Devilstone 2015 by Fotografas Kuris Bijo Žmonių

Pay Lithuanian musicians fairly, Mr. Karbauskis

Today, Ramūnas Karbauskis, the new Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Culture, announced his vague plans for celebrating 100 years since the Restoration of Lithuania’s Independence in 1918.

Under pressure to reveal details of the budget, he suggested that musicians could be asked to perform for free. He also suggested to hold traditional song festivals all over the country, “in every village”.

Music Export Fund strongly disagrees with such statements.

Asking musicians, who have practiced for hours every day for many years, to perform without any kind of remuneration? That’s disrespectful to say the least.

Musicians, as well as people of any other profession, must be paid fairly and not expected to gift their services, especially on such an important occasion. It is insulting to musicians that they are apparently the only people who will be expected to work for free. We presume the people organising the events will be paid, but for some reason musicians, as in medieval times, are treated as the lowest class in society.

We also object to the idea of organising only traditional folk music festivals. For a start, the celebrations are not marking a date hundreds of years ago, they are marking the start of the modern technological era, and the end of “village” society. Traditional music seems a strange choice, especially if it’s the only choice.

The gramophone was invented at the end of the 19th century, and by 1918 the patents were expiring, leading to an explosion in manufacture of recorded music machines. At the same time, jazz was the new sound, not traditional countryside dances. Jazz of course led to most of the dance music genres we enjoy in Lithuanian clubs today.

Secondly, The Centenary of the Restoration of Lithuania’s Independence is a great chance to promote Lithuania as a country where not only traditional music is sung but also new and innovative music is being produced.

We see no reason why there shouldn’t be a huge street party with stages for techno, rock, drumnbass, hiphop and jazz, all of which are thriving in Lithuania and being produced by Lithuanians.

The people of 1918 were thinking of building the future, not reenacting the past. In remembering their great deeds to restore Lithuania’s independence 100 years ago, Lithuanians can take the opportunity to explore what they will be doing for the next 100 years. Music could be a central part of that.

Still, our main objection to Karbauskis’s idea is rooted in the cultural authorities’ repeated categorisation of musicians as minstrels who must roam the land begging for money, and not getting it. Music is seen as “not business”, and that’s insane. The music business could be a leading Lithuanian export.

In 2018 musicians will have many options to record and distribute their music online professionally, and sell it worldwide. Shouldn’t the Lithuanian government be promoting this at every opportunity?

If you want to be professional, make money from your recordings and get paid more fairly for the effort and time you put in to create your music, and if the government isn’t interested in helping you, contact us. We’re here to make sure you’re part of the international market for music, not just part of a village festival where you aren’t even paid for playing.

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