Rights and wrongs

Composer, singer and President of CIAM (Conseil International des Auteurs et Compositeurs de Musique) Pia Raug examines the current situation for the arts in the hands of our politicians as seen from the perspective of a Danish artist.

Pia Raug (DK)

By Pia Raug

The destiny of Music and Arts in the hands of Market, Media and Politics

"If you are not with us - you are against us". This statement set the horrible stage of our present state of the world. It anticipated a war coming up. Did it maybe even provoke it? Create it? And as for Denmark - I am ashamed to say - we became part of something called a "Coalition", quickly revealing itself to be a mere occupation force. A majority of the Danish Parliament sanctioned Denmark's participation in a war without a UN-mandate.

We are in the middle of a "War of the Worlds" - a global war - and it is not just a science fiction story any longer. It is a war about who is going to conquer the supreme power over the destiny of humanity and the future of this planet. What has all this got to do with the themes of this conference? To my opinion it is no longer possible to separate issues. They are all interlaced and interconnected. Maybe that is the true meaning of "Globalisation". And it is placed into our hands to make it for the better or for the worse. What is happening in and to the world of music is happening simultaneously in so many other worlds. It is happening to Human Rights. It is happening to Journalism. It is happening to the freedom of speech. So we must not feel guilty - in spite of times like these - to convene around a soft subject like music. We must be proud and brave. What we will do here will be one small, important holographic picture of an ongoing global discussion on one central question: How do we survive? And since Arts - especially Music - is the only truly global language, maybe our discussions are indeed important and needed beyond our own world. It is no longer possible to devide into compartments the stage upon which any kind of human activity is taking place. Like it is said in the introduction paper to this conference: "Today music information is taking place in a complex arena where politics, media and market collide". This statement goes for all kinds of human spheres.

Once upon a time democracy was based on the inviolable tripartition of power. Now all major decisions seem to be based on a very different kind of tripartition - namely: Market - Media - Might.

When Market, Media and Might Holders let themselves become mutually dependent of a controlled interplay, the result will not be a symphony, but that they play any notion of "Society" into bankruptcy. And there will be no other winners in this game-playing than Murdoch, Microsoft, McDonald's and maybe a new Mussolini.

As long as the tripartition of power was obliged to secure the rights of the citizens and define the duties, it was possible to maintain a society (or at least the illusion of one); As long as it was based upon the interplay between the legislative, the exercising and the judging powers - being independent of each other - it was still possible; but when it is no longer so and when the actual powerplay is being acted out between Market, Media and Might in a mutual state of dependence, society has already entered the state of dissolution. Very paradoxically the constitution of all marketing - the law of competition - is claiming that it will guarantee better and cheaper goods for the consumers. The one left over business - having been able to oust all others - at the very end, near the terminus of competition, was only able to compete by reducing quality. Instead of wider choice the consumers will only get limited supply and inferior quality. In many fields of commerce this tendency has already left its visible marks. In the multinational record business for instance, where four big entertainment-companies own 80 % of the world repertoire. Achieved for instance by buying up the rights of local artists to root out any potential, future competition to their few global draw board stars. Only to control the market and harvest the entire field themselves. The same goes for other businesses. Propagating of seeds, weed extermination and poultry breeding for instance.

"A tooth for a tooth" is a very old Testament concept and a just as profoundly fundamentalist wiev upon life as any concept fuelling any kind of power based upon the right of the strongest. Whether this shows its face as a European accept of the Jürg Haider, le Pen or Berlusconi version, the Taliban version of Afghanistan (a version even sanctioned and created with the help of the West and CIA!), or an occupation force in the guise of a coalition for peace and democracy. The principle of the right and might of the strongest cannot be put up for comparison - even if it would be very comfortable if you could convince yourself it was possible.

Each day the creators of the world contradict the right of the strongest. They remind all rulers that might is NOT right - and in such a way that they cannot close eyes and ears to the truth. That is the reason why Art is a far greater threat to fundamentalist and dictatorial forms of government than any military apparatus. And that is the reason why the same rulers within their intoxication by power have to overturn sculptures, burn books, ent-arte the artistic freedom of speech, kill or incarcerate the carriers of language, music and image - or just ridicule the ones who will not march in time and rank. And all this whether the dictator be a political, a religious or military power - or be it the multinational economical powers - the stateless States beyond states - in many cases having grown themselves stronger than any politically formed state. In many cases so powerful that they are able to control world events beyond any democratic scrutiny (often with the initial blessing and encouragement from democracy!) - in the name of the holy and inviolable Market often with human lives at stake. All this from their until recently inviolable towers of glass and steel.

