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Digital Resistance

January 24, 2011

Secret Archives of the Vatican

Secret Archives of the Vatican started making music at the end of the 80s, start of the 90s, and we caught the tail end of an amazing social phenomenon, the cassette trader scene. There’s a half decent Wikipedia article about the scene HERE.

We were conscious, even then at the start of the 90s, that we were making a conscious choice to operate outside of the mainstream music industry, where there was little or no possibility for ‘success’ if you made genre-defying, truly unique music. It meant we’d never make any significant money but we’d be free to do whatever we wanted to with no-one telling us how to present our music or forcing us into ‘marketable’ styles. We did alright; we had radio play in over 20 countries, we had tracks featured on compilation cassettes issued with various magazines and, above all, we had fun doing it. As far as I’m concerned, we had success. It just wasn’t what the record companies would call success. Details of some of our early releases can be found HERE.

There were hugely influential publications (such as Gajoob) that played a part in developing a kind of philosophical basis for this independent artistic activity and we loved it.

Well, the years rolled on, the postal services declined, cassettes died and the internet was born. It took a while but now the advent of broadband and mp3s, FLACs, WAVs etc has made the creation, distribution and acquisition of music more democratic than ever before. No wonder the old dinosaur music industry hates it and constantly tries to undermine any progress. All of this we’ve written about elsewhere, of course, so let’s not get sidetracked.

In the recent past, the political process here in the UK and Ireland, and also in the USA, has been deeply damaged by incompetence, corruption and people finding out the truth through things such as Wikileaks. I’ve noticed a small but steadily growing murmur of discontent among people I know and I’ve been intrigued by various suggestions that deliberately and consciously, as far as it is possible for us to do so, we should choose to operate outside of the parameters of behaviour chosen for us by politicians, unrestrained capitalism and old industries.

Some people have started to use the term Digital Resistance. The moment I heard the term, I knew it made sense. It’s about using the possibilities of digital distribution of knowledge, subversive art, real news etc to disrupt existing authoritarian power structures. It’s about digital intervention in situations of injustice. It’s about the possibilities of invading worlds that have been deliberately kept from us by powerful people with vested interests in maintaining antidemocratic and controlling structures intact for their own benefit.

There is no way in most developed Western countries that we can change the world through politics; never in my lifetime have people been so disillusioned with, and contemptuous of, our political leaders. All major parties seem interchangeable and the minority parties are either nutters or fascists. There is no cultural salvation from the political quarter. Violent revolution is an option, I guess, but firstly I don’t believe it changes anything (other than very temporarily). As soon as idealists take power, they have to constrain the next generation of idealists in order to protect their own revolution from that of the younger generation. It ends up just as autocratic as what went before. Secondly, I also hate violence – it’s not a road I want to go down.

So, how do we negate the rising intensity of authoritarian culture? It is my belief that a digital cultural resistance movement has immense promise; new paradigms of digital intervention are being gestated right now. Through our art, music, alternative news sources, confrontational refusal to comply, and active opting-out from received patterns of social convention, we can effectively prevent The Man from ordering our lives and telling us how to live.

Our little part of all this is mostly in the musical realm. We’re trying to be at the forefront of new ways of doing things and we’re committed to making a fair amount of the music we create available free of charge (although we don’t have a theoretical objection to earning some money for the work we put in). Through our blogs and podcasts we try to tell everyone about good music by other artists and labels. We write in our blogs about the lies and misrepresentations of the mainstream music industry.

We’re at an early stage of thinking about the implications of a Digital Resistance movement and we’ll be sharing more of our thoughts here as our ideas develop.

Broken Drum Records

9 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2011 3:55 pm

    very well written and explanatory article about the massive changes in the way music is being distributed. Nice job Vince!

  2. January 24, 2011 10:28 pm

    Brilliant blog! I agree that the internet gives us massive potential to discus and spread ideas, music, art etc. Bring it on!

  3. Phil K permalink
    January 25, 2011 5:15 am

    Your essay, Vince, is required reading not only for musicians, but also for writers as well. Digital means of publishing can (as Wikileaks has demonstrated) “speak truth to power”. Also, they can disseminate ideas much faster than print media and can evade censorship. I do not think it an exaggeration to argue that as the Protestant Reformation could not have happened without the printing press, so that today’s needed reformation -which I would argue is the reclamation of human dignity from economic slavery-is possible because of digital technologies.

  4. January 25, 2011 5:34 pm

    This is a really challeging read for me.
    Not because of the big words! But mainly because I value commercial success, I think it is a good benchmark for some things, and not to be discounted (excuse the pun) straight off.

    We are establishing an off-shoot of Broken Drum Records that has a much more commercial bias and therefore we are becomming more a part of ‘the man’s machine’ than ever before.

    How does one keep one’s rebellious integrity whilst trying to create music with a wider audience who access through the regular channels, the channels providd by ‘the man’.

  5. January 25, 2011 7:46 pm

    Well, I did day I have no theoretical objection to earning money from our work. No, the point is that we shouldn’t play The Man’s game. We won’t use the worst kinds of manipulative marketing. We will continue give some free tunes away. The main Broken Drum Records releases will remain largely free.We will make sure that we give people good value for their money. We will break the received rules of ‘style’ and predictability in the music. We will have equitable contracts with any other artists whose tunes we release – we will not shaft them big label style.

  6. February 2, 2011 10:39 pm

    Hi! I just popped over from ORGZine. Thanks for reposting my piece.

    I do love the concept of digital resistance – great post!


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