plays dumb.

How much did you pay to get playlisted?

(Photo Illustration by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

In the age of streaming we’ve got to work with companies like Spotify. The tech industry controls the distribution of art, and therefore determines the value of it. Consumers have also been trained to look at charts and relate numbers to worth, completely ignoring whether or not they actually LIKE something.

The same scheme has been employed in the past. You just might not realize it. I feel like any artist who rode the charts with several hits, but is somehow forgotten today, had their career “massaged” by the powerful individuals of their time. The same thing is being done now virtually.

So why NOT create a series of computer generated tones, upload them to the streaming services and manipulate their numbers? If your only purpose with music is to make money, or if you’re just fed up with the current climate, this COULD be an opportunity for you. People who have something to say, people who feel like the world needs to hear what they can do, have different motivations.
The question is: How do they win?

How Many “Exposures” Is Your Rent?

I have always had a theory that musicians and comedians are the ones most likely to effect change. This is because their work actually affects hearts and minds. If you follow any type of organized religion you will find the role of musician to be listed as critically important. If you are a student of history you know that the court jester, aside from telling jokes, was often the main intermediary between warring factions.

The role of entertainer has never been to simply entertain. The soul of a nation is driven by its art. Historical artifacts tell us as much, if not more, about a civilization than fossils ever could. This is the question that leaders of the entertainment business were faced with as they crafted the current market. Music cannot exist without musicians, but how much power can we truly afford to give them?

Photo Credit: Manchild Manor

Influential artists cause trouble. They spread dangerous ideas and make people question convention. Being faced with the advent of music piracy in the early 2000’s made the industry begin to consolidate. The big 6 became 5. Their absolute authority had been challenged by a Rock god from Minneapolis with a simple word “SLAVE” written across his face.

Using the internet, Prince showed people for the first time that careers could be maintained without the blessing of the powers that be. It took a while for that idea to spread. People assumed it was his star status, until…

A recent “Breakfast Club” interview revealed exactly how influential Soulja Boy really was. The power of the net had been harnessed to full effect as he and his cohorts danced around grocery stores, rapped on YouTube and provided fans with a steady stream of content. He would even refer to himself as his website “SouljaBoyTellem.com”. One might say the major label deals he received did the trick, but several artists who signed major deals at the time have not endured. After a viral moment, it was the constant fan interaction that kept Soulja, and now several other YouTube musicians, top of mind with fans.

The bottom line is that musicians will never receive the credit and compensation that they deserve. The way through that is to engage your fan base. Fans understand art on a personal level, whereas the industry views it as an investment. Art has the power to change the course of history despite the critics, despite the market. As long as we pursue our endeavors with that idea in mind our validity is primed to exceed the constraints of the current, thankless climate.

The Number One Way to Find Inner Strength

Steel is well known for its strength. It is the very backbone of our modern day infrastructure, but what do you do when it isn’t strong enough? Steel and iron are often galvanized. They are made stronger by adding a coat of Zinc. If you want stronger coffee, you add alcohol to it. Things that occupy the physical realm are always reinforced, either with additional materials or more of the same.

This is the way many of us look at life. We sometimes believe that progress won’t happen unless certain things are in place. Until we have the right clothing or equipment, we cannot move forward. We seek the validation of others before we center on our own feelings. Too much time is wasted, waiting for things to line up before we take action. That shows a lack of inner strength.

People are not like materials. The more materials we have, the more we become materialistic.
With the absence of resources however… we become resourceful.

So when you need strength don’t concentrate on the problem. Instead imagine yourself having to succeed even WITHOUT certain advantages. Learn how to DO without. The alternative scenarios will teach you how to formulate options. One of those options is likely a solution, and it may improve your life above and beyond the current situation. Why are entitled people, who have so much, often the neediest? In times of turmoil or emergency they completely fall apart because their “resource mind” is underdeveloped.

