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These appallingly low musician royalty checks are both amusing and depressing


 
Being a musician and trying to get paid can be a terrible chore. You can fill a club with drinkers and they’ll still stiff you at the end of the night. Your work—and your draw—will constantly be requested free of charge, as though the magic word “exposure” paid for rehearsal studio rental and gas in the van. Even deep-pocketed concerns will hose you. A band I was in in the ‘90s had a song that managed to grow some stubby little legs thanks to a compilation appearance, and a few years after the fact, a popular cable channel wanted to use it in an animated TV show. Thrilled, I filled out a small mountain of paperwork in 2003, and I’ve still not seen a check. The same song got used by a major clothing company, but not a cent found its way to my pocket for that, either. I have a good idea which of my former bandmates gave away that song for a song, but I’ve left it alone—I was livid about it at the time, but it’s long enough in the past now that there’s no sense in getting worked up about it anymore. I still play in a group that constantly records new original material and tours as often as it can, but if I was in this for money, I’d have been done after that fiasco.

But don’t think for a moment that this sort of heinous chicanery befalls only the obscure strivers who for obvious reasons are more vulnerable to it. Important and influential artists that you’ve heard of and enjoyed get the screws put to them all the time. The way radio royalties work against smaller artists is especially vile, but as radio diminishes in importance and new models emerge, innovative new ways to rob artists emerge alongside them. Right now, Pandora, ASCAP and BMI are in court arguing about exactly how songwriters will get hosed in the future. There are so many things to read online on the subject of how musicians do or don’t get paid it’s practically becoming a genre complete with its own classics, but just as a picture speaks a thousand words, money in the bank speaks more loudly still, and a recent piece in Aux that might startle you offered some pictures of musicians’ money in the bank.

How little does the music industry pay artists? Shockingly little. Spotify, the dominant streaming music source in the U.S., is leaking money. They reportedly dole out 70 per cent of their revenue to royalties, and while that number seems high, consider this: each song stream pays an artist between one-sixth and one-eight of a cent. One source claimed that, on streaming music services, an artist requires nearly 50,000 plays to receive the revenue earned from one album sale. Ouch.

 

 
This check was cut to the influential and respected post-metal band Isis by a company called Music Reports. No specific accounting was offered.
 

 
Lambgoat speculated that this check, also from Music Reports, may have been cut for one month’s worth of streaming royalties for the long running Washington D.C. death metal band Darkest Hour.
 

 
In the ‘80s, Camper Van Beethoven were a HUGE deal in the independent/college music scene. They split into Cracker and Monks of Doom in the ‘90s, with the former becoming very popular indeed. For over a million Pandora plays of one of their hugest hits, “Low,” Cracker got a little under $17.
 

 
OK, anyone wanting to could quibble as to the significance or popularity of Isis, Darkest Hour, or even Cracker, and by all means, that’s what the comments section is there for. But this is Janis Ian. Grammy winning, massively influential folk artist Janis Ian. “Society’s Child,” Between the Lines Janis Ian, hauling down some fat Darkest Hour cash, here.

More hiliarously depressing examples at aux.tv.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Vive la (stalled) révolution: Cinema subverted Situationist-style in ‘Can Dialectics Break Bricks?’


 
Taking a page from Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily? which re-dubbed humorous dialogue over a Japanese spy movie to make the plot about a recipe for egg salad, René Viénet’s 1973 film Can Dialectics Break Bricks? (“La Dialectique Peut-Elle Casser Des Briques?”) did the same sort of thing, but here the cinematic Situationist provocateur is less out for laughs (although there are plenty of them) and more about the political subversion.

The raw material for Viénet’s détournement is a 1972 Hong Kong kung fu flick titled The Crush (唐手跆拳道) directed by Tu Guangqi. In Viénet’s hands, the movie was turned into a critique of class conflicts, bureaucratic socialism, the failures of the French Communist Party, Maoism, cultural hegemony, sexual equality and the way movies themselves prop up Capitalist ideology, all in a manner that would turn such a product against itself, using Situationist aphorisms, arguments and in-jokes.
 

 
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Well, when you put it THAT way: Capitalism in a nutshell!


 
Good question.

