What do musicians do for a living?
By Dawn Bennett
Once, a long time ago when starry eyed and new to academia, I set out to design the perfect curriculum for aspiring classically trained musicians. I had worked as a musician for twenty years and was determined to make a valuable contribution back to the sector. The concept was quite simple and went something like this: document what musicians do for a living, document where they do it and why, ask about barriers and opportunities and then write a curriculum for delivery in collaboration with the profession. Four years later, having realised that nobody had yet defined what musicians do, I completed a PhD with a thesis that I would have liked to call “So, what’s a musician anyway?” Without a clear understanding of what it is that musicians do, there is no potential whatsoever for the development of curricula that can meet the needs of graduates and practitioners. Nor is it possible to provide reliable intelligence to funding and support agencies, government and advocacy groups.
Answers are not found in statistical collections, nor are they revealed by graduate destination data. Both of these data collection exercises measure “main occupation” and are geared towards the mono-employment model that is less and less common within the general labour market. In fact, the only people who can provide valid, empirical data about what it is to be a musician are musicians themselves. The most valuable research that is being done in this field is empirical and ethnographic, which means that it listens to and is often derived from within the profession.
The MCA Knowledge Base  “aims to provide a dynamic, comprehensive picture of the music sector, in words and numbers”. It will become all the more insightful, useful and authoritative with each voice that is heard, and it is for this reason that the Knowledge Base appeals specifically to people “who know their scene”. This paper is designed to raise critical issues and to prompt other contributions to the Knowledge Base. In particular, I hope to encourage smaller contributions in the form of observations, stories, profiles, insights and links. Qualitative information of this kind is essential to the Knowledge Base and to our understanding of the music sector, and contributions from within the sector are especially welcome. The facts and figures that follow are derived from surveys and interviews with classically trained instrumental musicians who reflected on their work, training, successes, lost opportunities and careers.
They also draw upon a survey of individual creative artists. In the interests of not becoming too ‘academic’, the following description of approaches has been kept very brief; however, I am happy to expand on the methodology on request. Altogether, about 500 musicians and artists have contributed directly to the research, which is building a retrospectively longitudinal picture of careers in the creative arts. Approximately 80% of participants were based in Australia at the time they participated. Given the longitudinal objective, the demographic for each study has provided representation along the breadth of a career in terms of both experience and age. Survey methodology is used extensively for several reasons: for example, as the studies are longitudinal, responses are sought from intending and new graduate artists through to those nearing retirement. Interview methodology is also widely used in the form of individual interviews and focus groups. To ensure the inclusion of independent artists, purposeful sampling is often employed to locate dance artists through professional associations, companies and informal networks.
§ Less than half of musicians are paid for all of their work, and there is a gendered difference in the amount of work for which payment is received: over three times more female than male musicians receive payment for only 0-25% of their work as musicians. Payment for 26-50% and 51-75% of work was received respectively by 2.3 times and 2.2 times more males than females. Correspondingly, males are more likely to receive payment for over three-quarters of their work.
§ Of the musicians who receive payment for all of their work, there are clear differences between the primary roles held by male and female musicians; performance being the primary role of 35% of females and 55% of males, and teaching the primary role of 58% of females and 41% of males. Australian Government data on extra-systemic teachers in music, art, dance and drama shows a similar gender breakdown of teachers, 68.5% of whom are female and 31.5% male.
§ Performance was the primary role for 42% of surveyed musicians, 52% of whom were primarily instrumental teachers with the remaining 6% primarily administrators. There are differences in the primary roles of male and female musicians, with more female musicians likely to have a primary teaching role, and more male musicians likely to work primarily in performance.
§ The most common role for musicians is teaching, where 82% of musicians spend an average of 56% of their time. Classroom music teaching was not included in this data on the basis that classroom teaching falls within a separate occupational group. If we include classroom music teaching, the percentage of time spent in teaching activities will be much higher. Despite the commonality of instrumental teaching, analysis of the composition of Australia’s undergraduate performance degrees in 2003 indicates a mean of only 1.1% of core course time allocated to pedagogy. Although 44% of musicians claimed to have taken on teaching roles because of a lack of performance opportunities, 57% of musicians communicated the enjoyment gained from teaching: “Teaching is an integral part of most musicians’ lives. I consider it my most important role and I find it very satisfying”. Many musicians conveyed that they had not expected to find such a high level of satisfaction from roles such as teaching.
§ Performance is the second most common role for musicians, and involves 70% of musicians who spend an average of 52% of their time in performance.
§ On average, male musicians spend a greater percentage of their time in performance, composition, examining and technical roles. Female musicians spend proportionately more time in teaching, ensemble direction and administration. The mean percentage of time spent in each industry role is shown as Table 1.
Table 1 Mean percentage of time spent in industry roles separated by gender
· Surveyed musicians engaged in an average of 2.2 music industry roles, which is indicative of the multi-functional nature of careers in the sector.
· Over one-third of musicians hold roles outside the music industry, and they suggest that many people engage in non-performance and non-music related roles for their intrinsic value as well as for more obvious extrinsic benefits such as regular income: when asked whether they would prefer to be working full time in music, 30% of musicians replied that they would not. Of the 68% of musicians working full time in music, 13% indicated that they would prefer to work within the sector only part time.
· Data indicate that women increase the extent of their performance role until somewhere between their mid-thirties and mid-forties, at which point performance is less likely to be their primary role. Male musicians appear to maintain their performance role until their mid-fifties.
· Primary teaching roles seem to become less common with age for women and more common for men.
· Only 8% of surveyed musicians worked solely in performance, and less than half of those musicians had completed an undergraduate performance degree such as a Bachelor of Music.
· The most common factors influencing musicians to change the extent of their performance role appear to be increased job satisfaction, stable employment, a higher salary, and family reasons. An earlier study of creative artists revealed exactly the same factors. Shown at Figure 1 are responses from a 2003 study of musicians, which suggest similar influences for male and female respondents in most factors; however, there are three exceptions: (1) responses relating to family responsibilities came predominantly from female musicians (47% compared to 29% male responses); (2) a reduction in the amount of travel was a factor for 24% of female and 13% of male respondents; and (3) injury was cited only by female respondents (10%). Injury amongst musicians is often not spoken about, even with colleagues. Self-report may therefore have been a factor in deciding whether or not to report injury, particularly for male respondents.
Percentage with which each factor occurred (multiple response)
Figure 1 Factors Influencing Change in the Extent of Performance Role
· Musicians use an average of 3.8 skills in the maintenance of their careers. The two most common skills are performance skills, which were used by 96% of respondents, and teaching skills, used by 88% of respondents. Musicians emphasise that communication skills are imperative to a musician’s ability to create and sustain professional networks, and are essential to musicians’ practice regardless of their roles.
· Small business skills were used by 72% of respondents, who emphasised the importance of skills in marketing, administration, financial management and people management: “One thing I have learnt from this industry is that the only way you will ever make it as a professional musician is to get up and personally promote yourself. No one ever taught me this at university”.
· Artists need to be entrepreneurial with effective business skills, and the work patterns and associated generic skills of musicians and other artists are closely aligned. Practising musicians stress the need to be entrepreneurial in order to manage opportunities for employment and career development.
· There is an increasing requirement for practitioners to be aware of community cultural development and to be able to write effective grant applications, including those for funding schemes that have primarily non-arts outcomes.
· Very few musicians perform only classical music, and the work of musicians in multiple genres appears to increase the opportunities for, and the enjoyment derived from, performance. Rather than being classical musicians, musicians are musically multi-lingual: “One should be a well-rounded musician and not just a clone”. Results are shown at Figure 2.
Figure 2 Skills Used in the Maintenance of Music Careers (multiple response)
Sustainability and Attrition
· There are five key factors influencing attrition from the creative arts, and the attrition factors are very similar between musicians and other creative artists. The five key factors are: (1) insufficient regular employment due to a lack of practitioner diversity; (2) a lack of career mobility; (3) irregular working hours; (4) high rates of injury; and (5) low financial rewards. The same five key factors are the most critical influences on musicians who change the extent of their performance role.
· When asked about personal attributes, musicians and other artists overwhelmingly attribute passion as the key component to sustainable arts practice: “Music is my hobby, my job and my passion”. Passion drives motivation, confidence, resilience and adaptability. Maintaining passion is a critical objective for educators and arts organisations.
Education and Training
· Formal education and training was undertaken by 94% of surveyed musicians at an average of 1.4 different study locations. The commonality of formal education and training highlights the importance of both quality and vocational relevance within the educational sector.
· The most common course of study is the Bachelor of Music or its overseas equivalents, which were undertaken by 62% of respondents. The most common reason (33%) for non-completion of formal study is an early transition to work.
· Graduate or postgraduate study was undertaken by 40% of respondents. Disciplines include music performance (36%), music education (39%), non-related fields (16%), and doctoral studies (10%).
· Entry requirements for undergraduate performance degrees are criticised by musicians, who suggest that students should be directed to take realistic streams of study at the commencement of their programs. Musicians also suggest that undergraduate degrees should be longer in order to effectively equip graduates for their future careers.
· The most common informal education and training activities are performance training (58%), pedagogy training (36%), and participation in professional networks (35%).
· Asked about education and training, musicians advocate: (1) the inclusion of career education and industry experience (20%); (2) instrumental pedagogy (18%); and (3) business skills (15%). In particular, musicians stress that students should be made aware of the potential for them to achieve their goals, and should plan and study accordingly: “open discussion of [the] three key attitudes for success: enjoyment, hard work and resilience. At the start [of the course], a realistic discussion of how difficult this career is, and how poor the financial rewards are”.
· Performance, pedagogy and business practices arise as: (1) the curriculum areas for which educational change is most often recommended; (2) the skills most used by musicians; and (3) the most commonly pursued informal education and training.
· Experience within the profession is viewed by practising musicians as an important way for students to learn about the potential for engagement in a variety of roles, and to understand the skills required in order to take advantage of available opportunities. In this way it is possible to broaden students’ dreams and aspirations rather than damping their passion with assessments of potential based solely on careers in performance.
Anyone who has worked in music or in other arts disciplines knows that work rarely constitutes the traditional model of full-time employment with a single employer. Musicians invariably work as small business owners undertaking multiple roles and utilising a broad range of skills. As a result, sustainable careers in music require an entrepreneurial outlook. They often necessitate secondary roles that are unconnected with music, and performing artists are much more likely than other artists to work in unskilled roles. This pattern of work, long familiar to artists, is indicative of labour market trends within the workforce in general, and there is much to be learned from the study of artistic careers.
Proteus is a mythological sea god who changed form at will. Protean careerists expand their work competencies and connections in search of success that is defined not in the eyes of others or on the basis of a pre-conceived hierarchy of success, but in terms of intrinsic—or psychological—success, and on personal and professional career satisfaction. Around the world, musicians work in protean careers which necessitate the continual development of new opportunities and the attainment of the skills required to meet each new challenge. The focus is not ongoing employment, but ongoing employability.
One of the key factors in music is the lack of full-time positions, even within classical music with its so-called “flagship companies”. For example, to employ all of Australia’s BMus graduates in full-time orchestral roles would require one-quarter of Australia’s orchestral musicians to retire each year. It would also require that no other practising musicians apply for the positions, and that overseas players remain overseas. Four years later the new graduates would need to retire and make way for the new cohort. Someone recently suggested to me that if all of the unhappy orchestral musicians resigned, there would be much more work for the hoards of people desperately seeking a position. This may be true, but there is no guarantee that new players will find happiness in orchestral roles. The lack of creativity and decision making within orchestral roles leads to much dissatisfaction and a waste of the skills and talents possessed by orchestral musicians, many of whom are highly skilled and engage their creative energies away from the workplace.
Success and Perceptions of Success
The issue of success is vital when talking about careers in music. Given that there are many more graduates than full-time performance positions, one would have hoped that the concept of success would have been refined over time; however, performance remains the preferred (if not the expected) outcome for the majority of intending musicians. And the hierarchy doesn’t end there; soloists are viewed as more successful than chamber musicians, who in turn “out-rank” orchestral musicians. Non-performance roles such as teaching are often (at least initially) viewed as fall-back careers and the impact of this on practising musicians and on the development of positive career identities is quite profound.
Given the characteristics of careers in music I would like to suggest the adoption of a protean careerist view: success is building and sustaining a career which meets personal and professional goals. A musician is not a performer. A musician is someone who practices in one or more specialist fields. This is problematic given the common use of the term musician to mean performer, and highlights the need to model holistic practice and to communicate the realities of this practice in a very positive light: modelling a holistic view of the profession at every level of learning, and with the simple question: ‘What kinds of musician would you like to be?’ I have been asking my students this for some time now, and have been helping them to investigate opportunities as they start to see for themselves how they might apply their skills and interests. This has so far led to informal work placements in school and studio teaching, instrument making and physiotherapy. One student is currently investigating careers in radio and another is working towards a casual audition with an orchestra. The expectation that one should aspire to a performance career—particularly for the most talented performers—can be overwhelming, and presents a barrier to a more holistic exploration of the profession. However, with a broader definition of success I have found students to be much more open to testing and adopting multiple musical identities as they plan their careers.
This piece highlights a sample of the results from several extensive studies, all of which have been conducted with visual and performing artists. It forms part of the new Artist Surveys component of Knowledge Base, which accommodates artist contributions, surveys and reports. If you would like to have your say, please let us know. Contributions need not be written in an academic style. For help or advice regarding artist contributions, email Dawn Bennett on
or Knowledge Base editor Hans Hoegh-Guldberg on
This paper can be downloaded at http://mcakb.wordpress.com/statistics/artist-surveys/
 For example, work reported through ISME Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician (CEPROM): http://www.isme.org/en/education-of-the-professional-musician/education-of-the-professional-musician-ce.html; the EU Polifonia project: http://www.polifonia-tn.org; or individual research such as that conducted with contemporary musicians in Denmark: Traasdahl, Jan Ole (ed.) (1999). Music Education in a Multicultural Society. Copenhagen; Danish Music Council: http://www.mhm.lu.se/publ/perspectives.no3.pdf.
 The MCA Music in Australian Knowledge Base can be accessed via the website, www.mca.org.au. Then click on the indicator for the Knowledge Base.
 Commonwealth of Australia. (2002). Australian job search. Retrieved February 14, 2002, from http://jobsearch.gov.au/joboutlook/ASCODesc.asp?ASCOCode=249
 There are many studies relating to women and music. See, for example, Sarah Cooper’s edited book Girls! Girls! Girls! London: Cassell (1995). Also, Diane Jezic’s 1994 monograph: Women composers: The lost tradition found (2nd ed.). New York: Feminist Press. Gendered difference in the working patterns of classically trained instrumental musicians is outlined in my article ‘A gendered study of the working patterns of classical musicians: Implications for practice’, in print with the International Journal of Music Education, 26:1 (2008).
