Photo by Toban Black

I was sent a report by the IFPI (International Federation of Phonographic Institutes) last week about how the record business is so important and must be protected because – after all, who else is going to invest in new artists and new music? Here’s a PDF link if you’re interested.

I’ve been thinking about that a good deal recently, especially in the light of the proposed blanket tariff for online services. There’s an idea doing the rounds that everyone should pay an extra £5 a month on their internet bill, and then essentially that goes to the record industry. You know… because they’re so important, and we’re all stealing their stuff all the time.

It’s that old ‘music like water’ thing. Yeah – still.

Well, it occurs to me that while it’s true that the record industry has traditionally been the ones “investing” in new artists, they haven’t been doing it very well for quite some time – and nor has that investment been largely beneficial to the musicians, the audiences or to music in general.

But I’m prepared to entertain the idea that we should all contribute to the investment in new music (officially I’m opposed to a tariff, but go with me here for a moment) – I’m just not convinced that if we do that, then the money generated by those contributions should automatically go to the recording industry as a right. I have something else in mind.

Genuine investment in new music
I have no problem at all with the idea that artists and labels should get money for music – but I am deeply suspicious of the presupposition that the mainstream recording industry would be the best custodian of a pool of money earmarked to invest in the careers of new artists, develop their talent, help them record, release, promote, tour and create value for large numbers of people.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if the major record labels have proven anything to us over the past two decades, it’s that they are the last people we should trust with this sort of thing. It’s hard to imagine a bunch of people who are less frugal, less strategically competent, less artist-friendly and less interested in the development of music than they have demonstrated themselves to be on repeated occasions.

As far as coming up with sustainable models for young musicians to earn an income by composing, producing, distributing, promoting and performing – the major record labels have been about as good at investing in new artists as mining companies have been at investing in rainforests.

New Music Trust
So here’s my idea. Call it a thought experiment, if you like. Instead of collecting a blanket fee and distributing that money among record labels under the assumption that they’re going to invest in new artists – let’s take that money and give it to someone who’ll actually do that.

I’m talking about an organisation whose job it is to ensure that creativity is nurtured and fostered. That artists get the support they need – whether it’s subsidising musical instruments, providing better music education in schools, underwriting tours, sponsoring album recordings, providing profile-raising campaigns, ensuring widespread distribution of music, helping artists develop sustainable careers.

Rather than prop up a sector of an industry that claims to invest in music – why not actually do something creative and start from first principles? Why not support and foster music in a new, sustainable and positive fashion?

I mean – if that’s the goal – let’s just work directly on the problem without weighing it down with all the baggage the existing major record industry brings to the table.

I’d happily hike my internet charges on that basis – though actually, we’re kind of being screwed there too, have you noticed? Data does not cost as much to move about as the telcos would have you think. But that’s a rant for another day.

For now – this is my idea: let’s set up a Foundation to support, foster and grow new music and new artists. Teach them to be sustainable. Help them experiment and grow. Assist them to reach audiences and make their art. Help them make the most of the current opportunities – and help make it so that music making is not something that only ‘stars’ and their record labels can make money out of.

A New Music Trust. The idea’s all yours. Go for your life.

Table of contents for 30 Days of Ideas

  1. The other way of following first
  2. Now we’re up and dancing
  3. 30 days of ideas – 01: Keymash
  4. 30 days of ideas – 02: Radio Alerts
  5. 30 days of ideas – 03: Only Famous (a romantic comedy)
  6. 30 days of ideas – 04: Modcasts
  7. 30 days of ideas – 05: Numberless Calendar
  8. 30 days of ideas – 06: SpringCleanr
  9. 30 days of ideas – 07: Street Gallery
  10. 30 days of ideas – 08: Smart Business Cards
  11. 30 days of ideas – 09: Recordings in Concert
  12. 30 days of ideas – 10: Vinyl scanner
  13. 30 days of ideas – 11: Photo Stack-and-Scan
  14. 30 days of ideas – 12: A Box of Cool
  15. 30 days of ideas – 13: Karaoke-Tube Celebstar Idol
  16. 30 days of ideas – 14: I Made You A Tape
  17. 30 days of ideas – 15: Newspaper download codes
  18. 30 days of ideas – 16: Pebble Splash
  19. 30 days of ideas – 17: Digital radio, somewhere useful
  20. 30 days of ideas – 18: Public domain music collection
  21. 30 days of ideas – 19: Blog cast-list automator
  22. 30 days of ideas – 20: The Retirement Pile
  23. 30 days of ideas – 21: Nationalise EMI
  24. 30 days of ideas – 22: The Stainless Steel Rat (the movie)
  25. 30 days of ideas – 23: WordPress Bandcampify template
  26. 30 days of ideas – 24: Rollercoasters as public transport
  27. 30 days of ideas – 25: Next-gen personalised music radio
  28. 30 days of ideas – 26: New Music Trust
  29. 30 days of ideas – 27: Tamagotchi Gardening
  30. 30 days of ideas – 28: Charity shop clothing subscription
  31. 30 days of ideas – 29: ‘Now Playing’ social music app
  32. 30 days of ideas – 30: House of Spare Ideas
  33. Mixtape for You by Ray Kuyvenhoven
  34. What can you do in 30 days?