Although this has a few too many words to qualify as a Hemingway-esque six-word short story, this sign still gets its point across louder than dozens of articles on the American economy do each week…

And while we’re on the topic, you might enjoy this: Why you’re wrong about communism: 7 huge misconceptions about it (and capitalism)

And this, Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For: Guaranteed jobs, universal basic incomes, public finance and more.

And this, I’m a Member of the American ‘Used-to-Haves’.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Check out The Lumpen, the Black Panther Party’s resident ‘house band’
02.07.2014
06:14 am

Topics:
Class War
Race

Tags:
The Black Panthers

The Lumpen
 
First of all, “The Lumpen” is a fantastically cheeky name for a band of Black Panthers. It’s short for “lumpenproletariat,” Marx’s term for the working class that simply cannot achieve class-consciousness, and may in fact become an obstacle to revolution. (Think very poor, uninsured Tea partiers adamantly against food stamps or universal healthcare.) I’m already sold on the Marxist inside joke.

While The Lumpen were most certainly not the lumpenproletariat, they show that The Black Panther Party made sure to inject a healthy amount of arts and culture into their radical commitments. And though they often had very little time for band practice, (what with Party duties and all), their mission was the capstone to a larger, but usually far less explicit presence of black power politics and rhetoric in soul music—the fascinating book, Party Music: The Inside Story of the Black Panthers’ Band and How Black Power Transformed Soul Music, goes into it more thoroughly. Below, you can hear their one and only single, “Free Bobby Now,” an anthem for Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale, who was serving four years for contempt of court.

Band member Michael Torrance gives his fond recollection of his time spent in The Lumpen, from The Black Panther Party’s Legacy and Alumni:

Throughout history, oppressed people have used music as a means to not only document their struggle, but also to educate, motivate and inspire people to resistance. The Lumpen singing cadre grew out of that tradition. The purpose or mission of the Lumpen was “to educate the People…to use popular forms of music that the community could relate to and politicize it so it would function as another weapon in the struggle for liberation.”

The original members were Bill Calhoun, Clark (Santa Rita) Bailey, James Mott and myself, Michael Torrance. In the beginning we were just comrades who liked to harmonize while working Distribution night in San Francisco to “help the work go easier” (another tradition). We had all sung in groups in the past, Calhoun having performed professionally in Las Vegas, and it just came naturally. I don’t remember just how it came about, but Emory Douglas, Minister of Culture, suggested that this could be formed into a musical cadre. Elaine Brown had already recorded an album of revolutionary songs (Seize the Time) in a folk singing style, and this quartet singing in an R&B or “Soul” form could be a useful political tool. Some folks don’t read, but everybody listens to music.

Shortly thereafter, Calhoun wrote “No More” in a spiritual/traditional style, and then “Bobby Must Be Set Free”, a more upbeat R&B song. We recorded these two songs and soon we were singing at community centers and rallies. Emory named the group the Lumpen for the “brothers on the block,” the disenfranchised, angry underclass in the ghetto. From then on the Lumpen were a Revolutionary Culture cadre - working out of National Headquarters under the direction of the Ministry of Culture, and June Hilliard who was alternately very supportive and very critical.

It was determined that as representatives of the Black Panther Party and to “capture the imagination” of the people, the Lumpen had to perform at a high level - the “product” had to be good. We recruited progressive musicians from the community and they became the Lumpen’s band - The Freedom Messengers Revolutionary Musicians. Thanks to Calhoun’s expertise, we were able to put together a high-energy hour-long “act” complete with uniforms and choreography.

Soon we were performing at clubs, community centers, rallies and colleges throughout the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area and as word of mouth spread, the Lumpen began to develop a following. By the time the Lumpen were about to go on an East Coast tour, the auditorium at Merritt College was packed for the kick-off concert which was recorded live. The whole audience sang along with “Bobby Must Be Set Free.”

In the winter of 1971, the Lumpen and comrade Emory went on an East Coast tour of colleges and fundraisers in St. Paul/Minneapolis, New York City, Boston, New Haven and the Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention in Washington DC. We promoted the Party’s mass line through re-working popular songs by the Impressions (People Get Ready - Revolution’s Come), the Temptations (There’s Bullets in the air for Freedom, Old Pig Nixon) as well as originals such as Revolution is the Only Solution, We Can’t Wait Another Day, Set Sister Erika Free, and Killin’ (If U Gon Be Free).

