Artist Power: What does that look like?

What is power? What are artists doing? How could Resonate help artists activate, consolidate, sustain and extend their power?

Trigger: Uncle Eno April 4, 2020

"Artists are the people who in a way provide material for imagining different futures. That’s one of the things you do with art. Art is a way of trying to experience what it would be like to live in a different world. That world might be represented by something as elaborate as a Charles Dickens novel or War and Peace. It might be represented by something as simple as a pop record.

It’s all about what you do when you make art. You make something that gives you the chance to experience another set of values and relationships and so on. We’ve really got to start working on this now. That’s really got to be our mission right now." Source:


I’ve actually been struggling with this, these past few years. Kept asking myself “Are artists really needed? They’re definitely not as needed as scientists and doctors and a slew of other more practical, helpful professions.”
It’s only recently that I’ve realized that that’s not true. Children - and even young adults - persevere and do things because of their imagination; their ability to entertain an infinite number of promising futures for themselves and the human race, as a whole.
Artists represent that imagination. They are humanity’s collective drive to make more of themselves. Musicians inspire people to be better, music itself inspires them to transcend themselves and to deal with their inner demons, the sci-fi films of yesterday inspired the technology of today, and so on.
As for what Resonate could do to help artists, it’s all about exposure and targeted marketing. That is and has always been an artist’s Achilles’ Heel.


Great comments @NoneOfMany! Giving me thoughts.

Can you say more about the kind of targeting you imagine to be helpful?

(Hi there :wave:t2: Former lurker, here.)

Most people equate wealth to power… but of course most artists are at an economic disadvantage, both in society and within their own industries. So we’re forced to look outside the given norms to define what power means to artists.

Eno’s point flows perfectly from there, that the strength of an artist is their creative approach to the world. The power of art could simply be its influence on individuals and culture… but even beyond that, artists as a group hold the tools to project a reality that isn’t real yet, and from that to create their own structure of power. To turn the influential and empowering nature of art inward onto its community.

Thinking along those lines is what led me to (lurk here at) Resonate and seek out as much info as I could on cooperatives. For a sweet minute I had the bug to develop a cooperative label concept (multi-stakeholder like Resonate, so fans and other parties could co-own) that would ideally evenly distribute the earnings across the roster so active artists at whatever experience level could have predictable income. Very tricky to balance that roster of course, and would require a good number more musicians as gung-ho about sharing their wealth than I personally know (so it got binned).

I mention this because I had also thought about what “in-house” services the label could offer beyond simply pooling everyone’s funds. Some musicians could be great at social media or PR, experienced musicians could mentor or teach workshops for newer ones, there could be other creative members like graphic, web, or fashion designers, could partner with other co-ops like Resonate and DiGiDi (distro), leverage the base to negotiate better deals on essential services, etc.

I think this is my long way of saying that musicians independently possess tools to create some kind of power or structure, but in order to wield that power with much effect, that structure needs to be in place in order to generate equitable access to power for enough artists to create a diverse and functional community organism. So it’s a little chicken-or-egg… but like many emergent “good things” you just kind of usher things along as much as possible within/ despite any limitations. By breaking such new ground here I’m sure you all are no stranger to that!

How this could apply to Resonate…

Perhaps thinking creatively on potential new partnerships that add value and resources (in this case, power) for artists that they might not have access to, or soliciting new services/ resources from within the membership (musicians can be a resourceful bunch)…

Thinking on how to build a rich biosphere of info/ materials/ collateral/ content/ programming for the co-op brand that really integrates with, supports, and uplifts the artists, either one by one (such as homepage and social media feature programming) or as a whole (additional services for artist members, more robust artist profile pages to make them more of a “destination”)…

Seeking out ways to regularly engage the member base to knock heads together in a productive way (with regular assessment to make sure methods are actually effective) and identifying members interested in certain topics/ ideas to facilitate breakout groups…

And generally applying outside-the-box thinking along with a solution-oriented approach that discards or adapts what isn’t working and keeps new ideas flowing.

Just my two cents from work with musicians and nonprofits – hopefully something useful in it!

5 Likes - just making sure you’re familiar with these folks!

IMHO: Power looks like freedom.


I found this interesting doctoral thesis yesterday about the political economy of music streaming coming from a Marxist analysis and based around the question, ‘What is the commodity being produced?’ The argument presented is that a particular kind of social space for capital is the product. Though I’m only in the first glance stage, I like the approach the author is taking and the literature they are referencing. Many of the concepts are familiar to me intuitively but it is nice to see them articulated and sourced. Looking forward to working toward the concluding pages to see how the author works with their ‘Trialectical’ framework, considering the Music Streaming Space from Perceived, Conceived and Lived perspectives. Might offer useful frameworks and vocabulary for our work, goals, etc.