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The Guardian, live music, and Clear Channel

Posted: July 30th, 2005, by Dave Stockwell

Yesterday The Guardian contained an article by Alexis Petridis about how 2005 is a new golden age of live music in the UK:


Interesting sentiment (from someone who has no idea about what is actually going on in terms of music being performed at venues of a capacity of less than 200 people?), and it’s nice to hear from Feargal Sharkey and whatnot, but something of a concern in the last paragraph courtesy of Steve Lamacq:

“Live music is going through the kind of renaissance that football went through when clubs realised that their grounds were unsafe or rubbish or not good enough and piled some money in. Then it becomes popular and the big companies come in. We’ve already had [multinational media corporation] Clear Channel arrive. I’m not saying for a moment that Clear Channel are Roman Abramovich, but . . .” He pauses. “Do you see where I’m going with this? The thing is that they’ll make big gigs really good. But instead of getting the best players, they’ll get the biggest names in rock and I think that some people further down the chain will go out of business. There will be exclusivity clauses saying if you don’t play this venue, you can’t play this other venue we also own. Where can it possibly end? Can it just get bigger and bigger? My advice to people is to make the most of it now. Enjoy it while it lasts.”

Or you could try and do something about it Steve. Make no mistake, having fucked over a huge amount of people in the USA, CC are now turning their attention to Europe and I’m really upset about it.

Look here for more information:

http://archive.salon.com/ent/clear_channel/ – a good introduction to the monopolising and bullying policies of CC.

http://www.clearchannelsucks.net/ – a central resource on information on CC

http://www.hailtocc.org/u2-2005/u2.en.html– part of a manifesto revealing quite how detrimental to grass-roots, DIY and independent live music promoters and venues CC has been in Belgium, and how they rope in the biggest rock stars to help them do so.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Clear Channel Worldwide – some more information on CC’s ties to the Bush administration and pro-Gulf War rallies (no, I’m not kidding).

http://blog.stayfreemagazine.org/2005/05/radio_free_clea.html – an incredible article about how Clear Channel set up its own pirate radio station specifically to mock its other stations and generate publicity – check the comments.

Clear Channel may be able to pull its various strings together to bring big rock stars to big venues around the world, but their corporate muscle also prevents anyone who isn’t part of the elite (i.e. anyone who doesn’t submit to their demands) access to information, venues, markets and whatnot. Because they can infiltrate so many aspects of the music market, they can demand that booking agents and promoters have to work exclusively with CC-owned venues at CC rates, with CC-approved bands, in CC-approved towns, working exclusively with CC-owned media (radio/newspapers/magazines). Do you know CC also demands that in their venues all bands that perform have to surrender a hefty percentage of any merchandising revenue (not a new shady practice, but one taken to heady new levels, considering they’ve got fuck all to do with it)? You should definitely read about their tactics about dominating and homogenising the American radio market, and their links to highly conservative Republican groups (not to mention their playlist policies after the World Trade Center attacks in 2001). What’s freedom of speech again? Oh, and Clear Channel owns literally every venue in Boston, meaning that any band not wishing to toe their line can’t even play that city in America. Nice.

You may not realise it, but CC are already making headway into the UK. They already own Mean Fiddler and the Reading & Leeds Festivals, and have a 39% stake in Glastonbury. But here’s the most surreal – and worrying – thing: CC is now trying to infiltrate the UK music industry by pretending to be “indie”. You may have noticed a couple of independent gig promoters have suddenly managed to start booking up some bigger names to do some unique or intriguing gigs of late, quite out of the blue. I certainly know that they’ve approached a couple of independent promoters that you have probably been to gigs by (and maybe attended a festival by the sea organised by), offering to throw them money and access to the CC universe if they covertly surrender their freedom and independence in some unholy alliance. Thankfully, the people you’re probably thinking fo right now todl them where to stick their dollars. In additon to this, I’ve recently heard about booking agents having a nightmare trying to sort out tours for bands if they are associated with CC, having to work within strict ‘pre-approved’ boundaries of clientele when it comes to bands, venues and promoters.

I had been informed that indie ‘zine Drowned In Sound‘s own label, Drowned in Sound Recordings had been funded by CC, but DiS have come back to us to assure everyone that this is most definitely not the case. Phew! However, apparently CC did indeed “invite” DiS the magazine to have it’s own tent at the highly prestigious (CC owned) Wireless Festival earlier this year, apparently only to get some kind of ‘credible’ badge on their ‘indie’ stage. Their abuse of this ended up being pretty galling. This from DiS editor Colin Roberts:

“Yes, we ran a stage in conjunction with the CC-run Wireless Festival and were well-and-truly fucked over. We had very little say in the artists that played, but did manage to use the corporate might of one of the world’s largest media companies to draw a few more people to our web-site – essentially using the rich to bring something to the ‘underground’.”

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about this.

Getting back to the main point, though it is heartening to hear that not everyone is willing to sell out their ideals about independent music, it is still obvious that a scary amount of people are willing to jump into bed with Clear Channel as they disingenuously try to seep their way into the UK’s live music venues and promotions through ploughing new money into the ‘market’ for live music. Unlike Mr Lamacq, I don’t have mixed feelings about this situation: I think it’s fucking awful, and I encourage you to do something about it. It’s quite simple. Read some articles at the above links, get yourself informed, and – if you can – avoid Clear Channel-associated products, gigs, venues and labels at all costs. It’s currently not too hard as their grip is fairly marginal, but only proactive action is going make them reconsider their policies. Fuck these bullyboys, their exploitative machinations and their heavy-handed dealings – support musicians, promoters and labels not willing to jump into bed with these soulless bastards for the sake of a quick buck. It seems like a pretty simple and obvious thing for me to say, but it’s always worth doing it just in case someone at the back wasn’t listening. Just do what you can. If you have any interest in music made and performed independently of the mainstream industry (and by reading this I would assume that you do), you can help.

“Support DIY” – I should have this on a placard that I have to drag myself around with, like a monkey on my back.

If anyone wants to update me or set me straight or anything, or even debate any points, please feel free to comment or email me at dstockwell(at)diskant(dot)net. I’m trying to spread awareness here. Please do speak up if you’ve anything to say and let’s get some dialogue going about this situation.

In other news, never heard of fearmongering? Now you have: http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=18911

What a load of bullshit.


Dave Stockwell

David can always be relied on to end his e-mails with one of those 'np: blah blah' things in order to remind us of how much more music he listens to every day than anybody else. His interests include rockin ' out in a major style as guitarist in Souvaris, throwing frisbees from tall buildings "just to see what happens" and simply kickin' back with his bitches in a gold-plated jacuzzi.


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