Editor’s Note: As often as we can we here at Ghost Cult, we like to bring you guest editorials, unique stories, and mini-topic interviews from people in the world of heavy music. Band members and musicians with varying interests to share, delving deep into influence outside the musical, industry honchos breaking down what the numbers mean, or perhaps a music journalist with a new perspective.
Last year when Vincent Cavanagh of Anathema chatted with Ghost Cult’s Susanne A. Maathuis, he had some definite feelings about the current state of the music business and the viability of an artists to succeed and make a living, or not in these times.
“Yeah it’s the DIY model, isn’t it? If you’re not getting up every single day and captaining your own ship, then you’re just drifting. You’re not gonna go anywhere. You’ve got to put the fucking hours in every single day. And play live. Play live as much as you can, be the best fucking live band in your town, and then in your country and then wherever. Just stick at it and get better at what you do. It will pay off eventually if you’ve got the tunes. These days there is so much saturation around and the industry doesn’t give a fuck about you. It’s really, really difficult. I think Tommy (Thom, of Radiohead) Yorke said something like this, I’m paraphrasing here, he said “it’s like throwing pebbles into a waterfall.” It’s just… The all-over deals are fucked too. I went to a seminar on Copyright back in 2001 or 2002. This guy, this twat of a professor, it was in the university, was talking about copyright saying “okay I think all music should be free. I think it should be given away. I don’t think bands should be remunerated for their art.” Well I had a fucking big argument with the guy, you know. I mean I get by these days, but those days I was fucked. I was skinned completely. How fucking dare you! Do you get paid for this you’re doing today? Do you expect to walk into cinema as well, and get those for free? This is like at the dawning of when people realized they could steal music. He was talking about a different thing; he said it should just be free. He was basically saying I don’t believe in copyright. Okay so how many songs have you fucking written, how many books have you written, how many movies have you ever made? You know fuck off. How dare you stand up in front of a bunch of impressionable fucking students and tell them this bullshit?”
“I think a lot of people do want to buy music and they do want to buy art, and they want to reward their favorite artists. They understand that life isn’t easy and especially if you’ve chosen to dedicate yourself to something that’s not fucking a regular life, then you know. You’ve got to be prepared to being on the poverty line for a very long time. Also people recognize that they want to buy something special, like a special package. Artwork has come back so much, the package that you buy these days. Vinyl has made resurgence because of that. I think it’s a reaction to the download culture and the disposable nature of music. Why you listen to mp3’s that are heavily compressed, and then recompressed when they’re uploaded to YouTube. That’s how most people listen to music. There’s a reaction against that, and people’s vinyl collections are growing. And artists themselves are finding new ways to make beautiful special edition packages. I think there’s some encouraging signs, it’s definitely still finding it’s feet.”
“I’m not sure at the moment how I feel about the whole streaming services. I don’t like the way that it’s basically the same as old major labels milking the bands. The overhead of something like Spotify are a fucking shitload less because everybody subscribes to it. They don’t have to do as much as old record labels had to do to break a band and promote them. “okay we’ll get a million subscribers on Spotify, and we’ll make ten million dollars… oh how much should be pay he artist? How about virtually nothing, because who are they anyway?” I don’t think that’s right. There’s got to be some kind of compromises on both sides. I just think the direct to fan method is the way to go really, especially for people starting up. The problem with that is you need the mechanisms of the industry to actually get you somewhere as well sometimes. It can be a double edged sword. It’s very tough these days it’s tougher than it’s ever been.”
AS TOLD TO SUSANNE A. MAATHUIS