Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Grafitti as a social treasure

I fell in love with Grafitti when I fell in love with my husband. In his mid teens he began stealing paint and spray from Home Depot in Miami with his friends and they ended up painting half of the guetto walls and trains of the city. In fact we can still find some of his stuff there which is rare. It made him cool even 20 years later when I met him.

But 20 years ago grafitti was a crime, kids would end up paying high fines or completing community service time for 'polluting' the walls of cities like Miami. Today artists like Banksy get paid millions for their work and have their art protected by city councils like London (see how they have stopped the work from being erased)

Banksy is a major tipper (as in he makes the point tip) not just for himself but for others around the world. Many art and culture critics have made money compiling Banksy's work as well as writing about the mysterious artist, but what is really interesting is how other grafitti artists are inspired by Banksy's work.

This is the work of Derby Blue and he does his wall painting in Joao Pessoa, north of Brazil.

His work is also amazing and you can check some more of his stuff at

Friday, 3 April 2009

You don't need a record deal but...

Good were the days when record labels sent their A&R guys to search for new bands. They would bring you back to their office, make you sign all kind of (unfair) deals that promised you fame and glory. You bought into the idea, thinking how great life was going to be now that you had a record deal.

If you were lucky, your album would be released. If you were lucky, it would make it to a decent chart. If you were lucky you would make some money after the label paid for their expenses. If you were lucky ...

Things are different now. You don't need a record label anymore. With the help of ICT and other easily accessible technology, you can produce, record, promote and sell your own record without ever stepping into a label. See what Jill Sobule says about her fan-funded album, it was actually the first time she made money from her music.

Sounds too good to be true? Because it is. The DIY hype in the music industry is teaching musicians or 'creatives' to be their own bosses, take control of their creative productions and their life.

But here is one problem: not everyone knows or interested in business. It takes time, expertise, research and dedication to walk away from a record label - which has money, expertise and a network of established suppliers - to the path of self-employment.

In the past year I have interviewed, heard from, discussed, taught and learned from various creative practitioners in the UK and abroad. A lot of them are self employed, small businesses' owners/managers, freelance artists or working for small creative organisations and they all have something in common: they don't like business.

Whether is the word, its true meaning or what it implies, many 'creatives' hate the thought that what they do (trade their creativity) is actually doing business. Profit margins, Return on investment, loans, working capital, whatever the language, it feels as if creativity and business deal in separate worlds.

There are plenty of people who write about this, including my friend David Parrish (davidparrish.com) who believes that there needn't be a dichotomy between creativity and business, in fact they must walk hand in hand.

This is exactly the lesson that musicians' need to understand if they are going to kick off the labels to the curb: creativity and business must mix.

If you are going to record your own album you are going to need to pay and hire studios, sound engineers, producers and sound equipment.

If you are going to promote your album you need to understand the dynamics of Web 2.0 along with joining loads os social networking sites, making sure you have great biographies on sites like Last.fm and that your stuff can be found wherever people are looking for and listening to new music.

On top of this you need to sort out distribution, marketing, merchandising, touring and all of the logistics of being in business. Sounds fun, freeing or too much trouble?