Timmy Knowles

The home of the Australian recording artist, singer/songwriter and actor

The official website of Australian recording artist, singer/songwriter and actor, Timmy Knowles.

Find news, audio, and video along with tour dates and booking information.

 

AUD210 Week 2: Song Analysis

The Black Keys - Tighten Up

http://www.npr.org/sections/world-cafe/2014/05/12/311390985/the-black-keys-on-world-cafe

http://www.npr.org/sections/world-cafe/2014/05/12/311390985/the-black-keys-on-world-cafe

Tighten Up was written by Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney and produced by Danger Mouse. It was released in 2010 by Nonesuch.

Rhythm:

The song is in the key of F# Minor. Tempo varies from 96 – 111 bpm. Entire track is 4/4, except for one bar which is 3/4

Structure:

Intro, Verse, Refrain, Verse, Bridge, Chorus, Bridge, Coda, Solo

Instrumentation:

Drums – Kick, Snare, Hi-Hat, Tom, Crash

Tamborine

Bass

Electric Rhythm Guitar

Electric Lead Guitars

Vocals

Whistling

Leslie Organ


The structure of Tighten Up is slightly unusual and doesn’t really follow a conventional structure. This adds to the ‘live, jamming’ feel of the record which was the intention of the band, and also the reason why the track was not recorded to a click. The intro covers the first ten bars. The first two are more of a count-in, with the bass and tambourine setting the tempo for the band. Then the kick and rhythm guitar come in, accompanied by a whistled melody, double-tracked and set an octave apart, with the lower octave panned left, and the higher to the right. After four bars, a single lead guitar melody is added, panned left. The song then has an eight-bar verse where the vocals are introduced. Following the verse is a four-bar refrain, where the lyrics resolve, and a melodic hook is played by the left-panned electric guitar we heard in the intro, but also by another playing a similar melody an octave higher, panned to the opposite side. After this refrain, we have another verse, similar to the first, though this time the left-panned electric guitar from earlier is brought up in the background for the second four bars. At the end of this second verse, there is a bridge, where the kick, hi-hat and bass vamp on the song’s tonic note for one bar. The kick and bass are playing ¼ notes, with the hats on 8ths. This introduces the first 8 bar chorus. The chord progression changes here and we lose the vocals. There are no lyrics at all in this section, instead, the two lead electric guitars from earlier play a new melodic hook, still an octave apart, but now both panned right. The rhythm guitar that is now panned left balances this out. The chorus is followed by another bridge, the same vamping from before, but now the time signature changes to 3/4 for one bar. It returns to 4/4 as we enter the third verse and refrain, which is identical musically but not lyrically to the first. The fourth verse introduces padding by a modulating organ, which is playing a different chord progression to the bass and guitar. The second half of the fourth verse, like the second verse, re-introduces the left-panned guitar. Then the same vamping bridge as earlier takes us into the second chorus, which is structurally the same as the first. This is followed by one more bridge, as before, which is then followed by one bar of a breakdown, with a slowing drumroll and effected guitar sound. The tempo slows down during this bar, setting the pace for the approaching coda. The chord progression here is the same as the chorus’, only now it’s played at a tempo of around 96 to 100 bpm. The first four bars are instrumental, then the vocals come in for eight bars, over the top of the same four chord progression. The vocals then cut back out and a new, distorted and flanged electric guitar plays a slower version of the lead melody for eight more bars. The track ends and then a final 4 bars of just the guitar fades the song out.

http://www.prettyneatgrooves.com/tag/the-black-keys/

http://www.prettyneatgrooves.com/tag/the-black-keys/

The track builds up over the verses, then there’s a break just before and after the chorus’ when the vamping happens on the kick and bass. This gives the impression that a new important part is coming up. There is not a huge amount of variation in dynamics other than that, except perhaps at the transition between the final bridge and the coda.

The track mostly makes use of harmonies that are an octave apart. This is present in the whistling at the intro, and also the majority of times we hear the lead guitars playing melodic hooks. Other than that, the organ played in the fourth verse plays F# minor, E major, B minor and C# major, the one, six, four and five of the F# minor scale, while the other instruments carry on the usual progression of F# minor, A major, B minor, C# major. This is padding, and the harmony between the A and E chords gives this verse a noticeable point of difference and creates a build up towards the second chorus.

