time to change the way we view music and the arts

“Who am I to break up this team?”

Anyone who is a long time fan of the prime-time crime drama Bones could recognize my subject header from this episode, (skip to 39.15) wherein a main cast member and crucial character, Zack Addy, who is involved in solving problems and closing cases, is kept (albeit with some reservations,) as a staff member and part of the group, as declared by his superior. The group, who was pretty certain any future work would just not be the same or suffer without him, felt happy and relieved at Zack’s stay of employment.

In a bit of parallel real life drama, the story of fourth largest, originally UK based record label, EMI, has stepped back into the light with a news story prompting the same kind of happiness and relief, though probably not as wholeheartedly as the television plot. As I fully expounded upon back in February HERE, Citigroup took control of the label after being the winning buyer, in lieu of the label’s multi-billion pound-sterling debt, which has since been written off. While the primary ownership hasn’t been returned to any British hands of business as of today, the next large point of stress and contingency came from the uncertain fate of EMI’s two core divisions: music and publishing. The two departments were long gossiped to become victims of a split as the Citigroup takeover was initially unfolding. Thankfully, as reported by The Guardian, Chief Executive Roger Faxon was given confirmed assurance that Citigroup does not aim to dice up EMI, which has (according to the opinion of Faxon) been described as a move that would “harm [EMI’s] business.” Blunt and plain statements to the public were broadcast as assertively as possible, to attempt to quash any flaming rumors and even among the EMI staff itself, Faxon told employees that going forward, EMI ought to include

“both parts of the business working together; [as that would be] the best possible way to yield the highest value for EMI…”

Of course, when you’re not focused on that giant, business suited elephant in the room, or even more so if you are, since you just read about it, one might find it difficult to take away much of a genuine belief in Faxon’s last statement when smaller actions by EMI take routes that send opposing kinds of messages about their support of the music industry and its interlocked elements. (Though, in playing my own devil’s advocate, there are the definitions of what “value” could mean in this instance……)

Record Store Day, which happens to be falling on this upcoming Saturday, is one of those rare jewels hidden away on a music lover’s calendar (and in the back of their bank accounts) for waiting and saving with anticipation, to buy loads of otherwise unattainable recordings that make this one day appearance for sale in true indie record stores around the world. As an addict of hard copies and rare finds, this is the kind of perfect storm, that could make for both a serious drop in calories from running incessantly to every record store around, and a serious drop in cash, liable to occur in the blink of an eye. Personally, considering that the occasion doesn’t allow for the typical “I can always come back and get it later,” in this case, the mindset of rapid or impulse buying I see as acceptable.

Anyway, with that bit of background, where EMI fits in the picture is this article that announces a “pop-up club” that is scheduled to open in honor of Record Store Day on Portobello Road in London. EMI label Parlophone (think first eight releases of the Beatles,) and its imprint brand Regal are having material featured in the club during the sale day and a joint arrangement with record shop Rough Trade West cross promotes its own store with Parlophone records, which entitle their affiliated buyers with wristband entry to the club. Everywhere you look for details surrounding this event, symbiotic marketing is going on. The club itself is “held in association with Fred Perry Subculture. The late Fred Perry was a renowned British tennis player (known as the world’s number 1 player five years in a row) whose namesake music movement (which is actually a spin off of his name sake clothing lines of sportswear and street wear) is very much involved in causes for such excitement about music and its connected stance in pop-culture. So overall, a party such as this one is a collaborative celebration of a struggling business where there are those who can still show almost no restraint if left in a store aisle unattended. That’s a positive point for EMI.

Meanwhile, simple clicks of a mouse leave us as listeners having to try and decipher the many plausible but possibly unnecessary reasons for why EMI would hand down an inhibiting decision by blocking their own artist’s content on YouTube. Ferras Alqaisi (known musically just as Ferras) has an extensive website full of media, blog posts, tour updates and many other things you’d expect to find an active artist to want their fans to have access to. I know there are occasionally opposing schools of thought on how to best market yourself as a musician. Individuals run the gamut from the most reserved to the most extroverted and transparent and some methods work better for others depending on genre, target demographic, prior exposure, artistic and/or business oriented objectives and goals…etc. However, as of lately, it’s not uncommon for rising or established artists to preempt fans’ posting miscellaneous, amateur video clips of songs performed live by freely posting upcoming releases or existing releases themselves so they have control of what the recording is and can establish a line of communication with their fans about the music.

Recent examples would include: Vices and Virtues by the now two person, Panic! at the Disco, which was available for unlimited, ad free streaming via the group’s facebook page until the release and Ellie Goulding’s latest re-release of her debut “Lights,” sold with new production and mix down, six new tracks and under the name “Bright Lights.” The re-release was posted via Goulding’s official YouTube Channel as one long video and featured her speaking in between to introduce each track name, along with a “hope you enjoy it!” or something of the like. This stream isn’t available in full now either, but a continuous track sampling video was put in its place so listeners can freely come across her music [for the first time,] anytime, without fear of randomly posted content suddenly vanishing without the listener being able to look further into who performed the music they heard one time at the recommendation of their friend who said, “look it up on YouTube the next time you’re online.” And who hasn’t that happened to at least once before?? So the crucial question regarding Ferras’ case probably deals with what he or his corporate managers want to do about gaining music sales and releasing/exposing material to the public. If you had to choose one scenario though, if the artist placed their own songs in an established place devoted to their musical career, they must approve of its existence and want to use it for the benefit of consumers…otherwise it wouldn’t have ended up there from YouTube to begin with. Then, by the time you see the video, with “x song,” is from YouTube, it’s not as if you’re unlikely to at least poke around the rest of the artist’s site rather than only visiting for the video post because of easy locating. The result: Whole artist exposure, which is exactly what happened with me when I looked into putting links about Ferras on this post. I discovered someone new and good. When is that a bad thing for an artist with a site full of media and merchandise?

Tinges of fickle tendencies if you ask me.

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