An Open Letter to the Titanic Dinosaurs of Our Content
So many of us are being held hostage. Bandcamp’s purchase by some videogame manufacturer that is looking to soundtrack back seat you in a shooter POV. Fred Durst cumming on yer My Space page which killed the entirety of your small little cubby at that place. Veejay sucker punching the rights out from under you in the 60’s. It is still the same. It never ends.
Thirty years of working at a record store and running Shrimper turned over every kind of fucker you have ever run into during your life. The free lunches were disgusting. The contracts my band innocently signed for a spell with BMI made us nauseous as we read about some pocket protector going into a mom & pop coffee shop & suing them for having a radio on. So long BMI, we agreed decades ago. Play us for free at your own risk of driving away customers. Roadrunner, roadrunner. Coyote that coyote to death.
The creators are enslaved by meager pennies. It is no different than the minimum wage. It is not a livable wage. Over & over again the same crash test. We can’t trust no one. So many friends of mine that sell far more records than I ever will are dependent on what little they can collect from publishing & streaming & contracts gone awry & BMI & ASCAP & all the crap that asks for a signature. We never benefit from signing anything. DO NOT SIGN THE DOTTED LINE.
Me & the band I am in & my label are fortunate. We are not dependent on any of it. We tried it. It was a losing proposition that did not matter all that much as the records I put out on the label or with Refrigerator or Simon Joyner or John Davis or solo will sell a modest amount. A modest amount, but everyone gets paid. That is built into the cost of the pressing. No artist on Shrimper has ever signed a contract. Every artist on Shrimper owns their master tapes. Everything is trust & handshake. I trust in that. Not them half-baked offers from major labels in the 90’s that were built to bankrupt & silence what it is we were doing, the group of us here in the IE. No good came from any of them contracts or managers or handlers that I, for the most part, dodged. It is misery.
I know it is hard to hold on. I know that what Shrimper has done looks like a failure to most. Branding & gladhanding was never my thing, but fuck if praying to not get fucked was not my M.O. in the 90’s as I chased down K Records, Cargo & Dutch East India Distribution for payment. The David’s can be as bad as the Goliaths. Revolver USA & Grapefruit records are the two distributors I am fortunate to work with. They are champs. There are champs out there.
What works? Bonds & unions. Can we unionize as artists? Pull content from those dull eyed bean counters? Find a way that is not a dead ending? The only current way is to hustle & shuck and do it all yourself. R.I.P., D.I.Y., a great sentiment and single I issued decades ago by John Davis. Maybe there is a way we can unionize. Artists, anti-artist, creators. Leave the man standing in the shadows without a cut of us.
Not playing a game of told you so, but one of told you no. I am fortunate, my NO will not make me unable to pay my mortgage. I can afford no. Maybe there is a path we can chart out that does the same for others. We do it 50/50 where I am from. A label owner is writing this. If a tiny independent record label can do this, why can’t a larger one? Why can’t anyone? If they tell you otherwise, leave. Check the record, check the record, check the track record, record as Mark E. Smith would say. There is another way.