ALL PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Unsplash
Why Modern Music Would Benefit from Its Own Democratic Government
THIS is an idea I tossed around last year...
I am looking out at our own government and, for want of a better expression, feel they are making too many mistakes – there are harsher words I could attribute to their brand of leadership! It has been a shambolic and chaotic past couple of years and, as we plunge into this year with a mixture of fear and anger; I have been thinking how music can exert more influence. It is not, as I have stated, potent enough to change society as quickly as we need. Another concept I have been playing with is a music charity/body that, not only brings old and new music in an organised and effective way – it helps raise money for charities, causes and musicians. This idea, then, feeds into that: a cabinet/structure in modern music where specific people are designated to parent various aspects of the industry. At the moment; a lot of power is exerted by few: record labels, streaming services and big-business seem to have more control and influence than anyone else. They need to have that dominance, I guess. Artists need representation so, if we were to undo the current order; that might lead to devastating disorder. I am not suggesting we rid music of all the oligarchs, huge labels and streaming services: simply, introduce new bodies, people and departments to music. Look at any government and there are various ministers for each department...
IN THIS PHOTO: The White House
We have someone in charge of health (apparently!) and education; a Foreign Secretary and local politicians. Music is a huge and unwieldy industry that is in need of organisation and a certain compartmentalisation. I am suggesting we assign our own ‘ministers’ to protect various parts of music. For one, I would like to see a Minister for Venues. It does not have to be a single human taking on all the responsibility: several people, in each part of the U.K., could take on the role. It would mean they’d be charged with studying venues and their profitability. They could launch funding initiatives and discuss ways to preserve them. We have ministers in Parliament who are assigned to the arts – it is hard to know what impact they are making on their music industry. I worry, in such a huge industry, there is a lack of organisation and discipline. I feel venues, and their frailty in certain regions, is something we need to tackle. The minister(s) could take on other roles but it would be a full-time role where they would travel around their area and, not only ensure the venues are protected and growing – they would think of initiatives and ideas to increase its status and survival chances. London, especially hot with venues, might have several appointed arbiter: smaller regions would only need the one (person). That is not the only area of music that could benefit from governance.
Mental-health and wellbeing are concerns that never leave my mind. I worry artists and music personnel are suffering and having too much pressure put on them. The debt placed on our health service, because of stress and psychological issues, is profound. It is that ‘silent demon’ that stalks and bites – something difficult to control and temporise. I feel, because there is a lot of mental-health concerns in music; we should have a department that looks after that side of things. It would be a combination of medical professionals – G.P.s and psychiatrists – alongside councillors and advisors. Not only would they pitch for funding – to ensure we can provide better care for artists – but raise awareness and provide direct support. Whilst treatment and one-on-one discussion are needed: working with other departments to reduce the epidemic of mental-health, and its nefarious tongue, is paramount! I feel this government could operate through bicameralism: having one ‘government’ in the U.K. and another in the U.S., maybe? There would be local representatives, which I will come to, but it would not be localised and entirely run in Britain. Like our own government; I feel having people in charge of education and international affairs is important. In terms of ‘education’; it would be a combination of pushing music back onto the syllabus; ensuring there is a more visible musical programme on our curriculum. We could visit schools and ensure students are being taught music as part of their daily education – not just having access to these courses through higher education.
Putting music back into schools is vital. Funding could be raised and discussions held with our own Government. We could affect change so that music education is not reserved to those who can afford it – and limited to colleges and universities. There are music syllabuses in schools but it is not as prolific and widespread as it once was. Education involves, as I will show, integrating with other departments – raising awareness of big issues affecting the industry. From a simple audio standpoint; ensuring older music is preserved and brought to new negotiations is important. Someone could look after streaming services and look at how older and new artists are represented there. Maybe, they could look at various trends in music and predict where the industry is heading. There is a lot we can teach musicians and listeners alike; maybe having archivist that would look at bygone music and ensure its potency and legacy remains. Alongside various educational considerations is a moral and conscientious bent. There is a lot of sexism and racism in the industry - and a need to stem it. Not only do many in music need education and informing – what they are doing wrong and how we can improve – but the industry as a whole needs to change the way it views female artists and minorities. Raising schemes and discussing reorganisation would be good. That might be ways of having more female artists in headliner spots; ensuring there is less sexualisation and discrimination; ensuring, too, there is parity in the business!
The same goes for minority musicians: making sure they are not overlooked and given the same opportunities at award ceremonies, in the industry and at festivals. Having a Minister for Festivals, like (a) venues representative, could foster and support new festivals: ensure existing ones run smoothly and are provided as much funding and promotion is provided. This would be a smaller role but one that could link with education, too, and raise issues surrounding festivals – drugs deaths and weather-related issues. It is a wide spectrum (education) but a role that definitely needs to be created. I have mentioned, already, local representative and how they could change music – and link with the Education representatives. Each town/city has a music industry. From gigs and promotion through to educating and encouraging new musicians in that area – so much good work that could be done. It might sound like a lot of work but there is a need for structure and progression. In terms of foreign links; I mentioned how the U.S. could adopt a similar approach. A musical Foreign Secretary(ies) could build bridges with other nations: promoting British music and, in terms of other artists and potential touring acts; liaise with them and – with the support of venues – arrange performances. British music is well-known around the world but a lot of our unsigned/new artists are restricted to the U.K. An envoy/cultural attaché would provide the link between nations: bring stunning international sounds to our shores.
