On incentives, songwriting and activism: Erin McKeown

Cover shotA little while ago Erin McKeown, an American DIY musician, producer and activist, came to Brighton as part of her tour to promote her new album: Manifestra. Erin is a 2011 – 2012 Fellow of Harvard University’s Berkman Centre for Internet and Society, which studies alternative independent methods of earning for musicians. Her own research contemplated how to make a creative life a viable profession, so I went down to have a chat about her work, PledgeMusic and making the world a less violent place.


The Jailer


What is the most important thing for you to communicate through your music?

For me, it is a sense of another world besides the one we live in. One that is more poetic, and saturated.

You experiment with a wide variety of musical styles. Are there any genres (besides folk) that you find particularly suited to your particular blend of musical activism?

I have always thought rock was excellent for activism. A great chorus can really change the world. Also, Afrobeat has a wonderful history of activism in its songs. you don’t just need an acoustic guitar!

Manifestra CoverDo you see the current issues surrounding copyright and digital streaming services as a major barrier for a future harmonious relationship between tech and music companies?

As long as someone figures out how to make money again off of musicians, the music biz and tech world will get along fine in the future. It is the day-to-day lives of musicians that I worry more about… How will we continue to make music and be part of our communities if we cannot make a living from being artists?

Continue reading “On incentives, songwriting and activism: Erin McKeown”

Coldplay for Coldplay haters

I’m not going to be buying the latest Coldplay album Mylo Xyloto – people who know me are acutely aware that I have always hated the band. A simple mention of the name would fill my head with a flurry of negative thoughts and associated neural networks would ignite helping me develop my own imaginary “Coldplay” who neatly encompassed everything which was wrong with music, or anything else ever. This grew and festered until I realised that I was mentally filing almost every negative aspect I could attribute to a band in the drawer marked ‘Coldplay’ in my brain. After a quick argument with a fan, I decided it was time I challenged my impression via a listening session.

CD & a Keyboard

Was the real Coldplay anywhere near as bad as my mental one?

I’ve voluntarily subjected myself to the Coldplay albums that are available on Spotify and given a recommendation for haters on a track from each one, which is definitely worth your time, even if you never intend to listen to anything else by them again. Go on; challenge yourself, it’s quite fun even if it won’t change your mind.

To begin with however, I needed to find out how I’d created my interpretation of Coldplay. As I read this article on the Sun’s website, I tried to remember the times when I had come across the band’s music and it had been awful enough to deserve the sour taste it always gave me. I couldn’t think of a single one, and the fact that Brian Eno himself had blessed their acclaimed album “Viva La Vida or Death and All his Friends” (aka VLVODAAHF) with his magic touch was an incentive to give them a second chance. Looking at what was said about this album, you’d be forgiven for assuming it must be a preview to the second coming of a messiah.

The troubling thing in my mind was, despite my own opinion that almost everything I’d heard from them was bland pop garbage, their legions of fans, not to mention the chart success that rains down on them at every album release was giving me some unsettling thoughts. To me, it appeared as though they had been given a special license to release bland music to critical acclaim simply due to their commercial achievement and domination of their middle-of-the-road niche in the market. With the new album being released, I knew I had to either find a way to like Coldplay finally, or again endure the endless repetition of “that band” being shoved down my ear holes by music advertisers and radio DJs.

So it was with this in mind that I attempted to circumvent my own scruples and I settled in to give myself an enormous first dose of Chris martin and co.’s contribution to British popular culture. I’ll admit, I’m not enormously familiar with their work outside of the singles, is there anyone who can’t sing at least a chorus from “Yellow”?, but in my defence, my mental Coldplay block sapped me of any motivation to investigate their work further. Continue reading “Coldplay for Coldplay haters”