The hook that is whistled in the intro of the track is different to the hook that is later played by the guitars. It climbs down the F# pentatonic scale, playing F#, E, C#, B, C#, before resolving on B, C#. The melody that creates the hook played in the refrain sections of the track by the two electric guitars are also in the F# pentatonic scale, but this time using the whole scale over several octaves. This scale is very typical in Rock and Pop music and fits the style perfectly. The melody in the chorus uses the same scale, but differently. The vocal melody throughout the track also makes use of the F# pentatonic scale, although it never follows the same melody as the guitars.

http://smartwpress.com/jamsession2/gallery/the-black-keys-live-at-coachella/

http://smartwpress.com/jamsession2/gallery/the-black-keys-live-at-coachella/

The drums, vocals and guitars all have a fair amount of distortion on them. This is either from heavy compression or pushing the gain levels elsewhere in the chain. Either way, it sounds like analogue distortion. The bass and tambourine that are present throughout the song are left clean, which balances out the heavy fuzz of the other instruments. The rhythm guitar has a fair amount of reverb on it, and a tremolo'd delay, which could be the reverb itself. The two lead guitars that play the hooks do not have the tremolo'd delay but do seem to have the same distortion, and a little of the reverb, as the rhythm guitar. The organ sound from the fourth verse sounds as though it is being played through a Leslie, or similar, rotating speaker. The solo played by the electric guitar towards the end of the song is the most heavily affected instrument in the track. The guitar here is run through a Flanger, set to a wide, slow and deep sweep that flows left to right. There is another tiny sliver of this in the fill section, right before the coda. During the verses, the entire drum-kit is spread wide, most likely with stereo panned room over-head or room microphones. The mix gets a lot of use out of panning, moving the guitars around constantly, and sitting many instruments just off to the left or right. Whenever two parts are set an octave apart, they are also usually panned to opposite sides, giving the track a wide image, with minimal parts.

All instruments were recorded live, and most likely at the same time, bar the lead guitars, which would have to have been overdubbed. The song was not recorded to a click track, which makes me think that at least the percussion, drums, bass and rhythm guitar were recorded live together.

Tighten Up has a great, old school, rock n roll vibe. It sounds honest, real, live and human. The heavy use of distortion makes it sound gritty and dirty, and the lead guitar hooks really cut through and get stuck in your head. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpaPBCBjSVc

Write here...

AUD210 Week 1: Electronic Music Genre

EDM, or Electronic Dance Music, is an umbrella term that covers several different genres. This includes House music, Drum & Base, Techno, Trance, and many others. But it doesn’t stop there. Even these genres can be spilt into further sub-genres. Undoubtedly, by the time I’ve posted this blog there will be even newer sub-sub-genres on the scene. 

http://crossfadr.com/2016/12/16/is-edm-over-a-few-reasons-why-mainstream-edm-is-on-the-way-out/

http://crossfadr.com/2016/12/16/is-edm-over-a-few-reasons-why-mainstream-edm-is-on-the-way-out/

You hear many different stories about the origins of EDM, be it the underground gay clubs of 1980’s Paris, or the answer to the UK’s 2 AM lockout laws of the same time. Whatever the origin, it was born deep underground, and it stayed there for some time, even after it had started to permeate and influence the main stream. Regardless of the genre, EDM can generally be recognised by its prominent kick, its thick bass, and its looping, repetitive melodies. Most material slowly builds up tension over the course of a song to what is called ‘the drop’. This is the part of the song that, if done correctly, brings the audience to a climatic frenzy, releasing the tension and allowing the beat to fully ‘drop’. The repetitive nature of EDM would later be replicated by other more mainstream genres like disco, hip-hop, and eventually pop. To the early proprietors of EDM, the idea that it would ever be mainstream or seen as popular music would likely sound insane. But EDM by its very nature breaks all rules. No need for a verse, a chorus, a vocal line. Just a beat, just a big fat beat. The D in EDM is the clue to the success of it. It’s not there to make you cry, or laugh, or tap your toe. It is made for you to dance, and dance hard. The DJ’s who perform this music to live audiences seamlessly transition from one track to another without stopping. This means the crowd never needs to stop dancing. Prior to this, when a song ended there would be a pause or silence before the next one began. This gave the audience time to come back to reality, and loose their mojo. EDM allows the listener to get lost in it for enormous amounts of time, just feeling that thumping beat throughout their body as they sweat and dance in a semi-ritualistic, almost tribal manner. It taps us in to a very ancient, human psyche. Dancing to endless, repetitive drumming is one of the oldest known relationships between humans and music. I believe that EDM takes us back there. 

