Who pays for talent? Today’s digital revolution threatens the survival of professional musicians, writers, photographers and film-makers. Back in 1976 the influential Scottish television and music producer Donald MacLean (no relation) wrote, ‘new media can enrich us ... but if we exploit new technology without regard for the creative consequences they’ll impoverish us -- we shall wake up one morning to find we have only amateur music and movies.’
That impoverished morning has now dawned. Thanks to the ease with which ‘content’ can be copied from the internet, and shared with friends, the world’s creative economy is being undermined. Nowadays twenty music tracks are downloaded illegally for every one that is bought on line. It’s a similar story for films and books. Pirated versions of new movies are often available for download before their official release date, alongside stolen copies of last week’s New York Times bestsellers. Journalists who once resold their articles to overseas periodicals now see their words instantly replicated around the globe without permission or a penny of further payment.
As MacLean points out, if no one pays a copyright fee then an author or musician cannot afford to create another work with the inevitable consequence -- the demise of professional creativity. So how can professional artists continue to work? One way is to raise the money themselves.
In this month’s artist interview I speak to the young and talented Berlin two-man-band Berge. Marianne Neumann – beautiful in both voice and presentation – and her steady, guitar-strumming partner Rocco Horn have big plans to produce their second album, and are aspiring to finance it through Sellaband, a music website that enables artists to raise the money from their fans.
Their target is €10,000, a figure that will cover the cost of the technicians, studio rental, mixing, mastering and the pressing of the CD. What do fans get for helping to make Berge’s vision a reality? €10 earns them a free download of the album next summer (which simply means they’re buying the album in advance). €20 brings a signed copy of the CD. €100 receives thanks in the shape of a complete ‘test merchandise package’. If a fan invests €500, Marianne and Rocco will perform a private, ‘unplugged’ concert in their home, office, local kneipe or even sauna (you need to watch the video). For €1000 Berge and its full backup band will give a party ‘which you’ll never forget’.
‘We want to use our music to spread constructive and positive feelings,’ Rocco told me when we met. ‘I always see things in terms of physics. With our music we try to move people, move emotions, move ourselves. We want to bring things to movement, to life.’
Who pays for talent? In the new e-age, we do – by clicking and committing ourselves to help dynamic, innovative, sincere, young musicians like Berge to write and sing songs ‘that move people’s minds, that search for the sense of life, for happiness and the nature of human beings’.
Rocco adds, ‘If you want this album as much as we do, please help it to become a reality.’