02 Jun, 16

Welcome to Watt

Music is my life. It has been since birth.

I grew up surrounded by musicians. My parents took me to see artists like Tina Turner, The Go-Go's, Ramones, and Warren Zevon as a small child. I was just 4-years-old, sitting on my father’s lap, singing “Aaahoo! Werewolves of London” with him. Thanks to a practice room and my supportive family I started my first band when I was 10 years old with my best friend Brenda. We were called The Geoducks and were fairly prolific, writing most of our songs about library books and holidays. As a teenager, I got a job as the first full time employee at an up-and-coming independent record label called Kill Rock Stars. I worked there, holding nearly every job except owner, for over 17 years. I got to work on hundreds of releases by bands I truly believed in and whose music influenced the world. I’ve been lucky to spend my entire life both playing music and helping other people do the same. Music is everything to me but there is almost nothing about being in this world that hasn’t been a challenge.

Music is everything to me but there is almost nothing about being in this world that hasn’t been a challenge.

Nearly everything I’ve learned as a musician and a label employee and now as an executive director at a non-profit has been on the job. When you are working independently, no one teaches you how to divide up songwriting credits fairly or exactly how mechanical royalties work. Booking tours, silkscreening shirts, maneuvering egos and hurt feelings are also things you have to learn on the fly — and this hardly scratches the surface.

Music is not a simple industry to understand. Many aspects are often based on archaic technology like player pianos or shellac records and, just to keep it fun, laws vary in nearly every country. Add to that the reality that every path for every artist is different, that we are in an ever-changing digital landscape, and that there is no One Size Fits All business model when it comes to music. This business can be obtuse - often on purpose - and it’s almost impossible to negotiate it on your own. So many working in music learn by repeating mistakes that have already been made over and over again. And there is no single, trusted place to learn about the realities facing musicians or how to navigate such a demanding industry as one.

This is where Watt comes in.

Watt is CASH Music's answer to that complexity — a publication dedicated to asking and answering the questions that matter. Here we’ll explore the economics, technology, culture and health issues musicians face. There will be researched and reported articles, first-person narratives from artists, opinion pieces, how-to’s, case studies, infographics all for the sake of teaching and skill-sharing. This will also be where we’ll be publishing our regular video content that has already explored some of the challenges musicians in this industry face.

CASH Music’s stated mission as a nonprofit is to help foster a sustainable future for musicians. We’ve been building free, open source digital tools directly with artists for years but we know to truly empower them it’s vital that we pair these tools with accurate, up-to-date information that’s not written in industry jargon.

We also believe artists’ voices are deeply important and must be a large part of Watt. They are experts whose voices are often diminished and unheard in these conversations, but their experiences, both good and bad, and perspectives are unique and essential. We want to ensure they are heard in an industry and, frankly, a world that systematically disrespects them.

For a truly sustainable future, music fans must also learn how the industry works and evolves and how they can best support the artists who enrich their lives. Watt aims to challenge prejudices and contest common misconceptions so that we can start to think about the possibilities of a future built with the artists’ health in mind.

A world where there is an empowered, healthy class of artists is one in which we all benefit.

A world where there is an empowered, healthy class of artists is one in which we all benefit. Musicians can then focus on creating great music, connecting to their audience, and taking care of themselves, which in turn helps takes care of us. All of what we do is to help support the people who make the art we rely on to speak the unspeakable. If more artists have easy and free access to the tools they need, it will ultimately allow them more time and energy to work on the music. You know, the most important part.

I believe deeply that being a musician is an important and valid vocation. Watt is here to help make it easier to be one.

By Maggie Vail, distributed under a Creative Commons CC-BY license.

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