T Bone Burnett’s AmericanaFest Keynote Address

By popular demand, we are pleased to release the transcript of T Bone Burnett’s moving keynote address given at AmericanaFest, the Americana Music Festival & Conference, Thursday, September 22, 2016. — Americana Music Association

 

I have come here today first to bring you love. I have come here to express my deep gratitude to you for your love of music and of each other. And, I have come here to talk about the value of the artist, and the value of art.

 

When Michaelangelo was painting the great fresco The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, he came under intense criticism from various members of the church, particularly the Pope’s Master of Ceremonies — a man named Cesena- who accused him of obscenity. Michaelangelo’s response was to paint Cesena into the fresco in the lowest circle of hell with donkey ears and a serpent coiled around him devouring, and covering, his nether regions, so to speak.

 

Cesena was incensed and went to the Pope demanding he censor Michaelangelo for this outrage, and the Pope said, “Well, let’s go have a look at it. ”So, they went down to the chapel, and when the Pope stood in front of the fresco, he said to Cesena, “You know, that doesn’t look like you at all.”

 

See, the Pope didn’t want to jack around with Michaelangelo. Michaelangelo was making things that were going to last for hundreds of years. His stuff was going to outlive the Pope’s ability to do anything about it, so the Pope bowed to the inevitable. The Pope was afraid of a painter.

The painter could create another dimension between Heaven and Earth. Flat ceilings seemed to come down into the room in three dimensions. He painted rooms where priests and the church could sit and be transported to- and engulfed in — a higher realm, learning ancient stories- thoughts kept alive over centuries. And he did it by mixing together things he found laying around on the ground- sand and clay and plants. He was a fearsome alchemist.

 

Art is not a market to be conquered or to bow before.

 

Art is a holy pursuit.

 

Beneath the subatomic particle level, there are fibers that vibrate at different intensities. Different frequencies. Like violin strings. The physicists say that the particles we are able to see are the notes of the strings vibrating beneath them. If string theory is correct, then music is not only the way our brains work, as the neuroscientists have shown, but also, it is what we are made of, what everything is made of. These are the stakes musicians are playing for.

 

I want to recommend a book to you — The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul.

 

John Wilkinson, the translator, in his 1964 introduction, describes the book this way — “The Technological Society is a description of the way in which an autonomous technology is in the process of taking over the traditional values of every society without exception, subverting and surpassing those values to produce at last a monolithic world culture in which all technological difference and variety is mere appearance.”

 

This is the core of the dead serious challenge we face.

 

The first nuclear weapon was detonated on the morning of July 16, 1945, at 5:29 and 45 seconds.

 

At that moment, technocrats took control of our culture.

Trinity was the code name of that explosion. It was an unholy trinity.

 

Technology does only one thing — it tends toward efficiency. It has no aesthetics. It has no ethics. It’s code is binary.

 

But everything interesting in life — everything that makes life worth living — happens between the binary. Mercy is not binary. Love is not binary. Music and art are not binary. You and I are not binary.

 

Parenthetically, we have to remember that all this technology we use has been developed by the war machine — Turing was breaking codes for the spies, Oppenheimer was theorising and realising weapons. Many of the tools we use in the studio for recording — microphones and limiters and equalizers and all that — were developed for the military. It is our privilege to beat those swords into plowshares.

 

We live in a time in which artists are being stampeded from one bad deal to another worse deal. No one asks the artists. We are told to get good at marketing. I have to say — and I think I probably speak for every musician here — that I didn’t start playing music because I sought, or thought it would lead to, a career in marketing.

 

And, as we are being told that, our work is being commoditised — the price of music is being driven down to zero.

I am working with a group called C3, the Content Creators Coalition run by Rosanne Cash and Jeffrey Boxer to develop an Artists Bill of Rights. Jeffrey is here today to meet afterward with anyone who wants to get into this. The first right artists have is the right to determine what medium they work in. The second is the right to set the price of their work.

 

Every person worthy of the name atist, from Rembrandt to Paul Cesanne to Picasso to Jackson Pollack

 

From William Shakespeare to Tennessee Williams to James Baldwin and Jack Kerouac

From Bach to Stravinski to Mahler to John Adams

 

Every one of those artists made art that to be understood, the world had to change.

 

They did not adapt to the world, the world had to adapt to them.

 

The technocrats suggest we crowd source.

 

I suggest we not.

 

The very thing an artist does is figure out what he likes.