Official video for Skrillex - "Bangarang" feat. Sirah

CIU111.3 (3/3): Indie Marketing Techniques

Indie marketing techniques were the point of focus during week 9.  The SAE blog on Medium.com of the same name was, like others, full to the brim with helpful, useful information, and tips for getting yourself noticed and attracting new fans, customers and followers without access to the financial backing and advertising reach of some larger competitors in the field ("Week 9: Indie Marketing Techniques", 2015). It discusses the importance of standing out, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and your brand, and understanding the psychology behind why people make certain choices rather than others. There is a great section on comparative variance, with tools to help people think objectively about themselves and their brand, something that is not always easy to do. The blog also raises the interesting point that as creative practitioners, we often find that our customers and our users are not the same people. That is to say, one party often pays us to supply a product that will be used by another party. This is such a unique situatio and one I personally haven’t ever given enough thought. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to do so right now. 

As I discussed in my post last week, I have always appreciated the importance of my online portfolio in gaining and retaining fans, users and customers. What I haven’t always appreciated is how different all these factions can be. Not only are they different but their wants, needs and expectations of me can be in complete conflict with one another. Yet, at the same time as they are conflicting, they are also completely reliant on one another. Confused? Me too. I guess an example of what I’m trying to explain is as follows: Let's say, my customer, someone paying me to do a job on a professional level, does not want me posting vulgar or distasteful things publically, at risk of it affecting their brand by proxy. However, my users, fans and followers, respond best when I post things of such nature. Now I’m in a position where I have to get fans to get a job, to get more fans, to get more jobs, and everything I do to gain one completely ruins my chance of getting the other.

https://www.reddit.com/r/pebble/comments/6laaaf/huh/

https://www.reddit.com/r/pebble/comments/6laaaf/huh/

At the risk of boring you with more talk of my time on reality TV show The X Factor, it is a great example of this whole conundrum. I did the job, I gained fans and people knew about me. Great! But then because I’d done the job and people knew me, other people didn’t want to be my fans because I was no longer seen as a struggling artist. So, I got the job but lost fans. Before it, I had fans, but not the job. It is the age-old tight rope that so many creative people have walked throughout time. Thanks to this week’s subject matter, I can see clearly now that it is because we work in an industry where our users and our customers are often different people. How many times have fans complained about a project their beloved artist has done, not realising that said artist is likely at the whim of some very powerful and financially invested superiors? The fan feels as though they are the customer, but they are not who the artist is working for. This is why the whole idea of indie marketing has taken off so much. It is not just because many artists don’t have any money or help or corporate backing, but because appearing to have none of these things is in itself desirable and beneficial. This is so important for people in the creative industries to get their head around, not only because money is not always freely available for things like marketing and advertising, but also because the whole idea of indie marketing has become an advertising style in its own right. So much so that even large, corporate, that is to say very un-indie companies, now strive to make their marketing efforts seem indie, in an attempt to trick customers into using a product they think is cooler than it actually is. 

A great example of this became apparent to me recently when I noticed the country being flooded with seemingly organic, independently produced information about a new Australian artist named Vera Blue.

https://genius.com/albums/Vera-blue/Perennial

https://genius.com/albums/Vera-blue/Perennial

From out of nowhere, Vera Blue was featuring as a guest vocalist on songs by established indie artists, had posters for her new album Perennial (2017) plastered on every wall of every hipster neighbourhood in town, was the featured artist on Triple J, and was being interviewed by every indie music mag and newspaper in the country. The hypnotising, eerie, porcelain faced image of her album campaign was impossible to miss and unmistakable. Before I had heard her utter a single note, I knew her name, her song titles, her look, her sound, her everything. I could not help but feel curious about how an indie artist could, with seemingly no lead-up, become the most exciting and talked about singer in the game. In short, I smelt a rat. The first confirmation of a bad smell was finding out she was signed to Universal, one of, if not the biggest record labels in the world. How did this mammoth company stumble across Vera Blue? Well, she was a runner-up on The Voice Australia, a reality TV show that works in conjunction with Universal, in 2013. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUbiDYhGpHQ

But, I thought, surely the indie music community wouldn’t so willingly embrace a singer who had done so well on such a show. I certainly didn’t expect a radio station like Triple J to have a featured artist who was a runner-up on a reality TV show that they routinely separate themselves from. But sure enough, they did. But it wasn’t before Universal had played a little magic trick first. What trick? Erase and replace. See, it wasn’t Vera Blue who was on The Voice, but a sweet hearted, redheaded little folk songstress named Celia Pavey. Like they have done so many times before, they snapped up Celia before she won the show, which would enter her into pre approved, awfully restrictive contractual agreements, and locked her away in a writing camp for a few years. Then, they flooded the streets with the most perfect, unassuming marketing campaign. Celia Pavey was never cool enough to smash the indie scene, but Vera Blue is. And why? Not because Vera Blue is cool, but because, and this is important, people who like Vera Blue are cool.