Upon returning to Oakland, the Lumpen continued to perform throughout California. Attempts to get airplay for the “Lumpen Live” recording were unsuccessful due to the “controversial” lyrics. Eventually, due to departures and shifting priorities, the Lumpen as a group disbanded.

It is important to stress that the Lumpen were Panthers first and foremost. Before, during and after the group, we did all the political and day-to-day work that was required of every rank and file comrade. The music was simply another facet of service to the Party and the Revolution. Furthermore, since we were an educational cadre, rigorous study was necessary to be able to translate the ideology of the BPP into song. At all times, we were representatives of the Black Panther Party.

Being a member of the Lumpen was only one of the various areas of work I was involved in during my years in the Party, but I am proud to have been a part of our struggle’s historic tradition and in the process to have possibly made a little history as well.

 

 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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The Fat White Family want to inject you with their ‘Wet Hot Beef’
01.28.2014
05:25 pm

Topics:
Class War
Music
Punk

Tags:
Fat White Family


 
Like… well, like a lot of other people—I’m hardly alone in this opinion—I’m prepared to call The Fat White Family the best new group in rock and roll. They’re obnoxious. They’re trashy. They’re brash, they’re young, they’re (quite) wasted and they don’t give a fuck. According to one journalist, they stink. Musically, they remind me of The Fall, The Birthday Party, The Cramps, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Captain Beefheart. They’re Marxists. They make completely insane videos and their debut album, Champagne Apocalypse, is one of the best things released last year. These randy, freaky, sleazy, druggy motherfuckers are committed.

What’s not to love?

If the epic “Wet Hot Beef (Parts I,II & III)” from their recent EP (a three-song/two song split with Taman Shud favoring Fat White Family) is anything to go by, 2014 is going to be their year, but right now, they’re broke and trying to raise some dosh to do a short American tour:

Alas, my budget for flying out to tour America currently stands at £3.47. With the rest of the group languishing in similar or worse financial hopelessness, we are turning to you, sisters and brothers, to fund our venture; don’t let those yanks go away thinking that all this country produces is middle of the road, safe as houses homogenized industry crap, send them the Fat White Family, make a difference, make a pledge….

In return for your pledge we are offering ourselves up body and soul, for the next 6 weeks we are on sale. You can have the band come around to your house and cook you dinner, you can have any member of the band give you a special massage, you can purchase a 25 track limited edition anthology of rarities and b-sides, you can have us do some casual labour on your property, there is no low to which we shall not comfortably stoop; the future of bad taste is in your hands, don’t let it slide through your fingers and mucky your shoes.

The list of available rewards for donating include: massages; a “Primal Scream workshop”(?); drum lessons; dinner for two with The Fat White Family cooked by a band member; you can sing backing vocals onstage with the group; be in one of their videos, get a tattoo from the drummer, some original art or even a show at your own home. They were also offering a limited edition CD of unreleased material with handmade artwork, but sadly they’ve all been snatched up already.

The Fat White Family’s US tour is supposed to be some dates at SXSW and then a crawl up the Eastern seaboard. I hope they get out to Los Angeles, too. In February, they’re taking their act on the road across the UK.
 

 

“Cream of the Young” (DO watch this one until the end, won’t you?)
 

“Wet Hot Beef (Parts I,II & III)”
 

“Auto Neutron”
 

“Heaven on Earth” (directed by the notorious comic artist Mike Diana)
 
Plenty more of The Fat White Family after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Our Lenin’: Soviet propaganda book for kids, 1934
01.17.2014
06:07 am

Topics:
Art
Books
Class War

Tags:
Communism
propaganda
Lenin

Our Lenin
 
While the word “propaganda” has a rather nasty, manipulative connotation, it isn’t necessarily defined as “lies” per se. All that WPA art encouraging people to brush their teeth and get tested for syphilis? Excellent uses of propaganda! And whether you’re trying to organize a community garden or start your own fascist regime, I think the most effective propaganda follows that same model of simple, informative, attractive messaging, easily interpreted by children or the uneducated. Catch ‘em young, and make it pretty, I always say.