Because of how we exist on the Earth we are already accustomed to certain creature comforts. We would never be able to traverse the planet without modern modes of transportation. We always seek protection from the elements and GOD FORBID the internet ever goes down! This is simply the way we live in the 21st Century. No one can escape it. So live life, just don’t let yourself become a casualty of convenience.

Media Revolution: KFAI Minneapolis/St. Paul & Latino ALTRock

Make no mistake about it. Latino Alt Rock is definitely a thing. With its punk inflected, revolutionary aesthetic an entire culture has grown from the social ashes left by decades of American interventionism. ALT Rock is the perfect vehicle for channeling feelings of angst, rage and frustration. It may include any number of genres with a message of resistance permeating throughout.

Bionik & MC ZULU on Latino Alt Rock / Hosts Pablo Miranda, Raul Escobar

So why are they playing Reggae in Minnesota?

The answer is simple. Once the norms and accepted messages have been established, it’s easy to find mutual interests, even among people from differing backgrounds. KFAI Radio, broadcasting from Minneapolis / St. Paul, plays host to the areas most progressive minded shows. They are dedicated not only to supporting local talent, but advocating for innovative voices.

Bionik & MC ZULU with KFAI’s “Radio” Rico Morales

Imagine FM programming which covers an entire metropolitan area, but features a guest list that reads like a “who’s who” of homegrown artists. Music often branches far away from any genre namesakes into a free-form journey guided by the personalities’ current mood. Suddenly you aren’t being “programmed”. You are being introduced to some cool person’s music collection. When this happens common ground finds itself, while the local economy benefits. In my humble opinion it’s the only formula that can save terrestrial radio.

MC ZULU @ KFAI FM Minneapolis / St. Paul with DJ legend Spider J. Hamilton

KFAI: http://kfai.org
Latino ALTRock: http://kfai.org/latinoaltrock

“Blue Wave” A Non-Partisan Assessment of America’s Social Conscience

Blue wave… more like a teardrop.

Beto O’Rourke didn’t win. Andrew Gillum didn’t win. Even that racist P.O.S. in Georgia presided over his own election and saw to it that Black people couldn’t vote.

Now…. let me tell you WHY
There is no strong voice against Republican reasoning. The resistance does not happen at the ballot box. It happens in the minds of the people, and the conscience of America used to be it’s ARTS COMMUNITY.

When you think of the civil rights era I guarantee you, aside from the speeches, a song comes to mind. The counter-culture revolution was driven by MUSIC, COMEDY and FASHION. No revolution can happen without them.

Hidden within those three things are messages for the people interested in changing the world. The messengers don’t always have the answers, but they have a platform, credibility and the best of intentions. Athletes try, but they are not always as effective or iconic as Ali or Kaepernick.

Record labels: They are supposed to make money, but they are also supposed to take risks. They no longer do that. The end result is an industry-wide, homogenized artistic output from the same 50 people who seldom dare to speak out against anything, for fear of losing their sponsorship (deal). So there is effectively NO true voice for change.

Can you blame artists? Their credibility is derived from a combination of SINCERITY and SUCCESS. Today’s fans are only impressed by “social proof”. We believe things are actually getting done by way of Facebook / InstaGram Likes.

Point blank… ART drives culture, and today’s artists are manufactured, packaged garbage designed to turn off your mind. You think the 60’s artists didn’t make a difference? Look up Vice President Spiro Agnew. Look up President Richard Nixon. These politicians were forced to resign due to impropriety. The USA elected Jimmy Carter afterwards. HE IS ONE OF THE ONLY POLITICIANS I RESPECT.

Still, the call for real change will not come from a politician. It will come from an artist. So entertainment companies are going to have to start taking risks again. Release work from people who have something to say. Stand behind it, even if you don’t always agree.

Fans are also going to have to step outside the cattle car. Support ART that speaks to you. Don’t look at what the “crowd” is doing. Many times numbers are manipulated anyway because they know you are programmed to QUANTIFY art. You don’t QUALIFY it.

