My sister TAHIRA just released a new song entitled Freedom Call. The hook of the song repeats the phrase “Rise up my people.” Her song (of which I’m grateful to be a part) is a call for black people to finally rise above global racism and oppression. Her song could also easily be appropriate for artists of any background. It could easily be an anthem to our current situation. People of color have been struggling universally, as have artists. There is a golden opportunity for musicians to create a revolution that is in line with all the upheaval we are currently seeing across America. Just as we are seeing our country make improvements to outdated and fundamentally immoral racial relations, artists have an opportunity to create similar change for ourselves. Artists always take the shit end of the stick and we always get taken advantage of. Some of that is our own fault but the silver lining I see within our cloud of COVID is that we can reemerge after this situation with true independence. Yes, our industry has been smashed and when it comes to live music the forest has been burnt down, but you know what that means? It’s time for new growth. Even in our darkest hour, when we started creating online concerts and festivals we saw the true power of artists. We found a way in spite of the circumstances by being creative and utilizing the blessing of technology. I couldn’t have been more pleased to see artists who participated in my Ronapalooza Festival walk away with $400 for a 45-minute set. People were starving for ANY form of live music and some musicians took advantage of those dynamics in the best way possible. All of sudden, there was no venue to pay…no need for a middleman. We Cashapped our asses through some of the darkness. Inasmuch as I don’t like doing IG and Facebook Live concerts, it has proven to be a way for artists to gain income and followers, and to display their talents without the distractions of people smoking and chattering while half drunk in a bar. We set the time and the duration.
Now listen, shoutout to all the independent music venues who have been fair to artists. We know y’all are struggling and we value you as much as you value us. We need proper venues in which to shine our lights. HOWEVER, for the places that have taken advantage of us and made us beg for pennies, we don’t need y’all. We can do that all by ourselves. My biggest fear regarding this whole COVID-19 debacle is that we’re all gonna go back to the same nonsense patterns we followed 6 months ago. From health and wellness to employment, COVID has proven to be a golden opportunity to change course in a positive direction. Over the past week, a major venue has reached out to me to offer me an opportunity as they are beginning to reopen. They’re starting small and stating that their aim is to build relationships with local musicians. Hopefully, they’re sincere, but the opportunity wouldn’t have come about 8 months ago. In all likelihood, my only option would have been to take on a great deal of financial risk in order to put on a show in a beautiful yet expensive venue. Now, it’s certainly my job to bring people to the venue so that the venue and I can both make money; I get it. But, truly independent artists who have no record label backing them need help. There are so many talented artists in the mid-Atlantic region who could flourish and add to their cities economically and culturally, if certain venues would invest in them. There are nights when venues don’t have anything booked that could be used for talented upstarts to hone their skills. Independent artists who can draw more of a crowd could be given a break on those nights. It would be an opportunity for them to continually build their fanbase in the hopes that they can become a headlining act. Every city should have a musician incubator of sorts. We’ve gotta collectively consider the long game…we’ve gotta water and till the soil of our small artist gardens.
But even if the local spots don’t offer anything, we still don’t REALLY need them. An artist who has truly mastered their craft can give a great performance from inside a trash dumpster. Between my iPhone and my skillset, I don’t need a whole lot outside of electricity…all I need to do is grow my talent, and grind. There is one place where I do believe artists need a partner or perhaps a small team. At a certain point, it will naturally become more cost effective for an artist to have a manager who books their gigs and finds them additional opportunities to flourish. Ultimately, the artist needs to be spending the majority of their time working on their craft. They need to be honing their skills, resting, and performing. Even little things like accounting for merchandise can become a time consuming activity that draws away from practice. Artists need help, but a whole God-damned record label?! I don’t think so. Like so many parts of America, the record industry is bloated with waste. Not only is it inefficient, it’s designed to pay everyone except the artist. Fuck the whole thing. Defund the police? TUH!!! DEFUND THESE LABELS AND STREAMING SERVICES THAT RAPE ARTISTS! I can build a website on my own. I can record audio and video on my own. I can build my social media presence by grinding. I can build my own buzz and speak for myself. I don’t need a million dollars to make an album. I need a fraction of that to make quality music. The burden simply rests on me and my ability to master my craft and my grind.
Artists of the world, RISE UP!!! The time is now to flip the script and take control of our destinies. We could build an entire new landscape for artists over the next year as the record industry and country as a whole begins to rebuild and reopen. We cannot go back to old patterns and miss the opportunity that has been inconveniently placed before us. No more taking abuse from promoters, managers, and venues who don’t give a shit about us. I’m half hopeful and half pessimistic about what we’ll actually do, but I know one thing…I ain’t goin’ backwards. I’m plowing forward with my head down in the direction of freedom. Like the freed slaves in Texas who started the Juneteenth celebrations, y’all didn’t even know you’re already free! Ain’t nothin' left to do but walk off this lil’ music plantation and create freely. It’s hard at first, but we ain’t got nothin’ to lose. It’s time to answer our freedom call!!!
P.S. TAHIRA’s song Freedom Call is available on all traditional music platforms. Look it up as being written by Delaware Artists For Change.