Ghost in the Saddle Shop

a poem…

I was sittin’ at my stitch horse, was a cold day lasaddle shopte in the fall
sewin’ up a saddle skirt with two needles and an awl
I was plantin’ stitches six to the inch, and I stropped the awl every two or three
A spool of six cord linen thread and a ball of beeswax was on the workbench next to me

Old Saddle Shop

 

 

The shop was cluttered, like it usually was, with scraps of leather on the floor
There was some new saddle trees that had just come in, sittin’ on the Jake knife over by the door
There were shelves full of patterns, bins full of hardware, and a room full of glues and dyes,
And there was a butcher’s block with leather punches of every shape and size.

My work bench must have had two hundred tools, Hackbarths and Osbornes and Randalls.
There were edgers and creasers and overstitch wheels, with rosewood and hickory handles
There was a big block of marble set into the bench, where a splitter would normally be
The gravestone company had spelled the name wrong,gravestone makers so they gave it to me for free.
It had been lyin’ around in their yard for years, the monument fella had said
Wasn’t worth the trouble to grind the name off, so they threw it out instead.

Well, I brought it home as a carving stone, and it did the job right well.
With the name, “James P. Smiht
lyin’ face down, it was hidden so you couldn’t tell.
Now the last name was sorta spelled backwards, it was, “S-M-I-H-T”
and everyone knows “S-M-I-T-H” is the spelling that “Smith” should be
So the monument maker’s loss was my gain, and I felt real glad to have found it
‘Cause a stone like that ain’t easy to come by, and I built my whole workbench around it.

last saddle 1Well, I used that gravestone all through the summer, carvin’ flowers and leaves and vines,
Makin’ basket stamped saddles and squirrel gut patterns, and all sorts of hand tooled designs.
And that four inch thick piece of marble, well it took all them blows mighty well
And I was proud of that stone, and I wondered about all the stories that ol’ James Smith could tell.

But when I opened the shop up each morning, that stone… well, it had moved just a bit
And I noticed it wasn’t lined up on my bench, as if someone had fooled with it.
Now, this went on for weeks, every morning, and I couldn’t figure out what it was
‘Till that day in October, as I sat at my stitch horse, and the beeswax began to buzz.

I always use a small stick of beeswax, for stitching with a needle and awl
I melt it in a pan along with some rosin, and roll it all into a ball.
When you make up a thread for hand sewing, you taper each end with a blade
You twist ‘em and wax ‘em and pass ‘em through needles that go through the stitch holes you’ve made
That little ol’ ball of beeswax, it didn’t look like too much, but I’ll say
thread & waxIt made them stitches look tidy and tight—it was sticky, so they stayed that way.
But this little ball, it wouldn’t sit still, it was making a terrible sound
And the buzzing grew louder, my workbench it shook, and the lights in the shop all went down

 

Well, I thought that maybe a bumblebee was trapped inside that little wax ball
But I couldn’t for the life of me figure out, how he had managed to stay alive through it all.
And at first, I couldn’t see nothin’, but then it began to glow green,
and an eerie light came from that old marble stone, it was the strangest thing I’d ever seen.

And all of a sudden a fella appeared, right there in front of my eyes
He wasn’t a big man, but his green apparition made up for his lack in size.
And he sorta just stood there, not sayin’ nothin’, as the beeswax continued to buzz
And I no longer knew if it were daytime or night, or where in the world I was.

His ghost like appearance got to lookin’ more solid, and the buzzin’ it seemed to just stop
and everything suddenly got real quiet, there weren’t a sound in that old saddle shop.
I got to my feet and stood up to face him, so I wouldn’t feel so small.
There wasn’t no way to defend myself, all I had was a diamond shaped awl.

But then the man spoke, he said, “Hold on there, son, I know this ain’t goin’ too well,
but if you’ll bear with me for just a short while, I’ve got a story to tell.
When they made this here marker to put on my grave, they thought that ‘Smith’ was my name.
But it dang shore isn’t—they made a mistake, though no one is really to blame.”

And he tilted that carving stone up on its side, so the writing was facing at me
And to me it looked like “Smith” was spelledgravestone wrong, and the man said, “Yes, I agree.”
But then he said, “Y’see this old headstone? Well I tell ya, they done it all wrong.
My real name’s Smiht, just like it says here, this gravestone was correct all along.”