 

The technocrats — the digital tycoons — the iTopians — look down on artists. They have made all these tools and they think we should be grateful — subserviant even — and use their flimsy new tools happily to make them ever more powerful. But we can make art with any thing. We don’t need their tools. Music confounds the machines.

 

So the iTopians have controlled the medium and the message for a generation now. And they are making a complete hash of things. The clearest and most pervasive proof of this is the psychedelic political season we are in, which we can see playing out in every election around the world.

 

Before the atom bomb, we had begun to project idealized versions of people up on screens, while the people whose images were projected would hide behind the screens, knowing they could never measure up.

 

After the atom bomb, we have automated that process. On Facebook, everybody is a star. The idealistic, lysergic promise of the 1960s has been mechanized, allowing us to become ever more facile conterfeiters.

 

The mask has become the face.

 

Malcolm Muggeridge said that the kingdom Satan offers a man is to the kingdom of God as a travel poster to the place it depicts.

 

This internet technology that has been so wildly promoted as being the key, the final solution, to our freedom, has become our prison. What the false prophets of the internet said would replace governments and nation states and commerce, and create a free world of community and sharing, has led instead to a consolidation of wealth and power that makes the monopolies of the early 2oth Century — Morgan and Rockefeller and Carnegie — look weak and ineffective.

 

Ethan Zuckerman, the director of the MIT Media Lab has apologized for his part in creating what he calls a “fiasco”. Tim Berners Lee, who diagrammed the schematic for our current internet on a napkin, said at Davos last year that the internet needs to be rearchitected.

 

Our 21st Century communication network, regarded by its early adherents with a religious fervor, has been turned into a surveillance and advertising mecnanism. The World Wide Web is just that — a web that ensnares everyone who uses it.

 

Artists must not submit to the demands, or the definitions of, the iTopians.

 

Lastly, I am here to speak specifically about American music.

 

This country has been led by artists from Thoreau and Emerson through Walt Whitman to Woody Guthrie, through Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker, to Presley and Dylan to The Last Poets and Kendrick Lamar. The Arts have always led the Sciences. Einstein said that Picasso preceded him by twenty years. Jules Verne put a man on the moon a hundred years before a rocket scientist did. Medieval stained glass windows are examples of how nanotechnology was used in the pre-modern era. Those artists were high technologists, and many other things- they were aestheticians, ethicists, conjurers, and philosophers, to name a few.

 

They took risks. Risks a technocrat could never take. Artists risk everything in everything they do. Risk is what separates the artist from the artisan. Art is not a career, it is a vocation, an inclination, a response to a summons.

 

We, in this country, have defined ourselves through music from the beginning — from Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier in the Revolutionary War, to The Star Spangled Banner in the War of 1812, to John Brown’s Body and the Battle Hymn of the Republic in the Civil War, to the incredible explosion of music of the last century that was called Jazz, or Folk Music, or Rock and Roll, or Country Music — because although our music has taken many different paths, it is all of a piece and a most important part of our national identity — of US.

 

Music is to the United States as wine is to France. We have spread our culture all over the world with the soft power of American music. We both have regions — France has Champagne, we have the Mississippi Delta. France has Bordeaux, we have the Appalachian Mountains. France has Epernay, we have Nashville. Recorded music has been our best good will ambassador. The actual reason the Iron Curtain fell, is because the Russian kids wanted Beatles records. Louis Armstrong did more to spread our message of freedom and innovation than any single person in the last hundred years. Our history, our language, and our soul are recorded in our music. There is no deeper expression of the soul of this country than the profound archive of music we have recorded over the last century.

 

This is the story of the United States: a kid walks out of his home with a song and nothing else, and conquers the world. We have replicated that phenomenon over and over. We could start with Elvis Presley, but we could add in names for hours — Jimmie Rodgers, Rosetta Tharpe, Johnny Cash, Howlin Wolf, Mahalia Jackson, Bob Dylan, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Loretta Lynn, Chuck Berry, Hank Williams, Aretha Franklin, Jack White, Dr. Dre. That is the American Character. That is Johnny Appleseed.

 

At last year’s MusicCares tribute to Bob Dylan, Jimmy Carter said, “There’s no doubt that his words of peace and human rights are much more incisive and much more powerful and much more permanent than any president of the United States.” I believe that is undeniable.

That’s who the artists are. We can’t forget that.

 

So, in conclusion, there is this sense that the technocrats are saying, “Look, we’re just going to go ahead and do this, and we’ll sort it all out later.” As they did with the atom bomb.

 

As artists, it is our responsibility to sort it out now.

