Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The XXX Steel Horse of the Apocolypse

Hey Folks,
Hope everyone enjoyed the long weekend! In the spirit of independence I'd like to take a minute to address, well, independence. As you know we run an independent label. In the 7 years we have had this team together, for better or worse, we have had a clear idea of our mission since day one. Every ounce of articulated press from the archive to date, compliments the ideas that got us started and the actions we take that keep us running with the same amount of steam our founders barreled into our creation.

It's a good deal we've got. Promoting what we love, on our own terms for the sake of the music that changed us when we found it, drew us in as individuals and pulled us together. If you have the means I highly recommend it. Whatever you love, you are not alone and there is no better time than now to organize and find an audience to support it with you.

All of us that work in this industry on an independent level have our own views on the society that wired our motives to spotlight whatever frame we built. The "mainstream" has always been run on the buck and now more than ever the generic hit rotisserie files into the five approved genres and cranks out minty fresh sound cubes to the digital breadline of consumers celebrating their individuality through their marketing demographic. That's a bleak dystopian angle but thankfully only a portion of a free market. As long as we have the power of cultural autonomy the music industry version of Soylent green doesn't have to have anything to do with us.

If you follow the message boards on Saving Country Music and No Depression, you have a head start on where this is going. We have hit a crux on the political side of business and some tough decisions have been made. What should have been a private and brief conversation between Adam Sheets of XXX and Keith here at HBE hit the bike racks of the board and sparked a public dialogue that we now have no choice but to acknowledge. It aint' pretty. On a business level, I'd love to call a spade a spade close the door on the badger den and go back to work, but it has gone to far now.

It came to our attention that our logo and a few of the artists we represent were listed throughout the XXX site in a way that made it appear that we were directly affiliated. No one from XXX had approached us prior to this. No glove slap, just a matter of principal we were within our rights to make note of. When we called on them to remove the images only part of our request was granted and the conversation didn't go well, a good portion of which can be found on the SCM public forum. The feed back from the posts had some common themes ; 'What's the big deal as long as the artists are being promoted?' 'This argument is pointless' 'We are all in this together, why can't we just get along?' I'll tell you. Not all promotion is good promotion when it compromises the continuity of our philosophies concerning the greater good. This requires some looking into.

First of all, yes our primary goal is promoting our artists through the HBE cause but the company and artists are not interchangeable. That being said, this is an issue strictly between labels and the observations that follow are separate to the company itself. We do our best to work for our artists but make no attempt to speak for them. In the same turn our choice to draw a thick line between ourselves and XXX as entities falls under conflict of interest between ourselves and XXX's proprietors and not the artists they carry. Our instincts led us to be wary of XXX from the beginning and through revelations over a short amount of time our notions were consolidated and confirmed. We will get to some of the statements that led to this but first let us tell you what this isn't about.

We don't care what XXX calls itself. Weather the moniker conjures ties with porn, moonshine or x-treme snack chips makes no difference to us outside of opinion. Hell, as far as logos having offensive implications one of the main images we use is a middle finger. However in our case there was never any doubt as to the message the symbolism carries.

We don't care about the general career connections or family influence or monetary advantage Shooter inevitably brings to the XXX table. The closing line in Shooters post to us on SCM was " If you really believe music is better without XXX then we can ask the people, but from the amount of positive responses i've gotten from my radio show, I really don't think thats the case." Great Shooter Having a radio station is an excellent way to have listeners. You should use every tool you have to move your agenda. We don't have a radio station. We don't have any of that. You win. We are a small operation but we are here. We've been here. The sudden X-posure of XXX coming in quick with the interest of representing the "underdog" might have sank in a little better with us If they had put the horse before the cart.

Ultimately it breaks down to opposition of mission and method. All over XXX is the desire to put a pretty extensive and varied list of bands that are "Too rock for country, to country for rock!" into the pantheon of media that has its back turned on them. "We want our own genre." "Sign the petition!" "We want the same for XXX that every piece of slop that gets played in other genres gets!" ..........................Woah. Sounds like 'meet the new boss to us. We don't need a boss and I can die just fine without my favorite songs on the top 40 chart. God speed XXX but that aint our fight.

XXX came out with their first compilation yesterday morning. Southern Independent XXX Volume One. With it came a "Warning- This album is intended to ruin the sanctity of roots music. By downloading and or listening to the material herein you are actively contributing to its demise. Despite this it is expected that you will fucking love it." I could keep citing examples of why XXX doesn't work for us, even have a good time on a personal level bashing Shooters "Southern Family Anthem" track, but in a predictable twist It has done that on it's own in a neatly wrapped package. Way to steal my journalistic exposition thunder XXX. Again, though its a mix mash I wouldn't have thrown together, the XXX roster has some great bands that despite their new powerhouse endorsement I will continue to buy their albums and attend their shows. Its not necessary to choose sides when it comes to the music, or the lables for that matter we just wanted you to know where we stand. Any and all feedback is more than welcome and if there are things I may have overlooked in my conclusions please, have at it. Till next time Amigos.....

Tressa A. Burns / Managing Editor / Curator / Creative Consultant
Hillgrass Bluebilly Records & Entertainment Headquarters