Discipline Global Mobile (DGM) is a small, mobile, independent music company
that aspires to Intelligence.
The raison d'etre of DGM is to connect music, musician and audience
in a way that supports the power of music, the integrity of the musician and
the needs of the audience.
How can one small, underfinanced and overworked company have any positive
effect in a world driven by powerful, wealthy interests that escape easy accountability?
Three possible answers:
- Our concern is to be who we are, and to do what is in front
- Simply being who we are is itself a qualitative
action; and qualitative action is ungovernable by number.
- Whether DGM succeeds
in the world is out of our hands. If we provide what is necessary, useful
or popular, we are a success.
A (Very) Brief History of DGM
DGM began operating in 1992 as a response to the dishonest and exploitative
practices of the EG Group of Companies. The EG Group collapsed in 1991, undermined
by the EG partners' ambitious interests in property and the Lloyds' insurance
market. During 1988-91 EG diverted artist income from the EG Music Group by
another of the partners' companies, Athol & Co. This led, in turn,
to the sale of phonographic and publishing copyrights controlled by EG. The
sale was contested, with resulting litigation ongoing during 1991-97 between
EG, Virgin Records, BMG Music and myself. At the end of the litigation, the
EG partners were no longer partners and EG, as a respected player in the music
industry, mostly a bad memory to those whose interests EG had claimed to represent.
This was only the beginning of DGM.
The new DGM site is based on the insights of David Singleton and which led
to the creation of BootlegTV (1999-2001), an online music distribution company
based in Seattle. BTV closed during the Great Downturn but, even by then, the
interests of VCs had already prejudiced the company's operation and
direction. This parallels our experience within the music industry: the commercial
interests of record companies, and other music suppliers, have an almost wholly
negative effect on how music is served to open ears and hungry hearts.
More recently, the accounting practices of Virgin and BMG have not, in the
licensing arrangements that followed litigation, been ideal. A current item
of interest (March 2005) is that Virgin US has lost the entire King Crimson
catalogue of master tapes. To misplace the masters of a large and established
catalogue requires either talent or much practice, and these are not the only
two possible explanations.
DGM's first stage was as a music production company, and a record company
to the extent that it licensed records;
the second stage, as a small, mobile & independent record company;
the third stage, presenting the vision of BootlegTV;
the fourth stage, managing King Crimson recordings while repositioning and
The launch of DGM's new web site is the beginning of the fifth stage.
DGM begins again, again.
Tuesday 5th. April, 2005;
DGM HQ, Wiltshire, England.
A Longer History Of DGM (2002)
My reflections of this sunny English morning are directed towards DGM's larger
present moment: its beginning, development, present condition & how it
may best address its future.
The beginning and development: DGM began as an ethical company & mysteriously
became a not-for-profit corporation.
The present condition: David Singleton & myself are no longer prepared
to fill the gap between the two, to continue as sponsors of the NFP. This filling-of-the-gap
- David is overworked & underpaid, at less than the manager of our Los
Angeles office & at 20% of the salary he was offered to run a comparable
- Robert is overworked and unpaid, while maintaining a large company debt.
So, if David is overworked & underpaid, and I am not paid at all, DGM
is much as it always was. What has changed is that David & Robert are no
longer prepared to hold together what is possible & what is actual by underwriting & subsidising
the operations of DGM with our time, energies & borrowed money.
No blame: DGM is a conviction company, not a career move (and occasionally
staff found the gap too wide). But negotiating the critical space between the
possible & the actual requires that we recognise degrees of necessity.
DGM became unmanageable. Unless David & I are to put most of our creative
energies into maintaining the company and its structure, it will collapse sometime
during 2002. We are not prepared to create musical product to support the structure.
Any structure, inevitably, seeks to define itself as the raison d'etre and
act accordingly. Rather, we have chosen to honour the company's founding spirit,
unfix the structure, re-introduce the Mobility into DGM, and move on.
In making this choice, in taking this decision, we acknowledge that DGM has
already moved on. Sufficient notices of this intent have been posted & available
for some time.
DGM is not in bankruptcy, not about to collapse, not in financial trouble.
We continue to have the same problems with cash-flow that we have always had.
In that respect, nothing has changed.
We have problems with cash-flow because the records we release don't sell
in large quantities, certainly not enough to support the artists as professional
players. To put this slightly differently, our artists don't sell enough of
their records to support the company. But, why should the artists sell their
records? Shouldn't DGM sell their records?
DGM makes records available that might not otherwise enter the world, or under
conditions that would prejudice the music and/or its creators; and where possible
we connect the audience to that music. It was never the remit of DGM to become
a promotional structure dedicated to marketing & promoting artists and
So, here is a key point: DGM was created as an artist-friendly & music-driven
new-model record company which inherited the baggage, expectations & assumptions
of an old-model, conventional record company: finance, marketing & promotion.