 Results from the first study can be found at http://theses.library.uwa.edu.au/adt-WU2006.0002/
Dr Dawn Bennett is a Research Academic with Curtin University in Perth. She holds postgraduate degrees in education and music performance and has worked as a primary and secondary teacher in the UK and Australia, and as a violist, researcher and lecturer. Research has largely focused on creating sustainable professional practice within the cultural industries, with a special emphasis on the effectiveness of related education, training and policy. Dawn’s monograph Understanding the Classical Music Profession: The Past, the Present and Strategies for the Future will be published by Ashgate in 2008.
What a Recording Contract Really Says
Fred Wilhelms Fred Wilhelms was a lawyer for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists Health and Retirement Funds. Last July he testified to the major recording labels sordid history of underpayment and nonpayment of royalties before hearings of the California Senate Committee on Judiciary and the California Senate Select Committee on the Entertainment Industry. What follows is an excerpt from his statement.
My name is Frederick Wilhelms. I am an attorney who works for recording artists, including many veteran artists, those whose recordings constitute such an important part of our musical heritage. In 1989, I was hired as the National Director of the AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds. I went to the AFTRA Funds after five years of experience running benefit funds for construction labor unions in New Jersey. It should not come as a shock to anyone here to say that the construction business in New Jersey is often under the close scrutiny of state and Federal law enforcement officials, and the organization I ran was no exception. We used to joke about the great deal of attention paid by repair crews to the telephone pole outside our building. Whatever other legal problems they might have faced, my trustees didn't want any questions about their stewardship of the benefit funds. From my first day on the job, my Trustees were adamant that not only the letter of the law, but also the spirit of the law be adhered to. That was the way I ran the organization... In my term there, we had three audits by the Department of Labor, and we got a clean bill of health on all of them. In that job, I learned that most employers are honest. They are capable of mistakes, but that there is no widespread inclination to cut corners in their contractual obligations to their employees.
Before I started at the AFTRA Funds, I was truly ignorant of the way business was conducted in the record industry. I was strictly a fan. In my legal practice before I became a fund administrator, the closest I came to entertainment law was representing someone who had shoplifted a radio. I had read stories about recording artists being cheated of royalties, but didn't know if they were just sour grapes or if there was any truth to them. It wasn't part of my world. I had every reason to believe that what was the standard of performance in the construction industry would be the same in the entertainment industry. Then I went to the AFTRA Funds, and stepped through the looking glass. Bluntly, the record industry ran roughshod over the AFTRA Funds. The obligations the record companies had, and have, to the Funds and to the artists working under AFTRA contracts, were routinely ignored. The poor performance of the Funds is currently the subject of litigation in Federal Court in Atlanta, Georgia. I am a witness for the plaintiffs in that case. Those plaintiffs are fifteen recording artists who alleged that the conduct of the Funds and record industry have deprived them, and all recording artists, of the benefits they earned under the collective bargaining agreement. The reason why that case, and my knowledge, is relevant to this committee's current work is because the industry's conduct in regard to the Funds is a perfect mirror of its general standard of conduct in regard to recording artists on contractual matters.
Benefit eligibility for recording artists under the AFTRA Code is based on earnings. Those earnings are supposed to be reported to the Funds on a timely basis, and a contribution made to cover the cost of the benefits earned. Meeting the earnings requirement qualifies an artist and his or her family for a year of health insurance, and for a pension credit, if, and only if, the record company reports the earnings accurately and makes the contribution in a timely manner. There are two parts to the AFTRA case as it stands today. One part deals with breaches of fiduciary duty by the Funds and the Funds' Trustees for failing to meet their obligations to recording artists. The second part are pension fraud RICO allegations against every major record label in the country. The allegations are founded on the industry's sordid history of underpayment and nonpayment of royalties. And there, in the routine and systematic disregard of the requirements of the agreement and Federal law, is where the industry accounting practices hurt people. It goes beyond simply not paying them what they've earned, it goes to depriving them of critically important benefits that they have bargained for, but never received. This devastating impact is a direct result of an industry-wide inability, or unwillingness, to give an accurate count.
[Wilhelms goes on to describe the consequences even, possibly, an early death -- for certain musicians he claims were deprived of health coverage because record companies did not report their earnings honestly.]
Before I get into much detail, I need to explain that my comments regarding recording contracts and royalty accounting are focused on the standard practices and policies of the major labels. There are fair contracts, and fair practices out there. It is my experience that you just won't find many of either with the major labels. Reduced to its essence, the recording contract is an agreement by which the artist agrees to create recordings that will be manufactured, distributed and promoted by the record company. In return for his or her creation, the record company agrees to pay the artist according to a formula laid out in the contract in great detail.
The terms and conditions of that royalty formula are a direct reflection of the unequal bargaining position of the parties, at least in regard to the initial contract between an artist and a major label. There is a royalty rate set as a percentage of the retail or wholesale price of the recording. That rate is subject to a number of standard deductions, the cumulative effect of which is to reduce the net royalty rate to often 60% or less of the contractual rate. The artist accepts these terms because he or she is going to get essentially the same deal with every major label, and rightly or wrongly, many new artists believe that a major label contract is the only way to attain success. And it doesn't matter who negotiates the contract for the artist, the terms are going to be the same. A well-connected, high-powered law firm or manager may get a new artist a couple extra royalty points, a bigger advance or larger video budget, but, as experience proves time and time again, these are giveaways that often cost the company nothing in the end.
Fifteen percent of zero is the same as ten percent of zero, and the artist ends up footing the bill for that increase in the video budget. The fundamental recording contract on its face, therefore, is not a great or even a good deal for the artist. Quite often, the justification for taking it is the hope that the artist will be successful enough to get a better deal the second time around, and for the artists who become real stars, that happens, but they are only very few in number. Some of those terms make little sense, even on their face. Does a CD jewel box and an insert card actually cost $5.00? A 25% deduction for packaging is the industry standard, nonetheless. Does a 50% reduction in the royalty rate for foreign sales really make sense when your record label is now a multinational and not simply licensing your recording to an actually independent company anymore? Those specific issues might not be within the purview of this committee, but their prevalence in contracts throughout the industry should stand as clear evidence of what party actually controls the contract negotiation. Experience has shown, however, that the companies are not satisfied with setting the terms of the contract in their favor, but they also regularly take steps that would be considered extraordinary in any other industry to make sure their economic advantage over the artist is improved at every possible opportunity.
If you consider contract negotiations the equivalent of setting the table rules for a poker game before you begin dealing the cards, then what happens once the game begins with recording contracts makes them truly a sucker bet. The way the game is controlled is through the company's accounting procedures, and it is how the terms of the contract are subverted in practice. To continue the poker metaphor, the artist doesn't get to deal, or even cut the deck. He or she only gets three cards to the dealer's five. The artists' cards are dealt face up, while the company's cards are hidden. The company is the one who gets to decide which hand wins, and how much the hand is worth. And the ante and the pot are always the artist's money.
Start with the simple act of sending royalty statements. The contract usually says they will be sent out periodically, either semi-annually or quarterly, and by a specific date. Sometimes the delivery date is honored, but often it is not. An inquiry to the company as to the delay invites an endless list of excuses; personnel changes in the department, computer problems, lost addresses. I have even heard the attack on the World Trade Center given as an excuse for the absence of a quarterly report due eight months afterward. For over a full third of my clients, I must call the company every period to find out when, and if, they intend to send out a statement.
For these clients, they don't even get dealt in on the hand unless they ask nicely, several times, for their cards. Once you get the statement, the real fun begins, because you have to figure out what it says. You have to check the opening balance. If, according to the record company, you still owe them money, this will be a negative number. If you are one of the lucky ones who are in the black, it should be zero, meaning that you got paid the entire credit balance in the last period, unless, of course, they held back a reserve for potential returns. It is not uncommon for the opening balance on a statement to bear no close relationship to the closing balance on the previous statement.
Totally flying in the face of the laws of probability, the mysterious changes are always in the favor of the company. These changes have been explained to me as the result in changes in the accounting software, or, more commonly, simple clerical error. This is a term you hear with amazing frequency in discussions with royalty departments. The level of incompetence in major label royalty departments is truly astounding, if the sheer number of clerical errors they willingly admit to is any indication. In pursuit of royalties, my only concern is getting a fair shake for my client, but I have to wonder sometimes what is going on in the company as a whole if they can't count accurately.
There's an old saying, "A fish smells from the head." In the current context, it means that problems at the department level are evidence of problems throughout the company. Conduct several royalty inquiries and you will have ample reason to doubt the accuracy of any number the company or the industry quotes, from how many releases are profitable in a given year to the revenue lost through unauthorized Internet downloading, to the bottom line on their own financial statements. At the very least, their credibility is thrown into doubt by their condoning extremely shoddy bookkeeping in their own royalty departments. When the problems start with the very first line of the statement, these fish smell very bad.
The deeper you go into the statements, the stranger they get. Taken individually, without reference to a series of statements, the problems and errors on a single statement are not so apparent. There will be pages of detail purporting to report royalty earnings on every release on every recording in the catalog, showing the units sold, the royalty rate, and the balance payable for each line item. Examine a series of statements and the discrepancies are astounding. Line items simply disappear for several periods, only to subsequently reappear. Royalty rates on individual line items fluctuate from statement to statement without explanation. On some statements of foreign royalties I have reviewed, I have found the first entry for some countries not to be sales, but returns. Unless those copies spontaneously generated overseas, there is just no way that is supposed to happen.
Another remarkable aspect of these statements is the frequent incredible delay in reporting royalties to the artist. It is not uncommon to see adjustments taken for reporting periods three, four and even five years late. No explanation is ever given for the delay. Those reserves against returns sometimes just disappear from one statement to the next, and some companies apply the reserve percentage across the board, even on synch license payments for movies and TV, where there is no threat of a return. Probably more egregious is the practice of completely omitting items from the statement. In a recent statement review I conducted, covering a five-year period, I discovered over thirty uses of the artist's recordings that NEVER showed up on the royalty statement. The great majority of these were licenses of individual songs to third parties for use in compilation CDs, and many of those were foreign releases.
Frankly, if it were not for the Internet, many of those may not have come to my attention. Ultimately, the recovery on those thirty items alone was over $40,000, representing over two times what the company actually paid in royalties in the same period. In addition to reviewing the royalty credits, you also have to look carefully at debits taken against the balance. In one case I am familiar with, an artist was invited to participate on a tribute CD to another artist on her label. She would be entitled to her regular royalty, reduced proportionately by the fact she was providing only one of fifteen tracks. All in all, she was going to get about a nickel for every copy of the CD sold. Even though it meant very little income, she happily agreed, as she had greatly admired the honored artist, and they were going to use a duet she had recorded with him before he died, which had never appeared on a CD. Her next royalty statement contained a charge back for one-fifteenth of the entire recording budget of the tribute CD, even though they used that previously recorded song, and the costs had already been charged against her when the song was initially recorded. In another case, an artist who has not recorded for his former label in over 25 years was surprised to find a $25,000 debit on a semi-annual royalty statement from that company marked for "recording costs." Without the chargeback, they would have shown about $2,000 in royalties payable for the period. The company explained that they had remastered a number of his old recordings in anticipation of releasing them on a Greatest Hits CD.
Three years after the debit was taken, the CD has yet to be released, and there are no plans to release it in the foreseeable future. That chargeback is still on the books, and at the average credit he has gotten on statements since then, it won't be paid off for over six years. If that CD is ever released, because of the standard deductions and adjustments, his effective royalty rate will be three percent. On the off chance that they actually count the sales properly, he will still have to see sales over 40,000 copies of the non-existent CD just to wipe out the chargeback and get back into the black.
Still another magical adjustment was used in another case with which I am familiar. A record company licensed a song for use in a television commercial. The license fee was $20,000, to which the artist was entitled to half under his contract. The license was reported on a royalty statement. So was a $12,000 remastering charge. The artist ended up owing $2,000 more than he made, and the company made $22,000 on a $20,000 license.
As another example, I have seen a number of statements from a variety of artists contain a debit against royalties for fringe benefit contributions on behalf of the artist to the AFTRA Health and Retirement Fund. This practice is not only in violation of the recording contract, but of Federal law. Even sadder, and far more outrageous, is that in some of those cases, the amount debited from the artist's account was not paid to the Funds at the time the debit was taken, and in many cases, it was never paid, and the artist never got the benefits. Under the common restrictions on audits conducted by the artist, he or she can't get access to the ledgers that would show if that amount was ever paid to the AFTRA Funds. Finding and proving the missing items and completely erroneous debits is the easy part of my work. Getting to the truth of what is actually on the statement, which requires an audit, is the hard part, and the company makes it as difficult as possible. Absolutely no justification or explanation is given for the changes in royalty rates from statement to statement. No supporting documentation is ever supplied for any of the numbers on the statement. And the audit process is a whole new set of hurdles.
First of all, by the contract, the company requires that an audit begin within a limited period, usually two years from the date of delivery of the statement. However, even given the common practice of making adjustments for prior periods on current statements, companies will resist, often strongly, opening the books going back to the earlier period if it is outside the two years.
Second, again by the contract, the auditor you retain often must be approved by the record company. I know there are a number of very good and very aggressive accountants who are routinely approved to conduct audits under this clause, but the simple fact of approval, and the risk of an auditor losing that approval for subsequent work, has to raise questions about the integrity of a system that requires one party's approval of someone in a directly adversarial position.
Third, some contracts require that the auditor not work on a contingency. Given the fact that royalties may constitute the greatest part of an artist's income, this policy may stand as a practical barrier to conducting many audits.
Fourth, the contract commonly requires that the retained auditor not currently be representing any other artist on an audit. This means that every auditor must start from scratch every time, escalating the cost of the audit and the time necessary to complete it. As delay means the artist's money stays with the company longer, earning interest, there is no question what side this favors.
Fifth, what the auditor can see is severely restricted by the contract. He may view sales records, and that's about it. Whether that even extends to licenses is often the first battle waged by the auditor, and not always won. It certainly doesn't include manufacturing records, so there is no way to know how many copies were produced, or what that jewel box actually cost. It doesn't include shipping records, so there is no way of knowing how many copies actually went out the door, how many of them were actually free goods, and how many came back.
Detailed information on licenses is extremely difficult to come by in an audit. One example of what can happen when a licensing document is "mistakenly" revealed to an auditor happened several years ago. A very popular recording was licensed for use in a big budget film. In fact, the title of the film was the title of the song. The license fee was reported to the artist on a royalty statement and his share paid. Apparently under the impression that the company had completely complied with the fee split in this case, the royalty department allowed the auditor to review the file on the license. In the file was a side agreement between the record company and the film producers under which the record company received a "consulting fee" which was more than twice the amount of the license. The record company provided no services to the film production other than delivery of the recording they wanted. The parties are still fighting over that one.
Because the industry has become so consolidated, many of these licenses are now strictly in-house affairs, with a label licensing a recording to a special products division, a music club, or a foreign subsidiary under the same corporate umbrella. These intra-company transactions are simply bookkeeping maneuvers. No money changes hands. The companies routinely refuse to disclose to auditors the terms of these in-house transactions.