And he said, “I’m gonna ask you a favor son, and this ain’t how I normally behave.
But I ain’t had a decent night’s sleep since they put the wrong marker on top of my grave.”
And he asked me if I would consider a trade, a straight across one-fer-one swap.
The old marble headstone that stood on his grave, for the one I had there in my shop.

Well, the upshot of this crazy story is one that you probably guessed.
I drove that old stone on out to the graveyardgraveyard and finally put it to rest.
In the middle of the night I left my headstone, and brought home its counterfeit twin.
and I’ll be danged if it didn’t fit perfect in the place where the other had been.

Now a lot of leather’s been carved on that stone, it’s even better than the one before.
And when springtime came around and the days got longer, the man showed up once more.
And he looked at me mighty grateful like, and his eyes they filled up with tears,
And he said, “Thank you, friend, I owe you one. I ain’t slept this good in years.”

Whippin’ a Dead Horse

Dead_horse_mongoliaI read a lot of posts on social networks by fellow musicians who complain about how digital media is destroying their livelihoods and changing their way of life for the worse. In the near future it might become impossible to make a living as a musician or songwriter. I’ve shared their lot most of my life, and I think there’s a lot of truth to this.

However, I also realize that a great deal–the vast bulk, as a matter of fact–of our current collective society and culture is centered around 2 technological advances of the 20th century: the automobile and the advent of electric mass media.

The car standardized our world, gave us homes that look and function alike, pushed our cities out into suburbs, separated our workplace and our homes for the first time in history, and created a brand new class and culture: teenagers. The word “teenager” wasn’t even invented before the car, and there was no such thing as “teenage” or “adolescent” culture before we took to paved roads in our new rides. teens carThe automobile allowed us to escape our parents, to congregate at places away from our houses at night. It created a brand new culture. And as we’ve grown older (and grown OLD…), we all still cling to that culture desperately. We still want to rock. We still want to be in a band, or go to a gig, or play the music of our youth. It’s who we are, and it started sometime back in the 1910’s or 20’s.
recording band with horn
The recording studio had a great deal to do with the evolution of this mass media culture of ours. The record, for the first time in history, separated the audience from the performance. The same thing occurred with movies. And when the recording studio evolved into a multi-track environment, the musicians themselves recording isolationwere separated, from each other. It didn’t take long for the rise of the producer and the engineer to come about, and they in turn separated the artist (and the musicians) from the finished product. From about the early ’60s onward, they have actually had more influence upon the finished recording than the artist has had. They have, in fact, taken the act of composition and performance away from the composer/arranger, and have stolen live performance from the artist, by using  their ability to edit and comp tracks in the studio. They are the ones who actually create the finished, recorded performances that we hear.

I don’t hear many artists, musicians, composers, arrangers, or others complain that their livelihood was destroyed by a recording engineer, even though it may have been. Final decisions in the studio don’t come from the artist… they come from the engineer, the mixer who actually renders the final audio file, and who tweaks each track so that it fits his–or a producer’s–vision of what the song should sound like. The artist might in fact BE the producer, and the engineer… But if so, then they may have taken away someone else’s job, haven’t they?

But back to digital media. It’s a thing that fosters–even REQUIRES–the participation of every interested party. Not only do the functions of each participant blend together, but they blend with those of the consumer, as well. In mass media, the music amateur bandindustry directed its consumer from above, in a top-down, one-directional way. Now, that’s no longer possible. Consumers get to talk back. They get a say in the creation of music, and are not simply passive consumers, they’re now creators. Brian Eno talks about how we “…stop regarding things as fixed and unchangeable, as preordained, and we increasingly find ourselves practising the idea that we have some control.”

The consumer now has the power. It came about through changes in technology, as did the changes stemming from the automobile, the movie camera, and the recording studio. We can complain about it. We can employ Draconian methods of protection in order to retain our status quo. We can implement restrictions on digital content, through programming and hardware tools, in order to direct the consumer in ways we feel are appropriate. We can do all of these things and more, but I doubt it will succeed in turning back the clock. We can hardly complain about someone appropriating our intellectual content at the same time we’re photoshopping someone else’s photograph and posting it on Facebook.

Digital media is itself a very different thing from fixed artifacts such as records, books, movies, and photographs. Anything rendered in digital format is, in fact, NEVER FINISHED. We always have the Horse & Buggyoption of tweaking it, no matter what it happens to be. An E-book is not a BOOK…it is a FILE. An MP3 is not a RECORD….it is a FILE. We shouldn’t mistake one for the other.