Without a doubt, the section of the Indie Marketing blog from week 9 (2015) that made the most impact on me was the section titled ‘What Makes A Bestseller?’ This is where the blog addresses the importance of word of mouth. I used the term organic earlier to describe the marketing tactic used in Vera Blue campaign, and I think it is the best word for what so many artists rely on, and so many major companies try to emulate; the organic, wholesome spreading of an idea, concept or product.  Now, we have all heard of word of mouth, and I personally have always thought about how exactly certain ideas spread this way more than others. I’ve also always been interested in why certain ideas or products spread this way more than others. Obviously, over the years, many marketing teams have studied this and used their findings to make this work in their favour. What the blog says is that it in terms of word of mouth, it is not the product that is important, but the user. This information is backed by Kathy Sierra’s 2015 book entitled Badass: Making Users Awesome (2015).

http://shop.oreilly.com/product/0636920036593.do

http://shop.oreilly.com/product/0636920036593.do

Sierra goes into detail about the importance of the user over the product. She notes that 92% of people say that they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. This is important information for anyone getting his or her product out there without all the cost. But Sierra also stresses that we are looking in the wrong place if we are worrying about what people are saying about our product, rather than who is saying it. I suppose when I think about it, this makes perfect sense. In my own life, I would be much more likely to try something new suggested by a friend or family member who I consider to be cool and in-the-know, rather than I do not. 

It seems so obvious to me now that I feel silly for not thinking about it more before.  When creating something new, advertising something new, or exposing themselves or their brand to the public, one should always ask; would the coolest person I know think this is good? Is this something that cool people would talk about? Is this something I would talk about? If I talked about this, would it make me seem cooler or not? It is so easy to think of these questions as silly, or unimportant in the greater picture, but in reality, they are probably the most important of all. After all, if they seem irrelevant to getting the job, remember the job is probably solely concerned with how other people feel about you and your work. I am so grateful for this being the topic we touched on. I truly feel like it has opened my eyes to something that was right in front of me the whole time, something so simple, yet so easily overlooked. 

http://memegenerator.net

http://memegenerator.net

It is funny how sometimes the simplest of concepts can be the most potent. 


References

Blue, V. (2017). Perennial. Island Records.

GIPHY | Search All the GIFs & Make Your Own Animated GIF. (2017). GIPHY. Retrieved 18 August 2017, from https://giphy.com

Huh?. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.reddit.com/r/pebble/comments/6laaaf/huh/

O'Reilly Media, Inc. (2017). Badass: Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra. Retrieved from http://shop.oreilly.com/product/0636920036593.do

Sierra, K. (2015). Badass (1st ed.). Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly Media.

The Voice Australia. (2013). Celia Pavey Sings Scarborough Fair Canticle: The Voice Australia Season 2. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUbiDYhGpHQ

Vera Blue - Perennial. (2017). Retrieved from https://genius.com/albums/Vera-blue/Perennial

Week 9: Indie Marketing Techniques. (2015). Self-Directed Practitioners. Retrieved from https://medium.com/self-directed-practitioners/week-9-reaching-your-audience-aa1b2e58dd53

Well, Like Duh. Retrieved from http://memegenerator.net

CIU111.3 (2/3): Social Media & Career

The topic for our CIU111 class in week 3 was Social Media & Career ("Week 3: Social Media and Your Career", 2017). This accompanied our first assessment for this module, the Portfolio Project. For this, we were asked to basically establish an online presence, apply for a job in the creative industry, build a website etc. As always, it came with a very informative blog about the subject on Medium. I personally got a lot out of this particular blog, both as a student and as a self employed, self managed artist. The blog had plenty of great tips and strategies for online marketing and social network presence.  Although I had been working on and maintaining my own online presence for sometime already, I came across lots of ideas I had never considered, and some I had simply forgotten or overlooked. The blog also included a fairly melancholic case study on game designer Phil Fish. This short film was created by freelancer, writer, media artist, part-time student, and video essayist Ian Danskin, and titled This Is Phil Fish: A Case Study in Internet Fame (Danskin, 2014). In a nutshell, it talked about how Phil Fish was able to rise to fame, and fall from it, being judged primarily on his online persona alone. This made me think about the current state of the creative industries, and a problem I am always musing; has the artist replaced the art?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmTUW-owa2w&t=1s

