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Review: MFM New Member Orientation September 2017

Date: September 25th 2017
Venue: WeWork Wall Street (NY)

Review by Dawoud Kringle

The MFM Orientations are a platform for new members, or for those interested in MFM membership. They are held on the last Monday of each month.

However a deviation from this occurred on Monday, September 25th 2017. The meeting was not attended by new or prospective members. The attendees were veteran members Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi (MFM founder and president), Lindsey Wilson, Reggie Sylvester, yours truly, and MFM friend and adviser Jimmy Owens.

As such, the meeting took on a very different contour. It turned into a roundtable discussion about the subtleties of the very idea of musical professionalism, the possible and probable direction the music business is going, and the very delicate subject of racism in the music business.

Some discussion was devoted to the factor of using the Internet for music promotion. The presence of the Internet has changed the music business to the point where the older models of the business are useful only for historical study. This is so obvious it hardly bears mentioning. Yet the exact method or methods on how to exploit this are not as clearly defined as one might assume. Certainly, processes exist that have worked in the past. But these processes work or do not work according to factors that have not yet (and may never be) condensed into a predictable model. To complicate matters, The people who have the skills, aptitude,And vision to exploit fourth the technological problems and psychological mindset associated with music promotion on the Internet form subculture that, as of this writing, MFM has yet to make contact with.

The recent rise of the alt right from our small and dark subculture into a dominant force in American, European, and Russian politics happened through a brilliant manipulation of the Internet. The details of this beyond the scope of this article, but it proves that within the Internet our processes and potential that have not yet been exploited to the benefit of the professional musician.

This is a slippery slope to navigate, especially for musicians. Musicians and artists tend to have idealistic view points of the world and of their own work and it’s worth. This is all too often in sharp contrast with the nature of commercialism and advertising. While commercialism and advertising are an integral and inescapable parts of musical professionalism, advertising trivializes. It manipulates. It’s vulgar. The musician who is serious about the professional dimensions of a musical career must navigate a very fine line between staying true to their artistic and moral principles, and using the art and science of commercialism in order to earn money to live on and sustain their business.

Some debate was devoted to the mission and accomplishments of MFM itself. A few of the participants expressed doubts about this. MFM is venturing into uncharted territories. As such it is not only a work in progress, but taking the models of the Local 802 Musicians Union and Justice for Jazz Artists, and expand on them into something unprecedented. Like the use of the Internet in music promotion and marketing, MFM is writing it’s own rules. This may appear to some as reckless arrogance and vanity. However, the reality is that re-writing the rules has become a necessity.

That said, the expression of the aforementioned doubts is a good thing. This, because of the uncharted territories MFM is exploring. Such debates are useful in clearing up misunderstandings, exploring new ideas and contributions, and solving problems before they threaten the stability and success of the foundation.

The subject of racism in the music business was discussed at length, and quite passionately. The dynamics and history of this are outside the scope of this article. But this evening’s meeting made something quite clear. The subtle (and not so subtle) dimensions of racism in America are often difficult to translate to the mindset of people who were not raised here. In fact, it is often all too difficult to make these ugly realities clear to people who are native to the United States of America. As such, misunderstandings and miscommunication are a very easy trap to fall into. This is, of course, easy to remedy; at least on a one on one basis. Implementing change in the mass psychology of a nation or civilization is another matter altogether.

One of the most enjoyable and instructive parts of the meeting was contributed by Jimmy Owen. His resume is extraordinarily impressive and dates back over half a century. He shared stories of his experiences performing with Charles Mingus and other legendary musicians. This alone made it worth the effort to attend the meeting; and I dare say that those who didn’t attend are all the poorer for it (especially young people who would find a historical perspective to be of great value).

The meeting ultimately proved to be another important step in the development and establishment of MFM. It will be to the ultimate advantage of the community of musicians to participate in, and contribute to, MFM’s unfolding.