Morrissey is an old man, shaking his cane, and yelling GET OFF MY LAWN. I mean, that’s like his dinner after all. OK, ok, the dinner part was an undeserved jab. I respect his dietary choices, though he doesn’t respect the rights of others to do the same, but that’s an entirely different story altogether. Morrissey recently said something downright ignorant and hurtful to independent musicians. Coming against all the musicians one finds on Kickstarter and gofundme, Morrissey stated: Crowdfunding Is Desperate and Insulting. This simply is not true!
Firstly, music is a dream of many a people. Music is a very fickle business to get into, but if that’s your dream, then you should use all tools at your disposal to make this happen. Chase your dreams! Morrissey has been in the business for a long time, and has reached a point in his career where he can release a symphony of white noise and it would still sell a zillion copies because he’s freaking Morrissey. Good for him, but not all musicians have reached that point. Sure, I can see that someone of his caliber and popularity might feel a little desperate if they have to resort to crowdfunding to publish their music, but again – not everyone is Morrissey. Not everyone has the privilege and luxuries afforded by Morrissey.
But the issue goes deeper than simple privileges afforded by big name musicians. Crowdfunding provides the musicians with the ability to not have to deal with a record company. The day of releasing an album through a big label, and then having it distributed to all the record stores is over. Artists no longer need that, and that’s a good thing. Record companies are notorious for taking more than their fair share of revenues. When all is said and done, the average musician (including Morrissey himself mind you) has to tour to make any money at all. Record companies provide a lot of perks – expensive studios, advertising, distribution, and the like. They also have a lot of staff that needs to be paid, overhead, stockholders, etcetera. If a band can sidestep the middle man, and just rent a studio themselves and distribute their music online, that’s a bigger cut for the musicians. That means they might not need to spend 200 nights a year on the road, just to feed their families.
Stepping away from the monetary hassle, there’s also a certain amount of freedom a musician gets when they’re not tied to a record company. It’s common for musicians to have to sign a contract saying they must make X amount of records. This has led to things like Andrew Eldritch’s SSV-NSMABAAOTWMODAACOTIATW. Sometimes bands just peter out before their contract lets them. You get bitter feuds in bands, you get crappy albums, and you get unlistenable music that doesn’t sell well. It’s a stable gig, sure, but it also sucks when one wants out of that gig. Crowdfunding means record labels don’t have that power over a musician. It also means the artist has the freedom to write whatever they feel inspired to write. They’re not pressured by their label to keep it clean, keep it radio friendly, or even to keep it in a certain style. Crowdfunding throws the shackles into the recycling bin where every other piece of scrap metal belongs!
There’s another aspect that Morrissey doesn’t get, and that’s how crowdfunding creates a bridge between the musicians and the fans. As much as I wish I could be the former, I’m the latter. I’m a fan of the music. As a fan, the most hurtful thing Morrissey said was “What next? Do you want us to brush your teeth?” This statement makes me want to kick Morrissey in his nether regions and delete all the songs out of my library. He does not get that crowdfunding makes those of us who feel so connected to the music even more so connected! We can actually be a part of the process of making sure our favorite artists can publish their music. No, we didn’t write it, and no, we don’t own their music. But it fills us with joy to help. A band I’ve loved for a long time, Flemming and John, are making music RIGHT NOW because of crowdfunding…and I helped! My 43 bucks is getting me a copy on vinyl, but more importantly it’s helping put out the first Flemming and John album since 1999. No amount of swag can match that feeling – the feeling that I’m part of the album.
Finally, crowdfunding allows fans to show our gratitude to the artists. I remember walking around downtown several years back, listening to Over the Rhine’s Ohio album. I loved it. It was part of who I was. I wanted to do more for OTR. I knew buying the album and going to their shows was good enough, but I felt like I wanted to do more. They were sharing their soul with me (and the rest of the world). This in turn fed my soul. How is 15 bucks for an album and 25 or so for a concert even beginning to repay that debt? Sure, a few bucks more in a kickstarter isn’t repaying that debt either – but it helps. Again, it gets the music out there. It helps them fulfill their dreams. That’s at least a start.
Crowdfunding really isn’t a new concept. There was an album Willie Nelson put out in the 80s or 90 to pay off his tax burdens. He fully disclosed that he was in trouble and he needed the help of the public. A fifteen dollar CD would make sure that Willie didn’t go to the slammer after messing up on his taxes. Maybe Morrissey is just too far removed to realize the benefits of crowdfunding. Maybe he’s just an old dog who can’t learn a new trick. Maybe he’s just a jerk, and that’s why he and Johnny Marr will never get the Smiths back together. Maybe I’m being unfair with that last part. If I am, burn me at the stake, just make sure I smell the flames as they rise and my Walkman starts to melt. Now I know how Joan of Arc felt!