Valuing The Freedom To Make Art
My parents had a few peculiar peccadillos when I was growing up: Caught in early autumn without a jacket? Grounded. You didn’t wear sunscreen? The burn was not punishment enough. These two are a bit on the more extreme end of the weird rules in my house, but there was one that set my family apart from so many others that I found meaningful in a different way — we were not allowed to pirate music. Napster was a no-no because my father works in copyright law and has always taught me and my sister that being compensated for your ideas, creativity and art is value to cherish. It’s the thing that, as a music journalist and someone who loves to read, makes my blood boil when I hear someone talk about using adblocker.
And as a music journalist, I spend a lot of time thinking about artists and their work. My current job is as the News Editor at FACT Magazine, a place that not only puts a premium on art we find especially powerful, but the technology that makes and delivers it to the listener. This means I spend a lot of time thinking and reading about streaming. I love that so many people without access to older cool kids or in the middle of nowhere can find the music that will change their lives, make them feel less alone and give them the confidence to pursue a life that makes them happy. But I hate how often this access makes people believe music is something you should always get for free when it costs so much to get it to the listener in the first place.
This is one of the reasons when Maggie and Jesse explained to me CASH Music’s mission as a non-profit I was so thrilled and honored to be asked to edit the first round of education editorial. I've known music would be the most important thing in my life when I was correcting my dad about Elvis lyrics when I was just 3-years-old, but I didn't know that informing the listener, so to speak, would be my career. But what I can do in my capacity as music journalist, whether it's writing criticism or features and contextualizing music news, is sometimes a limited service. At Watt, we can look at the music industry in a way that highlights a lot of things that don't fit into the editorial mission at most publications, but will help both the industry and the outside see the music business in a new and imperative light.
When I first was brought into the project, we were going to launch with editorial mostly about data. But before you can get into the nitty-gritty, there need to be resources for independent musicians to live well — or, as well as they can. With the focus now set to culture and independence, we’ll be delivering pieces that focus on real life experiences in the music industry, no propaganda, just the real deal. Our aim is to have a body of work that independent musicians can use to help them with any problems they come across, whether it's when to start an LLC or fast food hacks on the road, that make creating art a little less stressful. After all, their work is what gives us less stress in their lives.
My hope is that as Watt grows, whether it's during my time as guest editor or after, that it helps people working independently in the music industry not lose hope that compensation for their ideas, creativity and art is a value. And that the listener will believe that stronger than ever before.
By Claire Lobenfeld, distributed under a Creative Commons CC-BY license.
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