Last year I was on a reality TV show called The X Factor in Australia. This was something that I did not want to do, and was quite literally tricked into and dragged through kicking and screaming. However, once I was in it, I thought it was probably worth my while to try and use my close proximity to such major players in the entertainment industry to learn, extract and discover as much information as possible. I looked at myself as an artistic spy inside the belly of a James Bond villain-esque type lair. I took in everything, made notes, and studied every move. 

https://imgflip.com/i/1oohg3

https://imgflip.com/i/1oohg3

Once I got through a few stages of the ‘competition’, we finally started meeting with some serious people from the music industry. I was so excited to get in the room with some of these people and to pick their brains.  So, the day I was told to come in for a meeting with the head of one of Australia’s largest recording companies and his head of marketing, I was keen in pant-wetting proportions. This would be my chance to get inside the head of those at the top of the pile. The masters. The untouchables.  I started concocting a list of all the things I wanted their opinion on, an opinion which in a country of such small opportunity for original artists, was one of only few that really mattered, or so was my thinking at the time. 

What genres were they working with most at the moment?

What genres did they see taking over next?

What do they look for in a hit song?

What do they look for in a hit performance?

Festivals or tours?

Bands or solo artists?

Albums or EPs?

Acoustic or electric?

I had a million music related questions for the minds that literally control and run the entire game, the string-pullers. If anyone knew about music it was these people. So in I walked, ready to soak it all in. Ready to become an expert on the current music scene in Australia. Ready. 

For the next hour, we spoke about three things and three things only: Getting social media followers, having social media followers, and getting and having more social media followers. But, I thought, what about the 20+ years of learning music? What about the singing lessons? What about the endless gigs in dark, dangerous, grimy pubs, perfecting my performances? What about the no pay, no applause, no car, no sleep? All the pain I had dealt with to make sure I was better prepared than the next guy? How could it be that simply having fewer followers on Instagram put me at a disadvantage? I was winded. I was crushed. I mean really, properly flattened out.  Pancaked. 

Over the following weeks, I tried to accept that this was simply the way it is now. It was up to me, once again, to edit my gameplan, adjust my trajectory, and master a new discipline in my efforts to sell songs. Now, as I said earlier, I had been maintaining my online presence for sometime anyway. That is, after all, how The X Factor found me in the first place. In fact, a few years earlier I experienced a viral reaction to a cover song I recorded and uploaded online.  A now extinct video sharing platform called Vube, a site that would get viewers to rate self-made music videos, then display the songs in order of most rated to least, and offer monetary rewards for the top spots, caught my attention via their ingenious marketing efforts. When someone was on an illegal downloading site, Vube would load a music video in a pop-up screen hidden behind the user's current screen. This meant that by the time the user had found the page to close it, they had already heard a decent amount of the song, giving them time to fall in love with it, and henceforth visit Vube for more auditory goodness. Pretty clever! That’s how they got me. I was doing something naughty online one day, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I heard the haunting vocals of Elle Duhe coming out of my speakers. Vube had placed a hidden screen playing a video of her performing her song Little Things on my computer (YouTube, 2014). I rushed to find out where it was coming from, and then watched it 10 more times in a row. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tO7U9HMrEP4

I thought, “Well, this is a bloody good way of getting music heard”, and very soon after I had a video uploaded on to the site.  My live performance of MGMT’s Kids, written by VanWyngarden & Goldwasser (2013) went to the top of the ratings within a couple of weeks, and Vube started using it to target new audiences just as they had with Ellie’s Little Things. Within a month or two, my video had over 18 million views on Vube, and my social networking profiles started to get real attention for the first time. I was really excited and happy, but like every other drug I’ve ever felt excited and happy about, it quickly became an addiction. And of course one day the liking stopped, the sharing ceased, the commenting halted, and I was forced to accept that my 15 seconds were over. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQsP7PGMBgc

I felt the exact same surge of adrenaline during The X Factor after my meeting with the label executives. I become utterly dependent on gaining more followers, more likes, more numbers, more mentions and more of any other example of empty online stranger-love. That was, after all, exactly what was asked of me. However, what I didn’t see coming was that this egocentric, self-obsessed way of functioning was like kryptonite to my creativity. It became all about me, and never about my art. It was competition, not creation. It was likes, not love. It was looking as beautiful as possible for the ugliest reason. It left me feeling so empty, and in an effort to fill the emptiness I looked for more and more online acceptance. I guess a true example of the extremity of this is when I look at the fact that I left that show having gained thousands of new Instagram followers and very few Soundcloud ones. 