DGM carried the negative weight of this expectation without the corresponding
total ownership & exploitation of the artist and all their works. The conventional
presumption in favour of the record company was reversed: the main risks were
carried by DGM but without the corresponding property ownership & recoupment
strategies. Much of this is attributable to:
the presence of an artist within the flat hierarchy of the company during
its early days;
that the company was founded in response to injustice.
DGM staff are well aware of old-model exploitation & the almost-impossibility
of earning a living from music. Accordingly, they have sometimes made artist-supportive
judgement calls that were easily explicable but, from a financial viewpoint,
We can do whatever we want, providing we pick up the bill. Historically, the
bill has passed primarily to David & Robert. No blame: artist-friendly
is part of the company's culture. But DGM came too close to being what The
Vicar somewhat dismissively calls "The Charity".
DGM began in a music-industry world very different to the industry of today.
What appeared mad & unsustainable to us in 1992 is increasingly acknowledged
in the mainstream media of 2002 as being mad & unsustainable.
Building a new-model record company during the recession & financial turmoil
of the early 1990s was like something like this:
crossing a bridge between two utterly different ways of doing things; building
the bridge while crossing it;
Endless Grief firing bullets from behind & chopping
prospects on the other side hiding;
faith in the inexpressible benevolence
of the creative impulse.
While making the crossing, we traveled with as many family members as we were
able. In 2002 we are on the other side of that particular Great Divide. Some
of our family fell away & some of our family are still with us; but it
is no longer our responsibility to hold up an umbrella for them.
A key failing of David & myself throughout DGM's history has been to support
a member of the Team when wiser counsel would allow them to stand on their
own feet, even where this included falling over. This failing is:
partly the fault of trying to be helpful;
partly the arrogance that accompanies
partly feeling responsibility for the repercussions of our initiatives.
It became very apparent in mid-1999 that a new new-model was & that DGM-as-constructed
was not that model. The creation of Bootleg TV was driven by David's vision
of an appropriate business & distribution structure to match our original
aims given the rapid changes in the industry, those changes primarily driven
by technology. An efficient structure to address DGM music distribution & business
would have freed David & Robert to return their greater attention to music,
production mastering & creative projects.
Bootleg TV raised $4 million and closed, along with many other companies in
the high-tech downturn, without being able to meet its promise. The need for
that model continues & the vision of that model persists. Someone, somewhere,
is addressing it at this moment. When broadband comes to life, a version of
this model will take off. Bootleg TV is worthy of a separate history, along
with the history of Endless Grief, as a snapshot of one period of social, cultural & economic
DGM has done some things well, some things not well.
1. DGM Was A Very Bad Conventional Record Company: Failure.
i) DGM was a very bad conventional record company, but DGM was not set up
to be a conventional record company. A Conventional Record Company:
a) provides artists with a publicity & promotion
b) provides (relatively) large amounts of money (much of which
doesn't actually reach the artist);
c) and in return for the risk and investment
owns the artist/s and nearly everything connected to them, in totality.
is one approach, and it continues to have effect.
ii) Artists have tended to expect of DGM that it function as an old-model
company - quasi-managerial and providing promotion, distribution & financing
- while enjoying the benefits of DGM as a new-model record company: artist
profit-sharing, non-exploitation, non-ownership, non-risk.
iii) DGM was useless at establishing the names and careers of artists who
were not already well-established.
iv) One artist has expressed disappointment that their records were not better
distribution. Distribution was not, and is not, a difficulty for DGM.
DGM can put its records on display in nearly every record shop on most of
the main streets in the Western world. All this entails is paying for the display,
paying for the pressing, paying to ship the record to the store, paying for
the record to be shipped back again when no-one has bought it, and paying to
store the returned CDs.
The question is: why should DGM pay for this when there is no reasonable
chance of recovering & recouping the cost? Alternatively, how much
does the artist consider fair that DGM should lose on making their records
available? We have no wide catalogue of successful artists to support the
relatively less successful on the label. Who pays for the distribution?
DGM makes available records that otherwise probably would not have been made
available. If this is not acceptable to the artist, then better that we all
move on. This particular artist moves on owning two albums, and DGM moves on
with the accumulated debt of making those two albums available.
v) In his diary, now at Krimson News, Evan of The Rosenbergs has expressed
dissatisfaction with DGM's financial dealings. If Evan would like to ´spill
the beansª on DGM dealings, as he puts it, he has my encouragement
Evan's comments are easily understandable & readily forgivable. They are
also injudicious, misleading & a little unfair. At the end of our business
relationship The Rosenbergs will own their record & DGM will be owning
the $150,000 Rosenbergs' debt.