Even under these circumstances, there is something remarkable about artist audits of record companies. They always find money due. In the audit reviews I have conducted, and every audit I have ever heard of, there is always money found, and often substantial amounts representing 20% or more of what the artist should have received under the contract. Back when I learned about audits in general, well before I got involved with recording artists, I was told by an experienced accountant that audits were generally intended to prove everyone was living up to their obligations, and that most people did. He said 95% of audits would show that payments made were accurate. In the inaccurate 5%, half would show underpayments and half would show overpayments, and in the great majority of cases, those discrepancies would be for small amounts. In my experience outside the record industry, I found my accountant to be right. Record company audits fly in the face of my experience in the real world and in the face of simple statistical probability. If there is one thing this committee accomplishes, and I hope it is a great deal more, I would hope it would be an answer, under oath, of how it happens that every audit finds money due to the artist. It is one of the great mysteries of this industry and the real-life equivalent of the coin that when flipped, always comes up heads.
So, at the end of an audit, which may be a couple years after the first demand for one was made, the artist finds himself at the poker table with the company again. There is a very good chance the artist has not been paid anything in the interim. In the middle of the table is what the auditor has found for the artist. Does the company fold and simply push the chips to the artist? Not unless the artist has the leverage of a current hit. You see, the record company knows that the artist has already retained the auditor. If he was fortunate enough to be allowed to hire the auditor under a contingency contract, the auditor's fee is going to be part of the pot, and the artist is going to have to give some of whatever he gets with his lawyer, too. Now, the company can afford to stall a little longer. They know that if the artist has to sue, he will pay his lawyer up to a third, or more, of the recovery. Furthermore, they know if he files suit, they can hold up subsequent royalty payments because of the dispute. If the artist is still under contract, they can countersue on all those self-serving oddities
[Music Forum regrets that the available text finishes at this point. All efforts to date to find the remainder of the text have been unsuccessful.]
Too many players on the ground?
The painful transition from CD sales to online music sales
The mp3 revolution
Imagine two musicians sitting in a remote place in the middle of the winter in Norway, recording the vocals and guitar for their next album, real-time and online to the main studio located 400 km away. If this had been today, no one would be impressed. However, this took place in 1991, even before the introduction of the World Wide Web and the Internet, as we know it today. This was my first experience with Fraunhofer Institute and their cutting edge technology, which led to the famous mp3.
With the introduction of mp3 in the mid-90s, the hunt for content for distribution online to consumers was the driving force for a range of new players entering the music industry: Telecoms deregulating from public service to private sector companies; software developers of solutions to protect music; software developers of solutions to play the music; PC/software manufacturers who wanted their products to transform from PC to entertainment terminal. Content is King became the new slogan among venture capitalists.
Some major players in the music industry were scared about the risk of losing control, while several small actors were thrilled about the new opportunities to do marketing and distribution by themselves, without signing up to long-term exclusive agreements with record companies.
The dominating players could be separated into three groups with different strategies:
1. The software and hardware industries started the battle of industrial standards, which was a purely technology driven strategy. Better known brand names include Liquid Audio, Microsoft, Real Audio, Apple (QuickTime).
2. The telecom industries started the battle for new customers and more run time in a rapidly deregulating market, which was more a run time driven strategy.
3. The multinational record companies were scared about what they saw, and started looking for new alliances which would help them to protect their rights and maintain their hegemony.
However, very few of the above mentioned players were aware of the severe impact of the legal regulations which had been developed for years by publishers, collection societies and other players that cared about the income of the artists. Most of the newcomers to the music business battlefield were so focused on their technologies and gold-rush opportunities that they forgot the rights holders (creators, performers, publishers and producers); they also forgot that most new artists are being recruited by independent producers, and that the most important brand name is the artist, and not a telecom or internet company.
There is no doubt that the newcomers from the software and telecom industries have had enormous benefits from the so called mp3 revolution, even though they have not yet succeeded in establishing a successful consumer service. Despite the fact that mp3 (the most used key word on the internet) has generated a lot of traffic, paradoxically, the music industry has been the losing party -- especially the creators and the performers.
However, there are some very interesting longer term scenarios that have come out of the mp3 revolution. Some tremendous marketing tools have been developed (i.e. Napster and Gnutella) and some very interesting monopoly breaking opportunities have appeared, which over time may benefit the creators and rights owners.
Today there are more than 300 million licensed mp3 players in the market. Statistics tell us that the new technologies such as those created by Fraunhofer Institute, contributed to some significant structural changes in the music industry: more independent labels; new middlemen offering content management and licensing services; new consumer behaviours; less control over distribution.
At the time when the industry started its consolidation and began to focus on developing viable and secure services, another paradigm shift was taking place, namely the change from terrestrial to wireless telecommunication. It is very interesting that this took place in Europe and Asia and in several developing countries before countries like the US. The term leap-frogging country was exemplified with this wireless revolution, and researchers/developers in this industry became aware that in the near future we would be able to offer music and other digital content to consumers anytime and anywhere.
While the combination of the online revolution and the wireless revolution creates many new opportunities, it also creates a lot of challenges, mainly related to content search/retrieval and licensing. As the need for further and heavier audio compression technologies was reduced by the introduction of increased bandwidth both for terrestrial and wireless networks, the major tasks for new technology standards were to solve those new challenges. The new metadata standards MPEG-7 and MPEG-21 were introduced by the ISO International Organisation for Standardisation).
From audio format to metadata formats
This year, I have had the pleasure of working with the Fraunhofer IDMT in the project MetaStoRe, aiming at the build-up of a shared, extensible database for sp-called low-level audio-visual features based on the MPEG-7 Standard (ISO-IEC 15938). This means that all music tracks gathered will be automatically indexed on rhythm, tempo, sound, musical structure (segmentation), melody, bass line, etc., by means of a music analyser. (This is a software analogy to the automatic text indexing in a search engines like Google, but the difference is that MetaStoRe indexes musical elements instead of free-text documents.) The database is intended to serve as a basis for a great number of future applications and services like advanced browsing for multimedia content, music genre classification, musical similarity retrieval and many more. Those technologies can beneficially be applied to increase sales of audio-visual content, for mobile information services, in games or e-learning applications.
As an example application, a recommendation mechanism for end users combined with interfaces and modules for search/retrieval and e-learning applications will be set up. This application, among others, makes use of a musical similarity calculation technique recently developed by Fraunhofer IDMT, by this means establishing relations between the gathered data sets. Example: find one song from territory A and find similar songs from other territories, which shows in an intuitive way how music from different styles and countries of origin are related to each other.
Democratisation of the industry
When applications such as those initiated by the MetaStoRe project become available, they will bring another dimension to the industry, such as democratic search engines based on the content (rhythm, tempo, melody, sound, mood). These differ from those guiding customers to content sold to similar music tasting customers, as they only enable discovery of music which has been on the market and has been widely sold. Monitoring applications coming out of the next years MPEG-7 developments will make mp3 distribution traceable on the world wide web, - and thereby, enabling royalties to be charged and distributed to rights holders - which will have a significant impact on the market in the leap-frogging countries - also listed among the top pirate market countries on various statistics - still relying on the mp3 technologies.
I believe that we soon will experience new value chains for the legal distribution of music and other digital content, where the focus is moved from content to metadata, as this will be the key to guide consumers and monitor the use of music in the new markets being pushed by the strong position of mp3 and the appearance of new wireless and wireless hybrid distribution outlets. As this development is expected to have the fastest penetration in the leap-frogging countries, this may lead to a significant growth in revenue. In huge markets like the Chinese market, with 400 million mobile phone users and still a pirate market (mainly of illegal productions of CDs) the potential of reducing the pirate market from 95% to 90% or 80% by shifting to wireless online is obvious.
When reaching the point where MPEG-7 based applications for navigation/filtering can be combined with MPEG-21 based applications for online licensing, we are facing a completely changed creative industry over the last 10 years and the next 5 to 10 years. The whole revolution was initiated by the mp3 from Fraunhofer IIS in the music industry and is now taken over by the content management revolution based on MPEG-7 and MPEG-21 being addressed for the entire creative industry.
The DRM boomerang effect
The various Digital Rights Management Systems (DRMS) introduced in the 90s all had the objective to protect against unauthorized use of audio files. However, they had many downsides, as they all were proprietary solutions and to a significant extent limited the users freedom to play his purchased music on various devices. Retrospectively, it can be said that many of these systems probably were failures driven by some measure of panic in the recording industry. The last attempt to limit the use of CDs by adding a DRMS on the CD itself quickly created a massive negative reaction among the consumers and consequently also among the artists who experienced dissatisfied customers and fans.
It seems that the industry has learnt a lesson from this, and its attitude is becoming more relaxed on the whole DRM issue. More and more industry players are now speaking about unprotected mp3 combined with light DRM systems designed for tracking sales in order to have the required statistics to distribute fees and revenues.
New business models are required
The business models of iTunes, Microsoft, RealNetworks do not work in developing countries because of the lack of control of pirating activities. In particular, the use of music and other media content on Internet and mobile platforms does not benefit the creators. Given the size of the population in countries like China and India, their rapidly growing economies and their growing connectivity, it is vital both domestically and internationally to establish some structure for monetizing the usage of intellectual property online, as a basis for establishing the principle that everyone should be paying something for the use of music and media content. The present situation with extensive unauthorised use of otherwise protected material represents big losses for the rights holders.
A business model for the collection of payments for unauthorised use of digital content can improve on this situation. It should permit an initial small monthly charge as a payment for the use of unauthorized content. The charge would be passed onto the rights holders according to usage. The individual service providers could decide if the service should be free, paid by revenues from advertising and/or sponsorship or by a service charge. Revenues could be pooled and split between the rights holders according to the relative usage of the available content. To do a fair split between the rights-owners it is necessary to know what songs or pieces of music were listened to or downloaded. For this, a simple tracking DRMS is required as well as access to the printouts of the service provider of the usage of music by frequency of title. Strong audit rights are also required to assure that one gets an accurate account of what material has been accessed. Independent usage research on the net might also be used, as a control when tracking is not possible for the service provider.
This licence would legitimize existing unauthorised services. The license could be accessed by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobile phone operators and be applied and restricted to non-commercial services. Any additional commercial music service would be expected to pay a meaningful proportion of its gross income for the use of the content. Charges for these services would vary, and licensing would need to be discussed and negotiated on a case-by-case basis. Clearly though, the underlying blanket license would put a restraint on charging structures for commercial services.
The solution is probably to provide different services, i.e. targeted for Time Rich and Cash Poor Communities and alternatively, the Time Poor and Cash Rich, where the first target could be offered a business model based on subscription as described above, while the second target could be offered a premium service with higher audio/media quality and more value-added information based on a unit-by-unit charge, including super distribution. The first model could be run without any file protection and only a tracking model, while the second model could be run with kind of DRMS protection.
The consumer as the new distributor
Another business model challenging the value chain is the Superdistribition business model, which is a bit similar to filesharing but with the major difference that the file is being distributed from one consumer to several consumers.
There are already several interesing models on the market. One of them is the Potatoe System developed by 4Friendsonly AG, which is a spin-off company of the Fraunhofer Institute. This system awards the reselling consumers over a maximum of three resale steps, and it is free for any DRMS and is thereby regarded as an open system not controlled by proprietary software providers.
Combined with the new generation of hand-sets and a new international licensing regulation allowing superdistribution across territory borders, we may see the contours of the ideal online distribution model, where the winners will be the artists/rights holders and the consumers, the two members of the value chain who love each other and where passion for music is the main energy behind sales.
The Brokerage of Cultural Music.
by Fotis Kapetoloulos
I woke on a Saturday morning recently to the pleasant shock of seeing Drakos, formerly the Xylouris Ensemble on the ABC program Recovery! The ABC on its popular youth music and culture show featured George Xylouris and the Hannah sisters. Did this signify that culturally diverse music was finally mainstream? Did it mean that I would not have to go to work on Monday for Multicultural Arts Victoria?
Was Drakos on Recovery because they are cross cultural, multicultural, popular or good? Possibly because of all the above. Drakos, meaning literally 'dragon' in Greek features Cretan, Celtic and from what I could imagine in the haze of a Saturday morning, traces of Indian musical traditions. Crete, the most ancient of cultural ports in the Mediterranean, has influenced Greece's cultural and political development since antiquity. Crete, the home of the Minoan civilisation, is a strategic and fiercely independent island between the Middle East, Asia Minor and Greece. What musical or cultural relations can there be between Celtic and Cretan or Asia Minorite traditions?
On the surface Drakos is symbolic of the pop notions of cultural diversity in Australia, the usual paradigm of Celtic meets Greek, music in the cross roads, music of migration, come to mind. In reality, Drakos represents the historical fact that cultural distances between Ireland and Crete are possibly smaller than the chasm between Ireland and England. In Australia the Celtic and Greek traditions merely met again as they did in the past.
The sounds of Drakos, the oral traditions woven in the lyrics, the improvisation and scales, would have made some sense to Indians, Arabs, Hungarians, Slavs, Southern Italians and even Spaniards. They may not have made as much sense to Germans, English, Dutch, Lithuanians and Estonians; nevertheless, they too would have found the melody lines. Drakos is as relevant as Greek and Jewish music was in New York in the 1920s in the form of Klezmer music. The lyrical themes in Drakos are possibly not too dissimilar to those expressed by any culture which has been exiled, colonised, and economically maintained pre industrial family and clan structures.
Multicultural Arts Victoria (MAV) is funded by the Victorian Government on an annual basis to promote artists of a culturally diverse background. We have existed since the late 1970's and have developed significant intelligence which is harnessed strategically in achieving our aims of seeking new markets, helping immigrant artists to develop new networks and assist them in securing profile and funding. We broker exchanges and we advise government when asked, or lobby when we aren't asked.
We are official promoters of cultural diversity in the arts. Paul Sheehan in his recent pulp-political Barbarians at the Gate (1998) would have us in his recidivist sights. We missed out on his inquisitorial scrutiny over the what seems to be a cache of corruption by the manipulative 'multicultural industry. We, unlike him and his fellow travellers, do not subscribe to the eugenism inherent in notions of national culture.
Many of our members have been economically, politically or culturally banished from nations which have sought to define national culture. Our Oromo poets and musicians have fled Ethiopia, our Russian Jewish musicians the terror of modernism in the ex Soviet Union, the Hispanics an array of petty dictatorships, the Sri Lankans the war of: cultural clash. In Australia, not unlike the United States or Canada, they have found the nation's core prescription is citizenship not culture.
To be Australian it suffices to be a citizen or permanent resident. Unlike the Germans, Greeks or Israelis, there is no need to be genealogically linked to the modern and very imaginary nation. Yet Australia is currently going through possibly the last ideological battle with colonialism. Clearly by nature of the principle of individual liberty, and no tax without representation, Australia's non-Anglo-Celtic citizens will win out in the battle over who should be admitted into this part of the commonwealth.
