► If someone would have told ’92 Speech that in 20 years he’ll give away an album for free – as you did with Standing At The Crossroads – and that people will to listen to music on a phone they keep in their pocket – what would he have said?
Hah, he would have been blown away. But in a way, I’m still blown away today by where technology is going. I have become CEO of a software development company and am very immersed in technology, whereas in 1992 we were still trying to get a grasp on CDs. It’s a totally new world today that is only getting more interesting and exciting.
► Would you say that the likes of YouTube and Twitter, as a way of building an audience, are a young musician’s game?
If you say “to build an audience”, I would agree that it is, yes. The main reason is not that you, as an older musician, can’t use it, but more likely your audience is not as savvy and literate in all things internet as a young audience. For my children, it’s their first language. They get it and they want to support artists who are their age because it reaffirms who they are. It has nothing to do with them not liking other music. When they have a young artists they like and they can support, it makes them feel great. In turn, that is why younger artists can use these possibilities in a much bigger way than an older artist. But I still think we do alright at it.
► I don’t know if you remember this. It was our second or third interview, around the time Among The Trees had come out. I had bought the CD, took it home, put it in my laptop so I can put the album on my iPod …
… and it didn’t work because of the copy protection. I remember that.
► Do you also remember what you said about that?
Not word for word, but I guess I was hating that. I still don’t like the whole ‘trying to protect music from the fans and trying to make you not able to put it here or there’. Was that my answer?
► Pretty much. You said you had even tried to fight the label on this.
Yes, but they had their way of doing things, which wasn’t my way. In fact, one of the main premisses of the software I’m in charge of now is that I don’t want to create restrictions for people. I want people to enjoy what I do, even if some of them engage in piracy. My hope is that they support the artists in the ways that they can, but I want them to be able to get the music.
► Would you agree that even if a lot of people listen to or download your music but not enough people are willing to pay for it, that the technology is not to blame but that you, as a commercial artist, have failed to connect with the fans?
I definitely agree when we talk about the commercial side, yes. At the same time, I think that the music industry has been very closed-minded in trying to reach fans for artists, only concentrating on the people willing to pay, ignoring all the other people who still do a lot of things for spreading the music. I’m trying to do something now where we stop ignoring those people and start embracing them.
► We’re talking about You42 here?
► Of which I know little more than the name. Can you say more about what it will be?
I can’t say a lot yet. What I can say is that it will be free for users to get, it will be on all platforms – your phone, your iPad, your computer – it is streaming of music, but it is so much more. I can’t get into the details at this point, because that is the secret sauce of what we are doing, but it is way more than streaming and it is the only platform that I have seen so far that is truly for artists. It’s not just artist friendly, it empowers us as artists. That’s the only reasons I’m doing it. I feel that the music industry has been in need of a change since it started. It’s all about exploiting the artist, in order to make money for the business – the artist never got the fair end of the stick. I always wanted to change that. Because of where technology is and where the music industry is today, I feel that now it is the time we can do it.
►That brings me back to the MTV Unplugged. Back then, you said something powerful about music and people revolutionising*. It sounds to me that, 20 years on, you are still behind that.
One hundred percent. It’s what my life is, to this day. I think music can be a spark. It can inspire. But if you don’t do anything about that inspiration, the music hasn’t accomplished a goal. Even in my own life, I do the music, but I live it out, too. And that is the difficult part.
You can find that quote on page 117 in issue no.1 of XCENTS.