Friday, April 22, 2011

Do It Yourself: The Rough Trade Story

From BBC four website:  " When Spiral Scratch was released in 1977, the idea of putting out a single without the support of an established record company was incredible."


if you are under the age of twenty five, you can remember a time when actually making a decent fidelity recording...having access to the technology that could do this...Making records was very nearly indistinguishable from magic...often black magic, a handshake and compromise with some morally corrupt corporate authority.

Do It Yourself, even today, can seem nearly the sole criteria of Aesthetic quality.  Whether or not you have an emotional response to symbols comes down to whether or not you believe that actual individual people were manipulating them...following no other compulsion than their own pleasure, curiosity, free will.  The story of Rough Trade is that the success of this has a ceiling.  The record label would give the bands a start, but eventually they defected to the majors.  Organizations that could make musicians into household names.

The odd thing is that even though the barriers to entry are lower, superstardom is still an elite margin with occult gatekeepers.  The 80-20 law :80 percent of awareness is owned by 20 percent of the population.  One of the thermodynamic axioms of psychohistory perhaps.

This documentary is so well made that I was interested in it without being too big of a fan of any of the Rough Trade musical acts.  I don't believe that it is available for viewing in a way that is commercially beneficial to its producers- another downside to the 80/20...if something is in the long tail of popularity, the revenue you generate from making it available for distribution does not exceed the cost.  But actually, I have to confess that the BBC is rather a unique network.  How it finances its content, and profits from that content, is far more complex than I can even pretend to understand. 

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