If Music be the Food of Love, a response to Phil’s Robson’s FaceBook post.

Kate Williams is right in her comments on Phil Robson’s original post, it is definitely a political issue. It is a matter of values, and as artists we are in the “values business”. We assign so much of our energy and intention towards an ideal, a version or subtle representation of life so clearly at odds with the value system of the corporate world and the mass collective narcissistic neurosis of celebrity.

I have thought for many years that as human beings we possess a primal impulse towards creativity, artfulness and spirituality, as much our need for shelter, relationship and sexuality. Indeed, the signs of the collective creative and expressive impulse are ubiquitous, humanity’s need to create constantly revealing itself all around us.

Creativity and artfulness are natural states. When suppressed people become ill. When suppressed for long enough, communities and society becomes ill (read the research). The Spanish philosopher Jose Arguelles wrote: “When a man is deprived of the power of expression, he will express himself in a drive for power.” It is counter to our natural state and emotional health that hoards of artists are not only unknown but under-employed, while the need for more creativity in schools is obvious for all to see (not just in art and music but in the license afforded to creative teaching across the curriculum). And then there is the workplace and popular culture… The crime is that creative talent is as common as sand yet the dominant economic, social and political paradigm would have us believe that it is as scarce as gold. Actually, it is expedient in the post-capitalist world. (American theologian Matthew Fox had contributed insights on the subject during the 1980s.)

Phil’s points about Spotify are straightforward. Free or dirt-cheap listening makes music a “free-gift disposable consumable” that can be discarded in favour of another quick/free fix. Notwithstanding the argument about free access to great music, Music is now commoditised to such an extent and consumed as automatically as junk food, listening habits and purchasing behaviours vulnerable to extensive manipulation the market. I prefer to see quality music in the same way as quality food in that:
• It can take longer to prepare.
• It can require an investment in time and commitment on behalf of both performer and listener.
• It might take longer to digest!
• It can be (generally is) better for you (food for the soul). There is much research about creative activity and improved psychological well-being, reduction in mental illness, improved immune-systems etc.

I admire Phil for taking a stand on these matters and wish that the musical community had the confidence to support and actively promote the discussion. Couldn’t we take a more collective position on behalf of music? The irony is that very few musicians make a lot of money from music in any case, and the argument that free downloads promote the sale of merchandise at large scale or stadium gigs is hardly relevant for improvising musicians. Perhaps we have nothing to lose by reflecting and proposing some alternative practices – together. It won’t work otherwise.

There’s more comment here… www.facebook.com/simon.purcell.313


Special “Olympic Season” of gigs at Oliver’s in Greenwich, more details to follow shortly…

Olypmic Jazz @ Oliver’s in Greenwich

July 27th Simon Purcell Quintet featuring Julian Siegel, Chris Batchelor, Gene Calderazzo and Steve Watts
July 28th Simon Purcell Quintet featuring Julian Siegel, Chris Batchelor, Gene Calderazzo and Steve Watts
July 29th Martin Speake Trio featuring Dave Green and Gene Calderazzo
July 30th Malcolm Earle-Smith Quintet – Monday Night is Jazz Party Night
July 31st Anita Wardell with Simon Purcell trio
Aug 1st Tom Farmer trio with Nathaniel Facey and Shane Forbes
Aug 2nd Simon Purcell’s “Nadatar” with Julian Siegel, Tom Farmer and Shane Forbes
Aug 3rd Mark Lockheart with Simon Purcell Trio
Aug 4th Joe Townsend Band with Dawson Miller
Aug 5th The Music of Lennie Tristano – Pete Hurt, Martin Speake, Callum Gourlay, Jon Scott
Aug 6th Martin Speake and Simon Purcell “Amsterdam After Dark” – CANCELLED DUE TO OLYMPICS EFFECT ON LOCAL BUSINESS
Aug 7th “Fine Chaps” – Geoff Simkins, Malcolm Earle-Smith, Simon Purcell et al – CANCELLED DUE TO OLYMPICS EFFECT ON LOCAL BUSINESS
Aug 8th Tom Farmer Band GOES AHEAD
Aug 9th Anita Wardell with Julian Siegel and the Simon Purcell Trio – CANCELLED DUE TO OLYMPICS EFFECT ON LOCAL BUSINESS
Aug 10th Martin Speake Band with Liam Noble, Chris Hyson and Corrie Dick – GOES AHEAD
Aug 11th Special Jazz Party with special guests… GOES AHEAD

This lucky person can afford music lessons!

