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Some of us still burn – how ‘good intentions’ are the bane of the Australian independent sector

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The Legend! - Some Of Us Stil, Burn

The following is lifted without apology from Jake’s Tumblr blog

Contrasting definitions of independent aside, Ivy League does not operate in any way, shape or form like an independent record label. There is no creative idealism or attempt to foster any type of collective/counter culture, nor has there ever been from what I can see. Ivy League basically picks an act and has the resources to ensure that they will be somewhat prevalent in the Australian music landscape. I’ve seen Ivy League acts play to modest-sized audiences, yet still the label manages to construct this very confident, successful presence around the group. They have the tools and resources to sculpt an artist to convince mass culture (or semi-mass culture?). Kudos to Ivy League for being great at what you do but in my mind (a mind, I think, is fit to make comment, having put every other aspect of my adult life secondary to independent music culture), you don’t have any cultural agenda, or agenda beyond the success of each individual artist.

—Nic Warnock, founder of RIP Society (Royal Headache, Woollen Kits, like 10 other great bands), on last Tuesday’s AIR Awards. I said the same thing to the editor of a fairly popular music site (that I thankfully have nothing to do with) on Tuesday night and he told me I should idolize Michael Gudinski. So when I stop getting invited to the parties I guess I’ll look for a job with RIP.

Couple of notes here:

  • I was giving a lecture a few weeks back, asking music students their motivation behind performing on stage. Most replied “because it’s fun” or “I enjoy performing” – the same way most musicians always do. One student launched into an impassioned rant, stating how much she hated musicians who said they got on stage because “it’s fun”, that if they don’t feel the urge, the desire, the unquenchable need to perform (so overwhelming it can destroy you) every second of the day then they shouldn’t be getting up there. (I’m paraphrasing.) I moderated, and pointed out that different people can have different motivations.  It was the exact same rant I’ve given many times about music criticism.
  • Since moving to Brisbane four years back I’ve realised that good people, with the best of intentions, can be responsible for creating and promoting mediocre music. An awful lot of mediocre music.
  • The AIR Awards’ full title this year is the “2012 Jagermeister Independent Music Awards”. That’ll be with the emphasis on the word independent, hopefully.
  • Independent is a strange way to define music. If it’s to mean anything at all, then surely – as Nic says above – it needs to imply some form of cultural agenda?
  • Michael Gudinski seemed like a nice fellow, full of stories, the handful of times I’ve met him. He’s also responsible for the ascendancy of an awful lot of mediocre music.
  • I attended a Research Seminar at QUT for the Music & Sound discipline yesterday. Fascinating stuff, especially the academics trying to manipulate vocal soundwaves and physical performance. The first question out the gate was about the 100 Songs project – a very laudable attempt to promote Brisbane music nationally and internationally, through use of an effective gimmick. “Who,” it was asked, “is responsible for deciding what is included  in the 100 Songs project?” (I’m paraphrasing here.) Good question. Who indeed? “Are experts involved?” Good question, and surprisingly hard to answer, because first you have to set your parameters and, furthermore, “What is the value of asking music industry experts to contribute at a time when the music industry is crumbling?” as someone else asked. Another good question.
  • If “independent” labels do not attempt to foster any type of counter culture then what is the value of calling them independent? And what is the value of awards attempting to validate same? I’m sure (in fact, I’m certain) the people behind the AIR Awards are good people and have good intentions… but I’ve often noticed that the saddest thing about good people with good intentions is that they often figure that having An Agenda is an Evil Thing when in fact It Is The One Thing That Matters.
  • How can Brisbane … how can Australia … lift itself out of a slump of lavishly-promoted mediocre derivative independent music when a) the terminology around all these awards and events and support networks is aimed directly at mediocre derivative independent music, and b) when all music is praised and promoted and championed equally, regardless of artistic ‘merit’? (It’s not equal, actually. There has to be a business model involved, usually.)

Experts count for shit, next to good intentions.

P.S. At least you get invited to these awards, Jake. Since moving to Australia, I haven’t been invited to a single music industry bun-fest outside of Brisbane. There again, fuck. I’m only half-Australian – and clearly my experience within the music industry dwindles into nothing next to the teeming throng of ‘experts’ and accomplished music ‘critics’ that already exist here.

Related posts:
the inaugural Collapse Board award for services to Australian independent music

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