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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Saturday, December 01, 2007
    It's made with love and it can save you
    She's a great and highly-regarded artist, which makes it even starker to hear Kristin Hersh say,
    'The financial climate and current upheaval in the music business mean that musicians like me are genuinely poor investments for the traditional powers that be. We do not engage in lowest common denominator trendiness, and so don't warrant the expenses of marketing dollars and company overhead.
    'Okay, I get that; this is a business. However, I believe that when you sell toothpaste, you should be selling a goo that helps prevent cavities and when you sell music, you should be selling sound that enriches the listener's inner life.'
    Kristin's finished with record labels because they encourage a '"survival of the blandest" -- the result, I imagine, of mind-fucking marketing techniques, bandwagon appeal, hype. To me this stuff is ugly, not beautiful.' And she's decided to pioneer a community called CASH Music: the Coalition of Artists and Stake Holders, who are going to trade music without the corporations. And develop some meaningful, creative relationships along the way. 'I liken our situation to that of the family farmer's -- how can we keep from going under without going corporate?'
    'This is what I think: we specialize -- we offer an organic product. It is lumpy and expensive and made with love and it can save you. It's the right thing to do. It isn't shiny or poisonous, which can be disconcerting to people who've been raised on shiny poison, but it's natural, it's high-end and we want you to eat it.'
    Now I doubt that Kristin would include Radiohead in her 'lowest common denominator' criticism. Nevertheless, it's fine them trying to give the music corporations the slip by releasing In Rainbows as a download-only album and leaving the punters to choose how much to pay for it. They can manage the risk because they have the wealth and a safety-net of salability which means they will always find ways of clawing back revenue if they need to. Kristin doesn't have that security: I was astounded to read how close to poverty and near-collapse she and her hard-working, hard-touring band got when the 'Family Bus' blew up on the road to Minneapolis earlier this year.

    And so CASH music is a massive risk for her: relying on fickle folk like us to invest $3 on a download single each month [Slippershell download here]; inviting various levels of subscription support, but all of them at modest levels. She can only trust that her fans feel closer to her than do the evidently estranged followers of Radiohead, most of whom took In Rainbows for free. Well, I paid them £7 for it, which I don't regret as a one-off payment for an ok album. Kristin's CASH Music, however: that's something I believe in. I'll be subscribing to that for as long as I myself can afford it.