You don’t know my name. Much of that is my fault—I am not one to put my own name out there. It’s “Douglas” by the way. But I have been a radio DJ for 21 years and have run World Fusion Radio.com for 16 years. I inhabit a small, isolated enclave of the music industry, unknown to all but a dedicated fan base who listen to World Fusion Radio.
From my little corner of the music universe, I get an interesting perspective. I don’t get to rub elbows with stars or executives—they aren’t interested. World Fusion Radio has over 30,000 unique listeners a month, That may seem like a lot, but to the music industry, it is nothing. I’m not even worth their time to return an e-mail. I’m not bothered by it, but it says something about the music industry.
See, I’m one of those idealistic people. I DJ because I love music and want to share the creations of magnificent artists who do not get enough exposure. That doesn’t make me special—so many people are into music for the music. And that’s the point I want to make. That is what it SHOULD be about—the love of music. Alas, the music industry is too much industry and not enough music.
I don’t know many artists personally, but I know some fabulous people who love music and it shows in the music they create. The central irony of the music industry is that the artists who produce the best music receive little publicity and a pittance in financial compensation for their creations. Meanwhile, the pop “stars” pushed by the music industry, who create little to nothing and certainly nothing of quality, are showered with money and fame.
Please permit me to wax cynical for a bit, but the music industry is geared to making money for the record labels and their corporate allies. They exploit artists and consumers (and yes I fully mean the word “exploit”) to make millions for executives and corporate shareholders by racing to the bottom common denominators of mass media. The music industry is not alone in this, it is the same with all mass media—films, television, books, and so on. Quality does not matter, not really. What matters is whether a product can be exploited to make maximum profit for the corporations. That is how songs and artists are chosen. It doesn’t mean that every rich and famous artist is lousy and every poor artist is great, but the game is rigged and the rules are not about talent or creativity.
The game of the music industry can be compared to the beer industry (or soft drinks, or bread, or any industry, really). A certain “Light” beer is the best-selling beer in the world. It is crap—colored water with bubbles. But people buy it by the millions. Why? Because the maker of said colored water spends millions on ads to convince people to buy it. I want to believe that people aren’t so easily led, but the evidence suggests otherwise. The same can be said for many consumer items. I don’t know if it is human nature or the nature of corporate capitalism, but the cream does not rise to the top.
Which leads me back to my little corner of the music universe. In the music industry, I run a craft beer bar not visited by the millions busy buying mass-produced swill at the corporate bars. I play artists almost no one else plays and because I do not play what is familiar, the vast majority of people are not interested in me or what I offer. That’s okay. World Fusion Radio is not about me, it is about the music. The station is a labor of love and though I lose money on it, I love doing it.
I don’t play corporate music of any genre, so to the labels, the station and its listeners do not exist. The industry is not interested unless you are talking hundreds of thousands, and preferably millions, of listeners. So, the labels never advertise with the station, never send any promos. I am nobody to them. But they still charge me and every other Internet radio station (but not terrestrial radio), huge fees to play music, and give only a tiny fraction of that money to the artists.
So, there exists in the music universe this small bubble of passionate, happy listeners to World Fusion Radio. There are a number of other such happy bubbles across the music universe. Some on Internet radio, some on the bar/pub circuit, some on the festival circuit. These little bubbles of joy are what music should be about. And the artists—true artisans—in those little bubbles who produce great music should be the ones being millionaires, not certain pop “stars” who shall remain nameless. I love and admire those wonderful people who make and consume artisan music who are the energy driving those bubbles. And I’d rather be a nobody doing a little something in one of those bubbles than getting rich and famous pushing empty nothing.