Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Artist 2.0 Manifesto

Insofar as the nature of the transmission and dissemination of art and media has been irrevocably altered in the past 10+ years, it may also follow that the nature of the artist can and must evolve. Despite the best efforts of the Music Industry and the Entertainment Industry at large, the internet has uncorked the bottle, and the genie has been emancipated. The pigeons are no longer content to stay snug in their holes. We now live in a world where walls are being toppled, both physical and metaphysical. It is quite possible, in point of fact, that many of the aforementioned walls never even existed. Perhaps recent events have lifted the veil in front of our eyes, so that we may finally see that the walls were never there to begin with.

In our former life, the Music Industry would tell us what we liked, and we would dutifully hand over our shekels in exchange for their Product. When they sensed a disturbance in The Force, every so often they would allow an Alternative Product to emerge, only to quickly co-opt it for maximum profit.

The Artist, at the time, was a commodity, tightly controlled and groomed for maximum profitability. A Formula was instituted, and only occasionally tweaked until maximum profitability was summarily achieved. If maximum profitability was not quickly achieved after a few tweaks of the Formula, the Artist was quickly jettisoned, to be immediately replaced by a younger, fresher version. However, if the Formula proved successful, it would be milked for all it was worth over a period of many years, until the artist either self-destructed in a magical blaze of fire or was, once again, jettisoned.

If the Artist began to yearn for increased creativity or artistic evolution, he or she was quickly reigned in. Some Artists were eventually able to achieve a degree of manumission after a period of many years. Others were sometimes given their own "Boutique Label," or allowed to operate under a separate persona if they wished to create Product outside the bounds of the Formula. However, even these activities were tightly controlled, in order to achieve maximum profitability.

Despite all this, the patronage of the Music Industry, in the form of the Record Contract, was a gold ring sought after by almost every Artist. Yet, in exchange for this gold ring, the Artist usually gave up everything. The Music Industry owned the Artist, as well as the Product, with an ironclad contract. The Artist believed he or she was unable to function outside of the Industry, and this was often the case. The Industry controlled the distribution channels, as well as the flow of information and money.

Of course, the Music Industry relied heavily on the assumed naivete of the Consumer, who seemed willing to accept any Formula that was handed to them. Accordingly, they served as another wall, the wall between the Artist and the Consumer. They instituted the Filter, through which the Artist and Consumer would only see what the Music Industry allowed them to see.

Then came the internet, and we began to unplug from our matrix. The Consumer began to realize that it didn't necessarily like what it was being fed. Sure, maybe it liked Britney Spears, but it also wanted to listen to some country, and maybe some jazz. And, you know, this noise rock band it found on the internet was pretty cool. And hey, here's a really good ska band, and what about this salsa song and this rap artist? The artist, in turn, began to realize there was a way around the filter. A hole had been punched in the wall.

The Music Industry was flabbergasted. How were they going to control the Consumer and the Artist now? The internet didn't have nicely segregated bins like Sam Goode! Communication between the neatly defined segments of Consumer and Artist was now possible. Different Consumer segments could intercommunicate, and they could communicate with the Artist as well. The cat was out of the bag, and thus began the slow, steady, continuing decline of the powers-that-be.

It is a new order, a time for a new business artistic model. In a world without borders, we must assume that the Audience (formerly the Consumer) will be as sophisticated, and perhaps even as eclectic, as we are. In the early days of our movement, before we were all part of the collective hive mind, this was the case, and it seems to have returned to the spirit of those halcyon days.

In accordance, we the undersigned, artists, pledge the following:
  1. We will no longer create art solely for a specific audience or demographic.
  2. We do not need to create separate artistic personas for different aspects of our creativity.
  3. We will allow our creativity free reign.
  4. We will no longer refer to our art solely as a Product.
  5. We will not allow our art to be governed by a Formula.
  6. There is no longer a Consumer. There is only the Audience.
  7. It is perfectly acceptable for an artist to release a country song and a freeform jazz exploration on the same record.
  8. We will no longer use the phrases "is this accessible" or "could someone whistle this melody?"
  9. We will no longer use the terms "single edit," "radio mix," or "commercial," and we will no longer use the phrase "is this too long?"
  10. We do not necessarily want or need to "get signed" to a major record label.
  11. We will never again surrender our artistic control to any person or entity.
  12. As we are able to control our art, we are also able to control our commerce and our livelihood.
  13. We will control our own "brand" or "image." This includes the freedom to completely reject those concepts if we so desire.
  14. We summarily reject genre labels when possible, by labeling our music "other."
  15. We are free to use any and every artistic medium available.
  16. We will interact with the Audience without a middleman or filter. If we chose to allow the Audience to participate in the creation of our art, this is perfectly acceptable as well.
  17. We are free to use new and emerging distribution channels, or create our own if necessary.
  18. In short, none of the old rules apply. We are free to make our own rules, or declare that there are no rules if we wish. Furthermore, we are free to amend or emend this manifesto whenever we desire!

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The Artist 2.0 Manifesto by Michael J Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
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