Preparing music for digital distribution is one long succession of emails and error messages: “your artwork is in the wrong format”, “WAV files must be 16-bit”, “you need to add publisher info.” But you don’t expect to be told “you must change the titles of tracks 1 and 13.” What?
CD Baby are refusing to distribute my new album Fifty Five Stories Down unless I rename John Lennon Blues and Refugee With An iPhone because “digital partners (Spotify, Apple Music etc) won’t accept songs with celebrities or brands in the title.”
That’s heartbreaking news for a songwriter but it sounds plausible. Until you check out those digital partners. Spotify currently has over 120 songs (playlist here) with titles like
- I Killed John Lennon
- You Think You’re (John F**king Lennon)
- iPhone Therefore I Am
- Got My Mac On With An iPhone 3G
Big Men In Tights, Sex Clark Five and KC Rebell (ft. Moe) all got their songs through somehow. I mean, who the heck put ‘Shaving John Lennon’ on Spotify and Apple Music?
Am I being singled-out? Most of my songs are personal, humorous or humorously personal. But three are political and two of those were flagged. ‘John Lennon’ is pro-gun control and ‘Refugee’ is pro-immigration. Is CD Baby engaging in right-wing political censorship?
Honestly? I don’t think so. So how should I respond? And what’s Facebook got to do with this?
As an independent musician who promotes his music by telling his story, conflict sells. What would get me the most clicks? “CD Baby refuses to release my gun control song!” But I’m not gonna do it, cos I don’t believe it’s true.
I think the truth is ‘Big Dumb Company refuses to ask other Big Dumb Company to do something in case third Big Dumb Company sues second Big Dumb Company’. Which, as a narrative, has a lot less juice. Especially on Facebook.
Mayor Zuckerberg loves it when all us little zuckers get angry, pick fights and square off into opposing teams. Because Facebook can make lots of money targeting ads, selling red hats to one team and blue hats to the other. It’s much harder to make a sales pitch when interrupting a friendly, nuanced discussion.
In the last year I’ve noticed I’m becoming more angry, more reactive and more intolerant as I spend more time online, to say nothing of how my everyday narcissism is growing fat on likes and shares. I don’t want to be that guy.
So one week after my album launch I’m quitting Facebook completely. As an individual AND an artist. I’m deleting everything, so even if I ‘come to my senses’ I’ll have to start from scratch with a new URL. I wonder if ‘career-suicide music’ is taken?
I love the stories of artists of old –standing up to all-powerful record companies or radio stations, wealthy patrons or the PMRC, refusing to compromise, even though they had so much to lose. When did music stop being something worth fighting for? I’d rather risk no audience and no online presence than be moulded into something I don’t want to be. So I’m leaving Facebook and I’m not going to destroy CD Baby’s reputation for some cheap publicity.
And I’m not going to rename my songs.
Fifty Five Stories Down is out Feb 1st on Bandcamp.
If you’d like to be informed when it’s out everywhere (or just want to stay in touch) sign up to my mailing list right here.