I don’t know the answers to the problems and questions my colleagues and friends have about this changing world of ours. All I can recommend is to study the evolution of the buggy whip maker from about the time the automobile came on the scene. Because we’re probably all headed in the same direction.

Telling Stories

Have we given up the ability and the desire to tell our stories? At first glance it seems that digital media, with its relentless emphasis upon the short term, is following television’s lead by encouraging our short attention spans. Television certainly has seduced us with its promise of instant gratification over the years, offering up its constant doses of dopamine and oxytocin as rewards for our attention. But to those ends, television has relied upon the centuries old, tried and true methods of storytelling, placing its emphasis upon tales that contained an introduction (beginning), a conflict (middle), and a resolution (ending). Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. This traces back through radio and movies to the novel, and before that to the folktale. Storytelling, it is argued, is what separates humans from other animals.

Computer media doesn’t like storytelling. It doesn’t lend itself to long term relationships with any of its content. We don’t watch sports on our smartphones. That’s partly because the screen is too small, but mostly because most team sports take too long and we end up becoming distracted by the device itself. Same goes for watching movies, or for anything that requires a long term commitment (anything more than a couple of minutes) in order to receive the payoff. Games offer continuous payoffs as we move from obstacle to obstacle. We don’t read novels on our computers or handheld devices. Sure, we have our Kindles and other e-book readers, but as they become smarter and smarter, with more built-in features, we will find ourselves more and more distracted by them, unable to read for two hours the way we used to with a printed book. In fact, as we use our digital devices more and more, we find ourselves unable even to read a printed book for as long as we used to.

Have computers followed television’s lead? No, it’s the other way around. It’s no accident that reality shows have taken over much of TV’s programming content. We no longer want to sit through an entire episode of conventional storytelling. We want a more rapid payoff, a continual reward for our attention, so we choose instead the spectacle over the narrative. The spectacle—the reality show about cops, or bachelors, or fashion victims, or cooking contestants, or singers, or island survivors, or apprentices, or fat people—has replaced the narrative. Storytelling—that with a beginning, middle, and ending—has been exchanged for spectacle—that which is non-linear, random, and without any underlying sense of story.

Television is simply competing with computers, with the internet and with our newfound abilities to communicate across multiple channels, instantly with substance that means something to us as individuals. But even as we try to quench our endless thirst for something new, we sacrifice our ability not only to tell stories, but to listen to them as well. For all its faults, television used to supply us with stories, from Saturday morning cartoon shows to the evening news, from sitcoms to crime dramas, and from movies to miniseries. It still provides us with some of these, but their supply is dwindling. As television continues its struggle to compete with the internet (a struggle that it will ultimately lose) it steadily remakes itself in the internet’s image.

If storytelling is what separates humans from other animals, it is also what teaches us about ourselves. It is how we learn to become good people, how we discover who we are. While the internet provides us with amazing opportunities to find out about these things, it doesn’t put them into any sort of meaningful context. We are left to our own resources as individuals to try to make sense of it all. And the smarter the internet gets, the better it becomes at steering us toward what it thinks we like, and the more it shields us from opposing points of view. And within all of this, it doesn’t tell us stories. It simply offers up short term connections in the form of easily read blogs (such as this one), youtube videos, tumblr pictures, and endless sources of amusement in all manner of shapes and forms. It gives us bits of the story, but doesn’t really tell the whole story.

And so, who are our narrators now? From whom can we get our sense of self, and with it our sense of morality? TV is still a viable source, though probably not for much longer. For stories, I look to three sources. And no, it’s not politicians, religious leaders, and news commentators.

My three sources are writers, poets, and songwriters. Yes, they’re all writers of sorts, but each approaches the craft in a different manner, with different criteria applied.

If you want to do something to save humanity, my advice is to seek out what these three sources provide. Read books. Read poetry. Listen to songs (not just music… songs). Be selective. Be judgemental. Raise the bar on quality.

And if you really want to serve humanity, then become one of these… become a source.

The Empowered Consumer

Until now most recording artists have gone about making a new record by simply using conventional mass media means, by creating a musical statement around an album and delivering it to passive consumers in a one-directional manner. Even today, the consumer still has little or no say in the matter of production, and is considered only when tallying up sales numbers. This has no effect upon the creation of the album itself (it has already been produced and released), though the sales figures might affect the next album’s production.

In the mass media culture of the 20th century artists and consumers were two separate groups of people who never met. There was no social contact between performers and listeners, no personal interchange between artists and fans.