"If you are not with us - You are against us". Maybe that is the true horror and challenge of our times. It goes for wars. It goes for Media. It goes for Market. It goes for Politics - including the politics of Art and Music. The question is to define who is "us"? And to which side we want to belong? This takes us right back to the issue of this first session of the conference.

Seen in the light of this basic view of mine upon the world, I will discuss some of the questions raised for this first session. I will take them through four geographical arenas: Denmark -The Nordic Countries - Europe - The world.

Two and a half years ago we had a radical political system change in Denmark. A very neo-liberalistic government saw the light of day and gained its total majority by securing support from an ultra, ultra right-wing party. This changed Denmark for good. Or rather for bad (off course this depending on who "us" is!). I will concentrate on the impact of these changed politics upon the Freedom of Speech - both artistically and journalistically - as the most important condition for Democracy.

1. Market forces giving cultural policy makers a tough time.
Since market forces became the prerogative the Arts have been given a tough time. Since Capitalism won the global chess play both Media and Policy makers have been giving Arts and artists a tough time. After many years of artists being listened to and respected, our Prime Minister in his first New Years speech talked condescendingly about "The arbiters of taste" and "The experts" who thought themselves so high and mighty and wiser than "ordinary people". The government then quickly cleaned out a great number of skilled councils and wise advisers - this included the Danish Music Information Centre. Cleaned out all who would be able to contradict the new policy. By this trying to silence all possible messengers of unwanted information. All in the holy name of liberalism, privatising and market forces. And for a long time all public debate was silenced. It is a very old tactic to find a scapegoat in order to reach your own goal. It is very easy to raise envy and fear towards "travelling artists and actors" who are said to steal clothes from the washing lines when they arrive in town. Next in line to be incriminated were Human Rights defenders, fugitives and immigrants. Policy makers have it within their power to rule differently. If they want to.

2. Public discourse taking place on multiple stages simultaneously.
Most discourse in recent Denmark has taken place outside the public. It has become still harder to get a say in the public sphere, if you are antagonistic to what is happening. When Policy makers do not treasure and encourage a free debate and do not have the courage to force Media and Market to play by rules to benefit society, society is slowly but surely coming apart.

3. Technology advancing faster than laws.
In Denmark the government is so set in its ways around protecting the IT-industry, that it is abandoning the protection of rights as far as artists are concerned. They are shifting from a hundred years of protecting the Author's right to a remuneration from his work into protecting the industry's right to earn money from a content they do not own. And in the name of the market forces they are not willing to discuss the "fair compensation" from private, digital copying, for instance, recommended by the European Commission. A liberal government saying: Let fall what cannot stand - but then at the same time depriving composers and musicians of one of their few accesses to an income from their work when it is being used.

4. Consequences of conglomeration in the music industry.
Over the last 10-15 years the now 3-4 major global records companies have bought up most of the rights for the Danish national back catalogue of recorded music. Thereby the multinationals are controlling more than 80% of Danish national repetoire. To most it means "putting the dead mans hand" on it. Buying out any chance of uncontrolled competition for "air-time" seems to be a global trend in music. Thereby the newcomers - dreaming of music and lifelong careers - will more or less willingly be forced to play by the standards of the international draw boards. Unless they will have to give up music. This could be helped or countered by the policy makers demanding from, first off all, the public service broadcasters that they honour a cultural diversity in their programming - including Danish music as well as music from other cultural spheres than the Anglo-American music industry conglomerates .

5. The role of WTO and international conventions versus the music industry.
The present Danish Government will not fight for arts, music and culture if it in any way will infringe the WTO agreements. In this Denmark is very out of line with more of the major EU countries - especially France. For the same reasons Denmark is also very reluctant to actively work for the upcoming UNESCO-convention on Cultural Diversity.

6. Do politicians have impact on the music industry at all.
Local Danish politicians may not have a very strong say against the music industry's muscle, but joining actively with Nordic and European policies on this matter they could show their good faith. Another way to fight back at multinational industry could be the will to subsidise - to a much larger scale - creation and the performing of music. In Denmark we even have a very clear example of what can happen to arts if the policy makers have the courage to make an economic priority of Cultural policies. The far-sighted Danish Film Legislation has proven what can happen if a wise education policy is combined with the courage to create generous and liberal (in the true sense of the word) support policy. When talent is present it will not be wasted and lost because of lacking opportunities for working. AND Danish film-making has turned out to be both good business, a valuable ambassador to Denmark and an incredible inspiration for new generations of renewal. The same could happen to the Arts of Danish music given the political courage.

