Saturday, January 17, 2009

In Kingston, settling in OK

Hello y'all just a quick note to say I am in Kingston and doing great, and some preliminary musings..

I'm staying on UWI campus in my own little apartment which is great except for the lack of hot water. But I just boil up some in a kettle and use a bowl to take a sort of rinse-off shower, not too bad. I'm considering mosquito netting though.. every day I wake up with more bites. does mosquito netting really work?

This morning I walked up the road to the Papine market (open-air fruit & vegetables) to get some fresh stuff, so I'm liking the convenience. I have connected with some amazing faculty members and grad students so I'm also liking the intellectual atmosphere.

Planning to migrate and update the blog, but the free internet access (walkable from my apartment) is a bit spotty so I can't do any major stuff until I get a campus password.

Have already been out and about a bit. Music is everywhere. Every cab plays music, at night street parties pop up in all the neighborhoods. Even in the poorest parts of town I have been to, walking in the daytime with a friend, these huge towers of speakers loom on the sidewalk, waiting for their night-time activation.

Most memorable scene so far: BOASI TUESDAYS a street party in Ken Cot. I will post my write-up about it soon. oh wow. what a scene.
I also went to a very uptown club which was quite a scene as well in a totally different way.

Today I am going to Rebel Salute, a big roots reggae festival a few hours outside of Kingston. I'm rolling with a crew of people who are all part of and connected to the roots and old-time music scene and are really nice. The festival radio ads all say "No meat, No alcohol" so I think it will be pretty mellow and I look forward to some Ital food. There seems to be quite a revival scene here, and many of these fairly elderly performers tour like crazy.

Given that not everyone probably enjoys touring (something I plan to ask lots of older artists) I see why people might want copyright as their pension plan. This phrase has come up a lot in Jamaica.. However, I think royalties are a terrible pension plan. I need to get more statistics on this, but the main problem with the idea is that it seems like you need to already be famous and have a lot of recordings in order to rely on royalties as you get old.

If you are not already popular, how can you get your music out there? How can you get recorded, and how can you get distribution? Costs of recording may be lower now, but there's still expertise and time and equipment involved that someone has to pay for. You can either bargain with a label & distributor (who won't take the risk on unfamous you unless you give up a lot.. including probably your copyright) or you record it cheaply and/or give it away.

But people still want to rely on copyright to provide them with income in their old age. They feel they hav ea right to, despite whatever bargains they made when they were younger. This suggests to me something interesting about how people think about rights over music they create. Even though you can sell or bargain away your copyrights, people feel a lasting connection to their creative works, so that they feel wronged if those works become popular and they don't get a direct cut. Maybe that's true of anything - if you sell it to someone and that person sells it for more, are you wronged? Sometimes people think so..

Of course some people were ripped off, flimflammed, scammed & taken advantage of, too. No doubt about that. So some people want theirs back because they made a bad deal. I'm not sure how the law can help with that, because bad deals are still legal deals in most cases.. the law is not good at recognizing the power imbalances behind dealmaking (differences in information or social power that allow people to bargain effectively).

But even so, while it's true that the bargains you make starting out aren't the ones you would make later in life, it;s not necessarily true that it means you were ripped off when you made those bargains early on when the situation was different.

Given the amount of uncertainty around new artists and whether they will become more popular, I don't know how people make deals that will provide for them IF they become famous, but that will also allow them to get famous (through getting distribution). hm hm hm.