I’ve become such a well-oiled self-diagnosed jerk-off that I feel it is important for heavy and weird to have a weekly “editorial” posted every Friday. The main aim of these weekly posts is to sum up the week in review and somehow bring it back to music, politics or art.
So here I go:
I get a lot of music sent to me for Heavy and Weird to review. A lot of my time is spent reading press releases and listening to a lot of different artists to determine if they are a band worth featuring on the Heavy and Weird blog. I’d like to say that we could give air time to everything sent to us but the truth is there isn’t enough hours in the day for me to give coverage to everything and quite frankly it would be unfair to both myself and my writers to waste time on music that we have no interest in. Further to this, everyone in the team likes to seek out music they love to write and discuss which is at the heart of why I started this blog in the first place.
Getting the opportunity to listen to so much music as a result of all the wonderful publicity companies and bands we work with puts me in a fortunate position to really get a deeper understanding of all of the unique music being made in our modern landscape. It’s also a healthy and educational way to understand your enemy a lot more because you do have to spend some time with bands, artists and music that you personally do not enjoy. That is the real challenge, to give something you define as boring and terrible the time to potentially sink in. Getting access to speak to musicians who make music you don’t particularly like is also a valuable lesson in compassion and humanity because you start to understand that despite your prejudice to the sound they make they are incredible human beings and this alone can give you the capacity to enjoy or appreciate a certain band or piece of music even deeper.
One thing that does tend to creep into my mind each weekend when I sit down to write my own articles, edit my writers articles and prepare the publishing schedule for the week is the question “What is the point of Music?” and is it even possible for me to give a right or wrong answer to this question. I believe you can give a right answer but again you have to strip away certain layers of our humanity structure in order to deliver an honest answer that won’t send people into a pointless argument about personal taste and who does music better.
To quote the wonderful and influential Jen Cloher, it is nobody’s business to decide on what good or bad music is and what people should or shouldn’t be listening to on a daily basis. This is a truth I’ve always tried to live and although people tend to stereotype me as an elitist or music snob I believe that the joy of music is not limited to a genre, sound, period in time or particular artist so essentially people can stereotype my personality but it is never rooted in the truth of how I operate.
I have always believed that music belongs to the universe and world around us and we are all able as human beings to consume and love whatever parts of it resonate with us. I click and connect with human beings who are funded by the joy of music and my excitement and desire to be around them centres on their love of it. These people can be influenced by any genre or any era, I’m excited because they are excited and most importantly I see an opportunity to learn something about an area of music that I’m not educated in.
So there we have two very vital points to the relevance of music – Self-Education and Human Connection.
The joy of meeting human beings who turn you on to new music is one of the best benefits of breathing and remains to be one of the simplest building blocks for human beings to enter into a relationship (friend or lover). One of the joys of my job with Heavy and Weird is the relationships I get to build with the wonderful human beings who work in the music industry and all of the musicians I get to interview and deal with. An important lesson I learnt a long time ago was that desperation and pushing an agenda will get you nowhere in the world. People react to honesty and passion and in the music industry people have a low tolerance for desperate people. Lucky for me I’ve never been interested in having an agenda besides the accurate and passionate presentation of music history via the articles heavy and weird post.
You see when you start dealing with the music industry you start to understand that there are some common misconceptions about how it is run and that it isn’t all evil. In this modern age of information I don’t think it is that mind-blowing to discover that most industries are geared towards making money. It is the unfortunate rhythm of life sometimes and as I learnt a long time ago when you start talking about what someone is “worth” you start to understand that no one really wins that argument because everyone has a different perspective on what they should be paid. Quite frankly I believe a lot of the people who work behind the scenes, especially to help aid modern youth culture music scenes (JJJ bands etc etc etc), deserve to be paid for the hard work they do just as I believe that the artists making that music deserve to be paid. The funny thing about this whole debate about paying artists is something I have a hard time weighing in on because although I believe in fairness and equality I also think that some musicians have to realise a few things before they enter into the music industry.