 

After leaving the show, I eventually, once again, went cold turkey, this time noticing the issue on my own and consciously weening myself off the drug. It was, and still is very hard to find the balance between keeping fans interested, but also making sure I am taking the time to actually create material that I can be proud of and they can enjoy. I want it to be about my art, not me, but unfortunately, in this time of complete transparency and constant contact, it seems like people want more than that. It is most certainly what the industry has made people expect from musical artists these days. As someone who also pursues a career in acting, people often ask me if I was given the opportunity to be a successful actor or musician, which would I choose? My answer is always actor; I back-up this decision by explaining that when Johnny Depp does something outrageous or newsworthy, it doesn’t affect Willy Wonka or Donny Brasco for example. However, when Rhianna does the same thing, it’s her whole brand that feels the impact. My point is that musical artists are expected to be performing and in-character 24 hours a day.  Not just for the hand full of people they may see in that time, but for the whole world, constantly. These days, artists are judged on how many views they get, how many followers they have, but rarely on how good their product is. I’m not for a second saying that I don’t like the fact that social media plays a part in an artists’ career nowadays, and it is definitely possible for someone to make great art and maintain an impressive online persona. In fact, it has made it possible for a lot of artists to have a career who may otherwise have not. I just worry that it has become more important than anything else, and that is something I find dangerous, stupid and very sad.

 

Perhaps it is social media, not video, who truly killed the radio star after all. 

 

References

1980's GIF. (2017). Retrieved from https://giphy.com/gifs/80s-1980s-eighties-DTCsY85zW5t4Y

Benedict Cumberbatch Pick Me. (2017). Retrieved from https://giphy.com/gifs/reaction-benedict-cumberbatch-pick-me-6gh9vOu0qbQmk

Danskin, I. (2014). This Is Phil Fish: A Case Study in Internet Fame. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmTUW-owa2w

Dr Evil Maybe... Just a little bit...? Meme. (2017). Retrieved from https://imgflip.com/i/1oohg3

VanWyngarden, A., & Goldwasser, B. (2013). Kids. Columbia.

Week 3: Social Media and Your Career. (2017). Medium. Retrieved 10 August 2017, from https://medium.com/self-directed-practitioners/week-6-social-media-and-your-career-21ec52b2b003#.1nzeusi6i

YouTube. (2014). L.E.D Little Things. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tO7U9HMrEP4

CIU111.3 (1/3): Inclusive Design

WARNING: May contain white privelage 

Firstly, I would like to start by clearing something up. I am a white, middle class, able-bodied, mostly heterosexual male, with only the slightest tinge of a criminal record. So, now that I’ve explained absolutely everything you could possibly need to know to make a decision as to whether or not my opinion is valid or not, I shall continue. I feel better for having gotten that off my chest.

Every week, SAE Creative Institute provides us with a blog post centred on the weekly theme of our CIU class via online blogging platform, Medium ("Self-Directed Practitioners", 2015). 

 
http://og3dprinting.com/blog/

http://og3dprinting.com/blog/

 

I have found these to be really awesome and hugely informative. I always enjoy disappearing down the rabbit-hole afterward reading them and filling my brain with all manner of subjects and ideas that I otherwise would not have. The topic of the blog for week eight was inclusive design ("Week 8: Inclusive Design", 2015). Although we did not cover this extensively in class due to it being largely directed at the gaming students, out of curiosity I decided to give the blog a read anyway. It starts out by explaining that as creative practitioners, we have a responsibility to make sure that the content in which we produce is accessible to people from all walks of life. The article concerns itself with accessibility awareness, including vision; design considerations for people with impaired vision or colour blindness, hearing, mobility; physical disability, race and gender. It points out quite evenly where we are succeeding and where we are behind as a community, and references several other articles and talks from people within the design world. Obviously not all of this is relevant to the music industry, which I as an audio student am primarily concerned, but it is incredibly important and valuable information to think about all the same, especially in the context of a critical thinking module. The lines between the creative disciplines are so blurred these days that it is important for me as an audio engineer to have at least a vague understanding of the other artistic realms. Furthermore, it is not just the physical design that should be concerned with  accessibility, but the subject matter, message, and emotion of the art also. In this way, it is incredibly relevant to my craft and so I really enjoyed reading about it from different viewpoints. When I got to the sections in the blog about mobility and gender however, I felt instantly involved on a personal level. I no longer felt like a student reading a blog post, but a participant in an intellectual and political shit storm that I have been weathering my whole life. I had to write about it. 

