Working Your Butt Off
Who needs record labels anymore? The strangleholds they once enjoyed – finance, production, distribution and publishing – have given up the ghost. Modern technology has put paid to the hegemony of those corporate twats who teased, squeezed and fleeced artists so enamoured of their own promo pics that they missed the fine print on the […]
Who needs record labels anymore? The strangleholds they once enjoyed – finance, production, distribution and publishing – have given up the ghost. Modern technology has put paid to the hegemony of those corporate twats who teased, squeezed and fleeced artists so enamoured of their own promo pics that they missed the fine print on the contract. Affordable high-end home recording software, internet distribution and self-publishing have moved the power back into the hands of the creator. You don’t even have to send iTunes a “pretty please” – the impossibly friendly CD Baby will take care of it for you and put your songs on Apple’s ubiquitous network. Just send them a small cheque and a CD; they’ll do the rest.
So why aren’t there more indigenously produced albums available for sale in India? And of the stuff that’s there, why no singular credible online platform for local talent? I suspect that old thinking still prevails: Gotta get a record deal; someone else should pay for this; it’s somebody else’s fault if it fails. And that other kind of old thinking: I worked really hard to create this, now people must buy it. Whaddaya mean you bit-torrented it? Pirate bitch! The rules have changed. Correction: The rules are gone. It’s all up for grabs. What to do?
Write your own songs. Record them well (please don’t use programmed drums unless that’s your sound; I’m talking to you, death metal fiend). Work your toots off to promote the album, as in give the songs away for free – they’re your best promotion, especially now that music television in India has pledged its left testicle to Bollywood, right one long gone. Practise very, very hard to play them live. Get on stage and blow ’em away. Live music is back with a slam. Don’t bugger the opportunity, Pramod.
But even in the days when label heads enjoyed relevance and walked like they were entitled to your soul – and they took it, they did – one band struck fear into the hearts of upper management. Steely Dan, apparently named for a metal dildo that featured in a William Burroughs book (Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were unavailable for comment), had mastered the art of “I don’t give a shit if you’re paying for all this studio time – if I want to re-record it for the 349th time I will.” And they did. Which is how they put out those masterpieces. Like the 1976 album The Royal Scam, which still kicks the ’nads off most contemporary works – sonically and compositionally. And The Royal Scam’s own masterpiece ”˜Kid Charlemagne,’ which made Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time thanks in no small part to Larry Carlton’s pathbreaking guitar solo, long since a textbook exercise for serious guitar aspirants across the world. It’s red-letter season. Larry Carlton is back with Dan, who’re playing a series of dates in NYC, LA and Chicago over the next couple of months. I want to go, but I can’t. My friend Jayesh is going, though. Bastardo.