A problem every indie music promoter faces at one time, or all the time, is capital. Where to get the money to pay the bands and the crew. Where to get the money for decorations or fliers or the myriad of other expenses that crop up when trying to organise a fun night for all. It’d be nice if we all had lots of money to spend on entry fees, so that promoters could charge more to cover these expenses. Unfortunately we don’t, so they can’t.
And so looms the spectre of corporate advertising. Last week I wrote about a shift in power from large corporations to independent music makers and punters, a shift I think is coming soon. In thinking about this issue I failed to take into account some basic evolutionary principles that apply to economic systems, which I will explain in a moment.
First I just want to reiterate an argument from last week. Because of the internet, traditional power structures in the music industry are destabilising. As technology provides essentially free distribution, large record companies find their roles becoming obsolete – or at least harder to maintain. Independent artists have always been around but now they have access to so many more people around the world.
So promoters are now left with hard choices to make. Do they grab the cash from wherever they can? Accept money from Smirnoff, Jagermeister or Extra Dry to keep their parties going, to keep these bands playing? Many do, though whether they have ethical concerns regarding the fact is another question. Extra Dry truly is a terrible, terrible beer. That should be enough of an ethical issue right there.
So where, besides promoting beer that tastes like shit, are the ethical issues? As record companies lose their grip on artists and independent promoters, other companies will start to move in to take up the slack. This is the evolutionary principle I referred to earlier: if an organism inhabiting a profitable niche is removed from the ecology due to environmental factors, it is likely that some other organism will move in to take its place.
As record companies fail, alcohol companies succeed. Be wary of large corporations and their involvement in local scenes, of whatever kind. Corporations are beholden only to their shareholders – nothing and nobody else. Ignore any mission statements, or funkily-worded press releases explaining Beercorp’s newfound love for electro, or whatever. They are, simply, lies. These companies just want the slices of pie that the record companies can’t get their hands on.
It’d be nice to be able to take principled, righteous stands on ethical issues. Unfortunately the world is arranged so this is very difficult. If promoters don’t take the money from large corporations, then where will they get it? There are no immediately easy answers. It may be that local businesses are willing to support local music scenes. Perhaps sponsorship could come from smaller companies, like independent breweries instead of Beercorp.
As this power shift occurs we want to regain most of the power ourselves, not watch it slip straight into the hands of more men in suits. Think about this: Who cares more about music? Universal Music? Or Tooheys Extra Dry?