 
 

The reasoning for my emotional response to reading about mobility and physically impaired people in the creative world was clear to trace. For some time now, I have worked in my capacity as a professional actor with a theatre group in South Yarra called Roller Coaster Theatre. It is a not-for-profit ensemble of actors with disabilities from a wide range of backgrounds ("Profile - Rollercoaster Theatre", 2017). From the moment I started working with these incredible artists, I couldn’t help but question why I hadn’t seen more artists with disabilities in my time working in the industry. This only became more of an anomaly to me once I started to see not only how talented and able they were as performers, but how in many cases, their so-called disability had left them with none of the egocentric, self-obsessed, self-consciousness that cripples so many apparently ‘normal’ performers.  

 
Rollercoaster Theatre, 2017

Rollercoaster Theatre, 2017

 

I started to see a clear division within the creative industry and it confused me, upset me, and most importantly, made me feel responsible.  But of course I was not responsible. Or was I? Well, I opened up the conversation with everyone I knew, the liberal art actors, the academics, the right-wing conservatives, muslims, monks, atheists, anyone I could find. Interestingly, I kept ending up at the same conclusion; the problem was the industry itself. But how can I blame an industry? An industry doesn’t have feelings, or thoughts, or a capacity for evil. Then it became all too clear, it’s the people who run the industry who are responsible. Thankfully, this was not me. I definitely did not run the industry. Phew! Only, they were never referred to as the people who run the industry, they were referred simply as ‘the white men’.  “Damn, that’s me”, I thought. 

 
https://imgflip.com/i/s3h38

https://imgflip.com/i/s3h38

 

How could this be? How could it be that by simply being a white male, I was responsible for all of the injustice and inequality in the creative industries? The kinder folk in my friendship circle took the time to comfort me and assure me it’s not all white males, just the majority. Great!

When I got to the section of the blog discussing gender inequality in the music industry, I was emotionally triggered in a big way. The moment I read the first sentence I was in defence mode. After some self reflection, I realised this response was from years of heated conversations with my artistic, liberal, left wing feminist friends about this very subject. Now, I will not spend hours trying to put the subject to rest here, but I would like to at lest look at this topic a bit closer, and try to figure what my emotional reaction was all about.

The blog links to an online article by Ruth Saxelby (2014) titled 13 Women On How To Change Male-Dominated Studio Culture. It has many interesting points and is worth a read, even if it is completely biased and somewhat irrational at times. There are most definitely more males doing audio engineering and/or producing for a living, with only 5% being female, according to Saxelby. One only has to look at my current audio engineering class at SAE Melbourne. It is heavily male, with only a small handful of female students. This article by Saxelby seems to suggest the rational explanation for this lack of females in audio is that the music industry, like every other industry, is sexist (Saxelby, 2014). The thing is, I don’t know that it is.  I mean, it is sexist, but is that really the reason why there are so few females? To reiterate, I already stated in the beginning that I am a white male, so some people would claim that I am in no position to comment on such things, as I am blinded by my 'white privilege', and this is something I have personally been told on countless occasions.

 
http://www.thefader.com/2014/10/30/why-arent-more-women-becoming-music-producers

http://www.thefader.com/2014/10/30/why-arent-more-women-becoming-music-producers

 

What Saxelby’s article doesn’t consider is that perhaps a lot of the female population doesn’t study or work in the audio engineering profession because, well, they don’t want to. I mean, SAE certainly doesn’t discriminate in terms of gender when accepting students, and yet there are practically none, and, as anecdotal as it may be, I can’t think of any males I’ve ever worked with across the years that would actually have some deep, personal issue either working with or working for a woman in this industry. In fact, I would say many, including myself, would prefer to have input from another gender in an attempt to make the product and work environment as broad and interesting as possible. 

