Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Terre Talks [III of III]: from distro to consumpto, with many ambi♥alent returns...
well, following on from parts one and two of our extended Q&A with Terre, here's part III. This time, the questions turn to focus on use and consumption, with a slight return to some of the ridiculous aspects of promo, and a brief and revealing glance at the Mille Plateaux morass. This Q&A in its entirety is quite text heavy, we know, so please consider printing the beasty out and having a close read – I promise you Terre's insights bear the closest possible scrutiny. Once again, thank you to Terre for her time and thoughts, and thank you to you all for being patient with the uneven publication schedule here.
selling, buying in, selling out:
What are some of the strategies (including the oblique and counter-intuitive ones) that you have developed for selling your work on your terms? I'm really fascinated by the way you've done this, especially the way you've managed to do so many things that others have failed at? What's the secret please, M(r)s?
To be clear, it's never on my terms. I make concessions and compromises all the time, even if some of the people I'm doing business with think I'm a total stubborn asshole who refuses to budge (but there are also definitely people with whom things go very smoothly, and we get along just fine - there's no telling how things go). If anything, most of the strategies I've come up with are last resorts born of desperation and hopelessness. Take the "Dead Stock Archive" offline alternative to online MP3 downloads. It was the result of my frustration from trying to get my illegally uploaded Mille Plateaux albums removed from iTunes, Juno and other major online distributors, and the utter distrust that experience fostered in me towards the major distributors who refused to respond to my correspondences for years. Back then I had absolutely no idea who had uploaded the files (it was Rainer Streubel, who uploaded all the Mille Plateaux back catalog he could lay his hands on without permission in a desperate attempt to earn back his investment after buying the Mille Plateaux name after the 2003 bankruptcy), and the distributors were absolutely not cooperating with my requests for them to tell me with whom they were in contract. That's why I was so quick to go public about the original MP catalog's re-upload into Beatport last year, sending emails to a bunch of press people. What took 4 years to come down the first time took 4 days the second - amazing. But that was also my first real awakening to the viral nature of today's music press, with everything being spammed across a gazillion websites. So I've become a bit uncomfortable with that, too. I mean, I was not expecting that amount of visibility on the subject. I guess I still live with old concepts of low-circulation distribution for "underground" or "independent" or "alternative" journalism. But, anyway, the point is that it's really difficult to get stuff pulled down once it's online. No joke.
I guess my key strategy - if you could call it that - is to bite the hand that feeds me (us), since it's also a hand that smacks me (us). I mean, I'm thankful as hell that I somehow got lucky enough to not have to work in an office environment or something like that - for the moment - but it requires a lot of social sacrifices and living very sparsely. It also means no retirement plan, I no longer qualify for credit cards (even those ones "everyone" can get), etc. I'm not talking about being a pissy egomaniac artist wheeling his white grand piano into the swimming pool because the round bologna doesn't match the square bread (although that will always be one way people see things as filtered through dominant mythologies of what it means to be a musician). I simply believe if one is truly grateful for all one has, rather than relish in one's privileges (as few or great as they are) it is necessary to constantly draw attention to the injustices and imbalances of the lives we lead, and the associative violence our lifestyles enact on others. This means criticizing one's own comfort zone, too. Otherwise we're all just Uncle Toms, no matter what our station in life.
On a major website the other day, the first 'comment' (don't get me started on those) to an album was as follows: 'AMAZING. Perfect for working all day at my desk.'
on another login only promo site, the following two comments, one after the other, both telling
from: XXX YYY (laptop community), 2011-01-18 12:35:02
YES!!\ this is so good, pure magic. please can i have the mp3s\?
from: AAA ZZZ (cleft palate recordings), 2011-01-18 12:22:38
\ i like this collection of tunes. it is funky in its own way. i will support this release.
What can the above comments tell us: who are we, if this is how we are relating to music through each other, and through each other with music?
There's that creepy phrase, "support this release." It's awkward, right? Well, both of these last two posts are clearly by people who frequent sites offering downloads for commentary. They're just fishing for files. The first one - yeah... I mean, we all work while looping an album or something, but to make that the defining point of how one likes the album, it's a little embarrassing. Muzak has changed over the years. It's amazing how every kind of store, restaurant, or office can blast the noisiest rock-hip-hop-alterna-techno-shit these days. I'm always very aware of the elderly walking around in these situations, wondering how it manages to function as white noise from their perspectives - is it easier or harder to ignore than an orchestral version of "Riders in the Storm"? These days a lot of department stores play house classics, so that just about sums up what shit robot pawns we house producers are. I was at an EU airport and the muzak was Ame's "Rej." Like, when I was 13 or 14 years old, that would have been the sign of some utopian future. But all I felt was sorrow.
laptops, piracy, long haul flying and drugs:
In a certain way, electronic music is comprised of the four elements in the title above (or, at least, it would be radically different if you remove one). So... why do we take laptops and long haul for granted, and why can't we talk about piracy and drugs? And/or what would happen if we talked piracy and drugs a little... ?
