Imagining a Blackspot Music Label

How do we reclaim music from the corporations?

One of our primary concerns as culturejammers is how to build and sustain a non-corporate culture. In the domain of music, this is a question of pressing concern because corporations have managed to almost entirely co-opt our culture. One minute a band is making original music in a basement and the next their bland songs are playing in supermarkets to encourage consumption. How do we get out of this predicament?

Josh Koleszar, a Blackspot musician and member of the Jake Russell Band in Omaha, wrote the following sketch of what he thinks a Blackspot Music Label would look like. After reading what Josh has to say, please post your own ideas on the future of Blackspot Music.

"A Blackspot music label's highest priority should not be to find a sound that will sell, because what is popular constantly changes.  That leaves artists to be just as disposable as a factory worker on an assembly line.  A music label should be committed to taking care of their artists, so they should pick them very carefully.  When choosing artists, the label needs to find an artist with an original twist on the musical and lyrical worlds, not just a more refined knock-off of the latest trend. When art can repaint the world so that you can better understand it, yourself, and yourself in it, it has achieved, in my personal opinion, its highest goal."

"The chosen artist's most valuable possession is their potential.  It is the label's duty to commit itself to seeing that potential developed to its fullest.  This is in direct opposition to the current industry's directive of stripping the music down to the bare uniqueness and then simplifying everything else, so that you are blasted with the unique and "catchy".  Their purpose behind this is to get the songs rooted in your head so that you find yourself humming them and hopefully buying the album.  The quality of the song doesn't matter at all, nor the content.  The Blackspot label would work with the artist to push them and challenge them as musicians and lyricists.  They would surround the artist with people to help record, produce, mix, and master their music, but leave the final say to the artist themselves.  Another missing element in mainstream music labels is a sense of community between artists.  I think we're missing a lot of what was gained from the old school of training with masters and apprentices.  This relationship can be carried over successfully into music, as is seen in Daniel Smith and Sufjan Stevens time together during the recording of Seven Swans. "

"A third and final aspect that needs to be addressed in the concern of 'crossover' artists is the destruction of 'celebrity.'  When an artist can reach so many people with their words and impact their lives, it's hard not to attribute some sort of god-like aspects to them.  This creates the celebrity effect, which creates a distance between the listener/fan and the artist.  Instead, artists and their labels should work at breaking these walls down so that music achieves one of its greatest and most spiritual effects - that of creating a community between people who may have had nothing in common before the concert.  Music helps us share in the collective human experience and stratifying the distance between artist and fan only serves to disconnect us from the very inspiration that empowers us.  By portraying the artist in the same light as the listener, the listener is free to take part in the performance and make it his own, interpret it in his own way, possibly even making art inspired by the artist."

"Basically, the business aspect needs to be put much lower on the priority list in the music business.  If all labels followed this theory, there wouldn't be a need to emphasize the money-making aspect - it would come naturally out of the talent they have nurtured and promoted instead of the One-Hit-Wonders they have used and abused."

If you would like to respond directly to Josh Koleszar, he can be reached via email at josh.koleszar *at* gmail.com.

What do you think Blackspot music is all about?

Micah M. White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters Magazine and an independent activist. Micah is currently writing a book of philosophical meanderings into the future of activism. He lives in Binghamton, NY with his wife and two cats. www.micahmwhite.com