There are a million possible explanations for the lack of females in the industry other than patriarchal control. That is not to say that the patriarchy has nothing to do with it, but I don't know that I believe it is the sole explanation. One other possible explanation is discussed earlier in the inclusive design blog itself. The blog references a book by Uri Gneezy and John List (2014) titled The Why Axis. The book looks at a study they did on gender specific competitiveness, in a hope to find out if the apparent lack of competiveness in western women was innate, or a result of social conditioning.  I personally do not think their study was nearly extensive enough to be conclusive, but this lack of competiveness in women could be, at least in part, an explanation for women steering way from careers in audio. The music industry is surely one of, if not the most, competitive business' in the world. If there is a predisposition in some women to avoid highly competitive environments, socially influenced or otherwise, then diverting away from this industry is completely understandable. Another insight into why any industry would be more heavily occupied by one gender, race, or group, rather than a mixed bag, could be to do with a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin is the so-called ‘love’ hormone that influences humans to invent "us" and "them" groups wherever they look, whether it's on the basis of sex, race, nationality, class, age, religion, or hair colour, and to have a preference for our mothers and people we know and trust over strangers. I’m in danger of going off on a massive tangent here, so I’ll allow renowned neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky to explain in the video below.  

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrzXE5XttOE

 

I want to be very clear in saying that I can totally accept that sexism exists in a big way in the creative industries, and I am fully behind any movement that aims to change such a culture and hold accountable each and every one of those responsible. These responsible people, as far as I am concerned, are not white, and they are not male, they are assholes. I want there to be a clear distinction between assholes and everyone else. Assholes are genderless, non-race specific, and are easily controlled (most of the time). The problem I feel when someone says that patriarchy is the problem, is that I instantly feel that, as a male, I am unable to help. If I am the problem, I feel powerless to help solve the problem. I think a lot of people feel this way. Now, imagine the non-asshole white males were on side with women struggling against this issue. Imagine how quickly we could smoke out these few bad seeds and send them packing. But we need to be included on the side of good if we are to help at all. And believe me, we want to help. Another thing that concerns me is that I feel that young women do not benefit from having such a concrete excuse for failure already set out. If I fail at something professionally, or am bettered by a colleague, then I only have my own incompetence to blame, and therefore I work harder, get better, smarter, stronger. I don't have the luxury of thinking, "I didn't get the job because of my penis". Even as a male, I myself have experienced professional setbacks because I would not conform to sexual advances from my female superiors on more than one occasion. What I did not do was demonise every white female in the world, but rather recognise that those particular ones, were assholes. I think that having such a set-in-stone, monstrous, uphill battle already laid out in front of them would deter anyone from pursuing a career.  Again, I do not deny the fact that this is a male driven, unequal industry, but I just feel it can’t solely be the fault of 'white males', because I am one, and I don’t give a fat rat’s ass if you’re a man, woman, both, neither, or any other version, as long as you bring the bloody goods. 


References

Big Think. (2017). Are Humans Hardwired to Be Cruel to Each Other? Robert Sapolsky. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrzXE5XttOE

GIPHY | Search All the GIFs & Make Your Own Animated GIF. (2017). GIPHY. Retrieved 3 August 2017, from https://giphy.com

Gneezy, U., & List, J. (2015). The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life. New York: Random House Books.

Medium. (2017). Medium. Retrieved 3 August 2017, from https://medium.com/policy/medium-terms-of-service-9db0094a1e0f

Obsessively Geek. (2017). Blog. Retrieved from http://og3dprinting.com/blog/

Perception vs. Reality. (2015). Retrieved from https://imgflip.com/i/s3h38

Profile - Rollercoaster Theatre. (2017). Rollercoaster Theatre. Retrieved 3 August 2017, from http://rollercoastertheatre.net.au/profile/

Saxelby, R. (2014). 13 Women On How To Change Male-Dominated Studio CultureThe FADER. Retrieved 3 August 2017, from http://www.thefader.com/2014/10/30/why-arent-more-women-becoming-music-producers

Self-Directed Practitioners. (2015). Medium. Retrieved 3 August 2017, from https://medium.com/self-directed-practitioners

Week 8: Inclusive Design. (2015). Medium. Retrieved 3 August 2017, from https://medium.com/self-directed-practitioners/week-12-inclusive-design-9df8f239653b

why aren't more women becoming music producers. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.thefader.com/2014/10/30/why-arent-more-women-becoming-music-producers