In this milieu, we in the sector have become cultural brokers. As Dr. Richard Kurin of the Smithsonian (1997) describes the notion, Cultural brokers study, understand, and present someone's culture (even sometimes their own) to nonspecialised others through various means and media. Brokering also captures the idea that these representations are to some degree negotiated, dialogical and driven by a variety of interests on behalf of the involved parties. (Kurin: 1997).
We are a small fry in comparison to the venerable Smithsonian Institution, yet we weave through the so called mainstream in an attempt to motivate institutions and producers into presenting Australia's culturally diverse arts. We are aware of the limitations of social reality, of the issues faced by ordinary people. Multiculturalism and its success, or failure, as policy is dependent on the realities of economy and political will. Yet regardless of official policy, music and food are still the best barometers of cultural exchange.
Music has always been a key signpost of dramatic social and cultural change. How relevant is Flamenco to the Spaniards without the Jews, Gypsies and Moors of Southern Spain before the ethnic cleansing by the Spanish Inquisition? Franco banned all forms of community based and improvised Flamenco which reflected the non- homogeneous nature of Spanish culture. Flamenco under Franco became banal balleto folklorico presented as a tourist product or as national propaganda. It was not until after Franco that Spaniards began to seek again the duende, or darkness in Flamenco.
Rebetika or Greek blues, as they are commonly known, were brought into the urban and poorer port areas of Greece by the mass of Asia Minor Greek refugees after the Balkan Wars of 1913 and the fall of Constantinople in 1921. Rebetica have their base in the minor chords and cyclical tones of Asia Minor, the influence of the Jews in Salonika, who settled there after they were expelled by the Spaniards, even the Charleston heard by early Greek immigrants to the United States. Rebetica and their musicians were also considered antisocial and dangerous by elite urban conservative or peasant founded right wing governments. They sang about exile, drugs, unemployment and sex, not issues which conservative governments like to ponder.
The life style of those in Rebetica mitigated against the values of European educated Greek Diaspora who were desperate to de-orientalise Greece after four hundred years of Ottoman rule. Yet, Rebetica thrived and after the fall of the last Greek dictatorship in 1974 became recognised as a music of depth and meaning. Sadly the western project in Greece has created a schizophrenic eurocentric nation.
The music of America is also founded on the lives and experiences of enslaved Africans, colonised Hispanics and Caribbean islanders, the urban Jewish, Polish, Irish, Italian, Greek immigrants, rural northern European settlers and so on. The musical borders of America still bleed into each other, as do geographical, demographic and national borders. The examples above are scant and far more articulate explanations have been written by ethnomusicologists, folklorists, journalists and historians.
As examples they illustrate the relevance of cultural diversity to the development of contemporary urban rural folk, popular and even fine music. Gershwin, Ravel, Theodorakis and many others created fine orchestrated music based on traditions of exile, cultural melding and discord. Australia with its very recent history of colonisation and immigration also exhibits some good cross cultural musical developments. Drakos is one example. There are others such as the Italian Kavisha Mazzella, Greek Ilios ensemble, Japanese Masayoshi Okubo, the Chinese Music Ensemble and more.
At the same time, the vocabulary in authentic Australian cross cultural music is limited. Most of what passes as cross cultural music is either a professional or academic study by composers and musicians seeking new sounds. Within immigrant communities, the balleto folklorico is still highly visible as it serves the political and cultural success of cultural diversity. In funded cross cultural music projects the most evident are the flee market models of cultural representation, (Kurin: 1998), where basically anyone who in some way or another can get a table, or stage, room, or lectern(Kurin; 1998) or gallery or home page into or onto which he or she can exhibit the stuff of culture.
Sadly, many of the relationships between cultural brokers, scholars, communities, institutions and presenters in Australia are immature, strained and sloppy compared to those in the United States, Germany, France and other parts of the world. Even though Australian daily life is far more comfortable and tolerant than some of the above societies. Cultural brokers in Australia now are finding it difficult to defend the benefits of cultural diversity, because of limited understanding, insufficient research and poor presentation in the past. Most of our festivals, art or community ones, have made few attempts to authenticate or understand cross cultural music in Australia. It is no wonder that most of what passes off as multicultural music is a potpourri of some of the worst rather than the best in musical traditions. It is far too easy to pluck a few strings of bouzouki, enhance it with some didgeridoo and add tabla or sitar, then present the musical mess as cross cultural music.
I believe that there is some excellent cross cultural music out there. It is played in a variety of stages and contexts. The best occurs where there is a high level of immigrant community activity such as in the Greek and the very active Hispanic communities of Melbourne, the Timorese in Darwin, the Italians of Adelaide and Perth and so on. As global communications become more accessible and recording cheaper, there should prevail a more interesting and natural mix of new world music. There is no doubt that the patterns of urban development, the continued immigration, will in the long run augur the development of Australian music.
In the final analysis, while we still balance the uncomfortable relationships between researchers, cultural brokers and presenters, communities are making new music in weddings, festivals, rituals and as individuals. We may need though to become sharper, more critical and more aware of the diverse histories which make up Australian music. Melbourne's Greek music is some of the best in the Diaspora of Hellenism, as is Melbourne's Klezmer music some of the best in the Jewish Diaspora. Maybe we do not need to add all things together to make cross cultural music; rather we should allow cultures to permeate naturally as they always have. As cultural brokers we should be more active in cataloguing, recording and researching rather than stringing together bad concepts for funding and for festivals' sake.
Fotis Kapetopoulos is the Director of Multicultural Arts Victoria
The Arts; Benefit to Business- a businessman talks to his colleagues
- a businessman talks to his colleagues
Richard Pratt Tonight I want to make the case for Australian business caring about and giving much greater support to the Arts.
Not because I believe that Arts are more deserving or more worthy than the other causes in our society. I don't. Indeed, I sometimes say that there's no such thing as an unworthy cause. And accordingly, the Pratt Foundation supports a wide variety of charities from the relief of poverty to medical research.
The reason I warn to make a case for support of the Arts is that I believe it's in the enlightened self-interest of business. Enlightened and self-interest. I don't shy away from either word. Enlightened self interest is why we in the Pratt family and at Visy Industries give to the Arts. lt's why I and mernbers of my family have become involved in Arts bodies and foundations. I hasten to add that enlightened-self interest is not the only motivation.
We actually enjoy the Arts we support.
But there's far more to it than just having good seats at opening nights or somewhere to entertain customers. We believe we have an obligation to do it. Our obligation is to our business, to the business culture in which we operate, to the communities within which we operate our factories, and to the wider society of all Australians. But with some notable exceptions, this sense of obligation is not shared by the majority of Australian companies.
And yet Australian companies are very generous supporters of other community activities, especially when it comes to sport. But the irony is that even if the only criteria were direct economic benefits, I believe that the Arts can give business at least equal, if not better, value for money than sport. And when we come to the less immediate, more long-term benefits to business and the nation as a whole, there's simply no comparison. The Arts have it.
If you're sceptical about this, consider the United States figures. While only 11 per cent of Australian business gives to the Arts, 47 per cent of American businesses do, up from 37 per cent in 1991. Where Australian corporates give jusi five percent of our public outlay budgets to the Arts, the Americans give 19 per cent. Four times as much. The most important point to make here is that it wasn't always so.
Just 30 years ago the total outlays by American businesses on the Arts was only about $30 million. Today it's around $3 billion. Even allowing for inflation, it's been a quantum leap.
Now I've been doing business in the United States for a decade. So no one knows better than me how strongly the Americans believe in the free market. Yet clearly the Americans have leamed that involvement in the Arts makes good bottom line business sense. Wny is that so? There are a few ways to answer that question.
The first way is descriptive. I can tell you what the research shows about the reasons why Australian companies in fact support the Arts. The rnain reasons, in order, are:
1. as a community service,
2. to improve the company's image in the public's eyes,
3. to provide the opportunity to entertain clients and staff) and
4. to participate in regional or local Arts activities as part of specific marketing or public relations activities.
These are understandable reasons. And they are beneficial to companies.
There's another reason why I believe Arts sponsorship can deliver value for money. It has to do with demographics.
Few people would argue that a key difference between a sports audience and an Arts audience is that the sports audience will be 60 per cent male and 40 per cent female. However, an Arts audience will be 60 per cent female and 40 per cent male. Yet when it comes to purchasing decisions, up to 80 per cent are probably made by women. In other words, exposure to Arts audiences is exposure to a higher percentage of actual purchasing decision makers.
But all these reasons for investing in the Arts undersell the actual and potential value of Arts sponsorship and philanthropy. So instead of sticking to the descriptive answers of why companies say they give to the Arts, let me offer you a prescriptive answer. Let me tell you why those companies already investing in the Arts should be investing more and why those companies not currently investing should begin to do so.
The Arts are a positive force for business because if the investing is planned, targeted, monitored and reviewed, it can yield three broad dividends of value to business. First, the Arts can directly stimulate economic growth. Second, the Arts increasingly are vital to the development of an appealing cornmunity that will attract business leaders to live, work, and visit. Thirdly, a positive approach by business to the Arts helps to encourage new ways of thinking across the whole society. It helps us to reflect on our deepest concerns and aspirations and hold them up for examination.
Let's begin with economic development and that, of course, means jobs.
Business is not yet sufficiently aware in Australia that the Arts spark economic growth, revitalise cities and improve the business climate. But the evidence is there, locally and internationally. For every dollar spent on the Arts, an additional three or more dollars is generated in hotels, restaurants, retail transportation and parking revenues within most local economies.
Perhaps I should emphasise something at this point. By "the Arts" I'm using the term in its widest sense. I'm not just talking about the opera, ballet, symphony orchestras, the museums, theatre and the visual arts. l'm also talking about entertainment., by which I mean everything from musical comedy, rock concerts, street theatre, pipe bands, the film industry, and line dancing. Now when anv of the Arts are done well they generate growth: they increase employment tax revenues, encourage commercial and residential real estate projects, foster tourism and attract new industry and business.
The last point leads on to the second main reason for investment in the Arts. Each year Fortune magazine takes a poll of 500 CEO's of transnational companies in America, Asia and Europe. The magazine asks them to list the top 10, and then the top 59 cities around the world in which they would prefer to do business. A striking feature of nine of the top 10 cities is the very high rating given to the accessibility of varied Arts and cultural activities. This is a key factor in attracting executives and their families in a mobile global economy.
But supporting the Arts as a way of making communities more attractive to outside investment is only a secondary reason. The primary reason is that it's good for internal investment, for those of us already here. A community which is Arts rich has a multiplier effect not only on revenues and jobs, but on the quality of living standards and the social fabric.
This is because, both for practitioners and for audiences, the Arts contribution to the fund of "social capital" has increasingly figured in the work of social scientists and economists trying to understand a paradox. That paradox is how some countries which seem to have much the same economic features and policies are nevertheless so dramatically different when it comes to growth and development.
I believe the answer, can be found in the social and cultural networks which bind people together in their non-working lives. This matters just as much, if not more, as what they do - or even how they do it on the factory floor or in the office. In those "social capital" networks, the Arts, especially when extended to involve people at the grass roots, play a significant role. Which brings me to the third reason for investment in the Arts.
Long before we heard the terms globalisation and world best pratice, John F Kennedy had something insightful to say about the Arts and civilisation. JFK said: "The life of the Arts, far from being an interruption, a distraction in the life of the nation, is very close to the centre of the nation's purpose and is a test of a nation's civilisation."
Our nation's civilisatlon is being tested. In an era of rapid global change, educated analytical and creative thinkers are at a premium. They are the human resources who will make the difference to businesses and to the growth of this country. We all know that a comprehensive and continuing education for aspiring leaders in business, must include management and technical training in many specific fields. But unless it also includes an awareness of, and sensitivity to, the creative process, it will produce leaders who will not reach their true potential. Why do I believe this? Because if you're merely aware of the Arts and creativity, you are aware of the past and who came before you. You are aware of the great masters who have set the standards of excellence and the importance of attention to detail.
But if you're sensitive to the Arts, you're also alive to the promise of the future. To the excitement of innovation, risk-taking and experimentation, and to the need to look for unfamiliar solutions to familiar problems. Balance, harmony, timing, inspiration, method, improvisation, boldness, infinite care, chancing your arm, a sense of possibility, patience, daring, empathy, dissent, illumination, communication, transformation. Each of these, and all of these, are qualities we would like to associate with our best decision-makers in business. Yet they're all definitive qualities we also associate with the Creative Arts.
Indeed, we derive our sense and understanding of those qualities from the Arts. How often have we heard the expression: we have a fine general manager or marketing director or financial controller. But if only he or she could think outside the square. Thinking outside the square. That is precisely what creative thinking involves. And it's what a community where the Arts are nurtured, fostered and supported, will encourage. Not just in business; of course, but in every area where problem-solving and imagining the future hold the key. That's so whether it be at the level of national or local government or in the classrooms and playgrounds of our schools.
This is a time when we in Australia are grappling with what we mean when we talk of the impact of globalisation. We read daily of the importance of finding ways to compete in the global marketplace. We debate incessantly on who we are and how to define our national identity. Surely one inescapable fact in all this clamour must be clear by now. No company or government can consider doing business in the global market without factoring in language, culture and the Arts - ours and theirs - as essential elements. But an awareness of culture and the Arts, our own and those of others, has not been seen as all that relevant to profits, dividends, takeovers and balance sheets.
Let's acknowledge it. Most of us have not recognised a relationship between involving ourselves in the Arts and the bottom line. At best we've viewed contributing to the Arts as helping our image as socially responsible corporate citizens. Indeed our public company chiefs are on the whole, reluctant to give major support to the Arts or to other charities. They argue that they're protecting shareholders funds.
But I believe that if public companies held a special general meeting to ask shareholders for the okay to donate a small percentage of profits to charities and the Arts, they'd be amazed at the positive response. Mind you, ladies and gentlemen, the Arts do nor always make it easy for companies to give them support. There is a certain element within the Arts community which regards any assistance except government assistance as somehow tainted. These people see the Arts as a closed shop - a club for the privileged few. And they think that what they have to say about the Arts is all there is to say.
But if we are to progress for all society's benefit, the Arts must learn to respect the culture of business and vice versa. Once that happens, all sorts of possibilities and partnerships can open up. It's a myth that Australians are not generous people. When presented with a cause - like the current disaster in PNG - Australians are the most generous people in the world. What is true is that Australians don't generally like to ask each other for help. But in this globalising world of political uncertainty and community division, we need to help each other now more than ever.
I believe its up to corporate Australia to take the lead and step up its support for all community activities from the Arts to welfare. Only then can we hope to generate the sort of society which well be happy to pass on to our future generations. v
Richard Pratt heads Visy Industries and is Chair of the Australia Foundation for Culture and Humanities, which has taken as its purpose the brokering of relationships between corporations and the arts. This is an address first delivered at the Sydney Institute and published in that organisations The Sydney Papers, Spring 1998.
