Tuesday, August 19, 2008

punk business

A obvious place to start. Ian Mackaye on business from Salon.com:

Does it take a shrewd entrepreneur to maintain a record label?

No. I was talking to a business guy once, an accountant, and he said, "They should invite you to come speak at Harvard Business School." And I said, "Well, I don't give a fuck about business." I reject the whole notion. American business at this point is really about developing an idea, making it profitable, selling it while it's profitable and then getting out or diversifying. It's just about sucking everything up. My idea was: Enjoy baking, sell your bread, people like it, sell more. Keep the bakery going because you're making good food and people are happy. Dischord really does exist as a result of hard work and the goodwill of the people.

So much of our culture is built on the idea that what one does for a living isn't life -- life happens on the weekends and after work. Do you ever get to clock out?

I think that in the last 20 years, there may have been maybe two days where I didn't think about music or something to do with music. Part of the way the work world works is not so much creating a separation between your work and your free time, but creating the illusion of a separation between your work and your free time. Every day is the weekend for me, which means I'm always busy.

I can't imagine working at some of the jobs people work in. On the other hand, people say to me, "Well, you live off your music." That is just not true -- I work all the time. I haven't played a lick of music today; I haven't even listened to music today. I've been working all day. I'm writing stuff, I'm on the phone, I'm in the office trying to figure out some computer problem. I work every day, and I'm happy to do it.

1-2-3 Go Records talks about DIY here. I don't know if I agree with everything they say but it is interesting:

What is the definition of DIY?

Do It Yourself to most people. Don't Involve Yourself to others...and to an even smaller degree it means the airport code for Diyarbakir, Turkey . Some people out there think that DIY (the Do It Yourself definition) is more of a communal thing. Like it's DIY to buy something from someone who is also in the DIY community...even though you didn't do anything but buy something like any other consumer. It's also still DIY if you're a band on what they term a DIY label. But it's the label that pays for the record to be made and distributes it. But that's still DIY to them. However if that same band then goes to a larger label they don't consider part of the DIY community and that label pays for the record to be made and distributed just like the other label did....it is now not DIY. I think that's a bunch of hooey. Do It Yourself means exactly what it says it does. You do it for yourself. You record the record, you pay to put it out and you distribute it. You get another party or business involved then it's not really DIY anymore. It's a co-operative effort...which I think is just as valid if not better. Who wants to be the lone wolf on everything? The band makes music, the label makes that music available and all is right in the world to me.

They do have a point and the idea of Punk rock "brand" is totally fucking nerve-racking to me. Phrases like "Being different is a great way to differentiate." make me worry about everything I've tried to do with my business. There is still a lot to learn from the classic lemonade stand
like I used to run on the corner of Telegraph and Webster in Berkeley.

One of the most interesting developments in the record business is the idea of internet sale/giving away of music. Popularized by Radiohead and Neubauten the idea of pay what you will works really well but I haven't been able to come to terms with it. I think, as an artist it is easier to do that sort of thing. A lot of what the above talk by 1-2-3 Go talks about is artists selling their own work. I've always felt conflicted by the idea that I'm publishing and selling other people's work. But based on a recent discussion between Alvin Buenaventura, Dan Nadel and Sammy Harkham, I've seen that Sparkplug is not alone in doing really well through internet sales. It seems as if zines and mini comics have actually done better because of the internet in spite of early and ill-informed predictions of their death.

I'd love to hear more about running a punk business from anyone, esp. the printing kind. I'm going to add some more today.


tom Neely said...

there is also a great, short interview with Ian Mackaye in the latest issue of the Believer.

dylan sparkplug said...

Thanks Tom, I'm going to read that. I found a bit on line but I want to get that whole thing. I'm sure he doesn't just talk about the conspiratory link between the booze and music industries.

Janelle Blarg said...

MacKaye's next business venture should be endorsing some DIY throat lozenges. He never stops talking!