But in the folk cultures of the past, everyone was a musician of sorts. That is, everyone was involved in creating music in the community, at least on some level. Music was a community affair. Everyone played or sang along, or were at least in attendance as active spectators. We were participants then. There were no professionals, no expert musicians. Everyone shared in the making of music. Christopher Small called it “musicking“.

Our print culture of the past 500 years has slowly put an end to this. We have relinquished control over our cultural artifacts (folktales, songs, writings, artwork, etc.) and have handed it over to professionals. As a community we quit being producers and became consumers.  In turning that control over to professionals, we created what Lawrence Lessig refers to as a “Read-Only Culture”, a no-questions-asked society in which we embrace a “look but don’t touch” approach to creative content. We have even put a fence around it and call it “intellectual property“.

We have created an environment in which those who use the works of others without permission are considered thieves and pirates and under many circumstances are prosecuted for their actions. Vilification of offenders is directed not only at those who copy and resell recordings, but at those who perform the simple act of playing another’s song in public. Think about it… If your cell phone rings in public with a copyrighted ringtone, you’re breaking the law. The rights of the individual to own and control artistic creations have become sacrosanct and inviolable within our mass media culture, and the function of the community as an active participant—a function that had previously ensued for thousands of years—has been dismissed. More and more, those “individuals” who own and control our intellectual property–our songs, films, books, and other works of art–are large corporations. But corporations don’t create anything… people do.

Control is changing.

The 20th century mass media system continues to function, propelled by its own inertia, but its momentum is decelerating as it crosses farther into the realm of the digital. Not only the recording industry but radio, film, and television industries as well, still employ the old mass media methods—top-down, centralised, one-to-many, specific and specialised. These are now giving way to the digital—bottom-up, decentralised, many-to-many, automated and generalised. Most artists today still create their music within last century’s paradigm, choosing to delay a song’s release until they have created a collection—an album. It’s the same old 20th century concept, a product that is produced using a one-to-many philosophy that ignores the centuries-old traditional ideas of folk culture and community driven music.

We continue to move steadily away from the mass media aproach—linear, proprietary, and centrally controlled—toward the digital—an ecology of random access that is communal and decentralised. Our means of playback has moved away from the proprietary devices—record players, tape machines, and CD players—that were largely controlled by the same industry that created the music played upon them. Consumption and playback of music now moves toward open, non-specific devices: computers, cell phones, iGadgets, and other digital appliances. These are no longer seen simply as media players, but as access points, entryways into the digital world that stores not only our musical content, but the fabric of our everyday lives.

We no longer carry our music with us but instead choose to store it in the cloud. We need only possess a connected device—a cell phone or digital player—in order to listen to our music on demand. Place and time are no longer important, and only our ability to connect is required.

Ownership no longer matters… access does.

Digital culture by its very nature returns control to the community—at the expense of the individual. Collective intelligence is replacing the expert; crowd sourced information is replacing professional opinion. For better or for worse, the authors of Encyclopedia Britannica (professionals & experts) have been replaced by the authors of Wikipedia (the general public).

The thing to remember about the digital domain is this: we’re all in it together. It’s no longer a zero sum game. One man’s gain does not equal another’s loss. One man’s gain is everyone’s gain. We might not all get along here, but it’s a community.

Peace

Tapping Into Our Wellspring

Ask yourself this: what is copyright for? Why do we have it? What is its function? Not surprisingly, most will answer that it’s for protection from theft of our intellectual property. It’s to keep people from stealing your songs, or your films, or photographs, or other creative content. To protect you from thieves. It serves to punish those who steal. Well, yes and no. It has a sort of secondary function that serves all of that, but its true purpose is not a moral one, it’s a utilitarian one. And it goes all the way back to 1710, with the Statute of Queen Anne. So, what utility, exactly does it serve? It might surprise you to know that its purpose is to give incentive to creative type folks… to coax them to create more cool stuff  for us to enjoy… Copyright’s originators (and among them in the USA was Thomas Jefferson) intended that its purpose was not to protect those creations forever, nor was it to protect them for the artist’s children’s and grandchildren’s estates. Nor was it to protect them for corporations (who, by the way, don’t create anythng.…. people do…). It was meant to give the artist a bit of breathing room (around 14 years, then 28, back then) so they could reap a bit of profit from their works, while creating more works. After that, creative content was intended to go into the public sphere, or the public domain as we know it, to be freely used by everyone. To enrich our culture. The whole idea (and I believe it’s a good one) was to encourage people to create works of art in all  fields, to allow them to profit from them, and then to enrich the public domain (and consequently, our lives). Capitalism has put an end  to all of that in the 20th century. We now see copyright as a moral  issue, using terms like ‘pirates’ and ‘thieves’. We’ve come to accept–no, to expect–that an artist should own their work for decade upon decade, that their children and their children’s children will own it long after they are dead, and that nothing should be forthcoming from them that we’ll eventually be free to use. This is not only wrong for our society, it’s downright dangerous, because it is steadily shrinking the public domain. A lot’s been written about this, by people far more eloquent than I am, but I wanted to throw my hat in the ring alongside them. This is something that needs to be constantly talked about, until this stigma of guilt and shame is lifted and we can begin to see that the shrinking of our public sphere is not in our best interests. I want artists to get paid for their work. I want to see them profit–even to see them get rich–but I also want to live in a world where it’s just natural to share your art as a gift to your community, as a way to help, in your own small way, to make the world a richer, more vibrant place, and to help nurture the wellspring that we all need to draw from for our inspiration.