More about What a Recording Contract Really Says
Fred Wilhelms “Too many veteran artists are still singing for their supper because the record industry ate their lunch.”
Two editions ago (October 2002) Music Forum published a part of the testimony of lawyer Fred Wilhelms about the extraordinary maneuvres of the major record companies in the USA to avoid paying contracted artists their full royalties. At the time, we were unable to find the remainder of the testimony nor its author. However, since then Mr Wilhelms and Music Forum have discovered each other, and he has kindly provided the missing text. He has also offered to keep Music Forum readers up to date with further developments, and has taken advantage of the holiday break to do so. Finally, given that the same companies have branch offices in Australia, Music Forum asked whether Mr. Wilhelms knew of similar practices here. Read on…
The first part of this testimony can be found in Music Forum 9/1, October 2002. The text here picks up a little before the end of the October text:
(T)here is something remarkable about artist audits of record companies. They always find money due. In the audit reviews I have conducted, and every audit I have ever heard of, there is always money found, and often substantial amounts representing 20% or more of what the artist should have received under the contract. Back when I learned about audits in general, well before I got involved with recording artists, I was told by an experienced accountant that audits were generally intended to prove everyone was living up to their obligations, and that most people did. He said 95% of audits would show that payments made were accurate. In the inaccurate 5%, half would show underpayments and half would show overpayments, and in the great majority of cases, those discrepancies would be for small amounts. In my experience outside the record industry, I found my accountant to be right.
Record company audits fly in the face of my experience in the real world and in the face of simple statistical probability. If there is one thing this [California legislature] committee accomplishes, and I hope it is a great deal more, I would hope it would be an answer, under oath, of how it happens that every audit finds money due to the artist. It is one of the great mysteries of this industry and the real-life equivalent of the coin that when flipped, always comes up heads.
So, at the end of an audit, which may be a couple years after the first demand for one was made, the artist finds himself at the poker table with the company again. There is a very good chance the artist has not been paid anything in the interim. In the middle of the table is what the auditor has found for the artist. Does the company fold and simply push the chips to the artist? Not unless the artist has the leverage of a current hit. You see, the record company knows that the artist has already retained the auditor. If he was fortunate enough to be allowed to hire the auditor under a contingency contract, the auditor's fee is going to be part of the pot, and the artist is going to have to give some of whatever he gets with his lawyer, too. Now, the company can afford to stall a little longer. They know that if the artist has to sue, he will pay his lawyer up to a third, or more, of the recovery.
Furthermore, they know if he files suit, they can hold up subsequent royalty payments because of the dispute. If the artist is still under contract, they can countersue on all those self-serving oddities they have built into the contract. They know a suit will drag out the resolution, and they are in much better financial shape to ride it out. Maybe the artist will get frustrated and settle. Maybe she'll die. These factors all weigh heavily in favour of the artist settling the audit for a smaller percentage of the audit disclosure, and the companies know it.
For veteran artists, those no longer under contract, but whose recordings are an important part of the company's catalog, and which can represent 40% or more of the company's total sales, the amounts involved from a single
royalty period are rarely enough to provoke an audit, even on a contingency basis. Even if the royalty statements understate royalties by a third, the time and expense necessary to prove the shortage is greater than the probable return. The right to audit is empty for these artists. Because the system designed by the industry is so expensive, they know they can continue to misstate royalties without any real risk of penalty. And even if they are caught at it, all they have to do is pay up what is owed. Facing this, the artist takes what the company is willing to pay, if anything.
What can be done to address these problems?
1. Require full disclosure by the record company of the meaning of the relevant terms of the contract; in essence, a "Truth In Recording" statement that lays out, in detail, the effect of the various deductions and setoffs on the contractual royalty rate, and the rights and obligations of the parties. This statement would become part of every recording contract. You may not be able to even the economic playing field, but the new artist has to go into the deal with open eyes, and a falsified Truth In Recording statement could, and should, carry penalties that can be enforced by the State.
2. Two, prohibit the contract clauses giving record companies approval of auditors, the type of agreement between the auditor and the artist and the "one auditor, one audit" rule. There is no justification for these displays of brute bargaining power.
3. Prohibit the use of flat percentages for standard deductions such as packaging and free goods, and require the company to provide supporting documentation for the credits actually taken.
4. Require the industry to disclose on the statement the basis used for calculating royalty rates on every line item, foreign and domestic and explaining every change in those rates, and permit an auditor full access to the pertinent books and records, including manufacturing and shipping records that bear on the numbers on the statement. Further, require the company to provide the artist with a copy of every license granted for the artist's recordings, so he or she can know what to look for on the next statement.
5. Expedite the audit resolution process by establishing an arbitration board for royalty claims, with allowances for interest, and penalties for underpayment.
6. Enact a confiscatory 100% tax on all amounts established to have been due and not paid for a period of over one year. The industry executives may pay more attention to the shortcomings of their own procedures if the result is that they have to cut into the golden parachute fund. If they don't, the revenue would easily fund the arbitration process.
7. Limit the percentage someone can take for assisting an artist in recovering royalties, and prohibit the permanent diversion of future royalty income for past recovery work.
8. Put the state's muscle behind the other corrective measures. Establish, by law, the artist's right to void a contract if a record company repeatedly underreports royalties, with the artist recovering all rights to the recordings created under the contract. This would raise the stakes for willful underreporting by putting the company's catalogue at risk, and potentially make it financially worthwhile for both present and past artists to pursue audits. In the one-sided poker game that royalty accounting has become, this could be the artist's ace in the hole.
If such remedies were put in place, we might see the extinction of the recording contract drawn and defined under California law. If other jurisdictions eventually follow your lead, we may see the day when all recording contracts will be interpreted by the same high standard or, in the alternative, the local law of some backwater used as an industry safe haven.
California, and the states that follow your example, would be rid of the possibility that it allows a large industry to take advantage of its employees, and it should set off some extra alarm for the artist about to sign his first contract to see that it will be interpreted based on the law of some place like Somalia.
Many veteran artists are still performing, well past the age when most of us would be more than happy to sit back and enjoy the fruits of a lifetime of work. Some of them truly love to sing and they give their audiences their money's worth every night. Too many others, however, are out there, despite age and illness, because it is the only way they can pay their rent. They are still singing for their supper because the record industry ate their lunch.
I thank the committee for the opportunity to testify today.
The Fred Wilhelms Update
Entering Christmas week, it has now become impossible to reach anyone in the record industry by telephone. As frustrating as I find this on behalf of my clients, it does permit me the time to keep my promise to you to keep you advised on developments in artist-label relations.
The ripple effect from the three California Senate hearings has been widespread. Lontell McMillan, an attorney from New York City who testified in Sacramento the same day I did, has announced an initiative to have the New York State legislature explore the same issues under scrutiny in California. From all reports, he has found several willing sponsors and there is a strong possibility of hearings in the spring to be followed by the introduction of legislation. State legislators in Georgia, Tennessee and Florida have also made some supportive noises.
This trend has not gone unnoticed by the major labels. BMG was the first to respond, announcing a royalty simplification program. In essence, they are scrapping the multiple standardized deductions (packaging, free goods, etc.) in artist contracts by resetting everyone's royalty rates to be based on the wholesale price rather than retail. The announced goal here is to simplify the system, although they admit that it won't result in any larger payments to artists. Beyond that, it is mostly a cosmetic change as they still won't let an auditing artist see manufacturing or shipping records, so it will remain a matter of faith that the label is reporting an accurate count on sales.
BMG appears to be relying on a standard contract clause permitting them to unilaterally make changes in royalty accounting procedures as long as they don't result in smaller payments to artists. Frankly, I see this as a rather slender premise as they will be doing more than changing procedures, but will be adjusting the actual royalty rates for thousands of artists. I have a suspicion that they will try to impose the new numbers and when the artists complain, tell the world that the reaction is proof that artists really don't want royalty reform. This is really all about public relations and doesn't represent any real improvement.
On the other hand, an internal Universal Music Group memo has been "leaked" to the press laying out plans for real substantive changes, especially in the audit rights granted to artists. Many of the internal roadblocks to efficient and effective audits (including access to manufacturing data) would be abandoned by BMG if the proposals in the memo becomes actual policy. That "if" is a pretty big one, and UMG has made no formal acknowledgment that the memo even exists, let alone become actual policy.
Even if they come to announce the changes outlined in the memo, there is no guarantee they will ever come to pass. UMG has a spotty track record when it comes to comparing words and deeds on royalty matters. I am adopting a stance halfway between skepticism and optimism.
If BMG and UMG hoped that this news would blunt the efforts of Senator Kevin Murray in California, they were mistaken. A couple weeks ago, he released a statement on record industry practices that made it clear he did not intend to drop the subject in the coming term.
This is a link to the rather lengthy statement:
I have to admit to a small amount of personal pleasure in seeing some things in the Murray statement that are neatly lifted from my own testimony. If Murray's proposals come to fruition, it will truly level the playing field.
The importance of Murray's involvement on these issues cannot be minimized. All too often, complaints from artists and their representatives could be (and were) discounted by the industry as contract negotiating ploys. Even when AFTRA, the union that represents vocal artists finally stepped up (after decades of neglecting recording artists), the same defense was employed. Murray, on the other hand, has no personal ax to grind, and his ostensible impartiality makes him a harder target for the labels.
I think Murray is an ambitious man with his eye on elective office higher than State Senate, and I think he realizes that the record industry has a reputation about equal with lawyers in the minds of the public, making them a very convenient and visible opponent. Be all that as it may, he is also quite bright and committed (for whatever reason) to succeeding on his initiatives here. This can be only good news for artists in California, and as we have seen, what starts there moves outward pretty quickly.
2003 could be a watershed year for artists' rights. I fully expect California to close the loophole in the Seven Year Law (limiting personal service contracts to that term) that the RIAA slipped into an amendment in 1989. This step, of course, only puts things back the way they were fourteen years ago. Real progress will require either further legislation or, as Murray hopes, voluntary and cooperative action by the labels to clean their own houses. It ought to be a great deal of fun seeing how all this plays out.
Music Forum asked Fred Wilhelms whether the same practices are rife here, given that the major record companies dominate the Australian market. His response:
Although I have no direct experience with the Australian market (except as it shows up as line items on royalty statements on my US clients), I would be greatly surprised if the majors treat Australian artists any differently. As far as I know, the same accounting practices are uniformly applied around the world. Given the continuing contraction of the industry and the cuts in "back office" staff that have become routine, I suspect that the lowest common denominator of conduct is truly global.
As long as artists believe that professional success requires a contract with a major label, the initial contract the artist signs is going to be a lopsided one. This is simply the result of the label having things (marketing, promotion and distribution) that the artist needs to achieve his or her goals, and for which the artist is willing to give up many things for the opportunity to achieve those goals. The company on the other side of the deal is well aware of this, and it gives them an advantage in negotiating that no state, federal or global law can diminish.
For the vast majority of artists who sign those contracts, they are bad deals because they will not achieve the success they seek (for commercial or artistic reasons) and will have little to show for it. Still, they will sign those contracts, and without coercion, just for the chance they make it big. The odds are against them, but I have yet to meet an artist who starts without the confidence he or she is among the favoured few. Maybe that is one of the drawbacks to the gift of talent. Current industry practices, however, stack the deck. The way things work, the deal goes from bad to unfair.
At the third California hearing (which I did not attend), witnesses from the industry admitted that they employ certain "royalty protocols" to make their jobs easier in processing the thousands of statements they must send out every period. These protocols are essentially default decisions applied across the board to all artist royalty accounts whether or not those decisions are actually permitted under the individual artist contract. There can be little question which side these protocols favour.
I do not believe these policies, and dozens more like them, were put in place with any malicious intent, but I do believe they were done completely without any regard to the interests of the artists. The legendary "true" thieves of the US record business; the Morris Levys and the Syd Nathans, are long gone, replaced by accountants and guys with MBAs. The new breed doesn't do these things to screw artists. Simply, they do them because they can. The Murray hearings exposed this arrogance in an impartial forum, and the proposals in his summary statement are clearly aimed at ending it.
Fred Wilhelms is an attorney in Nashville, Tennessee working primarily with veteran artists and songwriters on issues of royalty and rights recovery. His past and current client list includes Grammy winners and inductees in the Rock and Roll, Blues and Vocal Group Halls of Fame. He is the former National Director of the AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) Health & Retirement Funds.
JAZZ CO-ORDINATION: R.I.P.
The December 2002-January 2003 edition of Music Forum magazine saw two letters to the Editor (one avowedly angry) that were highly critical of the recent Australia Council and NSW Ministry of the Arts cuts to the National, NSW, Queensland, South Australian and Victorian Jazz Co-ordination (also known as Development) programs.
Both were very quick to characterise the cuts as an apparent deliberate dismantling of core jazz infrastructure, questioning thereby the Australia Councils ongoing support to jazz.
Such a dire interpretation of the raw facts ignores the bigger picture of how jazz as a performance artform has evolved and currently operates in this country, and is furthermore predicated on one set of erroneous assumptions while selectively ignoring other pertinent facts.
It is monotonously argued that Jazz Co-ordination programs are infrastructure.
They are nothing of the sort. They can (and should be) a catalyst to infrastructure, wherever and whenever infrastructure is completely lacking or vestigial. However, once infrastructure builds to a reasonable volume, further momentum is gained by directly oxygenating that infrastructure itself.
The need for a music co-ordination program arises as a consequence of the presence of a structural vacuum in a particular genre. A co-ordination program can jump start the process and bring into being an evolving infrastructure, just as some scientists believe lightning was a necessary ingredient to invoke multi-cellular life from the primordial broth.
However, once life is evolving and those cells are dividing, lightning is no longer necessary for life. (In fact, in some instances it is a threat to life).
The aim of every jazz co-ordination program should be to make itself redundant. That is the measure of its success.
In the mid-1980s the jazz co-ordination programs breathed life into a non-existent contemporary jazz scene in Sydney and Melbourne. Before that jazz musicians simply played where they could find engagements, rarely in anything resembling ideal situations.
In these early days, jazz was hoisted up by its own bootstraps. Musicians (with the odd exception) were not then particularly proactive. However, a tiny coterie of resourceful and dedicated jazz enthusiasts in both Sydney and Melbourne who tended to have academic backgrounds seemed able to make effective propositions to the Australia Councils Music Board.
First came the NSW Jazz Co-ordination program. This hosted and eventually spawned the Sydney Improvised Music Association, which was (and remains) a presenting organisation. Since an earlier presenting organisation, the Keys Music Association, which was a musicians co-operative, had not endured, it appeared that this was the way to go: musicians would be serviced by these organisations, but play very little part in the running of them.
Following on from NSW Jazz Co-ordination and SIMA came the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative and the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz (the first festival in Australia largely dedicated to modern jazz). Jazz Co-ordination played a facilitatory role in bringing about the Wangaratta Festival, which has since gone from strength to strength under its own momentum. Jazz Co-ordination programs appeared in all other States, some receiving State funding, some Australia Council funding or a combination of the two.
