Interview w/ Kristin Thomson, Future of Music Coalition
[Margee] When did your interest in music start?
[Kristin] The first thing I remember was my parents' copy of the soundtrack to the musical HAIR. I was intrigued. But if you're talking about punk rock, it had to be in about 7th grade when I became fascinated with the B52's and memorized their first album and created dance routines to each song. From there it was a swift descent into the world of all things musically deviant.
[Margee] When did you start to have whatever rumblings (in your gut or your conscience) which would eventually lead you to be part of the coalition?
[Kristin] Only about a year and a half ago. Hey, I'm pre-Napster, at least. Jenny and I had just started working on articles for The Machine -- part of Insound's site -- when the full force of some of the issues became very clear. With websites offering free everything -- from free services for bands and artists (MP3.com, IUMA, etc.), to free music for listeners -- we began to wonder. If everything were free, how would artists eventually be compensated? After attending a number of conferences that fall, we'd heard some of the ideas being tossed around. "Bands will make all their money from touring!" or "Bands can 'brand' themselves and live off of t-shirt sales!" or "Bands can sell their songs to advertisers and movie soundtracks!" or, the best one, "Bands can get paid by embedding advertising in their songs!" All of these, in our experience running a record label and being in a band, have proven to be less-than-lucrative, if not impossible. Some ideas, including peppering your songs with ads for Coke™ or Trojan™ condoms, are downright awful and degrading to musicians. Considering the course that history has taken in regards to the ownership and structure of the music industry, it's not hard to realize that decisions about the shape, size, and power of the music industry will be settled through legislative, legal, and economic measures. But we've also learned from history that standing by idly has gotten us nowhere in the past. As we shift music distribution from physical product to the Internet, artists and bands have a chance to unmask the inequities and con games and demand better. Therefore the FMC -- and other organizations -- have a critical role to play in making sure these voices are heard.
[Margee] Speaking of Jenny...how did you hook up with her and Tsunami in the first place?
[Kristin] I first met Jenny back in 1989. I'd just moved to DC to escape the homogeneity that Colorado promised. I went to a Positive Force benefit/punk show with Shudder to Think and Jawbox, and Jenny got up on stage to give a short speech on why the benefit was important. I was so excited about the possibilities that Positive Force offered to a young idealist like me that I got involved immediately. It wasn't long before Jenny and I were working together on benefits and projects, and I moved into the Positive Force house in late 1990.
From the Positive Force website: "Positive Force DC is a Washington DC-area activist group that works for fundamental social change and youth empowerment. They organize benefit and free concerts, demonstrations and teach-ins and also do direct work with needy people. They believe in the power of young people to change the world and in the right of all to live as they wish, provided that they are not preventing others from being able to do so."
[Margee] What compelled you to start the label?
[Kristin] Well, at the time I met Jenny she was in this band called Geek. They were good, but not the kind of band that could put out a record on Dischord or anything. As strong advocates for the DIY ethic, and with the examples set by Dischord and other small labels like K and Merge, it was clear that starting our own record label was a possibility. But instead of putting out a Geek record, which would have had a very limited audience, Simple Machines started off with a collaborative project. The first 6 releases were 7" compilations with four different bands donating one track to the project. Each of the 6 7"s were named after one of the simple machines of science -- wedge, wheel, pully, screw, lever, inclined plane. As we worked our way through the project, interest in the releases grew which gave us the chance to branch out to other things, such as the first Lungfish record and the Fortune Cookie Prize benefit tribute record. By 1991 we were also in Tsunami together, so it seemed natural that we'd put out all the Tsunami records on Simple Machines as well. And so the story goes...
[Margee] Who/what brought you into the coalition?
[Kristin] My psychic bonds to Jenny. It's like a magnet!
[Margee] In your own words (not necessarily those of the awesome manifesto) could you tell me what FMC means to you?
[Kristin] The FMC is a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of independent artists, bands and record labels. As the music industry is forced to catch up with the technology and change their business structures, it will provide independent artists with an opportunity to challenge the dominant practices and demand that they deserve a more equitable business model.
[Margee] How do you see your role in the coalition?
[Kristin] (Casual answer -- Girl Friday). Real answer -- I'm a vocal advocate for the Coalition who is interested in research and meaningful communication with the independent music community.
[Margee] And what do you hope the coalition will accomplish: politically, professionally...
[Kristin] I'd like to see the Coalition continue to submit opinions to the US Copyright Office, educate elected officials about the critical issues, develop a broad base of support, file amicus briefs (when appropriate) on crucial law cases, and work to build a *REAL* coalition that can work within the independent community.
[Margee] What do you hope the conference will accomplish?
[Kristin] I hope that this will be a chance for many sides of the ongoing debate about music and technology to come together and honestly discuss and argue about the recent developments in the music/tech community, relatively free of soapbox pitches and commercially-centered presentations.
[Margee] Who do you think should go to the policy conference?
[Kristin] This will be an amazing opportunity for artists, bands, and representatives from independent record labels to question the lawyers, business leaders and policy makers about their prospective legal, economic and legislative agendas. We're at a critical juncture here, where input from actual stakeholders -- independent artists, bands, and labels -- is going to make a huge difference on how policy is developed.
[Margee] What will happen to the people who can't get to DC? How will their voices be heard/spoken?
[Kristin] I hope that the Conference will also garner enough media attention that the debates started at the event will be carried on in the greater community. Plus, I hope that participants in the event can pass along insights about the exchange of information and opinions at the conference when they get back home.
FMC - www.futureofmusic.org
IUMA - www.iuma.com
K - www.kpunk.com
Merge - www.mrg2000.com/merge
MP3.com - www.mp3.com
Napster - www.napster.com
Postive Force - www.outersound.com/positive/
Simple Machines - www.simplemachines.net/
The Machine - www.insound.com/machine
Related MusicDish e-Journal Articles:
» Interview w/ Peter DiCola, Future of Music Coalition (2001-01-03)
» Interview w/ Walter F. McDonough, Future of Music Coalition
» Interview w/ Jenny Toomey, Future of Music Coalition
» Interview w/ Michael Bracy, Future of Music Coalition
» Interview w/ Brian Zisk, Future of Music Coalition