Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Oligarchy, MP3s and the Ghostown

‘This town, is coming like a ghost town, All the clubs have been closed down...’
(The Specials - Ghost Town - 1979)

Sound familiar? If you live in then Except in the main it’s no because of ‘too much fighting on the dance floor’

This past weekend has seen Plastic People in the Old STreet area close, recently we’ve also seen Madam Jojos closes (this one some have partly attributed to  a violent incident) but
on 19 January the 12 Bar club on Denmark Street - is due to close. The Astoria shut. Rehearsal studios are also  going to the wall, Meanwhile Arts funding has been cut to due to ‘necessary’ austerity measures.

 12 bar to shut - NME.com

Back in the day it used to be called ‘progress’ now they call it gentrification - those who despair of it’s effects call it social cleansing. The t pattern is generally as follows -  artists (white often middle class) move in to impoverished areas seeking cheap rents, find them, make the areas attractive to more conformist and affluent types - bankers, accountants, etc. who in turn move in and drive rents up. This is the traditional gentrification model and in London (as in New York) we have seen that is several once notorious neighbourhoods - Hackney (murder mile), Dalston, Peckham.

 Hackeny gentrification - The Telegraph UK

The populations in these areas had generally been made up of generations of indigenous poor and immigrant low paid workers and unemployed without the ability to pay the steep rents - many of whom are therefore confined to social housing. Scandalous as this may be this population movement  it’s par for the course - it’s not something that has really concerned society at large. 

Hipsters/trendies/hippies/beatniks - whatever they are called this season have always loved to ‘slum it’ and populations they displace the mainstream really doesn't care about. But this pattern also does not explain why the venues mentioned above are closing - they are not in impoverished areas - even Earl’s Court has seen it’s last gig but here’s where we can make the connection - where things get interesting because much like the violence seen against protesters in the marches against cuts the (maybe not so better off) middle class are literally and metaphorically finally being hit. Now it seems to be starting to matter after all.

Business is taking over, cappuccinos and condos are in; character (local communities) and culture (venues) are out. Like in 1981 when the Specials sang ‘Government leaving the youth on the shelf ...No job to be found in this country’ in 2014 we have a Conservative government. I know people who voted for it seemingly thinking it’s ‘alliance’ with the Liberal Democrats would temper them - seemingly those people are not fans of history.

Now there might be more jobs - if working for your benefit can be called a job - which actually it is now.But we might want to ask ourselves what is the upshot of all this going to be - low paid menial service jobs for workers in bland suburbs while city centres are reserved for the rich. And then is that we might question  - just who the government is for.

We live in a so called ‘democracy’ but if we for a moment consider other forms of government and consider the word Oligarchy and it’s definition we discover that Oligarchy (from Greek ὀλιγαρχία (oligarkhía)... is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people could be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, religious or military control..

Now doesn't that sound very familiar?

Recently a certain Russell Brand has called for a revolution - (book on sale included) and has been regarded by many from varied quarters (not just the oligarchs) with disdain. Scorn has been poured on his apparent ‘don’t vote’ message. The fact remains however that instead of the power resting with the majority of the populace it in fact ‘effectively rests with a small number of people’ and this is the point that resonates with me. The people connected with that ‘small number’ find it extremely effective to vote - since they will directly benefit - the rest - don’t seemingly have anyone to represent them - at least anyone that can effect real change or even maintain a level of security in the lifestyles of ‘the rest’. I have argued with a few friends of mine at length about this ‘don’t vote’ message simply because I understand it and haven’t voted in a while.

All very intriguing you might respond but where is this all going, and how does that even link with the MP3s you mentioned in the title?

Well when mp3s first started getting popular and taking over the ‘net. I was all for it, having been someone who had bought a lot of music on Vinyl (which we just called records), CD and cassette it was an opportunity to possess again records i’d sold or given away or rarities I never had to chance to hear from artists I had supported financially for years. But of course that all changed and now we are in an area where songs can be streamed literally thousands of times before they generate a single penny - and I’m not talking for the artists i mean a penny in total. No longer attached to a physical object music has seeming lost it’s value. When something has no value it becomes valueless - this is maybe a seemingly pointless tautology but when it comes to what iS meant to be the Music Industry it seems the rules do not apply. Music is expected to be consumed for free - buying music is now something similar to say giving to a cause or sponsoring a run - it’s really charity which when given should be appreciated as if mana from heaven. This produces music that is bland, flavourless and throwaway and only the dwindling major labels can actually make anything approaching a decent amount of money from the new streaming model. The internet was exposed as the new frontier but it’s really an ocean dominated by a few super tankers where scale wise the majority of artists are plankton.

In a post on a well known social network I recently read in someone’s post words to the effect ‘how is life going to be when people are unable to go out to hear music and that’s one of the main thing’s that makes life in this system liveable’

I don’t know but i do know this - when populations like music have lost there value and all the prime real estate is only inhabited by the wealthy the dry, vanilla, homogeny will be complete and it will then be too late. If we don’t feed our souls - our souls will die and this town won’t even have the ghosts left in it.

Further suggested reading at links below:

Mark Ravenhill: Austerity 'could be good for arts'
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Arts at risk over austerity cuts

No comments:

Post a Comment