Our Lenin, a children’s biography of Vladimir Lenin, does this perfectly. Translated and adapted from a Russian book, the US version of Our Lenin was published in 1934 by the US Communist Party. Although teaching the kiddies to revere Vladimir Lenin uncritically is certainly problematic (to say the least), the book is a beautifully executed piece of messaging, and the illustrations are just exquisite.
 
Our Lenin
 
Our Lenin
World War 1
 
Our Lenin
Would you like a socialist utopia, or capitalist fascism? Pick carefully now, children!
 
Our Lenin
Ohhhh, so that’s how it works. Seems easy enough.
 
Via Just Seeds

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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The Socialist Skinhead Soul of The Redskins


 
This is a guest post from Jason Toon

Socialist skinhead soul outfit The Redskins were so conceptually perfect, that they seemed like something someone made up. And they sort of were. Head ‘skin Chris Dean wasn’t some snaggletoothed bootboy urchin from a cement skyscraper. Dean wrote for the NME, he was a member of the Socialist Workers Party, and he had a head full of ideas about youth culture, Trotskyism, and the power of the proper trousers. It was from those ideas, not from the “streets,” that The Redskins sprang.

But The Redskins were a real band, they did inspire a real (if small) left-wing skinhead movement, and most importantly, they did make real (and really great) records. Their 1982 debut single, “Lev Bronstein” b/w “Peasant Army”, paired a post-punk-soul A-side with a chugging Oi! B-side, all produced by Jon Langford of The Mekons and released on his CNT Records. Intriguing enough, especially considering the strident left-wing poetry of the lyrics, but The Redskins really caught fire with their second single, “Lean On Me,” a hyperfast take on ‘60s soul analogous to what the 2-Tone bands did with ‘60s ska. It hit #3 on the UK indie chart, and made The Redskins an electric presence in the ‘80s left-wing pop ferment. When the miner’s strike heated up in 1984, The Redskins’ socialist stance resonated like a brass section.
 

 
If you found Crass too tuneless, if Billy Bragg was too quiet, if The Style Council was too slick, The Redskins were your band. And Dean wasn’t afraid to call the others out for insufficient ideological rigour: “If there’s a tour organized by the Labour Party, one thing you can be sure of is that it’ll sell out,” he said about Red Wedge, Labour’s attempt to mount a travelling anti-Thatcher pop circus. And Dean called Bragg “Neil Kinnock’s publicity officer.”

Touche! But the people in those acts are still around, still doing something. Where’s Chris Dean now? It didn’t take long for his revolutionary fire to burn itself out. After a stack of classic singles and one great LP (Neither Washington nor Moscow), The Redskins fizzled out by the end of 1986. Dean was great at writing stirring anthems like “Keep On Keepin’ On!” and “It Can Be Done!”, but alas, failed to walk the walk. He reportedly retreated to a reclusive life in Paris, leaving the rest of us with a totally unique example of how to weave a handful of diverse cultural and political threads into a thrilling band. Whatever you think of The Redskins’ Trotskyist politics, music could use this kind of commitment, imagination, and style today.

The Redskins perform “Lean On Me” live:

 
Chris Dean and Martin Hewes talk about the band and show the video for “Keep On Keepin’ On!”:

 
More from The Redskins after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Occupy Wall Street: Memories for sale at walmart.com
12.18.2013
06:52 am

Topics:
Class War
Politics

Tags:
Occupy Wall Street
Walmart

owm
 
The Occupy movement may be dead, or it may not, but irony will never, ever die. In a spectacularly brazen display of co-optation, the corporate retail behemoth Walmart—inarguably one of the entities most responsible for the unflaggingly aggressive ongoing campaign to throw the American Working Class into serfdom—is selling panoramic photos of the Ur-Occupy encampment at Manhattan’s Zucotti Park, via its online marketplace. The retailer of the prints is listed as The Poster Corp, and their publisher is named as Lieberman’s—that’s their watermark faintly visible on the images reproduced below.
 
ows1
 
Occupy has generated plenty of irony before, visible from wherever you stand with respect to its objectives. There was a deep and regrettable irony in the proliferation among Occupiers of those Guy Fawkes masks from the film version of V For Vendetta—products manufactured in Asian sweatshops under license from the Warner Bros. corporation. There was an altogether more vicious irony in the senselessly brutal police response to the movement—somehow Tea Partiers who showed up to protests openly brandishing loaded firearms and calling for the President’s death weren’t enough of a potential risk to public safety for police to bat an eyelash, but peaceable demonstrators camping out in public space to call attention to economic injustice needed to be subjected to repeated violent invasions by militarized cops? But does Walmart—the company that recently drew fire for running a canned food drive to benefit its own impoverished workers—profiting from the sale of images from this genuinely populist anti-corporate uprising not take the prize?

