When a city burns, hang tight, creative types

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“Seriously people, we get it. Sony warehouse burnt down. Hate to be a dick, but capitalism is capitalism. Treat your workers right and shit won't get burned.”
— Impose publisher and Impose Records owner Derek Evers on Facebook

(Listen to “Paris Is Burning” by St. Vincent while you read this post)

When Impose publisher Derek Evers went on Facebook to hold capitalism responsible for the torched down Sony warehouse—which affected a few indie labels we love—it was disheartening to see some industry creative types bite back with:

“Yeah I don't think it's that simple, Derek.”

“Seems like a pretty insensitive comment towards a lot of independent labels, without whom you likely wouldn't have had a magazine, or maybe even a job for the last however many years”

“This is perhaps the dumbest post about the riots that I've seen yet.”

(There were 35 comments last I checked — granted, at least 5 were from me!).

And here’s the band Throw Me Statues on Twitter:

“dear london dirtbags, thank you for burning ours and many many others records. you really suck.”

If these were the responses of lawyers and bankers, or even atheletes, I wouldn’t be writing this post. I know it doesn't speak for everyone in the industry, but that it does for a few is enough.

Violence and looting are never justified. There’s never a situtation, I hope, where someone sets a city to flames and you say, “That’s quite alright, honey, we know you’re mad”. But if our songwriters and music makers find their insured records to be so precious that they’d, without much hesitation, spit in the face of a glaring symptom of modern civilization flailing its limp arms, crying out for help, then I’m worried: why are we electing you the independence-loving, more-special-than-others, creative voices of our generation? Why are we busting our minds off over how we can make creative culture thrive, how artists can be supported, how a living can be made out of songs, and so on?

(Besides, a magazine's existence doesn't rely on labels. Really, no matter which way you look at it. If anything, magazines give labels a platform.)

The central question to be asked about these rioters who’ve plotted their action along a route dotted by shopping malls and other hallmarks, big or small, of distinctly middle-class consumerism—not bread and butter, and not luxury items either—is one that Guardian writer Zoe Williams sufficiently asks:

“How can you cease to believe in law and order, a moral universe, co-operation, the purpose of existence, and yet still believe in sportswear?”

Sportswear! JD freaking Sports.

So, if you consider yourself a creative type, an introspective little thing that chooses to live outside the menial humdrum of mere survival, then this reflection Williams provides from Alex Hiller, a marketing and consumer expert at Nottingham Business School, better raise at least a hair strand:

"If you look at Baudrillard and other people writing in sociology about consumption, it's a falsification of social life. Adverts promote a fantasy land. Consumerism relies upon people feeling disconnected from the world."

Fantasy land. Disconnected from the world. Emphasis mine, damn right. Please, read the full article — it has plenty more reasonable and important insights and quotes.

I get it. Here in the United States, we live in a creative age owned by Converse and Best Coast. Target and Starbucks. Blackberry and BMW. Music consumption is a mess. We're constantly swimming through spastic tunnles of what seems like nothing but dots connecting transition to transition. But you know what, Nirvana signed to a major label, and when Kurt Cobain couldn’t have an image of a live birth in a swimming pool for his album cover, he got his dangling dollar and penis, albeit a baby penis. Perhaps then, whenever the pointy forefinger of consumerism and capitalism, and the mighty technological evolution, is tickling your introspective self: Dear musicians and other creative types, remind yourself to at least consider: What would’ve Kurt Cobain done? Sure as hell wouldn’t have whined about his records being burned.

So here's what I'm saying: if you consider yourself a creative, and chaos hits too close to home, that is exactly when—the most crucial moment—you hang as tight as you can to principles and dignity, which I hope are rooted in the origin and honor of art, a word which has, of course, managed to gather plenty of dirt along the way, and for a reason. Yep, this sounds way too preachy even for me. But consider it a plea!

Listen to that St. Vincent track for some inspiration (hit “play” on our player below). Incidentally, she's on Beggars Banquet, one of the labels affected by the riot. Her new album, Strange Mercy, comes out September 13th.

SUPPORT THE AFFECTED LABELS, including our favorites Beggars Banquet, 4AD, Dead Oceans, Sub Pop and many more.

“There's a rumour going round that we don't have to choose between condoning violence and ignoring its context. Can anyone confirm?”
— North Londoner Ian Dickerson on Twitter

Interactive map showing that rioting and looting have taken place in areas marked as most deprived:

View full map