Blog and writing news

Thom Yorke: Don’t Sign With the Industry / Corporate Culture

A recent blog post at the UK Guardian site talks about Thom Yorke, the lead singer for the popular UK band Radiohead, and his statements encouraging new bands not to sign with major record labels.

To be fair to Yorke the quote in question (posted by a commentor on this blog) ought to be posted. The quote and the blog itself raise all sorts of important questions for me, and I’ll outline why in a sec:

What tips can you give young people who want to write lyrics that will make a difference to their world?

That there is nothing more dry and boring in art than politics. It has to be fermented and distilled. It has to be personal. It has to be light of touch. It is much more about how you do stuff, your state of mind and less about the words on the page.

What advice would you give young music makers who want to make a difference with their talent?

This is one for Ed in Radiohead… it is his obsession. When we discuss it he says it’s simply a matter of time – months rather than years – before the music business establishment completely folds. He is involved in trying to build a world where artists would finally get paid. But we are up against the self-protecting interests of that industry. They are currently trying to lobby to take all the cash themselves whilst claiming to protect the interests of its artists. Oh yeah? When the corporate industry dies it will be no great loss to the world. So, I guess I would say don’t tie yourself to the sinking ship because believe me it’s sinking.

So here is why this quote raises all sorts of questions with me.

Firstly, I’ve been in the music industry, an industry that is not too different from the writing industry, in the sense that an artist creates something and a company publishes it, and the artist gets paid certain royalties (usually eight percent to start off with, up to a maximum of 15 percent if you’ve been around and can push for it).

Secondly, Yorke’s statement that “When the corporate industry dies it will be no great loss to the world,” is an interesting one that may have something to add to a recent discussion at my blog around Discovery Health.

I personally have a distaste for corporate in that I feel it more often than not stifles creativity and usually only has one target in mind: profit. There’s nothing wrong with profit but it cannot be the only goal a business sets itself, but most businesses do only have that as the goal. Things such as values come secondary to the Greatest Value of All: Profit.

The music industry has been tainted by this monster for decades now. However, the plus side to corporate is that it can be sustainable. This is something Alan Jones may be hi-lighting in the Discovery conversation at my blog.

But what the heck do struggling artists such as myself do? Contrary to all the hoo-ha, the Internet doesn’t provide a platform for artists who want to also have an income.

The Internet culture is used to having everything for free, something that the news media doesn’t know what to do about at the moment. Newsweek is up for sale as it seems it cannot compete against the Internet, and there’s talk that the New York Times is thinking of a subscription model for its website because, after all, how the heck else can it make money? Advertising doesn’t provide enough income to pay proper journalists to do proper work, and the more visitors to your site the more bandwidth you pay.

I don’t know the answers to these questions. All I know is that corporates stifle creativity and cannot let go of the old, and the new actually looks a lot less promising than it did five years ago. Where do book writers and musicians like me, who are cautious of signing with labels because eight percent royalty is ridiculous, and find the Internet means everything must be free, go?

I’m also a journalist, and increasingly journalists have to produce more content to line up with the growing needs of the Internet, while being paid less to line up with the income news agencies can actually produce.

To market, even with the Internet, costs bucks and most of all it costs time, something an artist like me finds less of as his time is spent making money out of a ‘normal’ job so that he can somehow, at some time, plow some of this money into his creative arts.

And is Yorke right? Will the loss of corporates be no loss to our world?

And who is to blame? It seems corporates don’t care and neither does the public. Once in a conversation with a gamer I asked that if he had the choice of downloading music for free (ilegally) or pay just R1 a song, which would he choose? He chose the former. The mass public seems to want the very best of everything but pay nothing for it. And who can blame them? Corporates, the people who they work for, might have taught them that that’s the way it should be. Because, after all, that could be how the corporate is treating them.

Blog and writing news

Fatter: The Problem with So Much Business

Mr Greedy
(Mr. Greedy, every morning, used to eat 66 succulent sausages and 48 pieces of toast)

There’s a phenomenon called ‘escalation’. The dictionary defines at as when “something gets more intense step by step”. This phenomenon occurs in all sorts of areas in our lives, and one place where it annoys me more than any is in business.

Allow me to explain. I believe in progress, but not progress that throws to the wind sustainability, realism, justice, health and ecology. In short, it’s probably better for me to say I believe in development — that development is a good thing — but I don’t believe in endless progression.

In business, especially corporate business, this thing of endless progression rears its ugly head way too often. We want more profits this year than last, greater production this year than last, more time spent on doing things this year than last, and on and on we need to do better and better and better and produce more and more and more.

At the same time, I find that the kind of profits many companies expect to pull in doesn’t line up to what they are paying their staff or the actual amount of workforce they have. In other words, they provide an inflation based eight percent increase in salaries, but expect almost half more production than the previous year, and will hire fewer people than is needed to get it there.

This is one of the problems the Western world is facing in its present Capitalistic systems. We shout ‘more, more, more’ or, rather, the rich few shout ‘more, more, more’ but there is very little talk of sustainability. There is little talk of slowing down and implementing development ethics that take into account that people can only do so much, should only do so much, and enough is enough.

Many sales people have experienced this first hand. If this month we manage to exceed our target, next month’s target is placed higher than it may otherwise have been. If we reach it or exceed it, the next month’s target is placed even higher.

There comes a point when realism must be taken into account, but seldom is it. Once we reach saturation point and have run out of manpower, skills, or we’ve been working to the bone and no longer have the energy — and so we miss that month’s target — then someone needs to be fired.

Of course it isn’t fair. But it’s the philosophy of 110 percent. No one can give 110 percent all-year round without burning out sometime. But companies tend to always expect 110 percent, all the time.

Personally, I think a bad businessman gives 110 percent. A smart and healthy businessman needs to only give 100 percent.

Many people feel like a failure that they don’t exceed their goals. Why should that be the case? We never get to celebrate our successes under this philosophy either, because the goal posts are always moving.

That’s escalation. The philosophy of more. The philosophy of fatter. The rat race, as they call it. A deeply flawed philosophy. A successful business, in my mind, is one that manages to give better quality of life to all — not just to the few.

The philosophy of fatter provides no quality of life, no rest — it’s unhealthy — and therefore should be jettisoned from society’s philosophy.