Musicians seem to be on a permanent campaign for more money, and a larger share of whatever’s going. There’s no doubt it’s tough to make a living in music. There are more musicians than there are living wages, and as an industry the way the money is shared out often leaves all but the top players out in the cold.
But beyond a general sense of fairness, that music and artists should be paid something and should if they are good be able to make a living, the public seems at best only mildly interested in music’s fair pay debate. Why should that be? And what can be done about it?
Thirty years ago Dire Straits summed up one attitude to pop success with ‘Money for Nothing’. Then or now, scamming it and behaving badly is not going to convert even passionate music fans into musicians’ rights lobbyists. And the Tidal megastar love in might have been a PR disaster if anyone had cared enough.
So, instead of esoteric arguments about how to share out 0.07 cents between the cast of thousands behind a popular song, here’s a shortlist of suggestions to help really get the public on music’s side.
1. Show the public at every opportunity what a lot of hard work is involved in creating, performing, and recording music. Tell them about the sacrifices we make to get just the right sound, the obsessive practising that delivers the perfect inflection, and the sheer nerve of putting a life and a career on the line day after day. If if they don’t like the result, they can’t disparage the effort.
2. When we claim to be doing something, make sure we can back it up. Sure you can mime to your own guitar solo or vocal on a video. But if it supposed to be sung, sing it, don’t fiddle it together with Melodyne and brazen it out. If it’s a work of studio wizardry that is fine too, as long as the truth is told.
3. Be scrupulously fair to others in our own industry, by crediting all performers, making sure the songwriters are acknowledged, and the information is all there so everyone involved gets paid properly. Nobody sides with a cheat; nobody can break through a wall of honesty and virtue.
4. Hardest of all, don’t oversell music! We’re not going to fix the global economy. When people say they can’t live without music they don’t really mean it. At best we are the sign that a society is developed and civilised enough to care about more than subsistence. A little gratitude for any help we get will go a long way.
If we show respect to each other, and make it easier to work with us and help us, and if we are duly thankful for the privilege of working with one of mankind’s greatest gifts and achievements, there is no doubt that the public, and the politicians who represent them, will reciprocate.