by carl wilson

Arts de Faire

Notice to creditors: Zoilus has been out of town. He did not get to the Wavelength parties. (Sounded divine.) He did not see the Grammys. (Sounded like a hubbub.) He had lots of interesting response to the weekend's column, on email and from the likes of Aaron. First things first: MapleMusic, one of the better things in the Canadian music biz, would like you to know they are not an incubator label, except when it comes to Sam Roberts. Call them an ante-incubator: They are good friends with Universal, but not dating; they only screw when Universal gets drunk. (Also from tha biz: A reasoned footnote from interview subject Evan Newman. Unfortunately articles cannot contain all that goes on in an interview.)

It should be noted that this column was if anything pro-, not anti- "selling out." No indie insecurity is in effect. Though at this juncture in history, signing to a major is more likely to destroy a musician's career than to make it, Zoilus still thinks the majors should be trying to sign the real talent instead of the poopyheads. The Times had one good reason on the weekend: "musicians aren't just creating new songs. They're creating future old songs." And record companies actually make more money on old songs than new ones. (Unless, that is, they are from the 1980s, when my pathetic runt of an age cohort had its not-so-golden years. The pissed-on outcasts of that era, like the post-punk bands and the more outre new-wave ones, now stir enthusiasm, while the mainstream stars summon mainly amused contempt, and that's from their 'fans'.)

Furthermore, Aaron: Yes, more people listen to Our Lady Peace now, but the question is, do they get that because it's what they want, or do they want that because that's what they get? (That is, what the labels use their access to TV and radio to push?) The answer depends on some kinda all-out Po-Mo Pop Studies Versus Frankfurt School showdown, ready steady GO. (For the record: Zoilus believes in both cultural hegemony and semiotic democracy. And look, when the revolution comes, I'll volunteer to be first against the wall, all right?)


Meanwhile, Coolfer tries to make a trade dispute out of FACTOR grants, which would be amusing if it weren't so irritating. (Want to talk about Washington subsidies to Hollywood's global ... wait, did I already say hegemony?) Zoilus would like to ask disgruntled Americans kindly to lobby their own governments for better support for independent culture, rather than to destroy ours, okay? Of course, this kind of monocultural bulldozing is exactly what a lot of us were concerned about in Canada when NAFTA was passed.

Later tonight I'll update the concert guide and perhaps provide something more akin to 'content.' Meanwhile, remember when we were talking about James Carter and Cyrus Chestnut making that album of Pavement songs? Well, for more on the game of Rock Paper Jazz (i.e., jazz covers rock, paper covers jazz), it's worth breaching the thoroughly unrevolutionary confines of The New Republic to read David Adler on The Bad Plus (who did not win their Grammy). And now, people like us, we gotta work.

News | Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, February 15 at 4:33 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (7)



P.S. Sorry Carl. Not the po-mo showdown you called for. More like gentle hand holding between theoretical schools.

Posted by Brian on February 17, 2005 3:05 PM



Hey everybody,

It seems like the credibility of an artist is still being debated along very thin and specious lines—i.e. somewhat popular (heard on date) versus very popular (heard at multiplex). If there’s one thing the Frankfurt School theorists demonstrated, it’s that culture, all culture, even a date, fuck, especially a date, is a site of capital production. If there’s one thing that semioticians have demonstrated, it’s that the devil (and the truth) is in the details, especially at the multiplex.

Think of production in more tangible terms—without abstractions like “context.” Like clothing production. I’m sometimes stuck at parties filled with urban hippies (the food is terrible) and the talk invariably turns to “So…where was your shirt made?” in an effort to find out the exploitation status of your clothing. It’s a strange inversion of competitive cocktail chatter. Posing the question with a “where” assumes that a) all mass available clothing is made in sweatshops in countries that are morally reprehensible and that b) all locally made designer clothes are made by well paid humanities graduates having vegan lunches. The truth is, A is a little bit true but B is completely false. For Torontonians reading this, check out the sweatshops on Cameron St, scant meters away from indie rock ground zero.

