Apples Tim Cook should be 'Pledging" support for this pirate genius
Apple executives have long fancied themselves as disrupters. Heres a chance for them to prove the point and support the creation of new music. Apple recently launched a series of products and operating systems, which could be game changers. The Maverick OS is designed to make the flow of content between devices, seamless. But one thing they need to look at it is the type of content on offer. When Apple's Tim Cook and Jonathan Ive get back to their offices from the WWMD, they should check out what Joseph Arthur has done to release his latest album "The Ballad of Boogie Christ" and acknowledge a unique platform that flips the current model of music content. It reflects what Grant McCraken calls the perfect Culturematic machine. Its an ingenuity engine and a probe into our cultural world.
The story starts in Ohio. Ohio is a flat place. I know, I spent a year there. You can see for miles and miles. You don't hear much about Ohio. It is the rust belt, Alcoholics Anonymous was founded there and it is a Presidential Bell Weather state. More importantly, the musician, Joseph Arthur, and cultural disrupter, who sings "There's nothing much to do in Ohio but dream" hails from Akron. This week he ignited a fuse, which if it could catch fire with Apple, could turn the whole supply and demand of music on its head.
Joseph Arthur is a long-term disrupter and a challenger of the norms. He is possibly the most talented musician of the last twenty years in the US. He has now successfully challenged the conventional way in which we fund artists and they fund their work. This is a business model and a route, which if followed, could wrest control of music from the big labels. You won't read about this shift in the music press, or the major broadsheets, because Arthur operates outside of these worlds. I suspect these traditional channels of judgment mean little to him. Their opinions do little either to spur or to hinder his creative zeal. He has created his own culturematic machine which he is driving fast. He has now taken his financial independence from the music industry and to a new level.
Joseph Arthur is raw unadulterated talent, a polymath of poems, paintings and guitar music. I have been a fan since I went to see him in London seven years ago. He challenges the accepted norms. He is generous with his fans and has worked social media to have an unmediated direct access to his fan base. He is an artist in the old sense of the word. Like Howling Wolf and the old blues men, he is constantly recording, documenting life and reflecting it back. Since getting his break from Peter Gabriel in 1996, he has gone on to release 10 albums, 11 EPS, plus producing five art shows of his own work and for this, he has received one Grammy nomination. His creative output and constant touring generate comparisons with Bob Dylan,
Arthur and the 'Ballad of Boogie Christ" gave the fans, and the people in his community, the opportunity to develop the content. This is in stark contrast to the Apple approach, which is dull, limited and closed loop. Today, as consumers, we go to the store and choose what is on the shelf. We get some ITunes special issues. But, all in all, the content is big label fodder, shoved down and out. The iTunes Store is flat, like Ohio. There is nothing unique to engage with it. If they follow Arthur's example with Pledge music, they could assist the creation from the bottom up.
'The Ballad of Boogie Christ' is not a closed process. It is a shared community event. That is where the true beauty is. As a fan, you feel you have done something. While the artist is left with that thing they often crave which is complete autonomy
No money came from big record labels for this culture machine. Instead the recording - and some of the funding for the initial tour - was entirely covered by money from fans, via Pledge Music. The finished album has just been released on his Lonely Astronaut label and online. This is the first time I have seen this done and it is exciting. It is significant that this has all been going on while not really hitting the mainstream media.
The point of Arthur's culturematic machine is that he is tapping into a community of fans and people who have supported the artists and his project. On the Pledge site it shows that fans oversubscribed the project by 175% to make it happen. The marketing is being driven via fan tweets, blogs and community-based coverage. It is direct action.
The possibilities for this disruption are huge. Arthur stepped away from big labels a long time ago - a courageous leap that not many artists are willing to take. He has disentangled himself from the mainstream traditional music media and the industry's conventions. Now he is reaping the rewards. As a system, it may be game changer for all musicians and music fans, which should be celebrated and championed. It could give the consumer and the artists more say in what they want - and free the market from the mundane reproduced content we find on iTunes - and thats before we talk about the crap from American idol and Britain has no talent . The option for Apple is to champion a service like Pledge Music. They are not being asked for funding or money. They are being asked to create a space on the iTunes page and on Apple TV where artists can showcase their projects and seek funding. The fan base, the quality and the musician will do the rest.
By accident or design, I think he must be the modern model of an artist. He has built his culturematic machine by taking advantage of technology; he has rewritten the book as to how and when music is made. Ultimately, the success comes down to his innovative career where he has proven time and again that he is a true talent. Over the years, he has adapted and changed his style but has always amazed with his offering. Long may this disrupter bring joy to our lives.
Follow Jonny Mulligan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@jmulligan