The defining moment for me was lunchtime on Thursday 28th. March, 2002
at DGM HQ near Salisbury, Wiltshire. David & I were meeting to discuss the
current & arising situations presently underway. Adrian Molloy, The Rosenbergs'
manager that DGM employed & whose office is now at HQ, came into David's
office and asked for $3,000 to settle The Rosenbergs' financial accounts
in the US.
The agreed ceiling of $150,000 for The Rosenbergs had already been reached;
I did not consider it my brief, nor DGM responsibility, to extend our own borrowing
to put The Rosenbergs' books to bed: rather, I see that as the artists' own
responsibility. So, I declined.
Robert the younger man, burning with music while facing a largely uncaring
world, and an older man whose sharp judgements have become rounded with
many years' experience of disappointments in life, I am now more accepting & understanding
of events & people's reactions that once would have elicited a harsh
response. But, simply put, if given the choice I would rather own my record
than the large debt that enabled it to enter the world.
Perhaps the distance between those who pay the bills, and those who expect
them to be paid, is too great.
vi) DGM employees have, in the main, been artist-friendly & artist-supportive.
Some have authorised advertising that had no hope of recovering the cost by
generating additional sales. David & others spent many hours discharging
managerial functions, that were not part of our responsibility, when the
costs of that time could never be recouped. Several of the artists were
well aware that they were taking advantage of DGM's good nature.
vii) DGM's close proximity to Guitar Craft and Crafties in its early period
generated a supportive & non-judgemental context more appropriate in
Guitar Craft than for a company that had to pay its bills. Pennies did
not always drop and, when they did, not always quickly.
viii) DGM UK administered DGM US for nothing & DGM Japan for nothing.
DGM took no money for organising & negotiating releases in Japan. Our
Japanese partners took a percentage & we considered that adding a DGM UK
percentage was onerous for the artists. DGM US became self-sufficient but didn't
seem able to reach the point where it could support the UK operation. So, DGM
UK survived on the European distribution which, spread over 10 territories,
required huge amounts of processing - paperwork, administration & accounting.
It often cost more for DGM to render accounts to the smaller artists than
the total of their royalties.
viii) The Vicar has looked on in disbelief at the business decisions of
DGM, the trading organization he dismissively calls "The Charity".
i) Good at presenting music to the world that would otherwise probably not
have been presented, or under conditions that would have compromised it. Not
any good at encouraging people that weren't interested in buying it to buy
ii) Not very good at providing artists with large amounts of money. However,
for the Crimsons at least, the royalties that otherwise would not have been
available became part of the income stream of the lifer-pro musician.
iii) Not very good at promoting the careers or artists that the public didn't
iv) DGM's global view was not matched by sales.
v) To some extent, DGM appears to influence the people that influence the
people. If that's all we achieved, that's already quite a lot.
vi) Bootleg TV would have provided a distribution & business structure
that DGM was unable to provide, working almost completely in the world of bricks & mortar.
Never allow your business to become reliant upon artists: there is a conflict
of interest between what is right, true & necessary; and supporting
the business structure. The creative act cannot be other than hazardous.
Were DGM to continue as it was, it would become perverted.
The distance between those that pay the bills, and those that expect them
to be paid, is considerable.
2. Ton Prob Production Mastering: Success.
This is mainly David & Robert taking original analogue tapes of varying
quality and making them sonically presentable, even exceptional. David's conscientious
work over long days & nights, weeks & sometimes months, made the
King Crimson archive series - Epitaph, The Nightwatch, Absent Lovers - and
the Collectors' Club possible. And where DGM artists delivered records that
were not quite of the standard all had hoped for, then David sprinkled fairy
3. The King Crimson Fan Club: Failure.
The success of the KC Archive series & the Club lead to DGM becoming a
de facto KC Fan Club. Normal business was often interrupted and delayed by
fan communications & interaction.
4. The King Crimson Collectors' Club: Wonderfully Mixed Blessing.
A stunning model of how to provide archive material & snapshots of process
to those most interested: success.
As a business model, only 3,000 members make this nearly uneconomical: close
Discovery of rare items, including materials not yet available: success +.
As a way of focusing on the past, and holding back the future: close call.
As a way of identifying DGM with the KC Fan Club: total success.
5. King Crimson Quasi-Management: Mixed.
i) The industry looked to DGM as responsible for the entire KC catalogue,
de facto KC management, and responsible for all of KC activities over the years.
This worked for as long as DGM had the confidence and support of the Crimson
Increasingly, several early members expressed their lack of confidence
in DGM & its RHVL. Discussions aimed at establishing a consensus regarding
releases & licensing became fractious, extensive & time consuming,
even aggressively insulting on an escalating basis. Seeking agreement among
early Crims on a common course of action might be seen as the triumph of
hope over experience.
We have a high tolerance of dissent and a low threshold for active ill-will.