The Nordic Countries/Nordic co-operation
1. Market forces giving cultural policy makers a tough time.
There are extreme differences between the traditions of support for arts and music in the Nordic countries. Danes cannot help being very envious of Finland's multitude of professional symphony orchestras and their successful education system for conductors. The same goes for the Swedish and Norwegian support for performing musicians and concerts. For more than 40 years the rest of the Nordic countries may have envied us our "State Arts Foundation" for creative arts. But that too is being dismantled by our government. Cultural policy makers - if any - should be the ones to give blind market forces a tough time. Where there is a will there is a way.

2. Public discourse taking place on multiple stages simultaneously.
The presence of discourse on a public level between the Nordic countries is next to not existing. But in nearly all fields of human activities Nordic networks - mostly non-governmental - have been built over decades. In music we have a Nordic Union between the Authors Rights Societies. We have networks for both classical and non-classical composers. There used to be a strong network and co-operation between the Nordic mic's, but now that is without Danish participation. Under the auspices of The Nordic Ministers Council there are arts committees such as NOMUS for Nordic music networking and grants. These discussion fora sometimes include the self governing regions within the Nordic area. This work is very valuable even if the major part of it is more or less private. It does sometimes give important results since the small Nordic countries still have one vote each in international bodies. And the distance between citizen and politician is not too scary.

3. Technology advancing faster than laws.
By exchanging ideas and experiences and by joining mental muscle - and not least through ongoing discussions - sometimes it is possible to be a little further ahead than the industry. On Authors Rights there are also Nordic fora exchanging and developing new tools to protect the rights of the creators of music against big business. It is a constant work uphill. Because of the fundamental lack of understanding that creators of music should be entitled to at least a minimum sort of salary like workers in any other line of work. We live in a world full of music everywhere. Music has become a necessity for selling any kind of product - be it politicians, peacan-nuts or polyester suits. Music means money for the market - but everybody seems to think that the work of composers and musicians should be for free. Why is it so?

4. Consequences of conglomeration in the music industry.
The consequences are the same to all who are not part of the concept of music held by the music industry. Or who are not in the potential search light. Sometimes the artists can make a difference. A couple of years ago a Nordic quest headed by the chairman of the Swedish popular composers society succeeded in convincing the EU Commission that a merger between AOL-Time Warner should not be allowed on European ground.

5. The role of WTO and international conventions versus the music industry.
The resistance against regarding cultural and artistic expressions as mere "goods" and nothing more could be fought more effectively if all Nordic governments could be convinced of the necessity and that could have a strong impact. The same goes for the drafting of the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity.

6. Do politicians have impact on the music industry at all.
If they wish to and dare - they can. We must tell our stories to our individual Ministers of Culture whenever we have the chance. But also when for instance all the Nordic Ministers of Culture are gathered in Reykjavik; Iceland and meet with The Nordic Artists Council in a couple of weeks.

1. Market forces giving cultural policy makers a tough time.
So far Culture is not an integrated part of the European Policy. But even so Cultural matters at being handled through the Union. For better or worse. Strong contradicting forces are at work here. EEC - subsequently the EU - was made for the sake of Market interests. The basic legislation within the EU is the Competition Legislation. The expressions of Arts and Culture should not be judged by the same rules as any other kinds of products. But the many and well funded lobbyists of the Market probably do give the European policy makers a tough time. Since Artists rarely are obliged to be granted a reasonable pay for their work, how could they afford to buy and pay lobbyists to counter the demands of the Market - when most of them have a tough enough time paying their monthly rent year in and year out?

2. Public discourse taking place on multiple stages simultaneously.
There is no "public" European discourse. Not in any field. Certainly not in music.

3. Technology advancing faster than laws.
When Market and free competition is at the centre of attention in a political structure such as the European, technology and the possible profits generated from it will always be able to act faster than legislation. The father of the European experiment wrote in his autobiography, that if he could have started the whole process over again, he would have started out with Culture. Maybe things would have come out differently then?