Another layer subsequently evolved in the emergence of National Jazz Development, which eventually was given (along with NSW Development, without any clear demarcation line) one term of Triennial Funding by the Australia Council. The national program was clumsily grafted onto NSW Jazz Development, causing considerable anxiety in other States, especially Victoria.
By the late 1990s, Jazz Co-ordination was becoming increasingly irrelevant (at least in NSW and Victoria) due to an emergence of a real, ongoing and energetic infrastructure.
The original core infrastructure was the two presenting organisations, SIMA and the MJC and the Wangaratta Festival, along with the record companies (in particular ABC Music, Rufus and Newmarket) that began to release significant amounts of recordings. However, through the 1990s artists themselves became much more proactive and created new infrastructure. In some cases they received a certain amount of assistance from the Jazz Co-ordination programs to do this (advice on grant applications etc), but once these new layers were in place, the Co-ordination programs were again downgraded in their relevance. Which is as it should be.
In Sydney in the late 1990s, a new generation of modern jazz musicians (currently under 35) formed what became the Jazzgroove Association, and received funding from the NSW Ministry for the Arts and later the Australia Council to present weekly concerts.
Artists began to arrange their own national and international tours as well as recordings and were funded to do so. Again, Jazz Co-ordination was initially useful in supplying contacts and advice, but soon these artists had their own connections and Co-ordination from the outside became increasingly irrelevant.
A glut of jazz CDs subsequently emerged, under the imprimatur of ABC Music, Rufus, Newmarket, Origin and others.
Permanent ensembles such as the Australian Art Orchestra and Ten Part Invention were formed and received direct core funding for their activities. Other ensembles continued to receive touring, recording and presentation grants. Established jazz artists received major Australia Council awards like Fellowships and other prizes such as the National Jazz Awards hosted by the Wangaratta Festival, while emerging artists sought and were awarded Development grants to study overseas.
In 2001, the Freedman Fellowships for jazz were established by the Music Council of Australia, demonstrating that jazz could be significantly sustained by infrastructure other than that dedicated exclusively to it (which might include the New Music Network and the Australian Music Centre which represents jazz composers).
By the millennium, the Australian jazz scene was thriving (though much was still needed). However, the perception in significant sectors of the community was that Jazz Co-ordination (particularly at the National/NSW level) was increasingly irrelevant, factionalised, entrenched, demonstrably anti-democratic in its policy of administration and furthermore diverted Government funds away from the real furnace of activities: artists, presenters and artist/presenters.
People who had indeed served well in the past and had made a real difference, but who were no longer really needed, seemed to be clinging to power on committees or in jobs that were hard to justify as any kind of essential service. Some that supported them seemed to be doing so more for sentimental reasons or from an unnecessarily negative view of the efficacy of the scene or the capabilities of artists themselves.
Through political activism, many prominent members of the Australian jazz community voiced their dissatisfaction with the status quo on Jazz Co-ordination, by standing for entrenched executive positions on the NSW committee and later through publishing their articles on the website OZJAZZFORUM (www.talk.to/ozjazzforum).
It might be that this campaigning from within the jazz community from 1999-2001 played its part in influencing the decisions of the Australia Council that saw the demise of several of these programs in 2001 and 2002.
Those that argue that Australian jazz has lost essential programs are mistaken, and argue fallaciously. Those programs are no longer needed; they have served their purpose. They remain in smaller States (SA, WA, Tas) where they are still vital.
The standard argument in favour of permanent jazz co-ordination goes like this: classical music has its permanent infrastructure, large lavish concert halls and theatres (apparently exclusively for its use), dozens of people in full-time administration while jazz has nothing comparable that it can call it own.
Ergo (in one giant leap of sophistry), jazz apparently needs (and will always need) funded Jazz Development officers.
The analogy is false.
Firstly, in making comparisons with classical music (an excellent methodology), symphonic music and opera should be left out of the equation. There is simply nothing in jazz that requires 100-300 performers and the necessary support apparatus this entails.
Lets compare apples with apples! Jazz is chamber music, almost always played by 3-6 performers, and extremely occasionally by 10-17. As such it should be compared with the classical chamber music/new music scene.
The building argument is a red herring. Buildings are available to those who hire them - there is no performance space in Australia that has an exclusive policy of presenting classical music. The question on buildings should be: how can jazz present itself more often in halls as modern chamber music, as well as clubs? However, it is worth noting that a club like Bennetts Lane in Melbourne is, as it happens, a building exclusively devoted to the presentation of jazz music, a similar feat which classical music cannot claim. The fact that on some nights, the performers fees are linked to the Box Office does not dilute this fact. Jazz musicians by and large no longer think of themselves as employees - they are not unionised. If their fees are linked to the box office sometimes, they are operating as self-presenters of their work on a small business model, much as a visual artist who exhibits in a gallery does. This is their choice, and it provides incentive to undertake additional self-generated promotion.
The infrastructure of classical chamber/new music is the presenting organisations, which include the ensembles themselves, as well as the supporting record companies and others.
Jazz has the same infrastructure, it just needs further developing. By analogy, more ensembles should follow the Australian Art Orchestra model of incorporating, seeking direct funding (including corporate funding), hiring administrative staff (perhaps shared with other ensembles) and presenting their own core programs. Similarly the jazz presenting organisations need to be strengthened.
Jazz needs to follow the healthier classical scene by example. There is no Classical Music Co-ordinator and neither should there be a jazz one, except in the particular cases of States that really still do need a leg up. Jazz just needs to continue to be more proactive in stoking the engines.
The engines by and large are, and are stoked by, the artists themselves. They have proven to be extremely efficacious and undoubtedly will continue to hone their proactivity, and in so doing will also create the conditions for the next emerging generation to thrive.
The presenting organisations also do very valuable work and should be strengthened. They should set aside State rivalries to work together more productively, perhaps even merging into some sort of national jazz Musica Viva. Artists should be far more involved in the running of these organisations (with the exception of those like jazzgroove and the Make It Up Club in Melbourne that are already artist-run).
Letter writers tell half-truths when they talk about pernicious cuts to jazz and lack of strategy by the Australia Council.
Jazz Co-ordination programs in the larger States have indeed been cut. But most presenting organisations have had funding increases (for example the MJC received an additional 15% for 2003) or at least have retained funding stability (SIMA is the exception not the rule, with minor cuts in the last two years).
In addition, to counter-balance the cuts, new organisations and activities appear and attract new funding. There has been a huge rise in the current Australia Council funding for Victorian-based jazz projects and organisations, dwarfing the funds extracted from Victorian Jazz Development. And dollar for dollar, these funds will show up far more meaningfully as facts on the ground when going directly to the music, rather than towards administrators trying to serve an entire community, no matter how well meaning.
There has also been burgeoning jazz activity in programs like International Pathways and an additional 2002 Australia Council program that earmarked $40,000 specifically for proposals from the field for national jazz strategies (though no applications were considered worthy and most of the funds have been carried forward for tendering in 2003).
To close, two examples of how jazz can now thrive without this outmoded Co-ordination paradigm, one from the big end of town, one from the small.
Firstly, the success of Paul Grabowskys Australian Art Orchestra (AAO) in securing the backing of the Australia Council, the Sydney and Melbourne Festivals and the Sydney Opera House for ongoing high profile performances of, for example, the multi-media jazz/theatre work by Sandy Evans Testimony demonstrates what jazz artists can achieve for themselves and that they are indeed a massive part of the infrastructure of jazz. Paul Grabowsky has written that the fact of the AAOs progress without the support of [Jazz Co-ordination] should be proof enough of the latters irrelevance.
At the other end of the spectrum, the young jazz artists who run the jazzgroove Association in Sydney continue to surmount the obstacles placed before them and present cutting-edge music to new audiences in new venues as well as establishing an in-house record label devoted to Australian jazz. Their destiny is self-propelled, and they need no Co-ordinators to spin any wheels for them.
Its time to wake up and smell the cappuchino. Co-ordinators are a waste of resources in any scene that is flourishing. Many of the people that they are supposed to be serving are already so far ahead of the game that they ideally need their own exclusive management, administrators and agents to directly further their activities on their behalf. Co-ordinators are of no use to them: they cannot apply focussed energy, as they have to spread their resources equitably around an entire community and after years of entrenchment seem to disappear under red tape in any case, seldom seen at a live performance. The result is that everyone gets crumbs at best.
Emerging artists who are not so self-started also no longer need Co-ordinators. They directly seek assistance and support from the various programs at the Australia Council and State Ministries and lobby the various presenting organisations for opportunities. They do this very well already. Most are tertiary graduates.
To quote Paul Grabowsky once again in conclusion The time has most certainly come for the recognition of the fact that improvising musicians are not helpless, unimaginative, semi-literate sociophobes driven to despair by the complexities of a funding application but that the very music they play suggests initiative and resourcefulness. They know what to do with funding and they should be in the position to be able to administer their own careers without the interference and occasional open disdain of self-interested state-funded promoters and organisations.
Jazz is well and truly up and running in this country and the world is starting to take serious notice. We certainly need acceleration of the rate of progress and more resources, but hanging on wistfully to 1980s ideas like Co-ordination is no longer the way forward. A waste of fuel at best, at worst its Central Planning lugubriousness actually puts the brakes on.
Jazz Co-ordination: thanks for the warm up, now well get on with the show.
Mark Isaacs is a Sydney-based, internationally touring and recorded pianist and ensemble leader. He is a composer and is currently working on a concerto for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra to feature James Morrison as soloist. He served from 1999-2000 on the NSW Ministry of the Arts Music Committee, and founded the website Ozjazzforum.
Interactivity: The new dimension of mass media
By Herb Peppard
You can read about music, listen to music, watch movies about the lives and times of musicians; none of these experiences compare to playing an instrument or singing in a choir.
You can read tennis magazines, listen to radio sports reports of the Davis Cup, watch Wimbledon on TV; none of these compare to your first victory on a tennis court.
The power of participation is now being made available and designed into mass electronic media. A great deal of our leisure time is dominated by radio, stereo systems, movies, and television. These are one-way, non-participatory, linear experiences.
Television programs, movies, radio shows, music tracks and pieces are constructed by third party creators and consumed by passive audiences. There is a third dimension, a new dimension beyond passive audio and passive visual in mass media - it is the dimension of interactivity.
Interactive computer games have in the past five years become bigger money spinners than movies. Kids spend more time with games than watching television. This generation demands interactivity in their entertainment and will increasingly demand interactivity in all areas of their lives, particularly education and training.
To develop exciting applications in these interactive formats requires understanding the nature and power of interactivity to teach, entertain and inform.
I have worked with writers and producers of traditional entertainment, promotions and training media in developing interactive multimedia programs in their areas of expertise. Many, if not most, of these creators and producers have found the development of non-linear interactive products in the range of challenging to baffling. Traditional linear art has an accepted narrative structure - storytelling formats and modes of progression. The audience is moved along to a conclusion or experiences emotions and logical connections designed in by the creator. The choices are made and presented in a preset order - you get the beginning, middle and end and there's not much you can do to change things.
The interactive piece can encourage the audience to be co-creators - to play the end first or backwards or over and over again. The interactive 'audience', who through the act of participation now become the 'users' or 'players', might try a program in Chinese or with Chinese instruments, add to it, speed it up, put in a new character, at the very least roam around in the piece like a traveler in a world rather than like a bystander watching the world parade by as it pleases. Interactivity cedes control to the user and expands motivation and involvement through active participation.
Interactivity in mass media electronic formats can be divided, for sake of discussion and examination, into three levels - point and click or navigate and explore interactivity; question and answer or input and feedback interactivity; and construct and create interactivity.
The point and click level of interactivity is exploratory - being able to find what you're looking for in order to pinpoint information or being able to follow pathways of interest. The major power of the Internet at the present moment is point and click power. A user can roam the world to find needed information at a scale and speed unprecedented in history. The net surfer can also play associative pinball bouncing around from site to site as fancy or whim dictates, from top ten acid house hits to the government's just issued arts policies. Exploration uninhibited by breadth of material or the frustrations of access e.g. traditional library systems) can be exhilarating and addicting.
The question and answer level of interactivity is being able to input choices, answers, reactions and get feedback from the system. This is most obvious in computer games where the player tries a particular move - for example in a Formula 1 racing simulator, the player tries to pass his opponent on the inside of a bend and is driven into the wall. He bursts into a spectacular fireball, blood and scorched limbs plaster the screen and he learns to avoid that maneuvre in his next two dollar game. The system is responding in its subtle way - providing feedback that sticks in the memory and he's ready to drive the other guy into the wall next time. More mundane examples of question and answer or input and feedback interactivity are education programs that ask the user to, for example, match bird song to bird picture, getting a feathery performance on correct selection; or in an interactive video choosing one technique for a young hopeful from a series of greeting techniques, earning the hapless suitor a slap on the face when he tries out your inappropriate selection.
The construct and create level of interactivity gives users the tools to create something new, something of their own not pre-programmed into the software. The simplest examples are perhaps the draw and paint programs common to most word processing packages. Software creation tools are becoming increasingly more powerful and increasingly less difficult to use. So, for example, interactive multimedia technologies are allowing those who can't read or write standard musical notation to compose music; or giving laypeople the tools to build three dimensional plans for their dream homes complete with interiors they can 'walk through'.
The short-term future for interactive multimedia is in the form of CD-ROMs and the Net with interactive TV creeping in over the next few years. The computer has more and more become the focus of home entertainment and edutainment. CD-ROM software has become cheap and extensive. It's not difficult to see the value of a home computer when parents can get their kids a software version of an encyclopedia that cost one tenth that same encyclopedia that sits dustily on the livingroom shelf. CD-ROM products will get more powerful in the quality of their video and standard computers will get cheaper and faster permitting astonishing video, effects, three dimensional animation and so on.
The Net will get larger, have surprising developments in the quality and power of the interfaces developed for its applications and will of course get more commercial. You'll have to start paying to get what you really want.
The longer term future will bring even more powerful computers and more powerful connectivity. This means that people will be able to have more tools to create individually and in groups. The other main power and attraction of the Net, besides the sheer volume and variety of accessible information, is the opportunity for group interactivity in the form of chat groups and multi-user discussion groups. The future will see the combination of virtual reality tools with groupware tools. These tools will lead to new world group experiences that will completely blur the boundaries of the 'real' and the cyber.
The future navigation and explore capabilities of Point and Click interactivity might mean virtual reality group tours of ancient Egypt accompanied by Pharaohs from the past and archeologists from the present. It will probably end up costing just as much as the real tour and the tour group will no doubt be just as boring as the live ones now crammed into buses.
Future Question and Answer programs might be such training applications as performing operations on virtual patients where feedback could include inappropriate parts coming off.
