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Day After The Night Before

The remains of the party poppers are to be swept away, unfinished drinks to be cleared up, and the nostalgic memories of the night before have already started to fade as a cocktail of hangover remedies are downed. A collective sigh from the madness of the past 4 years is in the vague hope a sense of normality can be restored, but this morning feels the same as the day before. A realisation that the same chasm, which existed before, exists today, and we continue to dance around the fire that has consumed us.

We are in mourning, confused, seeking to re-establish a sense of something that we cannot speak of because they have tethered our vocabulary, our right to free speech and expression.

They’ of course have a multitude of manifestations depending upon our personal circumstances and not worthy of repeating here, but they have turned us into self-imposed victims. It’s always somebody else’s fault and somebody else is to blame. As we now stand alone, accountability now firmly sits with us. That pothole in the road, the waiting list to see a doctor, the zero hour contract, the shape of bananas.

This morning we stand to puff our chest out against the wind, alone, but in reality, the past 4 years have been a symptom, not the cause and the celebrations last night are not the cure.

Working for Nothing

If you love music & respect those, who make it. You need to keep an eye on what the UK government is doing, or more precisely not doing to implement EU copyright law. Copyright is the legal right that allows an artist to protect how their original work is used. Article 13, (now 17) of the EU Copyright Directive requires online platforms to stop copyrighted material getting onto their platforms.

Most agree the Directive is far from perfect, but it starts to push in the right direction by realising artists need protection in the digital world of user-generated content. Surely, it’s in the consumer’s interest we ensure artists, including musicians, filmmakers and illustrators receive fair remuneration for the work they produce, and we go on to enjoy regardless the platform we receive their creative endeavours be it digital, radio, cinema, TV or gallery?

There is a BBC link here, which provides useful background information, but for now, this is my take on the situation after reading several items across a number of news outlets, including the Musician Union.

Smoke and Mirrors

During 2019 The UK Government was one of the key supporters of the Directive, which was not surprising given the importance of the ‘cultural industries’ to our domestic economy. But In January 2020 the UK Government announced it will not be implementing the Directive. In the duplicitous world of politics, it’s not difficult to discover the short gap between what governments say and what they actually do. Still, even Flipper the Dolphin would be impressed by Boris Johnson’s flip-flop.

What had changed in such a short period of time? The only significant event to have taken in this period is, of course, the general election in the UK that Johnson’s Conservative’s won. It is easy to come to the conclusion that Johnson was saying one thing to one audience before the election with a plan to deliver after the election.

Most if not all the big on-line platforms who are reliant on user-generated content are very much against the copyright law not only because it places a greater onus on them to police their own platforms, but they are unlikely to be keen on the prospect of diverting revenue away from themselves towards deserving artists who make the content that drives people to use their platform.

The tech companies are nothing more than 21st-century monopolies interested in maintaining their market share and profits. The two largest streaming services have over 75 million tracks on their platforms giving them a disproportionate hold on the market. Think of tech companies as empty supermarkets and the artist is the producer, delivery driver and shelf-stacker who is then paid on a sales only basis.

The core business model for these tech companies is to reduce their costs, maximise their revenues and push risk and cost on to the producer of content they need (ie the artist). The tech companies want to spoon-feed you a diatribe of commercials and they certainly do want an informed customer base. This explains why the tech companies have fuelled campaigns against the proposed Directive by dumbing down the debate around the narrative “the meme ban” it is not.

Little Man Lost

The power social media and hosting platforms hold over politicians is the same the print barons had. Johnson will do as he is told be in no doubt.

Johnson now claims that it was “a classic EU law to help the rich and powerful” and “a good example of how we can take back control”. This is just claptrap and what is simply happening here is Johnson is supporting the interest of big business over those of individual artists working, against the odds, to create content we want to enjoy.

Johnson, like Trump, has used these tech companies and their platforms to great effect and it’s not in either parties interest to threaten their self-interests. The power, which the social media and hosting platforms hold over politicians is similar to the power the print barons held over politicians in recent history. Be in no doubt, at the end of the day Johnson will do as he is told.

What Remains

I’ve always had a curiosity with empty houses, mainly when derelict. It’s a fascination I’ve had since childhood and one that inevitably catches up with me when exploring the South West countryside. On these unplanned explorations, I often come across empty farm buildings. As I step across the doorway, there is frequently a feeling of intrusion given I often come across personal items of little value. An old tie is hanging in a cupboard recess or rusting oil lamp. Each piece is holding its own short story. A reflection of past lives, including my own.

In my birth town of Stockton on tees, there was an old dog racing track (Belle Vue Park) in the neighbourhood, opened in 1946 and the track closed around 1974. Sitting in the grounds of the stadium was a grand old house with a large garage. It was only a matter of time, of course, after the place closed down, that we found a way into the stadium, under the less than secure fencing to explore the grounds.

Racing our bikes around the stadium where the electric course hare would zoom around the inside of the track as the dogs frantically chased in pursuit. Finding our way in the house, and offices and discovering the antiquated telecom and public address system. Singing the lastest Slade single over the public address system, taking turns to shout a swear word, which would attract the attention of the local neighbourhood and the soon to arrive police car.

Belle Vue Park is long gone, like the guys who would give us 3 pence for looking after their vehicles when visiting the races. Now, what stands there are rows of two-story blocks of flats, all neatly paraded with their inhabitants enjoying TV dinners in the company of the ghosts of past memories.

 

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