Thursday, September 5, 2013

A question of trust

I always liked Longpigs , the Sheffield rockers of the late 90s. I played them frequently on my Radio WM show; it clearly had a huge impact on their careers as they split after two albums.

They seem to be an instance where the individuals have succeeded in being greater than the sum of their parts. Guitarist Richard Hawley is a success in his own right of course, while frontman Crispin Hunt wheels out hits for others and is an impressive industry spokesman.
 
In his latter role he popped up at the BPI agm and echoed some of the points I was hamfistedly making about ‘trust’ within the industry, or the lack of it. His statements and suggestions are well worth reading in the Music Ally report of the meeting.

Essentially he notes that the industry needs to reclaim the ‘high ground’ from the pirates. It’s a point well-made; while the artists fight the labels and their deals, the pirates get to be seen as the impish rebels battling ‘the man’. The artists meanwhile, scared of seeming corporate, run shy of attacking the torrents. You can understand their dilemma after the whole Metallica vs Napster fallout but the time is right to re-frame the argument.

Enmity between acts and labels has a long-standing history, back to the earliest deals where naïve acts were taken for a ride by the industry. Those days are presumably long-gone but suspicions remain. Each new format and the impact it has on artist contracts has caused the absence of trust to deepen.

In the case of Spotify the artists know that the streaming service had to cut deals with the labels in order to get the licensing. Those deals were at a business level involving stock, thus the acts feel that the labels benefit directly from Spotify’s success but due to the poor royalty structure, the artists struggle.

Thus the openness required by Hunt needs to be resolved at a label/manager/artist level before it can be wheeled out to the greater public. The labels alone cannot rectify the damage, the general public only listens to artists – education has to be talent-led.

I’ve said it before – if your favourite act tells you that he/she/they can’t afford to continue making music if no-one pays for it then maybe you’ll listen? I doubt it, sadly we all think we have hard lives and the majority may still believe that all artists are rich, living the high-life. Celebrity culture and bling-fed-tabloids printing party-paparazzi-photography is not likely to diminish this belief, particularly if the acts stay silent.

As Hunt says, the future is about collaboration and co-operation. If the acts do well, the labels do well also. Looking to the past, when the labels did well it meant more investment in other acts – it’s the only way forward at present. We all need to re-establish some trust, she said……
 

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