Blackspot

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

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26 comments on the article “Imagining a Blackspot Music Label”

Displaying 1 - 10 of 26

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CR

interesting. I think that to come into its own, contemporary music needs to disengage from the dominating visual culture. From iTunes visualizer to smutty music vids, why is it that we need to attach an image to music? The capitalist reason is that the neurological and psycho-sexual reaction caused by visual effects further embeds the "song" into our brains. Also, of course, our consumption of various types of music feeds our image of ourselves. Blackspot music ought to return to a focus on SOUND not image, become a vehicle for transporting us out of the trap of the I-image and into the shared NOW. Live music is best for this - maybe a blackspot Label would focus more on small free/cheap/sliding scale/barter-ticket music performances (campfire, like) instead of huge expensive amphitheatres packed with people and again, digital visual effects.

CR

interesting. I think that to come into its own, contemporary music needs to disengage from the dominating visual culture. From iTunes visualizer to smutty music vids, why is it that we need to attach an image to music? The capitalist reason is that the neurological and psycho-sexual reaction caused by visual effects further embeds the "song" into our brains. Also, of course, our consumption of various types of music feeds our image of ourselves. Blackspot music ought to return to a focus on SOUND not image, become a vehicle for transporting us out of the trap of the I-image and into the shared NOW. Live music is best for this - maybe a blackspot Label would focus more on small free/cheap/sliding scale/barter-ticket music performances (campfire, like) instead of huge expensive amphitheatres packed with people and again, digital visual effects.

Anonymous

This is true, but I do like the increase I am seeing in the less mainstream artists and labels to make more interesting, more abstract music videos. I personally would like to see more inventive and unique combinations of art and music, not just confined to the traditional album and a music video. I think album artwork is incredibly important, as many album covers of the past have given us some of the most powerful and often meaningful images, if done with enough thought. I think sometimes bands need all the confines of a studio before they can produce soemthing that is really unique and pushes the definition of what music is. Sometimes this isn't possible in a live setting, or at least not yet, as one day perhaps it could be, to some creative band using their noggin.

Anonymous

This is true, but I do like the increase I am seeing in the less mainstream artists and labels to make more interesting, more abstract music videos. I personally would like to see more inventive and unique combinations of art and music, not just confined to the traditional album and a music video. I think album artwork is incredibly important, as many album covers of the past have given us some of the most powerful and often meaningful images, if done with enough thought. I think sometimes bands need all the confines of a studio before they can produce soemthing that is really unique and pushes the definition of what music is. Sometimes this isn't possible in a live setting, or at least not yet, as one day perhaps it could be, to some creative band using their noggin.

Anonymous

I like the whole idea. One suggestion though: I think that music should be pushed back towards a live setting, the way it started out, around the campfire like the previous commenter said. A focus on live shows is the way to go, its a whole different kind of experience to see the artists actually creating the music in front of you. Also, i like the focus on finding solid artists. There are enough people out there who are looking for genuinely good music rather and a catchy tune. Music says a lot about people, and our generation seems to have failed to create much good music that makes it into the mainstream and reaches large audiences, it would be awesome if that changed.

Anonymous

I like the whole idea. One suggestion though: I think that music should be pushed back towards a live setting, the way it started out, around the campfire like the previous commenter said. A focus on live shows is the way to go, its a whole different kind of experience to see the artists actually creating the music in front of you. Also, i like the focus on finding solid artists. There are enough people out there who are looking for genuinely good music rather and a catchy tune. Music says a lot about people, and our generation seems to have failed to create much good music that makes it into the mainstream and reaches large audiences, it would be awesome if that changed.

Peter Nixon

The latter half of the 20th century saw wild bounds and leaps made in technology and capitalism, which eventually reached music as well. On the fortunate side, this brought affordable music to anyone who wanted to find it. Unfortunately, the corporate structure eventually lead the the near homogeneous manufacturing of music by a few hands (82% of music made and distributed by the Big 4 as of 2005). Luckily, we've witnessed the Internet disassemble that lock hold and give heart back to the art of music, with an "In Rainbows" able to challenge whatever Miley Cyrus has to throw at us. We're headed into the days of affordable, accessible, quality live music. Albums will be cheaply produced advertisements for true musical performances, organized by musicians and small labels (Black Spot perhaps?) themselves. We've got the potential for a beautiful new structure where the affordable nature of modern recording allows anyone to toss their hat in the ring, letting Us choose our music rather than Suits in the offices of media conglomerates. Economics changes go hand in hand with changes in Art. www.neborecords.com

Peter Nixon

The latter half of the 20th century saw wild bounds and leaps made in technology and capitalism, which eventually reached music as well. On the fortunate side, this brought affordable music to anyone who wanted to find it. Unfortunately, the corporate structure eventually lead the the near homogeneous manufacturing of music by a few hands (82% of music made and distributed by the Big 4 as of 2005). Luckily, we've witnessed the Internet disassemble that lock hold and give heart back to the art of music, with an "In Rainbows" able to challenge whatever Miley Cyrus has to throw at us. We're headed into the days of affordable, accessible, quality live music. Albums will be cheaply produced advertisements for true musical performances, organized by musicians and small labels (Black Spot perhaps?) themselves. We've got the potential for a beautiful new structure where the affordable nature of modern recording allows anyone to toss their hat in the ring, letting Us choose our music rather than Suits in the offices of media conglomerates. Economics changes go hand in hand with changes in Art. www.neborecords.com

brian

A couple friends and I with a deep interest in music came up with an awesome idea to reform the idea of a label. I can't say much but it involves mmore personal shows, strengthening the interaction between bands and fans, fans and fans as well as bands and bands in a community setting while approaching the the money-making aspect of music production in a different manner in order to support the music community and pay for recording and shows. We were going to start it up but lack the funds right now. If anyone is interested in getting involved, let me know and I'll give you more details.

brian

A couple friends and I with a deep interest in music came up with an awesome idea to reform the idea of a label. I can't say much but it involves mmore personal shows, strengthening the interaction between bands and fans, fans and fans as well as bands and bands in a community setting while approaching the the money-making aspect of music production in a different manner in order to support the music community and pay for recording and shows. We were going to start it up but lack the funds right now. If anyone is interested in getting involved, let me know and I'll give you more details.

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