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Sounding Off

The MRA: A Manifesto

SOS reader Paul Jacques decides he's had enough of candyfloss dross music and reveals his solution — the musician's revolutionary army.

This is not a test transmission — this is the real thing. The war is on! Those motherf***ers in the record industry have messed me around once too often. This is what I think...

I am one voice in the wilderness but there are many in the wilderness. The music we can make if we shout together will smash the thickest high rise, double glazed, fat cat, corporate accountant's office window and shake him right off his velvet lined bidet. I think we need a Musician's Revolutionary Army... the MRA. Why? I don't mind competition in the music industry, but what I'm seeing now isn't competition — it's slaughter and waste on an unparalleled scale.

Using the same methods that have brought the planet to the brink of destruction, the slash-and-burn, 2-year turn-over, screw the future record companies are creating a barren wasteland of empty music, empty words and empty heads. The only things they are filling are their own fat bellies and their own fat bank books. We do all the work, and all they do is stick their label on and take the money. How long is it going to take us to catch on? For the want of a few hundred pounds, they leave immense amounts of talent to stack supermarket shelves and go quietly mad! Surely we cannot allow ourselves to be used in this way? But we will be, so long as we allow them to abuse us.

I don't think that musicians/artists should be, almost cannot be, business people on an individual level — unless you want more George Michaels, Technotronics, or corporate creations (Bay City Rollers, New Kids On The Block, Minogue etc.), whose success I admire but whose music moves me little. I know for a fact that John Lennon couldn't rub two sticks together on a corporate level, but he did what he did exceptionally well. How about Charlie Parker? Mozart? Van Gogh? If we are to be business men, New Renaissance men, the Apollonian and the Dionysian united, let us do so absolutely, and remove several layers of unnecessary middle man profiteering. I propose the MRA as the organisation to even the game!

Proposal 1: Alternative methods of recording, distribution, production, publicity and marketing will be at the service of the musician and the audience, not the accountant and the banker.

Proposal 2: We will establish our own MRA recording label and distribute our own products from our own artists, producers and studios.

Proposal 3: New venues will be created allowing new talent to be seen, and more importantly to learn and develop. Special nights will be arranged to showcase new acts. (Forget visions of Butlins and Karaoke nights — think instead of the New York Apollo on a Wednesday night, where just about every major black artist has appeared in the Amateur night as a stepping stone to wider exposure and success.)

Proposal 4: It will be the audience that chooses their favourite, not A&R dept juniors (usually frustrated musicians themselves), who think they know what the audience wants. Even that darling of the industry George Michael admitted that the people inside the industry don't really know what they're doing!

Proposal 5: You don't have to be the offspring of some prehistoric SAW — Brown, Nelson, Wilde, Wilson — to deserve a fair chance in the biz. The MRA will be your family and make sure you get a fair hearing. The only reason why some artists have got their breaks is because their parents can get past the frustrated musicians that we can't.

I've got some things already in progress. I'm talking to TV and radio stations, newspapers and magazines, but I need your help. If you are, or know of, an alternative book store/record store, radio station, DJ, producer, video producer, studio, club, pub etc., or are a band or musician with material in some reasonable form, or can donate some business or organisational knowledge, then write to me and/or send me a tape listing what you can do to help yourself and everyone else.

I am based in the North-West, so that's where I've got to start. I've got a home recording studio that can produce good quality tapes. My first idea is to produce sampler albums and cassette EPs of different types of music — new age, house, blatt, whatever you call it — to be sold at gigs and played on independent/local/pirate radio stations. I also want to find venues that will be suitable for our purposes. If you're interested then write to me through the MRA. I've lit the fuse but you've got to burn. (I haven't given my phone number as I'm sure I'd be on the phone all day, plus Telecom is another organisation that needs a lesson in humility more than money).

I am 100% sure that this idea will work, if you help. It will produce a vital, exciting, living music scene that has been long gone. If we don't do something now, I think it will only get worse. The more technology makes it easier to produce music, the harder they have to try to keep us under control. I'll leave these thoughts with you.

They're creaming us because they're using the new technology to help them, while we are not using it to help ourselves. They have been sitting back and hoping that you won't catch on, but your reading these words means that maybe you just have. You can leave it to chance of course, and a few will make it just through getting lucky. I just hope that you're not one of the ones who is left to go quietly mad. Vive la revolution!


MRA, (Contact Details)

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Sound On Sound - Copyright: SOS Publications Ltd.
The contents of this magazine are re-published here with the kind permission of SOS Publications Ltd.


Sound On Sound - Mar 1991

Donated by: Bert Jansch / Adam Jansch

Opinion by Paul Jacques

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