You thought that it would never happen but…

Yep, it’s a serious Layers blog. Anyone who had five and a half years in the sweepstake – that eighty seven pence is yours.

It’s really a response to a response to a response to an article. This isn’t looking much like a serious blog, is it? I’ll hurry to the point. A few musicians have been writing about this article by Emily White in which she confesses to music piracy, not caring about liner notes and bestiality.  Or not. Read it for yourself and get the facts, don’t make up your mind on the basis of someone else’s reading of the article. What are you, the Daily Mail?

David Lowery, on the Trichordist, a community blog supporting artist’s rights on an ‘ethical Internet’ (I think that’s one where the dolphins have signed consent forms) composed this thoughtful reply, which was reposted by the talented and lovely Dan Beames and then referenced by the talented and even lovelier Brigid Kaelin.

Both Dan and Brigid make their living in the music business. Both are fantastically talented musicians, performers and song writers, so give their opinions on this issue the consideration that they deserve. I don’t disagree; I have observations and questions: grist for the mill, I hope.

On one hand, we (The Layers) could be held up as an argument that artists can support themselves by other means. I don’t like that, even though that argument – that the arts are the fruits of civilisation and should be shared equally is valid: if every member of that civilisation gets an equal crack at being fed, clothed and housed. We don’t, though. Actually, we live in a dog-eat-dog capitalist dystopia and the only way for artists like Brigid and Dan to eat is to try to take some token fiscal advantage of their talents, just as say, a banker profits from a good head for figures and a total disregard for the wellbeing of his fellow man or the English upper classes profit from a talent for having ancestors that killed people, sold slaves and oppressed the poor.

I’m not saying that anyone should make as much money as, say, Bono, just from being in U2. I am saying, though, that a good musician should have the same chance to make a living from talent, hard work and practice as, say, a good plumber.

Let’s be fair. There are plenty of would-be rock stars that beggar that argument by not practising, putting on crappy gigs and thinking that it’s all about wearing shades indoors, taking drugs and sleeping with impressionable models. Pete Doherty, take a bow. Sorry, take a blow. To the cranium. I’m not suggesting that everyone that tries should make a living from it. I know a lot of wonderfully talented musicians, though, that put their hearts and souls into making wonderful music. They should at least get the chance to spend a few years perfecting their craft and to give it a go.

You see, Emily White, in the article, describes herself as a ‘music lover’. But is she?

To me, love nurtures and supports. If you love someone, you want them to grow, to become stronger, better, happier. If you analogise music with a person, I don’t think that Emily really loves music; I think that she thinks he’s cool but she’s taking advantage of him without really thinking about whether he’s going to be OK in the long run. She’s fine when he gives her stuff but she’s not really interested in doing anything to support him. She’s just bleeding him dry and assuming he’ll be OK. When music complains, she just bitches about how he could be better for her, not really thinking about the reciprocal side of that arrangement.

If you like an artist, you should be willing to pay the going rate for their music. You should show a bit of interest in turning up to a gig.

Here at Layers HQ, we took the decision to make music our hobby, not our living. You want the record? All we ask is that you consider making a donation as to what you think it’s worth. As Brigid points out, people are willing to pay for an app that makes their iPhone make fart noises but bitch about paying 9p for an MP3. So consumers have to decide what music is worth to them. More or less than a lightsaber for your smartphone? (sigh). It’s not just the cash. I’d like to think that the music that we write is worth more to a listener than a voicemail  recorded by Chris Moyles. Unless someone’s started doing snuff versions…

The industry, though, has a part to play, too. Because for years they’ve pimped out innocent boys to girls like Emily. All of those boys (remember, easily offended people, that this is still an analogy – boys are music, OK?) are carefully selected for cosmetic appeal, to be unchallenging, easily palatable and then flooded on to the market so that there’s no exposure and little chance for the unconventional, thoughtful boys to get a look in. And those ‘different’ boys that do get through are picked up and promoted until they’re exhausted. And when Emily’s had a couple of dates with a boy and the time comes for her to pay for dinner or introduce him to her friends… why bother? There’ll be an equally pretty boy along in a minute.

Emily: if you love music, you ought to be willing to do something for it. You can listen to a few tracks – flirting is free – but if you date, you should at least be willing to go Dutch.

