Monday, November 20, 2006

Copyrighting: Let's Make Lawyers Rich Off Bullshit

Copyright - TM - Pat. Pending - Registered - U.S. Patent 475382949404107462

I have lived my life for the last 7 years in complete denial of the concept of a copyright. I think that copyrights are complete bullshit. To start the argument, the only time that a copyright should be enforced is when a marketable product has been copyrighted and somebody else copies the idea/product and sells it for money (money can mean for profit or for a non-profit cause - it still earns money).

I am so upset about the issue, I am going to write the harshest curse word in a blog to date..

Fuck you

Why am I so upset by the issue when I have lived side-by-side with it for 7 years - because of this article below - copied verbatim. Here's a protest blog mofos, don't be so supportive of the Indie scene then stoically claim that the article is copyrighted - you guys are trying to c$$h in on "Indie". In the words of one of the most Indie bands of all time - "get off the bandwagon, put down the 'andbook"..

[TheAge | Text-only index]


Where are all the protest songs?

Date: November 4 2006

Gabriella Coslovich

IF YOU ever doubted the market power of the fame factory that is Australian Idol, take a look at the ARIA charts: for the past three years, the country's top-selling singles have been spun by an Idol graduate. Last year, it was Anthony Callea's The Prayer, in 2004 it was Shannon Noll's What About Me (a cover of the old Moving Pictures song), and in 2003 it was Guy Sebastian's Angels Brought Me Here.

Soapie stars and Idol alumni dominate the Australian music charts — and it hasn't entirely been the intervention of angels that brought them here. The influence of prime-time television, the might of marketing, the support of profit-driven record companies and high rotation on commercial radio might have had something to do with their celestial success.

"What about you indeed?" came the rejoinder at the ARIA awards on Sunday night, as one of Australia's music legends, erstwhile Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst, took to the stage to accept the band's induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame. Using the ultra-mainstream pulpit for more than a gushing thank-you speech, Hirst beat on his political drum as forcefully as he ever did when he played with the Oils.

"Vietnam inspired some of the greatest protest songs ever written. Not so now, surprisingly, even when hundreds of thousands of Australians crowded our streets to demonstrate their opposition to another senseless war," Hirst told the audience and legions of television viewers.

"It may be that complaint rock is still being written but (is) ignored by an industry hypnotised by get-famous-fast TV shows. Bless you John Butler, but you should not have to do it all by yourself," Hirst said, referring to the popular roots musician, environmental activist and staunch independent who has broken into the mainstream.

Hirst added, in a not-so-veiled reference to the policies of the Howard Government: "Of course, everything eventually turns around, as Bush's predecessor of two centuries past, Thomas Jefferson, observed. He said: 'A little patience and we shall see the reign of witches pass over. Their spells dissolve and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles."'

Hirst's speech was an incantation in itself, a provocation, a challenge to the industry and musicians to produce songs that matter, as Midnight Oil did in their heyday, with thumping political anthems such as Beds are Burning, Power and the Passion and Blue Sky Mining — which they famously played on a flat-bed truck outside the headquarters of the Exxon corporation in protest against the handling of the Valdez oil spill.

But how fair were Hirst's comments? Has the Australian music industry all but stopped nurturing talented, original and socially engaged songwriters to walk the get-rich-quick path presented by Australian Idol?

Are Australian musicians avoiding the fraught subjects of our times— the Iraq war, global warming, the erosion of civil liberties in the name of freedom and democracy, racism fuelled by the politics of fear and "nation building", spurious "Australian values" and the sidelining of indigenous issues? Yes, there's plenty to shout about, so where are the smouldering protest songs?

"I suspect they are being written, but they are not being promoted," Hirst told The Age this week, on his way to Newcastle to run songwriting workshops.

Richard Kingsmill, the music director of Triple J radio, confirms those suspicions, saying independent bands are out there, recording on self-funded labels that allow them artistic freedom — but their music is largely ignored by the commercial networks.

"If you were a general music lover, you might think there are no political songs being written," Kingsmill says.

"If Australian Idol is all you watch, and the Austereo and DMG networks are all you listen to, then you're never going to hear anything remotely political … it's all feelgood pop or retro rock.

"But trust me, political songs are being written, recorded and released all the time in this country. We have boxes of anti-Bush, anti-Howard, anti-Iraq war, anti-racism, pro-choice, pro-environment CDs, all from contemporary local acts."

The hip-hop scene is particularly rich with protest songs and alternative voices, says Kingsmill, pointing to groups such as the Herd, Def Wish Cast, Hilltop Hoods, Bliss N Eso and Muph & Plutonic. In the folk-roots scene, bands such as Blue King Brown are reflecting on the times, and even in the oft-dismissed mainstream rock arena you'll find incursions into politics.

"Powderfinger write political songs, always have," says Kingsmill. " Like a Dog and The Day You Come are both good examples. Powderfinger just do it in a more subtle way than the Oils did, I guess. You have to read between the lines a bit more with Bernard Fanning and his lyrics."