To wit. The old terms sellout/no sellout, micro versus mass audience do not matter. Of all the musicians I’ve known on small and major labels, none have ever felt artistically compromised but they all, indie and major alike, have been financially screwed over like no one else. My brother had the experience of, at the age of 19, of suing Fringe Records (indie) to get out of an incredibly exploitive contract he signed (illegally) at the age of 17.

The question is: can art still be created out of these conditions? The answer is yes, but I don’t know why. I do know you can never judge a song by where the speaker it’s coming out of it is placed—a date’s bedroom, or from behind a multiplex screen.

--This rant is dedicated to forgotten Frankfurter Herbert Marcuse. The only one to go mass-market paperback and who, in his day, could sell out the Fillmore East.

--Goo is a hundred times better than Daydream Nation but not better than Sister.

Posted by Brian on February 17, 2005 1:08 PM



since you mention concerts in your post, i was wondering if you were going to take in either of the two antony and the johnsons shows at the drake?

Posted by alan on February 16, 2005 3:25 PM



Oops. I didn't say you accused anybody of selling out.

I'm not necessarily saying, "music in movie" = bad.

Just that, oftentimes, musicians are held accountable for the contexts in which their music is presented. I think it's short-sighted and unfair.

Most discussions of "credibility", "underground", "selling out" have little or nothing to do with the actual music-making process. That's all I'm saying.

Posted by Owen on February 16, 2005 9:24 AM



I don't get it - when, in the past five years, have I ever accused anybody of selling out? Someone please advise. As for disposability - yeah, of course context counts - but having a song in a movie is just as likely to add to its longevity as to cut it short. The Shins were certainly discovered by more people via Garden State than any other way, and those people might look back fondly 30 years from now and go, "The Shins! Remember Garden State?" the way people go "Simon & Garfunkle! Remember The Graduate?" There is no model, there is no map, there is no objective truth about when music is hot and when it is cold.

The more substantial trouble with signing with a friend at the majors, though, Owen, is that the friend might then be fired or leave and not take your contract with her or him - which is usually the point at which people are locked into contractual-obligation limbo, can't get their master tapes back, don't get any promotion but can't do anything else... all the famous bad label stuff.

Posted by Carl on February 15, 2005 5:49 PM



Oh! And would you believe this dirty secret? Juno nominees have to pay for their flights and accoms. Juno winners have to pay for their trophies.

In a way, the Juno is the perfect manifestion of "Canadian culture"... solipsistic and self-congratulatory ad mare usque ad mare.

Posted by Owen on February 15, 2005 5:30 PM



Hey Carl. I have been listening non-stop to the delicious Destroyer record (the LP, not the Frog Eyes thing) and think you definitely "picked it". It's a perfect record.

I just wanted to also comment: the nuts and bolts of music-making are often lost on music journos, and I've been feeling that in the last two weeks of your blog. I'm speaking specifically about "selling out".

Because music is passively experienced, it's easily changed by the context in which it appears. Hearing The Shins while on a date four years ago was a revelation; hearing The Shins in Garden State yesterday just made me feel cold.

The difference between the two presentations is little more than a Shin saying "Yeah, we'll put a song in your movie." It's like the difference between checking box A or box B.

The catcall of "selling out" (like the terms "seminal", "underground" and "best album ever"), happens not at the moment of the music's creation, release, or evaluation. It's much, much further down the road when these terms will grow upon artists like planter's warts. The musician cannot be held responsible for the disposability of his/her music.

Similarly, signing to a major is often just somebody saying "yes" to a new buddy. MIA didn't aspire to be an "underground" artist, she was probably just working at rhyming "rhythm" and "with him".

That's all. Thanks for the props recently.

Posted by Owen on February 15, 2005 5:25 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson