‘I Have A Dream’ – Owen Paul Guest Writes For Essentially Pop

Owen Paul (British Electric Foundation) poses for the cameras at Rewind Scotland Scone Palace on Sunday July 23rd 2017. Photo credit Martin Bone
Owen Paul (British Electric Foundation) poses for the cameras at Rewind Scotland Scone Palace on Sunday July 23rd 2017. Photo credit Martin Bone

Best known for his 1986 number 3 hit, ‘My Favourite Waste Of Time’, which he co-wrote, Scottish singer Owen Paul released ‘The One’, in January 2014, his first official single in the UK since 1987, and followed it with his album, ‘About Time II’ in the autumn that year. He continues to perform extensively, both as a solo artist and with his full band Live 80s show, and as lead vocalist for XSM (Ex Simple Mind). He played all three Rewind Festivals last year as part of the British Electric Foundation.

Owen’s latest single, ‘Amazing’, released in November 2017 is a remix by Stonebridge, and spent three weeks in the Music Week Club Charts.

Owen is our guest writer today.

As someone famously and historically said… “I have a dream”…….and in MY dream (much that it is a socialist ideal in the mainly conservative world that we now reside in) all writers, musicians, performers and producers down tools and instruments and immediately and collectively stop handing over their work to streaming companies such as Spotify, Deezer and more…until they start paying a reasonable amount for such content.

The advent of streaming is a wonderful thing, particularly for the consumer and the streaming companies, however for the writers and artists being paid at 0.06 of a penny per stream, it is simply unsustainable. Regardless of how many streams.

The same is true for live music too…if I see another bar/venue advertising for acts for an “open mic” night I will scream. Often, not a single act will get paid despite them providing the venue with hours of entertainment and an audience to boot, and with the venue profiting at the bar. All singer/performers should collectively and immediately refuse to play for a “pint” at best and leave the bookers and venues with the dilemma, they shouldn’t have the dilemma resting on their, often very young shoulders.

Believe me, venues would start paying instantly rather than have a dead night but this will only work if we do this all at once. If one person agrees to perform for free just for the “experience” then it will for sure never work.

Since when did a carpenter, builder or other service provider agree to a job for the experience?

Imagine asking a chef to cook and provide food for fifty people for “experience” or for the promise of “future paid work”……it would never happen, don’t make me laugh.

Entertainment is a provided service too and often those two hours or so at showtime pay no regard to the endless hours of practice, never mind instrument costs and so on. If a venue is unhappy with the turnout of a paid act then that is fine, don’t hire me again. But for musicians and singers to offer this service for free negates this argument.

It is no surprise to me that concert ticket prices have rocketed for many acts during the streaming revolution. Ticket revenue and merchandise sales are now the only way for acts to recoup enough money to go on tour or afford to make new recordings, videos and so on, so it has become a double edged sword for both the artists and the consumers alike. Major acts, such as Ed Sheeran, Adele, or Taylor Swift may make enough from downloads and merchandise etc to continue their careers, but many new or smaller acts most definitely cannot and this is a real problem that needs solving quickly. If a staff member at Spotify makes more per year than the average artist who created the content that they are using for hundreds of thousands of streams, then something is very very wrong. If Netflix want to use a movie on their service then for sure, they pay the movie creator enough so that in turn more movies can be made and the cycle continues and now, for me, the music streaming companies must be made to do the same, otherwise brand new content from new acts will just not materialise.

The world we now live in thinks music is free (even my own children think this to my obvious disappointment) …where my children think I got the money to feed, clothe and house them is beyond me.

The real irony is that the younger consumer who thinks music is free is in for a serious shock to the system when they become the artists of the future and cannot make a go of it….even on a small level. This is a tragedy that we must avoid. The music industry has survived over many years, in huge part because there have always been NEW artists, and this must continue. The way we are heading, this will not be the case and we will spend our lives rehashing old tunes by old artists …and going nowhere in the process.

When Irish rock gods U2 were handsomely paid by Apple Music to allow the customer to get their album for free in it’s entirety, this was a kick in the teeth for the struggling artist…of which there are millions…who need just a reasonable, and I repeat – REASONABLE amount to continue. The struggling young U2 of the early 80’s (who recorded three albums before any real success I might add) would have been mortified by an act doing that and jeopardising the careers of many……..shame on them.

We HAVE a U2 because the industry sustained them till their eventual success on a global scale. If they formed today they wouldn’t stand a chance without them having a very rich benefactor to sustain them during the learning their trade and growing years, giving away music and playing for free at open mic nights would not have made them a success. For new acts to thrive again we need the industry to sustain them either by implementing proper streaming fees or by venues paying for their live performance. It’s so straighforward.

Finally I will say this….in the mid 80’s at the height of my own success, I had a very similar dream for artists composers, producers and all musicians to simultaneously down tools in protest at the record companies exorbitant mark up of profit on CDs, sometimes charging the consumer £15 for a product that often cost less than £2 to create. Unfortunately this idealistic event did not happen and this mess has been created. Now consumers are getting their own back on the industry in a very worrying way for all concerned, but hey……… we can but dream!!!!

Find Owen Paul online on his official website. ‘Amazing’ is available on iTunes.

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