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Keep Music Evil!

Keep Music Evil!


“Keep Music Live” is one of the slogans of the Musicians' Union in the UK. The idea is obviously that music should be performed rather than played from recordings in public.

Every record played represents an opportunity for a live musician to perform that is lost, the MU would undoubtedly say.

And the idea that a musician can be recorded once, and then that recording played many times thus rendering the musician unnecessary is something that the MU finds utterly distasteful.

So the MU has always tried to restrict recording, by making it very expensive to record their members (and effectively impossible to record non-MU members), and by using its influence to prevent recordings being publicly performed or broadcast whenever possible.

Such an attitude is a relic of the stone age – no, the dinosaur age.

Think how many opportunities for recording musicians (who are mostly non-MU members because the MU doesn't want them) to have their work played. All because a cozy clique of die-hards have set up a system that works for their own interests and against the interests of the wider body of musicians.

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Take away union restrictions and it is a simple fact of life that if a DJ is hired to perform at a wedding party or reception, and live musicians are not booked, then it is because the happy couple prefer to have a DJ.

In a situation like this, clearly the people selecting the type of music have decided that a DJ will be more appropriate to their needs.

Back to the slogan – “Keep Music Live”. A worse piece of marketing there has never been. Is this a command? Is it trying to make people who book DJs or attend dance music events feel ashamed in some way that they are enjoying a public performance of recorded music?

The MU would do better by trying to convince people that they would get more enjoyment and satisfaction from live music, and that a recorded performance is somehow not quite the same thing.

And musicians would do better to stop whinging that recorded music is destroying their livelihood (like the Luddites who destroyed textile machinery in the early 1800s).

All that live musicians have to do to compete against recorded music is to be better and provide more enjoyment and more satisfaction for their audiences.

Plainly, if you want to play live, be more interesting, be more EVIL!

Yes, I fully expect e-mails saying how would I feel if my livelihood were destroyed in this way… if I had practised my instrument for 30 years and now no-one wants to hear me any more… if recorded music performances take over then civilization will fall.

Well, no-one gives me any protection, slogans or stickers, I have to fight every inch against my competitors in music and my other work. Part of doing that is to move with the times, and recognize that there are tides that simply cannot be held back.

David Mellor

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David Mellor