Footballer X has refused a £50,000-a-week salary plus a bonus payment of £500,000.
Footballer Y is reputed to earn £250,000 a week.
The teaching budget for all Arts and Humanities subjects within the University Sector is cut by 100%.
I wonder who practices more, footballers or violinists, goalkeepers or pianists. No contest if England’s recent form is anything to go by!
10 per cent of the UK workforce earned less than £276 a week while in full-time employment (see http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=285).

Enough said…

If you are concerned about the ludicrous “2 in the Bar Rule”, please read on… Hamish Birchall’s recent summary of forthcoming events. You might also like to find pout more at this site… ‘Two-in-a-Bar’ Rule Campaign.


Hamish’s briefing… read on…..

EQUITY, the actors and entertainers union, is organising a demonstration outside Parliament at noon on 22 October ‘to convince the government to undo the damage being done to live entertainment by the current licensing regime.’

All performers are invited, and full details are available on their website – click here.

See also this report in The Stage click here.

Equity also calls on members to lobby their MPs and to sign the online petition asking the Prime Minister to rethink his government’s opposition to new exemptions for small gigs recommended earlier this year by the Culture Committee. The petition is nearing the 12,000 signature mark: click here

The union’s very public campaign is in marked contrast to the Musicians’ Union which now seems to be in a state of virtual paralysis on this vital issue.

Indeed, the MU’s latest move tends to undermine the case for new exemptions. Last week they announced that there would be a live band at their AGM on Monday, 28th September: Click here

They claim that Lambeth council, the licensing authority, gave the performance a green light as ‘incidental music’ and it was therefore exempt from the licensing requirement. The MU aim is to encourage pubs and restaurants to make more use of the incidental music exemption.

But the gig was exempt in any case, without recourse to the incidental music exemption, because it was private and not for profit. This is not comparable to a typical pub or restaurant gig, even if the music is not the main reason for people being there. As Feargal Sharkey has said, local authorities have had four years to get the incidental exemption right, and they have failed.

The MU press release seems to be part of their collaboration with the Local Government Association’s live music working group, set up in the summer. The LGA is opposed to new live music exemptions, and wants the working group to promote the ‘incidental exemption’ as an alternative, along with the much criticised £89 ‘minor variations’ process.

So why has the MU lost its way? One reason may be that the MU is politically affiliated and makes regular large donations to the Labour party. Another is that many orchestral members jobs, and large-scale jazz events, depend on government funding. Even though this is meant to be at ‘arms length’, through the Arts Council, the government nonetheless could make things difficult if the union were to rock the boat too much.

Equity, by contrast, is not politically affiliated, and makes no political donations. This fundamental constitutional difference may explain the widening gulf between the two unions on this campaign.

Consider the MU statement from 14 July on the government’s rejection of the Culture Committee recommendations. There is no call for action from members, and no indication that the union intends to do anything significant at all – click here.

Contrast that with Equity’s position – click here

In 2007 the MU issued a public response to the Licensing Act, signed by general secretary John Smith. It included this recommendation:

‘… we strongly believe that there is a clear case for such an exemption to be introduced for venues with a capacity of 100 or less.’

Smith concluded: ‘We urge the government to seriously consider the above recommendations from the MU. The Act is unlikely to deliver the government’s promised improvements to the live music scene in England and Wales unless they are acted upon.’

[‘Musicians Union – Licensing Act 2003 Statement of Union Policy’, para 15(vi) ‘Recommendations – Exemption for micro venues’] – click here

Members might reasonably ask John Smith whether the MU has now abandoned that goal.