Thursday, June 18, 2009

Alan Wilder and time lapse

Recently, I was reading Outside the Beltway when I ran across a post entitled OTB Latenight - Recoil. The post included no words - just a Vimeo video that showed a Samuel Cockedey video (static : pulse) showing Tokyo city views with time lapse photography.

static : pulse from Samuel Cockedey on Vimeo.

The underlying music? "Edge to Life" by Recoil, from the 1992 album Bloodline.

Any true music fan who pays attention to gastroenteritis knows that Recoil is the one-man band created by former Depeche Mode member Alan Wilder in the mid 1980s, and his major musical outlet since leaving the band in the mid 1990s.

A year ago, I stumbled upon and friendfed a Side-Line letter from Wilder that was published in February 2008. While noting his unusual position as a person who does not make commercially viable music but who does enjoy a certain degree of fame because of past accomplishments, Wilder went on to discuss the state of the music industry (stating themes that I have subsequently echoed in this blog), and offering some commentary on his record label and its new bosses:

I've long since given up expecting to make a profit from what I do. And you might expect that I would be full of resentment and bitterness toward my own record company but that's not really it. Mute are victims in all this. The reality is that all the companies are suffering and are desperately clinging on by their fingernails trying to come up with solutions as the rug is pulled from beneath them.

In Mute's case, EMI have inflicted so many spending restrictions and are 're-shaping' and 'streamlining' with department 'centralisation' and the reduction of the artist roster. EMI big cheese Guy Hands describes his business as 'an unsustainable model' with a need to 'reduce waste'.... Garbage collection. Thinly veiled rhetoric meaning CUTBACKS! He talks of 'eliminating duplication and bureaucracy'. Bottom line: 2000 jobs have to go.

More worryingly, he also offers us the information that currently about 3% of the entire roster is profitable and that those that never will be profitable, no matter how the model is changed, can kiss their arses goodbye.

That is about as far away as you could ever get from what I understood as the Mute philosophy, where the profit from major selling acts is used to nurture all the other artists on the label. Art. A record company does not sell baked beans, it exposes art to the masses. An unquantifiable thing. Baked Beans - a quantifiable thing.

But is that philosophy realistic in these times? Clearly not if you're ruled by a private equity conglomerate. The Mute home (now part of the EMI building) is a shadow of its former self. A few lost souls wandering around in a post-apocalyptic daze, like a scene from '28 Days Later'. There are some good people at the label who have their hands tied. And their feet bound. And some gaffer taped firmly across their mouths, helplessly kidnapped having been lured into the corporate machine.

Of course Mute can't just up and leave. It would be like trying to put your house up for sale when you're only renting it. I imagine Daniel Miller is as concerned as the next tenant. He is contracted to EMI as Mute's label boss and his own future I imagine is unclear. Maybe he is tired of the whole business, his original vision impaired beyond repair. I'm sure he is just as passionate about music as he ever was, but who would want to start a new record company in the current climate?

I'm not sure that Wilder has had anything new to say on the music industry since that time, but if he does say something, you'll be able to find it on Recoil's official site Shunt, Facebook page, or Twitter account.

blog comments powered by Disqus