What’s the Artist Got To Do With it, Anyway?

Posted on October 26, 2008

Not too long ago, I wrote a love letter to Roving Hearts, identifying Waltz for Koop as a gem within the world of nu-jazz (or whatever you want to call it) -seamlessly sampling decades of jazz to produce new classics that, note for note stand alongside their predecessors.

I still consider myself a Koop-a Troopa (sorry, couldn’t resist!), but while cruising their Last.fm page the other day, I found an interesting case of musician-fan disconnect. Apparently the artists themselves have registered on the site to voice their discontent with their presentation on Last.fm. I’ll let their words speak for themselves.

therealkoop wrote:
Koop would like to remind people that this is not a sight set up by Koop. * Songs are missing on albums, and names are wrong. * Videos for some songs are missing, and has been replaced by amature stuff. * Some tags are beyond stupid, and since that the so called “Koop Radio” is playing music we don’t like at all. People behind this is not only making money on our music, they are also humiliating us artisticly. If you wish to connect with Koop please turn to myspace.com/koop Sincerely.

Fair enough – There are hundreds of artists on Last.fm, and a lot of the site content is user-generated (go Web 2.0!), so there are prone to be errors here and there. What’s interesting is that they claim the site is “making money off our music” and “humiliating us artisticly [sic]”.

It doesn’t stop there, of course. The internet is serious business. Trying to correct what he perceives as a misunderstanding, another user responds:

gazab wrote:
therealkoop: I think you’ve misunderstood this site completely. Most content on this page is generated by us, your fans. Our listening patterns generate similiar artists and therefor the “Koop Radio”, we set the tags and so on. The main purpose of Last.fm is simply to help people find new exciting music they like. Without this page I would never have heard about you! So be glad this exists. This has probably given you way more new fans (and money) than myspace ever could. Trust me, this is NOT bad PR. Now continue make great music! 🙂

To which therealkoop responds:

therealkoop wrote:
We don’t make music because we want to be liked by as meny as possible. We don’t do this for money. We make music because we want our message to come across, and our message is clearly beeing outwatered on this site. We don’t think Koop should be defined by a broad majority that listen briefly to our music. Koop should be defined by the minority that regard us as something more than 2 songs in a lastfm library.

Needless to say, I was shocked and amused. But this begs the title question of the post: What’s the artist got to do with it, anyway? More specifically, how much should the artist’s wishes affect our enjoyment of his/her/their work?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for protecting artistic integrity and intellectual property – if someone trolled this site for my photographs, not giving me credit, and thus violating the terms of even my very generous Creative Commons license, I would be pissed. After all, if art is the window through which we see into the artist’s creative world, it’s pretty damned important to keep that window spotless.

But once our audience is at the window, the fact is that we can’t control how they perceive our work – nor should we try. Attempting to force a particular interpretation or view onto our audience would be as dictatorial as trying to prosecute thoughtcrime; not only would it stifle often productive critical discussion, art would be dull if there were only one or two interpretations to any given work.

Ultimately, though, if you’re worried about your “message being outwatered”, it might pay to have faith in your fans. Of course, there will be those with only a passing interest in your work, but if you make yourself available, you might be surprised to find that some will actually take the effort to see for themselves what you’re about.

» Filed Under Everything and Nothing, Music, Writing


One Response to “What’s the Artist Got To Do With it, Anyway?”

  1. JNezNo Gravatar on October 26th, 2008 1:56 pm

    great post. i missed the shens on koop’s lastfm page but i’ll def check it now. due to the ungrammatical nature of koops tirade though, i’m inclined to dismiss their grievance with the way their music is presented. like one who responded to the tirade, just go make music. once it’s out there, you cannot control how it is perceived. go back to the studio and make more.

    silly elitists *frown*

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