Clearly because piracy and drugs have legal ramifications that the other two subjects do not. I don't like to talk about drugs because I don't do them - by which I mean I've never even tried a cigarette or finished a beer in my entire life - and I know for most people that instantly disqualifies me from having any understanding of chemical issues, in the same way people who have kids get all preachy and asshole-ish with those of us who consciously do not. But absolutely, we are in the employ of industries - legal and illegal - which use us as ambiance for their chemical pushing. I've said it before, I think the reason my memories of the New York house scene are so much bleaker than the usual stories one hears is because I was taking it all in sober. My memories were not filtered by coke or X or K.
As for piracy, it really depends on what you are pirating. I mean, technically we are pirates every time we sing "Happy Birthday to You," the melody for which was written by Patty and Mildred Hill by the way. It's also very different if you are talking about pirating something born of a corporation that has taken on larger cultural meanings or has become a cultural icon. My favorite example of the cultural hypocrisy around these issues is Andy Warhol's Brillo boxes or Coca-Cola prints, which clearly duplicate copyrighted logos without permission, whereas the Warhol foundation will sue your ass off if you reprint an image of one of Warhol's works without licensing it! How do they make that work?!! Warhol's early works were so important, yet his foundation's legacy is just one huge BM on it all. And everyone in the art world feels the same. It's precisely why I left the visual arts. In any case, I think if one's actions become "piracy" simply as a side-effect of attempting to consciously interact with the culture imposed upon them by industry - to somehow "possess" what has been engrained into them - that is very different than "abusive" or "exploitative" piracy. And exploitation does not always correlate with profit - despite his latter wealth, I do not consider Warhol's prints to be exploiting Brillo, but I do consider the Warhol Foundation to be exploiting Warhol's legacy, and even then they are clearly acting in "defense" of having Warhol's works exploited by the larger art marketplace. So it's all a huge mess with everyone fucking everyone, with very few reach-arounds being offered.
Personally speaking, I took a huge risk with the "Dead Stock Archive," wondering if it would end up torrented. I really don't want my works to be so widely circulated, because they are not intended to function as "pop music." (Even my most "popular" albums have globally only sold a few thousand copies at best, which is as I feel it should be.) But I have to say the handful of people who have bought the "Archive" thus far have been very considerate about not uploading it. I feel they really support my views on file sharing, which is not about advocating for a culture of anal-retentive control, but about responsible use and support... not only financial support of producers, but cultural/ideological support as well. And - particularly within today's cultural climate of over-information (but never the right information) and free everything - there is a power to withholding information from the usual routes of circulation, authorized or unauthorized. It means that the information is used deliberately, and in relevant contexts. It is the reaffirmation of context. And that comes along with the reaffirmation of uncommon or alternative use values that can only be born of "failure." Those same things Gleason called, "the most useless thing in life." I know the common attitude is to put anything and everything out there so they can be "used" (ostensibly in a good sense, as opposed to "exploited"), but amidst the dominant cultural demands epitomized by Gleason, withholding is also a valuable way of keeping non-standard things from becoming defined as "useless."
finally (this old Marx-n-Foucault chestnut):
Who benefits from the situation as it is? And how could things be otherwise?
The rich and powerful. And it won't be otherwise. I realize that sounds incredibly reductionist, but there you go... And the fact it will never be otherwise doesn't mean stop resisting. It's the reason to resist. Non-violent non-cooperation in daily life whenever possible! If only Americanization's language of "dreams" and "hope" could be replaced with a conscious analysis of the unacceptable, filling our minds with the urgency of the moment rather than tainted aspirations of where we'd like to be... which for most people is sitting atop a pile of money, taking revenge on those who used to be above them. We never learn. We never break the systems. Not communally and not for long, anyway. We just regurgitate them, showing the thoroughness of our brainwashing, and the shallowness of our common values. *Sigh*
thank you! hugs (not rugs) P