4. Consequences of conglomeration in the music industry.
To Europe the impact seems to indicate, that whatever is worth buying - in a market sense - will be bought out by the big Anglo-American conglomerates. There seem to be some joint defenders of the manifold European cultures who are willing to fight back. The big question is: If they have the will - will they have the power in the long run? The Rupert Murdochs and the Silvio Berlusconis of the world will easily outbit any local enterprise if they set their minds to it. And if legislators are not willing to limit their access.

5. The role of WTO and international conventions versus the music industry.
The EU - headed by France - has fought for cultural product to be exempt from the WTO negotiations. Some years back there was a battle being fought for French film versus American ham. If the Commission has the will and the courage to put up demands for the member countries to support Cultural Diversity and refuse to give in to the American desire to control the European Entertainment market as well as their own, the EU could become the only and last stronghold against the Hollywood, Disney and Warner cultural imperialism. WTO is an American Puppet on a string. And the Entertainment/Music Industry is the major puppeteer.

6. Do politicians have impact on the music industry at all.
Yes - if they are willing and courageous enough to put the sake of society before the sake of self.

The World
1. Market forces giving cultural policy makers a tough time.
Where cultural policy does exists the makers are given a tough time. Where it does not exist the policy makers are giving their citizens, their culture bearers and their artists an even tougher time. Without the cultural glue of common denominators such as songs to sing together or books to read in your own language, Society will come apart - maybe that is part of what Hans Magnus Enzensbergen calls a "Molecular civil war". Local songs and dances being replaced by immobile tv-watching. Collective cultural memory disappearing and Society is being put up for sale to the highest bidder.

2. Public discourse taking place on multiple stages simultaneously.
Luckily other kinds of voices are beginning to speak out in the world. Voices of authentic, human power contrary to money and market power. This made possible through digital technology. Like so many times before progress is a double edged sword. It presents the problem and the solution at the same time. It represents the threat as well as the remedy. We chose how and for which purpose we will use the sword. Technology has made it possible for different voices to make themselves heard in the world - and the rectification the music industry strives for, will soon be too boring to be worth your while when you will have access to multiple choices of for instance the musical expressions of the whole wide world instead of more, and more, and more of the same.

3. Technology advancing faster than laws.
Yes - but sometimes human beings are also advancing faster than the ones, who just want to mind-control their needs and direct their consumers habits into pre-programmed directions, will ever be able to foresee. The really pressing problem to be solved (this off course spoken from a composers and a creating artists biased mind!) is to agree on an adequate global tariff for all digital distribution of artistic expression. Unless the net and the digital world will be just as devoid of content as the electronic media has become. If Society does not treat their artists - the ones the Market would rather name "content providers" - with respect and offer them a decent pay, so they can live and deliver a "content" that will keep on tempting the consumers beyond resistance to buy the industry's many new gadgets, there will be no Market left to base a Market ideology upon.

4. Consequences of conglomeration in the music industry.
The rich will get richer. The poor will get poorer. The music industry itself and the fake music publishers will eventually be bought out by money for moneys sake. Consumers will have total access all the time but will have much less to chose from. The reaction is already being seen. Subcultures are developing. Music and potential audiences invent different ways to access each other.

5. The role of WTO and international conventions versus the music industry.
History has shown that all empires eventually collapse. The empires of our age are not countries or nations but ruled by big corporate business and multinational conglomerates. GATT, WTO, MAI and TRIPS are the flame- and stone-throwers in the wars of our modern world. Institutions like UN, UNESCO, WIPO, CISAC and conventions like The Human Rights Declaration, the Bern Convention and the Rome convention are the protective shields, the defending walls and the armour against attacs on humanity, artistic, scientific and journalistic freedom of speech and expression. Protection against blind market forces ruling the world of our dreams and our ability to build bridges between worlds coming apart. After the second world war the European cultural production was in ruins. As a sort of "cultural Marshall-help" the CISAC model contract allowed any national collecting society of Authors rights money to keep back 10% of the net income for national, cultural purposes. This gave a surge of life to the music scene of Europe. This generous, solidaric possibility should be exported - with our help - to the bearers of music in the developing countries, who will soon be loosing their own music and tradition to Anglo-American main-stream.

6. Do politicians have impact on the music industry at all.
Yes - if the politicians of the world honour and work for the old-fashioned tripartition of power between the Legislative, the Exercising and the Judging powers. All three being totally independent of each other. And if they are willing not to kow-tow to Market - Media and Might.

"If Market, Media and Might are not with us - they are against us"

Pia Raug
Copenhagen 26.05.04

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