Musicians have to understand that in terms of the money issue they are fighting a long established corporate structure that exists not just within the music industry but all industry. To disrupt and change that structure requires global change that is well outside just making good music. Your lack of financial reward is no indication of your skill or potential influence on human beings. I think this issue of what artists get paid opens up a bigger can of worms on what human beings should get paid because every industry in the world has the capacity to debate the same topic of worth, but again no one ever wins that argument especially when you are fighting established corporate structures and control.
So that digs deeper into the question of “what’s the point of music?”
First and foremost it is not for financial reward and if financial security is given to you as a musician this will be because you are either very lucky or have worked incredibly hard to reach financial bliss. This brings me to my next point in relation to this topic which is the work ethic a well-adjusted and disciplined musician will put in place in order to reach success. Not to digress too heavily I think it’s important to understand that success looks different to everyone and again to quote the wonderful Jen Cloher, success is longevity.
This gives a launch pad to the one piece of advice that all musicians need to adhere to which is to take the time as a creative human being to sit down and work out what it is you’re trying to communicate to the world. In the scheme of the creative landscape you need to have enough self-reflection to ask yourself what purpose does your art serve and can you justify its existence beyond it just being an exercise in fun. The next piece of advice is to be honest about your intentions as an artist. If you want to be a rock star and earn millions of dollars and live in that version of the dream then be honest about that, don’t hide behind things like DIY culture or Lo-Fi or Indie yet still illustrate a degree of desperation at every chance you get. If you choose to be DIY understand that you do indeed have to “do it yourself” and it requires hard work and isn’t just a clever way to describe your music. People will respect you more if you are honest with them about your intentions because there is nothing uglier than an insincere artist. The third and final piece of advice is to commit to the sacrifice of being an artist. As fun as it is to attend seminars on how the “industry” works it’s also important to understand that all of that stuff is secondary to the music. If you don’t take the time to be a good artist and to listen and grow and evolve and be radical then you’ll never reach the places you desire.
I commented recently on a friend’s facebook page about the wonderful documentary Sound City. These were my two posts, word for word:
“I just hope the message of it all doesn’t get lost on people and everyone doesn’t just go analogue thinking this will change how their music is delivered. I liked that it outlined the importance of playing from the heart and that it still comes down to have a bit of soul with how you do it and the importance of things not sounding perfect.”
“I think the movie is a wonderful history lesson and whether you focus on the magic of what the recording studio can do or the magic of the musicians being recorded I think the one lesson to take out of it is that each musician has a different creative process and discipline and that can be captured and manipulated in many different ways via the recording process. Regardless of your desired recording vehicle a great artist will still come out the other side sounding raw, honest and believable. The essence of a great song despite its genre is its ability to resonate with an audience who quite frankly care little about the science behind how that sound is captured. They just want the music to help provide an escape for them. If I learnt anything from the Sound City movie it was the importance of musicians taking the time to understand what it is they are trying to communicate with their music. Doesn’t matter whether you choose digital or analogue, bad music is bad music and bad music is not limited to any particular genre. The movie encourages individuality but people need to understand your individuality is not Dave Grohl’s individuality; it has to be your own. His story is unique to him and this is the other aspect of this movie that I think was important, to find what works for you and carve out your own unique voice. If that means your unique voice is captured and delivered via analogue or via digital who cares, as long as it is an honest reflection of your heart and soul. A good engineer and producer will help you reach that with their knowledge of the recording tools.”
These two paragraphs just re-establish what I’ve already written but I think it steers it back to my initial question “What is the Point of Music?”
It’s simple really, music is an escape from reality but it is also a source of entertainment. It has the capacity to connect us all yet also create some of the ugliest arguments and elitism ever. It is good and it is evil but most of all music is a reflection of our society. It changes from human being to human being an no one has the right to say what is and isn’t music because all of the music in the world is a reflection of the diverse human beings populating our existence.
My honest answer though to the question of “what is the point of music?” is the same answer I’d give to what is the point of “spirituality,” “science” and “religion” – it is all a way for us to cope with the fact that we will die and that none of us have the capacity to experience or understand what death is until we’re dead.
I don’t like Michael Franti’s music but he said it best – Everyone Deserves Music.
Until Next Week
Dan Newton xo