Brigid, Dan and every other musician out there – perhaps we just love too much. Perhaps we do need to experiment with new ways to make a living from our passion. As long as we don’t feel that our rights are being violated and we can find partners who will go the distance.

I’m going to stop, because it’s getting smutty. Here’s the dirty little secret, though. Music is communication. There’s a real relationship between artist and listener and if either side of that relationship loses respect for the other and starts to take advantage, then we’re heading for a bitter end. Don’t let it happen. Let’s share a little love.

Layers out.


Her Majesty would be proud…

Regular readers of the Layers blog may have noticed the sounds of street parties drifting through the bars on the window recently, although the staff probably keep bunting away from you – cheery and patriotic aren’t prized qualities in escape ropes and garottes. In case you’ve been wondering what the sounds of celebration and the union jack sketched into your gruel were all about, last weekend was the diamond jubilee of Elizabeth von Windsor – not the one from the ‘Carry On’ films. The other one.

Sarky comments aside, we’re neither royalist nor republican, really but the chance for a gig is the chance for a gig, so when The Abstracts’ Mark Harris invited us to join the line up for Cirencester’s Jubilee celebrations we were swift to mumble non-committally, scuttle home, check Google diaries and set off a flurry of confusing e-mails. Eventually it emerged that three-quarters of us were devoid of more pressing appointments while Paul was busy performing a ‘Mission Impossible’ style assignment, cracking into the top-secret headquarters of an evil corporation bent on world domination. The downside was that we’d be unable to rock out fully. On the plus side, not only were we handed an excuse to dust off the ‘unplugged’ set but, thanks to Paul, we’re now also in possession of Col. Sanders secret recipe of eleven herbs and spices. Would it be giving too much away to reveal that ten of them are salt? No? Well, the other is MSG. Imagine our surprise.

It wouldn’t really be an outdoor Layers gig without the threat of the sort of rain that normally comes with an eccentric Jew rounding up pairs of animals and the preceding few days promised to deliver. As it happened though, the Monday of the gig was grey, cool but mercifully dry. It wasn’t the sort of weather to send hordes reaching for the picnic blankets and out to the park so we were pleasantly surprised to get to the Abbey Grounds and see a crowd that was probably reaching into four figures milling around the various attractions.

Hats off to Mark and his team; the stage was up and well-equipped and the sound was cracking. As the first few bands went on, the weather gradually brightened and as three-quarters of The Layers got ready to take the stage, the Sun finally broke through and there was a real hint of summer festival in the air. It can be difficult to relax into a twenty minute set but we were fortunate to be following some great acts and the atmosphere was laid-back and positive. Without feeling nervous, we were able to give a decent account of “Is that Wrong?”, a blast from the past; three from the forthcoming album, “Bratislava”, “Magic Lantern Show” and “My Father” before we were joined on stage by John and Kev for perennial favourite, “Surf Trip”. It’s always a lovely way to close a set and always special to have some of our regular guests singing with us.

It was all over far too quickly but music went on throughout the evening, the crowd gradually swelling until The Abstracts produced a fitting finale and socks were most definitely rocked off.

It’s not all been kow-towing to the over privileged classes, though. The extra day’s bank holiday and the return of our bass player from special ops gave us the chance to stage a bonus-length rehearsal and really get our teeth into some new material. The happy news for fans desperately awaiting the slipping of a new Layers CD beneath their cell door is that two new songs have gone from being inklings to, if not perfectly fried calamari, at least a mass of writhing tentacles (I’m really going to have to have words with our tortuous metaphor contractor…). This means that we’re almost up to an album’s worth of songs. One or two more to coax from deranged idea to reanimated flesh lurching towards the nearest village and we’ll be ready to throw ourselves into another session in the studios.

In other exciting news, there’s a new addition to the family – yes, Caleb’s just texted us all to say that he’s the proud recipient of a healthy, 45lb amplifier and cab. We’re mentioning this partly in celebration and partly as a warning that this is probably a good time to put sticky-back plastic across the window panes, start jamming cotton wool into the kids’ ears and sedate your pets. It’s going to be loud on a scale where decibels give up, go home and call in the Richter Scale.

Thanks to everyone that turned out to show their support at The Jubilee and to the organisers for a great day’s entertainment. Come and see The Layers play a longer, louder (probably much louder) set at the Tetbury Fiesta on the 8th July and then at Westonbirt in August.

Layers out.