I remember the last time I had to go and work with independent musicians in Brazil…
I’m off to Brazil tonight. One of the later sections of the book is about music commerce, and I’m going to be drawing in some of the academic research I’ve been doing about Fora do Eixo (say ‘for-a-doe-AY-show), the network of independent music collectives that work across the whole of Brazil and beyond.
Part of my trip to Brasilia and Sao Paulo for the next 10 days is to attend the trans-national Cultura de Red meeting, and interview a bunch of the people involved in this network, learn how they’ve used free online tools, open source software and open data to accomplish what to most people might have seemed impossible.
It’s a fascinating story, and one I can’t wait to tell. In around 70 cities across Brazil, a land where cities are separated by thousands of miles, and large uninhabited spaces, a workable touring, festival and distribution arrangement has been devised by groups collaborating online to ensure that life in the independent music sector is a viable and sustainable career.
They call it ‘solidarity economy’ – and much of it revolves around ways of helping each other out. Your band is coming to play in my town? Cool – they can sleep on my floor, I’ll cook for them, pick them up at the airport – that sort of thing. I’ll make sure they hook up with the right venue and we’ll try and sell some CDs while they’re here. And you do the same when my band comes to you.
That’s the tip of the iceberg. The crazy bit is that they have developed to the point where they now have their own currency. They have healthcare. They have their own bank. Their own university. Festivals appear to be sustainable. Bands make a living. And this is in a place where there is no route to mainstream media from the independent sector. If you’re not on a major label you can pretty much forget about airplay — of any kind.
It’s not without its critics (and that’s something I want to explore too), but there’s something really fascinating about an independent music sector that, in the face of such overwhelming odds, has come up with a system that could only function in the age of the internet.
Last time I was there, I did some video interviews that explained a bit about how it works, and those are up on my Brazil research project website. But this time, I’m going to delve a bit deeper and try and make sense of it in the context of the Music in the Digital Age book – as well as for my university work.
What are the lessons here that could be applied more broadly? Could something like this work in Europe? North America? And so on.
Plus, of course – I love going back to Brazil. Apart from meeting up with some good friends and enjoying the food, the sights and the culture, it’s mostly the record shopping I look forward to. The weather is just a nice bonus.