Making Music You Like by Maia Davies

by Maia Davies
(re-posted by permission, copyright in the author)

Artist and Repertoire. How relevant are the tried & true industry opinions on an artist’s choice of material? Nowadays, we will find most artists and bands penning their own songs and sound. But in pining for the prize of popularity, many start considering shifting their creative focus in order to fit in more. Can’t play it on top40 radio.  Too commercial for college radio. Can’t put pedal steel on a pop record. Can’t be political in a country song. These are phrases we know to be tossed around so liberally, we seem as an industry to dismiss their implications, ones especially relevant in today’s changing context. I played with the mighty ensemble Broken Social Scene this last weekend at Ontario’s Northern Lights Festival, and here is what I have learned from them.

A rich creative collective, they have engineered a unique sound and genre that’s both enchanting and commercially successful, and this seemingly based on one simple principal: they make music that they like. It neither tries to conform nor subvert accepted formats in my opinion. They are merely inspired and empowered to enjoy what they do, a model which they’ve proven can work. I believe they make great records that people buy, put on a great show that sells tickets.

I’m not implying there aren’t a few dozen more reasons that account for the success of such musically honest groups (like BSS or the Black Keys), but it seems to me that making great art that is a true representation of your artistic expression is a damn good place to start. Especially in a climate that shows poor sales using established marketing and A&R practices. I will be sure to follow my own advice. Wish me luck.

Artists Have Rights, Too

By Maia Davies of Ladies of the Canyon

(Copyright in the author, all rights reserved)

Music is my passion, but it’s my job too. I have poured everything I can offer into it. Through successes and mistakes, I continue learning and working toward my goals, driven by a passion for songwriting, performing and delving deeper into the work of my life.

I am an artist by choice, just as others choose to follow other careers. As creative workers, our rights include the right to be compensated for the goods and services distributed.

Unfortunately, in today’s digital world, this right has somehow been lost when it comes to what I create. if we can agree that all workers should be compensated for their work, how is it that many people can so casually overlook their responsibility to pay for the artist’s work when they download illegally?

Illegal downloading has been a catastrophe for me and for many of my peers. The list of famous Canadian musicians and songwriters whose work fans know and cherish, but who now cannot make a living from their passion, would come as a shock. Illegal downloading has stripped us from our main source of income, and therefore, our livelihood.

In a free market economy, consumers can choose whether or not to purchase a product. But they don’t have the right to take products without permission, and pay nothing in return. I am expected to pay for the goods and services I consume. That’s why I see downloading as nothing less than theft.

I see it as the responsibility of the music industry to inform and educate, but we also need laws to protect our rights – not only to be able to continue creating, but also because it is only fair.

As a Canadian, I come from a great national cultural heritage – one blessed with the likes of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Bruce Cockburn. Is this not something worthy of protection and continued investment, to support what makes our country great?

There is lots of amazing new talent in Canada today, alive with the promise of a bright artistic future, capable of stirring Canadians and the world. Let us look to our most recent example of that, my fellow Montrealers Arcade Fire’s win on the global stage at this year’s Grammys. These artists will reward all of us if given the opportunity. At the very least, they deserve fair treatment under law.

Everyone can understand the importance of music and how it makes all of our lives better. Music makes us laugh, and cry, it encourages us, calms and inspires us.

And yet, if we miss the opportunity to ensure that composers and performers are able to make a decent living without fearing uncompensated use of their work, it will compel some of our finest creators to abandon that path, and we will all be the poorer for it: not just Canadians, but people all across the world that listen to our collective creative output of songs.