 

Barnett Newman said, “Time passes over the tip of the pyramid.” By that he meant that there is a lot of room at the bottom of the pyramid to put things, but that as time passes, gravity washes them down into the sand. But if you put something right on the tip of the pyramid, it stays there.

 

We aspire to put things on the tip of the pyramid. That is our preference — our prefered medium.

Digital is not an archival medium.

 

Technology is turning over every ten years. Their technologies don’t and won’t last.

 

Our art, if we do it right, will.

 

 

How to Make a Website: The Ultimate Guide for Bands & Musicians

There are definitely artists skipping the traditional artist website, though that can be a risky move.  The most successful and well-managed artists are typically available across a broad number of platforms, but they also focus a lot of time and energy on their own website environments.  The reason for this is simple: a band has complete control over their dedicated webpage, unlike Facebook, SoundCloud, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube.  All of those mega-platforms have huge audiences and can propel an artist career, but in the end, they set the rules, not you.   Read full article:   How to Make a Website: The Ultimate Guide for Bands & Musicians

Record Labels Welcome Rise from Streaming, But Songwriters Aren’t Smiling Yet

Is the digital revolution, and the first growth of the record business in nearly two decades, passing songwriters by? Earlier this week, the American recording industry celebrated the very good news that they made more money during the first half of this year than they did during the first half of last year — something that hasn’t happened in any meaningful way for a long, long time. … But as record labels watch their balance sheets go up and to the right, songwriters say — and have been saying for some time — they’re being cut out of streaming’s success.

 

Continue to full story:

Record Labels Welcome Rise from Streaming, But Songwriters Aren’t Smiling Yet

The “New Normal”

Having a nostalgic weekend, watching old Bauhaus and Siouxsie videos when it occurred to me… With tattoos, piercings and the like being so prevalent these days – The average (i.e. Boring) suburban mother at the grocery store looks more “subversive” than the members of Goth/Punk bands from 35 years ago. That observation, plus the news of the day makes me not like this “new normal” we live in.

New Age, World, Ambient Radio Station List

I am now also offering a list for New Age, World and Ambient radio stations. These stations report to the New Age/World/Ambient music charts on Zone Music Reporter.

This list is in Excel document format.

This list sells for $24.99, which is far less than you will find it anywhere else. I personally used this list for myself and my clients.

This list was recently vetted. But as always, I recommend contacting the stations first, or looking at their website to make sure you have the correct address and that the station and program includes the genre of music you are sending them.

You can purchase and download this list at the following link:

https://www.tradebit.com/filedetail.php/278696374-new-age-world-ambient-radio-station-list

 

(Note: The original file was blank – This has now been fixed)

New Age music radio list

Ambient music radio list

World music radio list

 

 

 

New College Radio Directory

An updated College Radio Directory is now available for $4.99 (USD). Many college radio stations still require a physical CD if you want to have your tracks/music considered for airplay on their station. Many independent radio promoters will tell you that, “While you can promote to radio yourself – you shouldn’t!”. And one of the cases many PR companies state is that they have built up a relationship with these stations, DJ’s, Program Directors, etc., and you haven’t. There may be some truth to that, but, there’s no time than RIGHT NOW to start creating that relationship on you own. For my first radio campaign, I did go through and independent promoter and I was happy with the result. But after that, I was contacted by many stations who told me it was ok to send them my CD’s directly. I’ve now over the years have developed my own relationship that in the long run has helped me out than if I allowed a PR firm to handle all of the promotion without me. And besides, while you may have a great relationship with a PR firm now, that may not always be the case, or for whatever reason, you may replace members of your PR team throughout your career. So, by creating that relationship yourself, you can have some consistency and not have to start over every time you decide to go with a different PR team. And the other argument that is often made is – “You should spend time on you music, not the promotion!” OK, there is some truth to that too, but really, what else are you going to do? It’s your music and your career – and  you will care about how your PR or radio campaign is handled more than even a really great PR agent will, no matter how much you pay them. And yes, there is a bit of work involved, putting together the packages and mailing them off – but considering the pay off in the long run – you can spare a few hours of your time doing this. So – here is the link below to my college radio list. Many of these stations report to the CMJ. And while this list is as current as possible, it’s always a good idea to contact the stations first and make sure their contact information is up to date. And it’s a good way to introduce yourself and let them know ahead of time that you are interested in sending them a promotional package. And it’s always a good idea to verify their submission policy, which is usually located on the radio stations web site. http://visit.tradebit.com/visit.php/11819/product/-/199003754