The moral compass of society is always something that comes from the arts community. This is why poetry and music (definitely comedy) are banned in countries where there is no freedom of expression. In the USA they did not ban it. They simply paid dumb assed artists a great deal of money to dumb down the population. Media companies are complicit in this, and now wonder why even their biggest and brightest stars (Oprah, Beyonce, Jay-Z, etc) cannot make a social impact.

With art being placed so low in terms of importance, it means that corporate interests will always drive the conversation. Why would anyone listen to lyrics from a progressive singer with three jobs, when the village idiot is stepping out of a limousine? 🤣🤣🤣

Hustle vs. Grind: What’s the Difference?

Many people are on a quest to “get rich or die trying”. So if you get the money what’s next? You should know…
How many people have you seen who are rich but they don’t enjoy their lives?

It’s because they allowed the hustle that they once loved to become a GRIND. Think about it. Grinding, by nature, invokes images of punitive abrasion. It’s aggressive and there’s no way you can enjoy that.

Sometimes you have to do it for survival, but it wasn’t meant to be a long term solution. Any time something starts grinding too much, chances are that you’ll have to replace it soon

Joints grind… Gears grind… All signs of trouble

Now how does something GET to that point?
In a word…. OVER REACH.
The hustle has taken up too much space in your life. No… You are NEGLECTING other aspects of your life!

And before you get started… the solution is not to just QUIT. The solution is to develop an EXIT STRATEGY. That way you can be mindful of other opportunities as they present themselves. With an exit strategy you are once again working with purpose. The grind is downgraded to a hustle.

It’s the definition of working SMART instead of working HARD.
So minimize the grinding. You are here to be smooth. Be Smooth dammit!

Why Does it Seem Like Hate is Stronger?

Have you ever noticed the positive, uplifting things you post to social media have a hard time getting traction? Anything you post having to do with HATE catches on much easier, as people jump on the bandwagon.

To all Haters:
I have a theory that your only competition in life are Time and Gravity. Time is constantly ticking from the moment you’re born, but Gravity draws you in and pulls you down. Hatred also draws you in and pulls you down, so when you express it you’re working in tandem with gravity.

This is why Hatred is easy. You can set it and forget it. Love by comparison is uplifting. It works against Gravity. If you carry Love in your heart you are, in effect, working against the forces of Time and Gravity. In this way, Expressions of Love can actually extend your life. Anything you want to maintain, your body, your car, your relationship all require “UP”keep… or constant expressions of Love, working against the forces of Time and Gravity.

Is Spotify Stepping Around The Major Record Labels?

Imagine a world where record labels are a thing of the past, and artists forge their own agreements with distribution outlets. Music industry whispers are indicating that Spotify has been testing a new arrangement with a select group of artists. Said artists will enjoy increased chances of being playlisted, and they will receive a larger percentage of their streaming revenue. This move has the major labels, quite predictably, shi**ing bricks.

Being that streaming has now become the preferred distribution model it puts services like Spotify at the top of the pyramid. When Spotify reached out to major labels years ago a clause was added that they would NEVER be able to become a record label per se’. What seems to be happening though, is that independent artists don’t really NEED a label. Though they may choose to create boutique labels for identity’s sake, there is really no need for anyone to aspire to sign to a major.

I believe Spotify’s maneuver is in keeping with their original charter, because they are not actually producing the music that they distribute. After the amount of scrutiny they have received for literally becoming a billion dollar corporation on the backs of musicians, it’s time they made some moves on the behalf of the artist. This is after all, the MUSIC business. Without MUSIC there is no business………… and without business…….. most musicians have little choice but to resign themselves to years of servitude in unrelated professions, relegating music production to random, stolen moments throughout the year. When we meet, ask me how I know.

SOURCE: New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/06/business/media/spotify-music-industry-record-labels.html