Dissident Chinese artist Al Weiwei isn't known for music, but that hasn't stopped him from recording a nine-track metal album entitled Divinia Commedia. The first single is called "Dumbass."
All this week, I'm at the Music Matters conference here in Singapore, the largest gathering of music industry types in this part of the world. It also acts as something of a trade fair where music organizations from other countries champion their stuff to delegates from all over the region.
This year, in addtion to the Canadian contingent (Famous and Faber Driver are here last year; USS was here last year), there are music organizations representing Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Phillippines, Australia, host Singapore and--wait for it--Myanmar.
And while they haven't sent artists this year, Malaysia, China and a number of other countries have sent people to talk the business of music.
Each delegation is underwritten in whole or in part by some kind of government money. Give it up to the bureaucrats for realizing that it's good business to spend a little coin to let the world know that their country's artists exist.
But did you notice the absence of a major Asia-Pacific player? That's right: no one is here flying the flag for up-and-coming US bands. America is AWOL.
Believe it or not, it's only been in the last few months that indie labels from the US have been able to apply for a government grant that could be used to further export interests. The grants are small--$300,000 max, which doesn't go all that far when you're an indie label hauling artists to events like this all over the planet--but at least it's something.
Yet there's been incredible pushback against this use of government money. "It's a waste! Who wants to hear these bands? No one knows who they are! With a trillion dollar deficit, this is government spending at its worst." Here's an example of the backlash. And another.
What utter shortsighted bullshit. It's precisely this sort of government money and mandated spending by the private sector that has allowed artists from non-US countries to flourish internationally. And in the grand scheme of a nation's GDP, it's a pittance. But the return on investment can be huge. I can't remember the exact dollar figure, but the Canadian Independent Music Association commissioned a study and found that for ever dollar spent on indie music, the return to the economny was exponentially larger.
And people in the US are worried about a tiny $300,000 grant to an indie label to help them push their wares overseas? That $300K wouldn't even buy a low-end drone.
Freakin' Myanmar recognizes the value of musical trade missions and the US doesn't? Sad, really.
Running out of gas is not only embarassing, but depending on where it happens, it may be downright dangerous. Best stay with your car until help arrives. But how can you pass the time? Well, if you're this guy, you set up your drumkit and get a little practice in. The full story at Gawker.