Construct and Create interactivity will lead to creative groups building whole new worlds with exotic citizenry, creatures, flora, etc. The creators will then live in the new world having enthralling adventures; though there will no doubt be economy model group VR creativeware that only allows you to build Canberra and choose the adventures of a bureaucrat.
The question is then will we decide to live entirely in cyberspace and will we know the difference.
Herb Peppard works for Wilcom Pty Ltd
Controlling the Music; Controlling the listener
Steven Brown and Ulrik Volgsten
I. Manipulation by Music
We can think about two senses in which the notion of manipulation can be applied to music as a social communication device. They form a hierarchy. In the broadest sense, all music can be said to be manipulative to the extent that it influences a persons emotional state and tendency to act. This is the everyday view of music as a powerful modifier of peoples emotional responses and manner of behaving.
In this very broad view, music can only be looked upon as non-manipulative to the extent that it fails to impact on a persons emotions or motivations. Be that as it may, all music is produced with the intention of being manipulative (i.e., affective and motivating). The strength of this perspective for sociomusicology is that it highlights certain fundamental conditions for understanding the cognition of music. Its weakness is that it encompasses virtually all music and therefore makes little functional distinction between different categories of use of music.
Contained within this global view is a narrower way of applying the notion of manipulation to music. In crude terms, the idea of manipulation in communication implies that the senders intentions are both selfish and concealed. In this regard, manipulation is a type of deceptive communication in which the receiver falsely believes that he will achieve benefits by acting in the interests of the sender. In general, the social rewards of such a use of music are highly asymmetric between sender and receiver. In the sociology of music, a canonical example of this is propaganda music. It is a use of music which is designed to achieve compliance and social control through deception.
This focus on deception allows us to distinguish manipulative from non-manipulative uses of music. If manipulative uses are defined as deceptive (whatever that may entail), non-manipulative uses of music must represent honest forms of communication. In such cases, music is often used to signal something socially positive for both the sender and receiver, and it is done so in an open (though not necessarily conscious) way. It is a cooperative arrangement in which the social rewards of the musical experience be they at the levels of emotion, motivation, or action are shared more or less equally between the sender and receiver. Good examples of this consist of the many "folk" musics that are performed and appreciated at the level of small cohesive groups or subcultures.
Our equation of musical manipulation with deceptive communication raises many questions. Let us consider two of the major uses of music in the audiovisual media: 1) music in television commercials, and 2) musical underscore in film and television. In both cases, we can clearly see musical manipulation in the first sense: music as controller of emotions and motivation. But what of manipulation in the second sense of music as a deceptive device? Let us consider that the uses of music in commercials and film differ in several fundamental respects. First, music in commercials is used to sell commodities whereas film music is used to enhance the narrative properties of the film or their associated ideologies. Second, music in commercials very often makes use of well-known music (thus parasitizing upon previous positive evaluations the listener may have for the music), whereas film music usually involves original music. Third, music in commercials involves short sound-bites, whereas music in film very often involves long segments, sometimes extending the full duration of the film; music in commercials is designed to create an instant and instantaneous effect whereas film music is designed to steer the temporality of the films narrative as it unfolds. For all these reasons, the uses of music in commercials and film represent fundamentally different applications of music in the audiovisual media.
How do these different cases map onto the distinction between honest and deceptive uses of music outlined above? In the case of television commercials, the sender's intentions are basically selfish: the primary goal is to sell a product. Music is a device for enhancing affinities for the product, and the use of well-known works is a clear attempt to capitalize on previous positive associations to the music. During this process, the receiver is made to believe that the product is something that can benefit him or her even though the major beneficiary of the commercial is the group of people profiting financially from the sale of the product.
In the case of film music, economic profit is much less of a factor since the principal consumer activity is completed by the time the film begins. Film music, then, provides a broader spectrum of uses that span the range from honest to manipulative. Relatively "honest" uses of music include musics capacity to create an atmosphere, recall a time period or geographical location, heighten emotions during a scene, temporally link disparate events, motivically tag particular characters, and so on. Where film music can be viewed as deceptive, however, is in its supportive role in conveying certain ideological perspectives about the subject matter of the film. Film-makers are in a very public position to promote social ideologies that extend well beyond the film, and music is an important accomplice to this act. These messages sometimes benefit certain groups at the expense of others. Again, in thinking about film music, we must consider a broader spectrum of uses than in the case of television commercials, one that varies with the film itself and the uses of music therein.
A third example is that of ambient music. This example provides something of the interface between music in commercials and music in film. Like music in television commercials, ambient music has a clear underlying economic motivation, and works by creating associations between music and some commodity, the commodity being the consumer goods for sale in a given establishment. It makes exclusive use of well-known music for this purpose. However, like cinema music, ambient music is about creating an emotive atmosphere that supports a certain kind of narrative, the narrative (in this case) being your own personal interactions in that environment. Music is manipulative in that it serves as an important contextual variable influencing how people feel and behave in a given environment. It biases behavior in certain directions ("act drunken and wild here" "act calm and refined here" "act sensual and sexy here"). There is no sign on the door saying "act drunken and wild here"; there is only music telling us this. So here again we see the two meanings of musical manipulation: on the one hand, music is socially manipulative simply by virtue of the fact that it is affective and motivational, but on the other, it is deceptive to the extent that it is used to promote economic benefit for certain parties.
To develop a deeper understanding of all these examples, we need a sociomusicological analysis rooted in the dynamics of communication: who sends what message to whom? what are the senders intentions? to what extent do the receivers responses conform with the senders intentions? what are the conditions influencing the receiver's interpretation? what kinds of costs and benefits are involved in this type of communication? Among the problems in applying the standard "sender-message-receiver" model to musical communication are concerns about the extent to which it is possible to identify either a single coherent sender or a fixed message.
II. Manipulation of Music
The manipulative uses of music can be contrasted with the manipulative control of music. Music is socially controlled at many levels. We mention three areas in this regard: the music industrys control over the production of recorded music, the re-use of well-known music in new contexts, and the governmental suppression of musical expression. While the previous discussion of manipulation in music focused on selfishness and deception, the current discussion includes yet a third sense in which the term manipulation can be used in sociomusicology: manipulation as control.
What are we to make of the fact that 85% of all the CDs in the world are produced by five mega-corporations? Clearly that is an unprecedented level of artistic control of music (at least in the CD-dominated culture of the West) that applies to many genres of music. The music industry of the last four decades has flourished by creating a system of larger-than-life superstars generating profits from big-selling recordings. This clearly occurs at the expense of diversity and free choice. To the extent that recordings are economic commodities, stars become the puppets of the big corporations which maximize their investments by having one CD sell big rather than producing a large assortment of less profitable recordings. Manipulation of music in this case clearly involves control: control over the means of production, a type of control that places severe limitations on the styles of music that are accessible to people.
We have already made mention of the re-use of music in our discussion of music in television commercials. This point applies not only to the re-use of complete works but to a diverse assortment of sampling and rearrangement techniques. This is one of the major moral issues in the sociology of music not least because this kind of re-use occurs on a rampant scale and because well-known music occupies an important place in any societys cultural heritage. In the same way that people dont want their Bibles used as paper weights they dont want their most beloved pieces of music used as associative symbols for commodities to which they assign no positive value or performed in a manner that betrays the original feel of the music. However, should audiences have "moral" rights to the music of their culture? This question raises the complementary and controversial issue of intellectual property rights. Rights of authorship are designed to protect the interests of composers and performers, but to what extent can we talk about "original" versions of musical works or the composers of such versions? Despite the seeming perversity of hearing a Tchaikovsky symphony played during an automobile commercial, there are strong historical and cross-cultural precedents for the re-use and re-fashioning of melodies in new contexts. This is especially true in the case of ritual practices in which words take precedence over music. Thus, the notion of the musical work as an object, one which is vulnerable to theft, turns out to be historically and culturally contingent.
As a final example of the manipulation of music, let us consider the concentration camp Theresienstadt. Here was the ultimate act of deception, an almost cinematic backdrop that permitted the Nazis to convince a visiting delegation from the Red Cross that there were no extermination camps. We know in retrospect that this ploy worked, and that music was a major player in this deception. Manipulation of music in this camp occurred such that a group of predominantly Jewish composers and musicians was encouraged to express themselves musically in ways that were completely prohibited in the "real world" of Third-Reich-dominated Europe. However, this latter prohibition of the real world was a type of honest, socially-negative control of music (the Nazis never hid their disdain for the music they labelled as "degenerate") whereas the Nazi incentive to compose and perform music in Theresienstadt was a deceptive tactic to use the composers and musicians as pawns to fool the Red Cross inspection team. The device worked; the Red Cross inspectors left satisfied and the composers and musicians died in gas chambers shortly thereafter.
Theresienstadt allows us to see a tie-in between our discussions of the use and control of music. Regarding use, the music composed in the camp served as an important symbol of hope and cohesion for the prisoners of the camp, and yet this same music was used as a manipulative device by the Nazis to dupe the international community into believing that the world was a different place than it actually was. At the level of control, the Nazis imposed a global ban on the "degenerate music" of the Jews, Blacks and atonalists in the countries ruled by the Third Reich, and yet permitted and even encouraged performance of such outlawed music in the make-believe world of Theresienstadt.
We have mentioned two ways of thinking about the notion of manipulation in sociomusicology, one which views all musical expressions as manipulative (by virtue of their emotion- and behavior-controlling effects) and the other which sees only a subset of these expressions as manipulative. The latter focuses on deceptive communication, although it provides no clear criterion for determining what is deceptive and what is not with regard to the uses and control of music.
At the experiential level, we hear music all around us, everywhere we go. The magnitude of this exposure only increases with time. The roller coaster rides at Disneyland now come complete with John-Williams-style orchestral scores supplying crescendos at just the right moments. People walk away from these rides feeling exhilarated. What was in the olden days merely a visual-kinetic experience has, in our time, become an audio-visual-kinetic experience in which a musical composer has carefully designed a correspondence-map between the contours of visual space and those of the melodic line. The German comparative musicologist, Erich von Hornbostel, called this type of correspondence between music and space "melodic dance" one hundred years ago. Nowadays we seem to go through life experiencing a type of melodic dance wherever we go. The real question, from the standpoint of this conference, is whether we dance freely or whether, like wooden puppets, we come with strings attached.
Steven Brown is a biomusicologist working in the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. Ulrik Volgsten is completing his doctoral studies in musicology at Stockholm University. This paper slightly adapts their opening address at the Music and Manipulation conference..
Australian Music on Community Radio
Are artists still the vanguard? Or, does it matter?
By Marian Pastor Roces
Running circles around vanguard art
Asked to reflect on the question, Are artists still the vanguard? at the recent Congress of the International Society of Performing Arts, my first thought was how I am loath to serve up a grand, sweeping declaration. The question itself, as well as the monolithic positions it tends to encourage, are such artifacts of a high modernity we have been trying to imagine a way out of, hesitatingly, for over half a century. Moving away more resolutely from that modernity now, it becomes clear that the question requires less an answer than a swerve. One refrains from allowing vanguard aesthetics unequivocal, uncontested status -- not the least because the cult of the heroic, virtuoso individual contravenes a profound sense of the plural. Yet this, too, is a sweeping declaration. It seems very much the case that this question inevitably returns us to its own era, seals us in, within a space seemingly with no exit.
But seek an exit we must. It occurred to me to seek recourse in private space. This way, I thought, it might be possible to infuse that space with such delicately differentiated minutiae, to complicate that modernity with such wild detail, that the limits of our confinement in the modern enterprise are imploded. This way, I thought, it may be possible to inflect my remarks with my deepest hope: that a political understanding of art practice today might be sought in the delight of utter nuance.
Nuance, for me, resides in little stories. It is admittedly a bias for endless streams of seemingly disjointed fragments linked with elusive "sense." An epic chant, in a manner of speaking. Which is the manner of speaking I chose (perhaps affected) to address and elude the question at the same time. I chanted. My little stories ran circles from home, which is the Philippines, and meandered, because home can no longer, like anywhere else, be excised perceptually from the global. In this extremely dense domain where inside and outside form the most unexpected figurations, the vanguard ambitions so sacred to previous generations of modern artists, will seem, I daresay, to be a terribly inadequate paradigm.
Epics and beheadings
It happens that epic chants are on my mind because of news last night on CNN that the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in the southern flanks of the Philippine archipelago may have beheaded an American hostage. We hope of course that this did not in fact come to pass. But: this shift of the on-going story into the domain of horror that reached me through the TV in my hotel room, reminded me once more of the grand declaration. For the power of violence is clearly that of the impenetrably generalized statement. Violence glosses over confusion, renders things in stark and deceitful black-versus-white terms, and creates a discourse inhospitable to nuance. So it is with heightened passion that I make a point of the confusion atomizing this field of struggle. This is not the place to even begin to discuss the outlines of this complex set of contests, but it is important to underscore the existence of the complexity itself. It is only in the context of this acknowledgement that we can cite one terrible difficulty. For most people, first of all for the majority of Filipinos, the long history in which the voice of violence has been loudest, has made it nearly impossible to differentiate between an outright bandit group and a number of liberation fronts engaged in a secessionist movement because of wrongs inflicted by a Christian majority on a Muslim minority. To too many people in the world, Filipinos among them, the Muslim is a fearsome creature. This bias has cost all of us dearly.
I wondered last night what the epic chanters have to say. For that very same group of islands in Southern Philippines is home, not only to rabid bandits and migrant Christians who have taken over much of the land of earlier inhabitants, but also to quite compelling epic traditions. Living epics, a few apparently longer than the Mahabharata and the Ramayana combined, these are chanted today by practitioners who continue to elaborate on the archaic and performative skills. More importantly, the chanters do comment on current events. But hardly anyone hears, much less pays attention to epic chanters, if even the epic heroes or heroines possess the chanters to offer what might presumably be a different synthesis than that offered by, say, the military. Such cultural matters seem too esoteric to be considered in the political or strategic or economic calculations to resolve a hostage-taking crisis.
Not the epic tradition but quite a different performance tradition has bearing on the sordid state of affairs in southern Philippines at the moment. It is specifically a kind of musical theatre form, the so-called moro-moro, from the Spanish word Moro, for Moor. For the last 400 years, in many, many Philippine towns, Filipino Christians have re-staged, re-enacted the fight between Muslims and Christians, as very popular street theatre, derived from Spanish romances. The Moro is of course demonized. The play visits upon us Filipinos, over and over, a conflict that took place in the Iberian Peninsula more than half a millenium ago; and in the earlier part of the 2nd millenium, the Crusades. I assure you that it is not hyperbole to assert that the present war in the Philippine south has deep connections with a theatre tradition. I beg you to consider that art is not innocent.
