|Issue 4 - April 1972|
|I guess there
will always be a lot of people who are convinced, and who will try
and convince others, that politics has no place in music. But you try
telling some guy in a band who has realised that the band is never
going to 'make it', that he's never going to be far from starving,
and that he doesn't even own the equipment he's using - all through
the management he once signed to in good faith 'mysteriously losing
interest' - that politics has got nothing to do with music. Maybe you
shouldn't be too surprised if he was a little impolite to you!! Mike
Evans is a guy who's been through all that sort of scene. First of
all the 'Liverpool Scene' broke up, with whom he used to play sax and
sing so well, and then his own band 'Highly Inflammable' - mostly because
of management problems. But he's not taken it and done nothing - like
many have done. After realising the true nature of the politics involved
in music, he started the Music Liberation Front - which must be one
of the most valid, and needed of liberation movements.
To elaborate on the politics of the Music Liberation Front, and thus what it represents, we have to go back a few years. 1955, 1962 and more recently, 1967, were all crisis points in music. The last great leap forward, the 'progressive' revolution, was especially significant as an even wider proportion of people outside the actual music had their lives affected. Not only had the music changed, but people's habits and relationships were altered in the process, and music became the common factor in the various manifestations of a new young radicalism in Europe and America - like it never had been before. The one thing that has never become radicalised, however, despite all the talk of Freedom / Revolution / Power to the People, is the music business itself.
There exists this amazing situation of the product (MUSIC) reaching consumers (AUDIENCES) more or less directly (LIVE GIGS), yet the vast majority of the money involved never reaches the musicians. We all know about the overheads and expenses, and if an agent is being employed to secure work then it's worth 10%, but let's remember who's employing who. Or in the last instance, who are the public paying to see?
Beyond agents come managers, an altogether non-productive entity in most cases. They don't get their bands work (unless they also happen to be the agents and getting the appropriate extra percentages), they don't actually record or distribute records (unless again they are also part of a record set-up), in fact it would be very hard to define what the function of 'management' is, in the day of the independent, free-thinking and presumably not unintelligent musician. Gone are the days when managers 'groomed' stars, 'directed' music, hyped DJs. Or are they?
That is the lie of the so-called 'progressive scene'.
The audiences, and a lot of the musicians, really believe that the business has been essentially more honest since flower-power, that your dope-smoking manager has more scruples than your cigar smoking one, that because we've been allowed to sing about the revolution, it has actually happened.
The majority of professional musicians on the rock circuit are neither 'established stars' who can afford not to worry, not semi-pros who don't need to. The majority, in fact, rely on music for a living, spend maybe five or six days and/or nights in a sweaty van (and hotels if they are lucky), never have hit records, and in most cases make less than what could be called a living wage (certainly less than the national average). Sure, they're all in it for the love of it, but does that mean that they should never see half of what they have earned, and they could always spread the love around a little in the form of lower fees, if less people were in it just for a profit.
What about the musicians' union?
The MU probably functions quite well for the types of musicians it was designed to serve - symphony orchestras, dance bands, and session men; but it is completely out of touch with the realities of the contemporary music scene. It has never had any pretensions to want to CHANGE the system, merely to represent its members' interests within the existing framework.
To get down to the real nitty-gritty, the Music Liberation Front intends to: 1) Challenge, with agitation and propaganda, the entire concept of management: 2) Set up a defence fund and legal facilities for musicians in contractual disputes: 3) Encourage musicians to avoid managerial contracts, negotiate their own work where possible, and generally control their own lives: 4) Urge musicians to demand to see all accounts, having independent accountants if necessary: 5) Cultivate a constant awareness of who is employing who: 6) Generally promote a dialogue in the musical and underground press, and in all aspects of the media, arguing from the standpoint of the liberated, self-respecting musician, to the end in view of a liberated self-respecting music.
Although the Music Liberation Front has been in existence for only about six months, it has already had many notable successes. There have been articles in all the main underground papers that can claim a 'national' circulation, items on the radio and appearances on television. In addition several Music Lib concerts have been staged in Liverpool - gaining the attention and support of many musicians and non-musicians - including George Harrison and John and Yoko Lennon.
One can only hope that the Front will continue to grow, and that musicians will realise the need to unify through such a movement and resist the oppressive aspects of the business they have been forced to accept so far. To this extent, if you are a musician - either solo or in a band, or know of anybody who might be interested, then for more information write to Mike Evans, Music Liberation Front, 70 Huskisson Street, Liverpool L5 7LR (051 709 3936) - or through Phil Stringer, 153 Durham Road, Gateshead, Co Durham NE8 4AR (Newcastle 73092).