Brave New Internet

I’ve talked a little here about the aesthetics of code. It’s interesting, how new tech industries have evolved in 20th century. I’m thinking of radio, tv, phone, film, recording, and publishing industries. They start as open platforms, with common access to production, but end up closed, run by monopolies or cartels. The Internet might be headed in the same direction. 

While we like to think of the internet as a free and open platform, a thing that is apart from and above the workings of government, nothing could be further from the truth. The idea that free speech is inherent within the platform of the internet is a common misconception. It is not inherent, and it is certainly not guaranteed. 

The internet–and all its attendant technologies–is made of code. Computer code, that is. Code is its governor. It is the ruler, the authoritarian, the dictator, in what can be viewed from one angle as a totalitarian environment. In order to use our computers, our cell phones, our mobile devices and big screen TVs, we have no choice but to follow the rules that code describes. Code itself can be changed from time to time, but it is still the law of the land. 

But it turns out that this process of following our authoritarian master is not a bitter pill for the public to swallow. On the contrary, it is a very sweet pill, reminiscent of the Soma of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”. We are in love with our new medium and we are blind to its nature. We are smitten by its countenance, infatuated with its content, but anesthetized at the same time, so that it numbs us to the consequences it embodies.

I’ve written about the idea of a new “informationalism”, where those with knowledge will assume power, replacing those who own capital (capitalists). Signs of this can be found in TED talks, the Singularity University, and other gatherings of industry insiders and celebrities. Celebrities, and others, are seeking to become part of the knowledgeable elite. Right now, that elite is made up of a disproportionate number of computer geeks. This isn’t surprising. The 20th century’s ruling elite was made up of a disproportionate number of actors, musicians, and other celebrities. It’s only natural for those on top to want to remain there, and the only way for a celebrity to become a member of the new elite is to become an informed insider. Just as the aristocracy handed over the reins of power to the capitalists, so are the capitalists now handing them over to the new  informationalists. In both cases the old ruling class hangs onto its wealth—and a fragment of its power—by a sort of tacit agreement with the new one. It’s not a conspiracy; it’s just the way things tend to shake out. 

When I think of companies like Apple, I am reminded of Huxley. Consumers are guided happily into our own luxuriously padded jail cells. We go cheerfully, voluntarily, and have even stood in line (literally) to do it. Our enjoyment of the product leads to our own enslavement by it. We follow its code without a second thought. We don’t care who wrote the code, or why. But we jump through the same hoops again and again, without ever knowing what an iteration loop is. 

Drinking from the Wellspring

I was a saddlemaker for many years. And I’ve been a musician for even longer. It occurs to me that the two paths are not all that dissimilar, that they have some things in common. Those who follow these paths make things up, from scratch (or nearly so), using some tools, some materials, and their wits. Both create intellectual property, or creative content if you want to call it that. Both can claim ownership of that property. For the saddlemaker it’s his designs, patterns, and finished creations. For the songwriter it’s his songs and compositions. But the paths diverge once their so-called intellectual property sees the light of day.

Craftsmen do what craftsmen do… we make stuff. When I made a saddle, or this bag for instance, I knew that once it went out my saddle shop door I no longer had creative control over it. Whatever happened to it, whatever design changes it would undergo, it was no longer my concern. My name was stamped on it, but the design was not mine to control any longer. It could be copied by other saddlers, or it could be changed by the owner somehow. If copies were made of it I wasn’t about to sue anybody over them. In fact, I copied others’ designs, just as every other saddlemaker does.