No need to read between the lines of Sydney hip-hop outfit the Herd's 77%, a seething, indignant rap in broad Australian accents about the dire state of the nation, which points out, among other things, that "Captain Cook was the very first queue-jumper/and it was immigrant labour that made Australia plumper".

With hip-hop beats as stirring as the Oils' trademark drumfire, the song's chorus sums it up: "Wake up, this country needs a f--king shake up."

Yet Herd manager and band member Tim Levison would be the last to compel artists to be political. "Lord knows we have experienced enough of a backlash for being political," he says. "However, you would hope that in any healthy society there would be artists speaking honestly about the political situation of the day."

Triple J continued to champion 77% despite the furore it provoked and the single was voted onto the station's Hottest 100 for 2003. The only Herd song ever to be picked up by commercial radio was its cover of the classic Redgum anti-war song I Was Only Nineteen, but it's not much of gamble, really, to play a song that has already made it onto the country's hit list, about a war that is over.

"Midnight Oil being inducted into the Hall of Fame is a reminder to people that you don't have to toe the line and make safe music to further your career," Levison says.

But even Midnight Oil was an exception. No other Australian band before or since has had such prolonged success with such explicitly political songs and actions. The great anti-war anthems of the Vietnam era hailed not from Australia but America — songs such as Creedence Clearwater Revival's Bad Moon Rising and Who'll Stop the Rain and Bob Dylan's Masters of War, Blowin' in the Wind and A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall. Perhaps the best known peace chant came from John Lennon and his Japanese muse, Yoko Ono, who recorded Give Peace a Chance in Montreal in 1969 during the second of their bed-ins for peace.

In Australia, the first anti-Vietnam song didn't appear until 1969. Written by Johnny Young, Smiley was inspired by the conscription of teen star Normie Rowe. As documented by ABC television's Long Way to the Top music series, Australian pop stars were drafted by the music industry not to sing protest songs but to entertain the troops.

"Australian music is about rock'n'roll and let's party. It's anti-intellectual," says Shane Howard, who wrote 1982's land rights anthem Solid Rock, which became a huge hit for his former band, Goanna.

Politically charged music that has broken into the mainstream has been all too scarce, Howard says.

"Yothu Yindi (with Treaty), Midnight Oil, Goanna, Redgum — that's pretty slim pickings over 30 years," he says. "I think Rob's pretty close to the truth when he talks about John Butler being the lone voice of dissent in Australian popular music, and popular is the key word.

"Given that we are entering an era of even greater concentration of media ownership, it will become even harder to hear dissenting voices."

But Michael Parisi, president of artists and repertoire at Warner Music Australia, says that just because musicians aren't making songs with an explicitly political edge doesn't mean they don't have opinions or care about social issues. Even so, for him, politics is not rock'n'roll.

"I have always come from the romantic school of rock. I have always felt that music is meant to be an escape, where rock's meant to be fun," Parisi says.

Warner Music, is apolitical, he says, but the company has also consciously eschewed the fast-track Idol phenomenon.

"We don't see it having long-term value for our business," he says.

Warner does fund artist development, but commercial success is the bottom line — if a band doesn't cut it, it's dropped.

John Butler, who is now in Los Angeles mixing a new John Butler Trio album, doesn't have a problem with Idol. Record companies have long constructed bands, he says.

"Weren't the Temptations and a lot of those soul-singing all girl and boy groups constructed by Motown and the like? Hell, some of them were pretty good and a lot of them didn't even write their own songs," he says in an email.

However, he does object to the prefab-style bands and artists clogging the airways.

"They have a place, but it's a bummer to think that so much great original Australian music won't really be realised by the Australian mainstream just because the industry won't take a risk," he says.

There are always the exceptions that break through, the Butlers and Midnight Oils. In the end, what matters most is the song. Music appeals to different people for different reasons — melody, rhythm, lyrics, message, humanity. Midnight Oil's throbbing pub-rock style appealed to young men in the 1980s in much the same way as Wolfmother's apolitical retro-rock appeals to a new generation. One can be fairly sure that there were Oil fans around who weren't primarily attuned to the politics.

"A good song crosses all boundaries, no matter what the topic," says Butler.

"Take Beds are Burning. Yes, it was about the state of Aboriginal Australia, our racist history, past and present, and reconciliation, but it didn't get too specific. Instead, it asked a simple question of all of us: how can we sleep when our beds are burning? Well, how can we?"

He names a couple more — When the River Runs Dry, by Hunters and Collectors, and the beautiful, poetic From Little Things Big Things Grow, by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody. "Without a good song, really, ya got nothing. Political, love song or otherwise."

Gabriella Coslovich is The Age's senior arts writer.

This material is subject to copyright and any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.

[ TheAge | Text-only index]

That's my protest.