Peter Gabriel & Brian Eno call for Artist’s Revolution to Lead Digital Age

CANNES, France -- Influential recording artists Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno issued an “Artist’s Manifesto” on Monday putting the music business on notice that any digital revolution should be largely led by the artists and not by the labels and digital distributors.

Waving a little red book reminiscent of Chairman Mao’s, with considerable implications for both fans and the industry, they called for an alliance of artists to become directly involved in the sales of their legal music downloads, issuing a variety of material beyond their conventional album releases – and labels. It calls for “No constraints, editing or external controls over what is released.”

“Most of the conversations lately have been about the business in the digital age, but where will the new technology be without the artists?” Eno asked at a gathering at the MIDEM international music meet. “We will put music back in the hands of musicians.”

Gabriel said “The new rules are being written without input from the artists. We are forming an alliance of artists to say let’s talk about this together.” Song and album lengths as well as pricing would all be variable in their world of artist-to-fan internet commerce.

“We will not be confined to the Apple 99 cent model or any other,” Gabriel said. Eno added artists might select alternate song versions or pieces from their “sketch book” to put online for free or even put up a $500 download for a specialty audience. “We can fundamentally change the nature of music product.”

The booklet, which seems sure to cause more white hairs among already nervous music execs struggling with an uncertain digital future, is called The MUDDA Manifesto for Magnificent Union of Digitally Downloading Artists.

It calls on artists to use their official websites to sell all manner of downloads. Gabriel said an organization is being put together to help acts wishing to do so. “By allowing musicians to become their own retailers, they can be at the top of the food chain, not at the bottom. Artists can negotiate from a position of strength.”

But before label executives have a complete seizure, the pair noted this call to arms was not designed to replace existing contractual agreements and that most artists are more than happy to let labels take care of their customary functions.

Nonetheless, Gabriel noted that artist-direct sales could be a partial answer to the piracy problem. “If they feel their in direct contact with a recording artist and not just ripping off a huge record company, maybe they will be more inclined to pay for their music downloads.”

Eno added “Fringe product would become artistically and financially feasible. There can be a more intimate relationship between artists and those listening to them.”

Furthermore, artists can operate outside the album cycle and release stages of a project. “Music can be a living thing” said Gabriel. “When we work on a song, it evolves. There are versions and experimentations. All this can be an online selling process, not just a product.”

The pair is working with London-based digital music distributor OD2 and artists can email mudda@od2.com for further information.

By Jeffrey Jolson-Colburn

(Printed by direct permission of the author)

S. Remington – Editor
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