Copying designs is not about plagiarism. When you steal a good idea and incorporate it into your own work, three things happen:

  • It elevates the level of your work.
  • It gives new life to an existing idea, a rebirth.
  • In its own small way, it enriches our culture and makes our universe a bit more vibrant.

Saddlemakers know this intuitively. Fashion designers know it. Even automobile manufacturers know it. For the most part, these industries are relatively free from copyright lawsuits, especially considering (in the cases of fashion and cars) the ENORMOUS sums of money that are made within those industries. They know that they need constant renewal, which means reusing, remixing, and giving new meaning to existing ideas and designs.

Music, film, publishing, and the arts? Not so much. They don’t want renewal at all. Much to the contrary, they want to control their ideas forever, and continually work to bolster copyright laws to make this happen. Besides changing our laws, this process includes lawsuits, villification of offenders, and even polarisation of the public at large, causing us to choose sides in the copyright argument that rages over illegal downloads and unlawful appropriation of so-called “intellectual property”.

As a sideman, a person who plays for other artists onstage and on their records, I must use the saddlemaker’s approach to my creations. When I create a musical part on a song, it is most certainly my own creation. However, once I walk out the recording studio door, it’s lost to me. I have absolutely no control over its use or its ultimate fate on the recording. And that’s the way it should be. We session players do this as a work for hire, and we let go of our intellectual property as if it had never belonged to us. And we’re happy to do so, because it’s the making of the music that’s important. As artists who make “creative content”, we basically want two things–in this order:

  1. People to listen to our music
  2. To somehow make a living

Most of us can (and do) live without number 2, but none of us would give up number 1. Yet we seem to be stuck in this argument that focuses solely on the second thing, and has changed the idea of copyright from a UTILITARIAN concept to a MORAL one. It was never meant to be moral, and still is not meant to be. But it now serves a moral purpose instead of a utilitarian one. [hint: read Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts about this]

Why is it that I’m happy to let go of a design for a bag that took 160 hours to make, yet I find myself wanting to keep control of a song that took me an hour to write? Why is the song more precious to us than the leather artifact? I don’t know. But here’s a tidbit from Woody Guthrie that sort of sums up the argument, and reveals how he felt about numbers 1 and 2 above:

“This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ours, cause we don’t give a darn. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do”

Don’t want to preach, but here’s some food for thought: Share your ideas. Don’t be afraid of letting go of them. And don’t be afraid to avail yourself of others’ ideas, as well. We need more stuff in our public sphere, more creative waters in the wellspring from which we draw our inspiration. And what the hell, it makes for an interesting life.

Saddle up. 

Surrendering the Keys to the Kingdom

I posted a note about shifts in our culture and society via the digital media that has become ubiquitous within our world. In it I mentioned that power shifts from so-called experts to those who form the community, and this utilises a sort of collective intelligence, eschewing the specialised knowledge of the trained professional for the broader combined knowledge of the society.

This hits especially hard with musicians (you can plug in artists, actors, film makers, authors, and other creators of intellectual content here…), as we have come to think of ourselves as exactly those sorts of specialised experts from whom digital media wrenches power. During the course of the past century we have become professionalised; that is, our knowledge, and the products we produce have become commodified to the extent that we are now naturally quite protective of them, and of our status as controllers of their means of production.

Well, guess what? Like it or not, we’re gonna have to get used to the idea that we are no longer the exclusive holders to the keys to that kingdom. We can bitch and moan about how bad the music is that’s made by the great unwashed on YouTube, those dilettante wannabes who aren’t real musicians, who haven’t sacrificed, haven’t done the hard miles, don’t know the first thing about sound checks, cheap motels, late night truckstop coffee, or living hand to mouth, robbing Peter to pay Paul.

After all, we’re the real experts, the musicians, and it’s always been the wannabes’ place to simply be passive consumers. All we ask of them is to show up at our gigs, buy our CDs and T-shirts, and maybe tell their friends. Leave the music making to the pros. We’re the ones who are supposed to sign the autographs.

If you’re a musician, I’ll give you a tip: don’t look at the digital medium and all its attendant platforms (social networks, websites, Google Ads, YouTube, websites, etc.) as simply a tool for advertising in the old fashioned way. If you do, you’ve completely missed the point of the medium. Use it for connecting with people, not for trying to sell them something. Allow room for wannabes. They’re not your enemy; obscurity is. And if you truly connect, your livelihood will follow.