By Hans Ebert
A friend in music was trying to find “solace” in the recent cases of Alanis Morrisette being duped by her former manager for millions, and Sir Paul fighting with ATV/Sony Publishing to buy back his and John Lennon’s early catalogue of songs.
Call me naive, but how did we ever get to the point where what someone wrote, and which, let’s say, became huge hits, belongs to someone who had absolutely nothing to do with creating these songs?
My friend’s point is that if these two artists, one far more successful than the other, are fighting uphill battles, then us mere fiddlers on the roof shouldn’t feel bad if things don’t go according to plan as we are all in the same boat. Misery loves company, but I can’t subscribe to this school of thought. Methinks Sir Paul is slightly more successful than I will ever be.
Hero worship doesn’t have a hope in hell of taking you far. It wasn’t, for example, that long ago when many of us in this region were dazzled by the bullshit of one-time music heroes and their management looking for another free lunch by finding someone who could guide them through the quagmire of breaking into the Asian and Greater China markets.
Being cockeyed optimists who used to worship false idols, some of us did their bidding. We were gullible enough to not only buy the bullshit, some of us even travelled to the UK for meetings to discuss all these projects until it became very obvious that, as many of us do, it was just casual talk. One side was dangling carrots and the Bugs Bunnies were buying and biting into it suffering from a ravenous case of the munchies.
What will always remain in this mind was the meeting setup by the management of a certain “cartoon” band to discuss their merchandising.
After coming from different corners of the world to discuss ways to move this supposed partnership further, it didn’t take long to realise that the person who had set up the meeting had forgotten why we were even there. After ten minutes of half baked waffles, the meeting was over, and despite all the Tally Ho let’s-stay-in-touch verbal doodlings, we knew it was the Big Kiss Off.
We had travelled half way around the world- and at great costs- for nada, zilch, nothing. On that note, let’s play the latest recording by Gorillaz, shall we, and wonder how this piece of pretentious crud would be accepted if not written by the great Mr Damon Albarn. Little wonder that his exercise in writing with Adele resulted in nothing except for the Blur frontman losing a longtime fan forever.
All this has much to do with not worshipping false idols, and not being sucker punched by “names”. When, for example, there was a mélange of activity higher than Dusty Springfield’s beehive that the next big music markets- and with the biggest financial backers- were India and Mainland China, it was a case of, “Go East, and multiply” and find some “locals” who would fall over themselves to work with any famous names from the West. And there were plenty with both sides not really who they pretended to be. It was all about getting the most out of the situation from a financial point of view with no real passion nor commitment to the project. This always means that something is doomed to failure before anything has happened.
Thankfully, some of us were actually paid to produce some very good, but extremely neglected Remixes for Bowie, Robbie Williams, Kanye West, Nelly Futardo and Placebo. The rest of the fairy tales spun? They belonged in the land shown below.
Of course when, despite all the wobble heads who’d truck up to every one of those Music Matters cornflakes and porridge talkfests promising that Mumbai was where everything was happening never happened, as did “potentially the largest music market in the world”- Mainland China- all communication ceased.
Gone were the ideas to bring Nashville to Beijing and vice versa, whereas the idea to create China’s first Pop Princess lost its crown due to the negotiator from the UK making visit after visit to Beijing thinking he was plodding through plantations wearing a pith helmet and dealing with servants from the colonial days.
Today, see how far you get asking these users to do you the smallest favour. No can do, children. They hear you knocking, but you can’t come in for the simple reason that you’re no longer useful to them.
The China Dream turned into a nightmare, and for the past few years, they’ve been busy fighting for the funding of their own projects. But, as Hollywood has realised more and more, this funding can only come from the new deal makers in Mainland China.
So, you play the waiting game knowing they’ll be back knocking even harder than ever to be let in. And what will happen this time around?
Hopefully, we’ll be much smarter. Time and experience have taught us out here that nothing from the West to do with making money by producing music has worked. Every country might, for example, have good collection agencies. But what are they collecting? Certainly not much money.
The streaming of music spews forth numbers in their millions, but as even the biggest artists have found out, the financial payout is chump change. Of course, many of us had no idea what what all these numbers meant before. We just expected to automatically get a big fat royalty cheque in the mail.
We never understood that signing one’s songs to a music publishing company would mean nothing- and that the songs would just sit there with no one even trying to market them and have this music covered by artists. Does anyone know what, let’s say, Universal Music Publishing actually does to break new songwriters that they’ve signed up?
Of course, how many knew the dysfunctional ways in which the recording and publishing sides of a music company worked?
At least in Hong Kong, there was that short-lived shakedown of bars, clubs and restaurants to pay a licensing fee in order to have music played in these venues. Today? Today, Spotify is downloaded onto a smart phone and the music plays for free.
In other words, and as The Who once sang, We won’t get fooled again, and there’s something very sad about heroes letting you down. But looking at things positively, all these past mistakes and being taken for a ride on the road to false promises so many times just makes one realise that we’re all on a level playing field and that no one should play without seeing the colour of money.
There’s a coven of shysters out there peddling all types of schemes and dreams and big noting the gullible. Don’t fall for them. Especially in the music business.