Not ironically at all, but quite fittingly, Occupy itself recently released a t-shirt to benefit Black Friday strikers. Wouldn’t it be something if they got a piece of the posters being sold via Walmart and used that money to help organize retail workers? The very idea is surely pure fantasy—it’s so doubtful that Occupy is getting any of that poster action that it hardly even seems worth asking.

“The Revolution Will Not Be Privatized” may, alas, have been a premature slogan.
 
ows2
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Mother Jones speaks: The only known voice recording of ‘the most dangerous woman in America’
12.13.2013
06:51 am

Topics:
Activism
Class War

Tags:
Mother Jones

Mother Jones
 
In times like these, a voice like that of Mary Harris “Mother” Jones grows more and more needed with every passing day.

If you’ve never heard it before, take the time to listen to that voice. It’s the only recording we have of it. The occasion was May 1, 1930, the 100th birthday of Mother Jones.

If only we had a nationally famous person who would ever dare to say the kinds of things Mother Jones used to say. I can’t think of one.
 
Mother Jones
Mother Jones marching to give Theodore Roosevelt what-for about children spending their days in coal mines instead of schools.

Here are some other pithy things the microphone might have recorded if it had been available on other days in Mother Jones’ life:

I’m not a humanitarian, I’m a hell-raiser.

No matter what the fight, don’t be ladylike! God almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies.

I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad he would be a United States Senator.

If they want to hang me, let them. And on the scaffold I will shout Freedom for the working class!

By the bye, Mother Jones was capable of stretching the truth every now and then. This recording was supposedly made on Mother Jones’ 100th birthday, but the evidence shows that when she died later on in 1930, she was actually only 93 years old.

Politifact has called this “the lie of the last 100 years.”
 

 
via Lawyers Guns & Money

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Dangerous Idea: Every American needs to SEE David Simon’s ‘My country is a horror show’ speech!


 
It’s a very big Internet, so you can be forgiven if you’ve missed David Simon’s absolutely incendiary op ed ‘There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show’ that was published on The Guardian’s website on December 7th. But if you’re reading this sentence, you no longer have an excuse and need to click over to said essay NOW and return here after you’ve read it.

You’ll thank me. Trust me, you’ll be smarter after you’ve read it. Go. Now. If there is anything worth your time, it’s THIS. Who wants to be ignorant? Not you, right? NOW.

In the days since it was published, Simon’s essay has turned into a shot heard ‘round the world. In my opinion it’s the most incredibly articulate, passionately argued, well-thought out meditation on America since, I dunno, something Mark Twain (or Kurt Vonnegut) wrote. I believe David Simon’s words to be of historical importance, that is to say future historians will read his essay in an effort to try to understand HOW the American people let it get THIS BAD and still allowed those responsible to continue to operate exactly as they had before. You’d think the economy crashing might have ushered in some change. And it has: Bad for the common man, but great for the capital-hoarding elites.

As Simon rhetorically asks—I’m paraphrasing here—“How much longer until the entire shithouse goes up in flames?”

David Simon’s words have incredible power. The kind of power that educates people, changes minds and makes them do something. It needs to be passed on and on and on until everyone has read it, even your idiot teabagger Fox News-watching Uncle Dumbshit. Especially him.

If you’ve already read Simon’s piece, what you may not be aware of (and the YouTube views thus far would seem to bear this out) is that the essay is actually an edited version of an extraordinary speech that The Wire creator gave in Australia at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House. Simon spoke for about 30 minutes and then there was an extended Q&A beyond.

Watch this and then pass it on. On and on and on. He’s not exactly offering much of a prescription here—that’s not his goal—but the diagnosis is spot on…
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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