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April 8, 2009

some thoughts & Max Ochs

I recently came across this interview with Max Ochs (brother of Phil Ochs, and featured in that American Primitive Guitar comp). He says a lot of cool things, including this perspective on the contemporary state of music accessibility:

Touching on the access that recorded music allowed to the other genres that influenced you back in the ’50s, what do you think of the current state of digital music, and the unprecedented access that the Internet has allowed?

I think it’s wonderful, and I think it should be free. I have lots of cassettes of myself playing at a coffee house, of me playing at somebody’s house or at a gig, or at bar, or just sitting in the living room with a bunch of guys and somebody turns on the tape recorder and made a copy for me. And I have a ton of homemade music that I would love to post to a Web site and be like Radiohead, you know, what they did with their last album where they said to download and pay us whatever you think it’s worth. If you wanna take it for free, if you wanna give me a dollar, fifty cents, whatever, it’s fine. And I would really be quite content to do that.

As far as musicians making a living off of selling a record is concerned, do you think that particular model of digital distribution is a good direction for music to be taking?

People are going to get their music one way or another — they have a hunger, an appetite for it. They’re gonna find music and there’s so much of it now. I mean, the Beatles are never gonna disappear — Beethoven, Bach, Blind Willie Johnson, John Fahey — they’re never gonna disappear, they’re here for the rest of civilization’s existence. So it’s a cumulative thing, new musicians will come up and find ways to get their stuff on iTunes that can be downloaded.

But people say, “Don’t you wanna get money for your CD’s?” Well actually, I would be happy if people were listening to my music, at least to the extent that people would invite me to come play at a concert. But even when I wasn’t playing at gigs or at venues, I was still sitting in my kitchen playing for my dog, or on my back steps — I just love to play. I’m not worried about the music industry, it will find a way, it will sort itself out. There will be ways for musicians to make money, you’ll get played for playing when you go to a gig, and the musicians will sell their records at the gigs, and maybe musicians will adopt that Radiohead mode where they put it on the internet and if people want their music, they can download it and pay what they think is fair to pay, what they think it’s worth.

But here’s the other thing: You’re talking to a non-typical musician. Most of the time when you interview a musician, they’re doing it for a living, they’ve committed themselves full-time and they’re really brave leaping into that experience where they’re going to try to see if they can make it as a musician. I never had that much faith in myself, that I could be that competitive in the market. I play just because it brings me great joy, and I’m just grateful that people like to listen. I worked in the anti-poverty agency at a steady job and when I could find the time I would practice my music and write a song, and if I was lucky, I would get a gig. That’s how I bumbled through decades, and all this that’s going on now is wonderful and interesting. It’s like now I’ve been validated to the extent that it seems people enjoy listening to me, and it’s amazing, and great, and I’m so happy that they do.


which pretty much sums up how I relate to it, as a musician as well.

Max has a new album out. It's called Hooray for Another Day. The guitar pieces are very unique. And there's some poetry, somewhat in the vein of The Microphones. I'm not nuts about his singing, and you're not going to be blown away by his technique, but the album's definitely worth hearing for the individuality and humanity in the guitar-playing. And in that spirit, you can either buy it from Tompkins Square or pinch it here.

and read this interview with Max at Tompkins Square

cool beans!


Nicolas said...

Great interview ! Well, some people sure don't understand it that way !
In France they just passed a law that
will cut off Internet access to people caught downloading via P2P sites.

That interview made me think about French poet and folksinger Georges Brassens. In an interview made in 1969 that I read yesterday, he said he was glad for being paid for his music, but that otherwise he would have played for free anyway because he didn't do that for money

Btw great site !

Guldhamstern said...

Hi, amazing blog you got!

I was looking for the Max Ochs cd some month ago, but I didn't find the link on your side, so I bought it. Fun to hear a musican talking about giving music away for free or get paid...

I hope to se some of the tapes he was talking about.

He got a fantastic track on the takoma Contemporary Guitar Spring 1967