Kicking against the machine

What happens to kicking against the machine, when you become the machine? This is an interesting question that I have though about for a while and hasn’t had a clear answer. When rock and roll first became middle-aged in the 1980s you had investment bankers buying corporate boxes at Rolling Stones concerts and the concert souvenirs to match.
Rolling Stones Zero Halliburton
Bands like Jimmy Buffet  and the Grateful Dead, existed outside this as being a Dead Head was a lifestyle that baby boomers (and gen-x ers) maintained throughout their adult life.

Moving forwards 20 years you have a similar demographic starting to spring up around electronic music from acid house and rave to the super clubs. Last Friday night I went to a party organised by Keep Hope Alive, which had a wide swath of dance music played from soul and disco onwards and a similarly diverse age range of attendees. BBC Radio Two is running a dance music season of programmes this summer, partly because its existing audience is dying off.

Trying to commercialise this in the same way that corporations did the Rolling Stones, Dire Straits and Pink Floyd is not without its hazards. Many of the famous tracks have:

  • Artists and authors with unpaid fees
  • Licensing agreements that confuse who actually owns them
  • Intellectual property issues around sampling and stolen arrangements

Whilst these have been limited issues at the moment an enterprising lawyer and down-on-their-luck artist could turn this all into a battle royale; especially if they feel that there is a scene revived by corporate money.

Secondly, rave was seen to be socially disruptive and legislated against in the UK; which still makes it much more of a political hot potato than punk (which you could argue had a DIY ethic that was a precursor to Thatcherite Britain) or rock n’ roll. It’s safe for David Cameron to like The Jam; but it would be political suicide for him to have gone clubbing with his wife in Ibiza. Why on earth would a sponsor step up to this for corporate entertaining?