The idea for any (proposed) government body would be those international links. I would like to see British representation in London, Manchester; Bristol, Brighton and Glasgow. There would be bases in each city and concentration here – spreading out the departments and ministers/secretaries so everything is not focused in London. The same goes for America: New York and L.A. (maybe two bases in each); Nashville and Austin would be great locations – maybe branching into Seattle and Detroit, too. I want Australia involved too; have bases in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane; Perth, too. Not only would we concentrate on live and recorded music: T.V. and radio would have representation, too. They are crucial outlets for music (radio especially) so promoting stations and creating easy links between radio/T.V. producers is key. Working with the biggest radio stations; events could be created to promote their great work; linking them with other stations around the world – ensuring we augment our finest T.V. and radio brands. For artists; there is always that desire to get their music heard and played. It can be hard finding an audience and willing ear! Having designated people working with musicians to forge ties – and get their material heard – is another important point. In addition to all these departments/points must come business and social aspects.
By ‘business’; I mean focusing on music business and finance: from record labels/deals through to the way artists are paid; trade and ties with international sources and contracts. Ensuring there is finance available, as I will finish up with, is crucial. That can be anything from artists being paid on streaming services; ensuring there is capital going into venues and festivals – looking at the wages of radio and T.V. talent (ensuring there is an attempt at parity). One of the other big departments – there will be lots of smaller chambers – is the social side of things. Again; this is quite broad. Someone will be employed to create greater social links and collaboration between artists. Not only would we look to create more social gatherings, events and opportunities: looking at social media, and the way it is run, is pressing. Maybe creating a bespoke site that integrates social media and something musically bespoke. It means a musician/fan is not online longer than they need to be. A site would produce information, useful tools and software; options that allow fans to connect with a great range of music – artists the chance to bond with others and find chances in the industry. That is, pretty much, the outline of the proposal – other departments, facets and details would come in if the idea became reality.
I feel there is a real need for something huge and committed that deals with every part of music. The considerations would be, I guess: how is integrates and communications with the Government; how it will be funded and sustained; whether its ‘core’ – where it is all run from – would be a physical base or online presence. It would be a separate entity from our Government. The music cabinet – not sure what it is called yet! – would try and work with the Culture Secretary and Prime Minister at various points. It is prudent, when implementing changes to the music industry, there is conferencing with Downing Street. So we do not contradict the Government – or clash with them; weaken the work being carried out – there would be conversation and cooperation. This project/government would not be part of our elected. There would be mutual understanding - but the reason for launching this is to do work our Government are not! Making it all a fiscal reality is the biggest challenge. One hopes the government would designate a certain budget for this movement – as we are not undermining them; merely adding support and taking on great responsibility – and the desire to get more involved with music (in all genres and settings) should be reason enough to reap the reward. Like streaming sites and commercial stations; a lot of the funding would come from sponsors and big businesses.
That is not to say (this government) would be corporate shills and money-grabbing types: we would work with them and ensure our ethics and motives are pure. I am looking at corporations like Samsung, Google and Microsoft – maybe Amazon and Facebook. In exchange for a yearly stipend – and subsiding – there would be chances for brand promotion, advertising and commercial expansion. The details are slight at the moment but it would not see banners and slogans painted on cars (metaphorically-speaking): there would be a contract drawn that meant musicians, fans and the businesses themselves would all benefit…without anyone having to sell their soul. That may seem impossible but getting that capital from the big businesses ensures the music government can survive, expand and make effective changes. In regards the physical manifestation of the initiative – many wonder what shape it will take. We cannot, unfortunately, build anything as grand and commodious as the Houses of Parliament. It would be a split between online visibility and physical presence. The latter is most important: making sure there are actual bases for the proposal/government. (They would be situated in the cities I mentioned earlier). It would start as offices but, as the idea grew; more would spring up and we could be more ambitious with size/locations...
I am keen, even though it is a music-based enterprise, to link closely with film and T.V. Not only is it important to get high-profile actors and figures involved; there is a visual aspect to music that has existed for decades. Putting more money into music videos means we can create stunningly imaginative works – ensure new artists have more money to create something terrific. Linking with actors means there is a communication channel between artists/directors and talent. It would open up new chances and horizons. I am interested seeing whether there is the possibility of a music show/channel; something that can find backing/funding from a big service like Netflix or Amazon. It is not only personalities from music and film I am keen to act as ambassadors of this government. Incredible supporters of music like Barack Obama – not the first name you might have considered! – could lend their voice and, with services like Spotify, take music to new lands – and help make real changes in the industry. It is all ideas and propositions at the moment but I feel, in time, the only way we can affect genuine shifts in music – including getting more working-class musicians into the mainstream; more working-class journalists at big papers – is to work together and form something productive.
IN THIS PHOTO: Former U.S. President, Barack Obama
I know something good could happen and, if it started out as a social media-based poll – how many would object to such a government? It would work a lot more effectively and democratically than our own and, as finances come in and changes are made; it could push into other areas of society and make a difference. That is not to say the world will be changed: one cannot discount the possibility something big could come about! It is about starting strong and ensuring the flame is not extinguished. It might take years before something real and visible comes into the world: money will need to be found and serious organisation undertaken. The music industry is a wonderful thing and is inspiring countless artists to add their voice to it. The swell and diversity of the industry, coupled with problems and conflicts, means something needs to be done. There are great charities, bodies and people who help guide and shape music but, the larger the industry becomes; the more hands required. A bespoke musical government would alleviate some of the pressure and recruit musicians, professional and musical fans into the government – a democratic and eclectic body. If music, and all its layers and levels can have that consistent and multi-department care; I feel a stronger and more equal industry can come about. We could poll the masses (to get feedback) and I am confident, when the ballots close, the result will be something…
IN THIS PHOTO: A shot of L.A., U.S.A.
EVERYONE can agree on.