Cultural matters are not as distant from military or economic ones as we might wish. Vanguard, to begin with, is a word from military history -- a word that conjures, for instance, the storming of the Bastille. To the vanguard, whether soldier or artist or philosopher or economist or scientist, the old necessarily gives way to the new; the presumably decayed to the presumably renewed; the purportedly bad to the purportedly better. To a vanguard formation, conquest is the urge, the imperative, the grandiloquent act. It is specifically because of where I live that I have always kept distant from the easy use of the vanguard metaphor in art practice. I especially do not value the military connection. Still, the primary reason for my distance is a philosophical one: it is often illusory to think that the past is past. Certainly not if a country, such as mine, is playing out a brutal conflict where people are dying today because of the identity politics that shaped Castille so long ago. Apparently it is not too lng ago. Time is flattened.
The sense that time does not exactly move forward like an arrow may be illustrated by the contemporary metamorphosis of a musical instrument called the kulintang, associated with Philippine Muslim societies. It is a set of eight bossed gongs made of brass. To augment ammunition, kulintangs have been melted down to be made into bullets. When war ceases temporarily, the bullet shells are melted down to be made into kulintangs. This reminds me to note that as the Spanish colonial administration sought to consolidate its Philippine territory against Muslim raids from the south, again in the last 400 years, the bells in the belfries were melted down to be made into cannons. And back again, whenever possible. [Trivia: the top bits of bells are, in fact, called cannons.]
While it may be specious of me to suggest that these bell/cannons or kulintang/bullets conflate vanguard art and vanguard soldiery, the resonance does allow us to consider space, not just time, as conflated as well. Globalization, which has been on-going since the Portuguese smelled the spices of the Moluccas, has ensured that the experience of identity, or culture if you will, is displaced.
Opera and pigs
Displacement. Dis-location, to be precise, which for many of us, has been the tenor of life. In mine, at least, the word "tenor" fused hilariously with, to use youth patois, a dissing of the local.
I was a child under the age of 10 during those nights my grandfather and I listened to records of Renata Tebaldi in the large, airy spaces of our clan house of hardwood and limestone and cut-openwork partitions that little rice birds flew right through. In one window and out the other side, above the pig-sty and the rice mill and the peddlers of grilled fish. Renatas arias wafted above the oinking and hawking sounds outdoors, for the big house is a fine acoustic box for mysterious reasons, seeing that the spaces were defined, not by walls, but by open windows more than 15 meters wide. The voice must have been deepened by contact with the red-gold floorboards, made out of thick, very tall trees; wood that we understood to be special like that voice. Wood and voice were both strong, handsome, and curiously enough, universal. Wood and voice were neither dead nor alive. by the time I was growing up in this house, it was already more than a century old, and it seemed that I was a child not only to the generations I knew, but to improbable ancestral figures named Renata, Monserrát, Enrico. My grandfather switched off all fluorescent lights before the start of our concerts for two, so our eyes adjusted to the dimness of old oil lamps fitted, in the early 20th century, with incandescent bulbs. I observe now that the lamps were traded into the Philippines in the same 19th century when, say, Un bel di was composed though I didnt know this then.
One fine day: it was always one fine day, never a series of days; never connections that fix time to a calendar. Aria, lamp, wood, grandfather, breeze, were all matters of imperceptible age. Again, history --- a sense of history or historical momentousness or historical flow was extraneous to my experience then. Today, nostalgia is extraneous to my recollection. The dimmed space was a vacuum in which history that is to say, all kinds of sequences or chronologies did not exist.
Instead of yet another generalized rehearsal of the evils of imperialism, consider the idea of art at the vanguard of, yes, that imperialism, but specifically in terms of the collapse of the spatial fixity of culture. This collapse or conflation is what makes possible the creation of an enlarged economic space: the space for unimpeded international traffic of the goods. As a child, I didnt think to wonder about the origins and destinations of what wafted through the house. Why ask, really, whether the birds, for example, inhabited or came from inside or outside. Thus untroubled by the consequences of windows that are ever-open, it came to pass that I am possessed by something impossible to really possess in turn. Impossible for me to grasp, in fact; much less own. I never learned Italian, and my French is baby talk, but I know no other childhood music except sing-along versions of Puccini and Verdi arias. Even if I should finally figure the songs instead of reading translations, it cannot modify the underlying ludicrousness of a wonderful gift: a music that conquered our affections, but which has also numbed us to the displacement, or erasure, or violation of, among other matters, a local sound environment.
My description of my childhood home is a description of privilege. I bring up privilege to bring up the matter of consumption: the concentration of generous amounts of resources to project and exercise power. Let us keep going with this line of thought, which allows us a number of insights. The bipolar distinction between so-called high art and so-called popular art begins to fade in importance, because we are able to see that the real distinction is between art that requires incredible economic and political resources to sustain, and art that thrives on other orders of human investment. How wrong-headed it is, therefore, to think that so-called high art is high art because of esoteric levels of mastery and the rest is populist amateurism. The rarefied mastery wielded by a diva, cannot be seen as fundamentally greater than the mastery possessed by an epic chanter who can sing 11,000 stanzas of a tale over 2 or 3 weeks. But there is doubtless a difference, and it resides in the kind of economic power require to create the diva, or prima ballerina; to produce the production vehicles for this artist; to disseminate the artistry across that collapsed space we call the global economy; and the massive infrastructure to project power.
We may be assisted, again, by that sense of the ludicrous, which is a vital register in any discussion of culture. Today, I still am elevated by, say, listening to Aida, despite my deep commitment to the ideas of the Palestinian critic Edward Said, who, among other compelling observations, wrote of the creation of Aida by Verdi in close association with the Champollion and other Egyptologists who engineered the appropriation of Egypt and its cultural resources to serve the project of projecting a France of extraordinary capacity.
I ventured this bit of an autobiographical indulgence to remark about the convoluted nature of our condition. There is something grotesque, farcical, preposterous about holding on to the pleasures while, simultaneously, trying to keep a sharp sense of the asymmetries of power in the political terrains we all negotiate. For me, what helps is to keep both pleasures and politics focused on the hope of human understanding. And a great part of human understanding may be available by releasing ourselves from the limitations of polar oppositions.
I will footnote this story by saying that it was only upon listening to the great Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, which as it happens was at the Womad event of one Adelaide Festival, that I, schooled by Irish Catholic nuns, could gain some understanding of the mystical core of Islam. Such an experience is not readily available to Filipinos of a Christian background, and such an experience is obviously the result of the tremendous resources necessary to organize a Festival. Such an experience, however, is great to have had, when considering the so-called Muslim problem in my country.
All of which is to explain my faith in non-linear routes to understanding, a circling, a running around to create loops and imaginative weaves, a curvilinearity, as it were, of ones notion of destination or destiny -- rather than in the sequential construction of progress that is so fundamental to avante garde art practice.
Which is not to say that I dismiss the avante garde.
Still tracking a personal circling movement, I take, as an example, a friend. She is a performance and conceptual artist, and presently she is undertaking a 5-year performance. She wears a pouch, which she calls a scapular, daily. Rather, two pouches, one in front and one at the back. This is her gallery. She is the gallery. She calls the work, Scapular Gallery Nomad, and she curates exhibitions very seriously in this sometimes of this -- pouch. The artist line-up is international. She undertakes all the usual work: negotiating with the individual artists, discussing the curatorial plan, documentation, the entire lot. As a professor in a university and a known artist, she does move around quite a bit, and she shows the art to people this is whomever she meets in the course of a day, could be students, taxi drivers, the odd pedestrian, café habitues, relatives, and so on and so forth by inviting them to extract the art from her pouch. Very serious notes on the exhibition are to be extracted from her back pouch. The limits of the circulation of the art are the limits of her body movement. Scapular Gallery Nomad this satire of the art market, this sustained comment or alternative to the expensive art infrastructure is of course poised, ironically, as a will to exist within the international avante garde circuit.
Again: the preposterous, farcical, playful, ludicrous. She is aware of the contradictions she is playing out. Anti-art market, she nonetheless can only exist as an artist within the international avante garde circuits that depend so much on spectacular and costly art events. As a person walking around the streets of the cities of the world, she is just a fool, not an artist. Critical of the international art infrastructure, she is nonetheless aware that hers is precisely the critical stance that is the nutritious fodder high art feeds on. Narrowing the domain of art practice to the size of her small, peripatetic body, she is nonetheless caught up in the high intensity exchange, for instance, as part of the gargantuan exhibition, Cities on the Move. Removing herself from the frenzy, she of course knows that she is allowing herself to be sucked in by the maelstrom of the international art world that is constantly hungry for berserk creatures like herself.
The avante garde idea is a persistent one, and will continue to excite us, both for the intellectual engagement, the aesthetic pleasure, and the insights offered about the imprisoning structures that were built to ensure that the modern world appropriates all creativity. However, the market has always eaten up and regurgitated all the subsequent avant gardes of the 20th century. All extreme acts -- including Dada, Baudelaires lart pour lart which was a critique of the market, conceptual art which was a critique of the object-centredness or product-centredness of the art circuit have subsequently, in turn, been folded back into the world art machine. Doubtless art continues to hothouse vanguard fronts. But precisely because the very idea of vanguard art is dependent on the idea of progress, of time as an arrow, of space as pierce-able by that arrow, of art as rarefied commodity -- no vanguard, by the nature of the beast, stays vanguard for long. And the promise of liberation is usually stilled at the moment of breaching; at the moment the front is conquered.
To offer a direct response to the question Are artists still the vanguard? Im sure the answer is yes. But it is a yes that in the next breath has to be qualified by remarking that the global economy requires the existence of sequential vanguards simply because it is ever hungry for the next high to market. And while all of us are primed to need that next high, it is probably best to see that need in relation to the many other requirements of social justice.
It is often posited with great fervor that the market drives innovation. There was something deeply disturbing to me about this bit of popular wisdom, and it is to do with the thought that I cannot quite disagree. A radical disagreement is only possible if we qualify that word innovation, to only mean product innovation. This "innovation" has little to do with what makes it possible for us to comprehend the plurality of ways of being human, and to express humanness that can correct brutal asymmetries of power.
I had opportunity to convene a Policy Conference on Traditional Culture for the Philippine situation, and brought together a number of scholars to think tank on culture issues, at an extraordinary arts school located at a mountaintop rainforest. As you might well imagine, night times were times given over to relaxing and cordial exchange. A woman, who has subsequently become a dear friend, started singing. I knew her to be an ethnomusicologist but also an accomplished choir conductor and a madrigal singer. However, that night her song, which wafted in the air together with the specific sounds of that rainforest environment, sounded to me like an epic. My familiarity with this archaic form was, by the time I held this conference, shaped quite elaborately by many journeys into interiors spaces of island southeast Asia. Approaching the singer, I inquired where she collected that compelling music. Firstly she responded that she was not really singing it well, because she has had to undergo professional training o alter her musical skills from madrigal singing to this other physiognomy of performance. And then she told me that she found this song in Batangas, which shocked me. This was where I was born. It turns out that she has spent close to ten years doing research on her doctoral dissertation practically in my backyard.
She had pieced together more than a hundred stanzas of archaic verse in my language, in a province that had taken the brunt of Spanish, American and Japanese colonisation's for more than 400 years. It is a place that we assumed to have no indigenous culture left. Those 100 plus stanzas of verse comprised a ritual that takes all night to perform. The ritual is accepted within Catholic church liturgy, but it has a musical structure related to that to be found in so-called tribal Philippines. Expert practitioners dance the long song. It is highly elaborate. Studying the words, it is striking how it seemed to be, at one level, a record of the trauma of Christianisation, and the resolution through song and dance and ritual of that trauma. When asked why they perform such a difficult and refined form, the practitioners have 3 words of explanation: gaan, lightness; panata, vow; and laro, play.
This humbling moment has multiple meanings, hopefully not just for me. Firstly, many cultures exist on the same space. Secondly, performed cultures can be quite tenacious. Thirdly, indigenous culture is not quite or not always, or not inevitably -- the fragile thing that has to be pickled, or sustained by an elaborate life-support system, but on occasion at least can be the very instrument for absorbing and getting past shock. Fourthly, it is probably wise to begin to think that the capacity of modernity to totally overwrite all other cultures is grossly exaggerated. Fifth, it may often be the case that we cannot perceive the existence of indigenous culture in our backyards, simply because, in my case for instance, I needed to educate my ear to this music. Sixth, innovation is not the exclusive province of the market. On the contrary, innovation that allows people to contend with violence would have to be innovation created outside market.
Telephones and candles
The Scapular Gallery owning artist friend of mine was developing an idea for yet another one of the big Biennales, and she wanted to work with the idea of the viruses as intrusive. She asked to work with Nokia, exploring the text-messaging capabilities of their cellular phones. The work was not realized for a number of reasons. At about the same time, I was politically involved in the fight to oust the previous President of the Philippines, a man of criminal rapacities. During the second night, when about half an million Filipinos poured into the streets, we understood that it was the final make or break lap in the push to get rid of the unwanted leader. My cohorts and I who formed a loose group - one among many civil society associations lending body to the insurrection -- were informed through discrete channels that the military establishment will shift to our side if they can have empirical evidence that our anti-duly-constituted-authority side had the numbers. The military wished to see numbers. But that night we were exhausted, and then we slid very close to despair as we thought the crowds out in the streets were petering out. People were going home. We thought we were not going to make it. We tried calling Corazon Aquino to ask her to make a call for civil disobedience. She declined, not wishing, said she through emissary, to step over the line towards economic sabotage. It was at this brink that we thought: let's just ask for a simple performance, something for people to participate in. We decided to ask people to come to that avenue, and to form a human chain. We asked people to bring candles, light them. To verify the source of the message, we suggested that people get their particulars from Radio Veritas, the Catholic radio station. Within minutes, a dozen-some mobile phones let loose the message into the ether. Within 18 hours, there were half a million people on that historic street called, appropriately enough, Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (Epiphany of the Saints Street! EDSA to us) with their candles, redefining this street with their bodies in a human chain; reconfiguring this space of modernity with an infinitude of details of human struggle. It appears that during those 5 days, Filipinos sent around 180 million text messages to each other. I rang my friend who failed to make it to the Biennale with her idea, and we had a laugh, and we said, well, such an idea would have been wasted anyway on art!
A comparative question might be asked. This coming together of people to exercise the political will to extricate a source of grief, and the coming together of people across vast spaces in an international art event: are these not similarly, the art of wielding power over a region via the careful wielding of spectacle? I string all my stories together and thread together an answer: No. The concentration of power and resources in an international art event, usually in the service of national projection, is a marketplace. The concentration of cultural expression, through the use of technology available in the global market, to demand a better life: this is not vanguard politics. This is something else, for which we probably have no pat name, which is probably all for the best. 8
Marian Pastor Roces is an independent curator and critic based in The Philippines. Her theoretical work, published internationally, engages the problematics of cities, museums, clothes, contemporary art, and the construction of minorities. She is also President of TAO Inc., a museum development corporation with a focus on matrixing curatorship, urban design and social justice advocacy. A version of this paper was presented as a Keynote Conversation in Beyond Borders Conference of the International Society of the Performing Arts [ISPA] at Sydney Opera House on June 14, 2001.