As a musician and developing song writer I have been watching with interest as politicians and music organisations question the might of music streaming giants like Spotify. Spotify apparently uploads 60 000 new tracks each day ( I have no way of knowing if this meme is actually true). Each artist and producer has to get the most enormous amounts of streams to earn anything very much at all. If you had a 1000 streams you might be able to buy a carrot! And, with all those new tracks each day all vying and jostling in a laden market it is a wonder any artist can develop at all, particularly if you do not have PR or money behind you.
This led me to think in general about how as a society we value products of all kind , creativity in general and bespoke artefacts/art/music. It is human instinct to want value for money and these days budgeting across the board is becoming something of an economic urgency for many of us. So, of course as consumers we are delighted when we can shop wholesale, buy things on amazon cheaply, stream music and films cheaply. This also means that products of all kinds are designed for a mass market ; to meet the median of human tastes and requirements. That means that products, music or art that are not in this band width of interest get less of a look in.
But, instant access and cheap products pay a very real human and environmental price. It is the result of a society in love with free trade, capitalism and profit above people’s needs and the value of their endeavours – whether that human endeavour is growing a coffee bean, making a pot or producing some music or clothes. Songwriters in the UK are likely to earn as much as a Deliveroo worker and Kashmiri papier mache artists – renowned for centuries for their skill and artistry are now more likely to earn more money as rickshaw drivers. Free trade also has also caused developing countries to turn a blind eye to child labour, working conditions and environmental degradation. Not many people , in many sectors, are renumerated fairly for their work or in a way that actually reflects the cost of living across the world, developed or undeveloped.
We have created a world that is not very human or earth friendly. Money is actually a concept- a form of bartering that was originally designed to help us quantify and trade with a system that could be measured. Instead, this concept has run away with itself and become a nightmare of a hamster wheel that we have all got trapped in. Inequality of wealth is one of the societal ravages that has to be examined alongside the environment and how to recover from a global pandemic.
I am by my own admission an idealist who values kindness, balance, artistry and thoughtfulness and I know it would be naive of me to think these values could become global and that society could be changed overnight to be fair to all. But, there is nothing wrong , and everything right, with wanting these things and questioning how we can get ourselves into a better place.
Grass roots endeavours /organisations and even celebrities can challenge the status quo in small and big ways. For example the protest organisation Extinction Rebellion has mushroomed around the world and given voice to thousands and thousands of people who are demanding that governments across the world put the climate issue as number one on their agenda. Dealing with an exponentially heating up world is going to make Covid look like a snapshot moment of terribleness against the length of time it will take to sort out the environment. Policies will change if enough people stand behind change. David Attenborough is an example of a celebrity who has promoted societal questioning and values and helped launch a “rethinking the use of plastic campaign. ‘ Think tanks across the world are looking at universal income and the idea of taxing robots in a more mechanised society.
And, the evolving consciousness of group thought has meant that crafting, up- cycling has become part of the zeitgeist of today. It is partly driven by need and partly by our natural human inclination to prefer products that are beautiful, quirky, hand made and bespoke . It shows a gradual shift in values.
The Fair Trade Business world is an excellent example of global business that has fairness to people and the earth at it’s working core. They have also birthed many philanthropic and educational initiatives too. Pukkha Teas, fair trade chocolate, coffee and beauty products are more and more accessible. This shows we can create positive change when we put our minds to it. Many would rightly argue that these products are the preserve of the middle classes but government initiatives and pressure groups could make this subsidised so that it could be available to all.
Money is going to be less available the world over and instead of falling into panic it is time to take a deep breath and question, rethink, redesign and be the change that is absolutely necessary. To create a world outside of the hamster wheel of inhumane profit and loss for faceless corporations. We can be the change .
Looking on as a” want- to -be songwriter” I hope those in power can lobby the government and Spotify streaming giants to re- evaluate the cost and value of this particular form of artistry and creative endeavour. For “music is the food of love”….and it is also an anthem to all of the qualities of what it means to be human. We need to play on……