the business and the passion – music and capitalism


I am linking to a lecture at Youtube; if it doesn’t play for some reason, here is the URL:

Presented on BBC Four as the John Peel lecture of that year (2014), this is indeed a lecture – yes, a lecture – by Iggy Pop – the Igster, America’s most wayward wayward son, the man known to toss himself on broken glass when in the throes of performing, former front-man for punk precursors The Stooges, and occasional colleague of the late David Bowie.

It’s a strange, yet in many ways fascinating lecture.  Written in the voice of an elder musician of considerable experience, offering advice to young aspiring rock stars, the lecture also presents a critique of the music industry as capitalist system, and suggestions for surviving that; but also an engagingly ambivalent discussion of the question of piracy in the digital era.

Basically, Iggy is against piracy on general principles, yet also defends working people trying to listen to music without paying for it, in an era of spiraling consumer costs.  This ambivalence arises from a preliminary discussion about the nature of music as a “feeling thing,” an emotional commitment transcendent of monetary concerns.  That’s an odd remark from any professional entertainer these days, but especially from a ‘shock rocker’ who has devoted a life-time to transgressing accepted social norms.  Yet it is wholly believable.

There are two interesting moments, early on, when Iggy comes close to sobbing.  The first is when he remembers performers he had befriended, the Ramones – all of whom were dead by the time of this lecture.  The second is when he remarks on the kind of America that young people in the ’60s were hoping would follow the presidency of John F. Kennedy – which hopes seemed dashed by Kennedy’s assassination.  (The evidence is that this hope was entirely in vain to begin with, but never mind; this is how Iggy remembers it.)

Iggy speaks very personally (and personably), without ever losing the authority of someone who has an expertise born of experience – this is a lecture (or at least a presentation, if you will), not a confessional.  Not disappointing those of us who have followed his career over the years, he voices no regrets.  What is there to regret?  He made the music he wanted to, took his chances, lived with the consequences, and survived.  In the music industry as it has existed since the late ’60s, that’s the nearest one gets to heroism.

Over all this lecture is remarkably heart-felt, articulate, witty and insightful.  It really shines a light on the darker recesses of a music industry that most people take for granted, while allowing another light shine from within, of those who just want to make music because they love it and have something to say.


I’ve removed a note I included here off-topic,  commenting on recent events in Oregon, as I realized it distracted from the lecture posted here.  But I may post such commentary separately later.



One thought on “the business and the passion – music and capitalism

  1. A very good lecture. I posted some praise of it when it came out and was dead impressed. I particularly liked his advice for young people going into the business, which was (from memory, ‘Always maintain a spiritual exit’. Musicians rule okay.

    Liked by 1 person

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