In DGM office-speak this is sometimes referred to as the No-Jerk Policy.
ii) 1972-2002: Success.
Irritation, angst, disagreement. Pride in the work. No ill-will.
6. DGM Web site: Mixed.
i) Guestbook & Diaries: Success.
DGM has been very good at encouraging interaction & dialogue between its
artists & family, and the interested public. This didn't generate income
directly, but that wasn't the primary aim. Any sales were a fortunate outcome
- this might be a DGM leitmotif.
The written word/s represents a high investment of energy & attention
from a lot of people. Most Diarists hesitated before exposing themselves
to public ridicule and I am grateful that they proceeded. Many comments
on the Guestbook have been highly informative, although probably not always
in the ways that the poster intended.
Guestbook & Diary functions are not properly the job of DGM. DGM initiated
them, sponsored them, they are well-received. Now the idea works, it
is appropriate that this is over to someone else to maintain it.
ii) E-Commerce: failure.
The new home for the Diaries & Guestbook on Krimson News validates the
work, although this is not reflected in DGM income. The web site was an old-model
creation, before steam gave way to electricity, and the site's operations were
subsidised by DGM. A new-model site would have allowed for online ordering,
streaming, downloads & subscription services. Attempts to set this
Acts of heroism by Dan took the site about as far as it could go without a
complete rebuild, and a complete rebuild was impossible while the site was
fully up and running. Dan managed to get a Model T onto modern highway but
it was never possible for the site to become self-supporting.
7. DGM Catalogue: Mixed.
Some of the catalogue would not have been released without DGM and deserved
to be. And some releases did not have quite the musical necessity that the
world needed their appearance.
8. DGM US Office: Mixed.
It may be impossible for an American office to have an English brain, unless
that English brain is also resident in the American body.
Where we are going is how we get there.
There is no mistake save one - the failure to learn from a mistake.
All those who have given me real, or imagined, offence - please know
you are forgiven.
Those I have offended, for any of my real or imagined failings, please forgive
Saturday 6th. April, 2002;
Bredonborough, Worcestershire, England.
DGM Business Aims
May we trust the inexpressible benevolence of the creative impulse.
The first aim of DGM is to help bring music into the world which would otherwise
be unlikely to do so, or under conditions prejudicial to the music and / or
The second aim of DGM is to operate in the market place, while being free
of the values of the market place.
The third aim of DGM is to help the artists and staff of DGM achieve what
they wish for themselves.
The fourth aim of DGM is to find its audience.
The fifth aim of DGM is to be a model of ethical business in an industry founded
on exploitation, oiled by deceit, riven with theft and fueled by greed.
If a small company, which aims to be true, can succeed in the music industry
there is hope for others. We each support each other without necessarily seeing
or knowing how this might be, or when it occurs. But on the level where things
are true, this is true.
Any business will be successful if it provides its customers with either what
they want or what they need. If the public needs what it wants, or wants what
it needs, the business will be very successful. In this sense public taste
can redirect and reconstitute our business culture. There is hope in this.
The formal view of Crimson Music and DGM is that business practices, although
widespread and "common practice", which seek to deprive the creative
element of its authority, and artists of the benefit of their work, are short-sighted
Any culture whose artists are directed or controlled by commercial interests
is in mortal danger. Any artist directed or controlled by commercial interests
is in mortal danger. Any artist willingly directed or controlled by commercial
interests is not to be trusted.
The history of the music industry is a history of exploitation and theft.
The Ethical Company
Recognisable features of the ethical company involve these attributes:
Recognisable features of a company whose base is ethically challenged are
use of threats,
unkindness to employees,
a widespread use of gagging orders,
an inequitable distribution of company income.
A company which:
would rather conduct its business verbally (particularly with regard to disputed
issues) instead of committing its views to writing;
commonly resorts to litigation, or employs the frequent threat of such; employs
gagging clauses as standard policy;
pays its directors highly disproportionate sums in comparison with its employees;
is suspect and should be avoided wherever possible.
It is a sad commentary on current business and public life that this needs
to be written or debated.
transparency + straightforwardness = honesty
accountability + owning-up = responsibility
distributive justice + fairness = equity
common decency = goodwill
The Four Pillars of The Ethical Company
Copyright Statement (1994).
The phonographic copyright in these performances is operated by Discipline
Global Mobile on behalf of the artist and compositor, with whom it resides,
contrary to common practice in the record industry. Discipline accepts no reason
for artists to assign the copyright interests in their work to either record
company or management by virtue of a "common practice" which was
always questionable, often improper, and is now indefensible.
Members of the public not familiar with the norm, might not know this common
practice: the artist pays to record the album, generally on an advance provided
by the record company. This advance is then recouped from artist royalties
(which are subject to limitations in accordance with "company policy")
and the album is owned by the record company. The record company owns the artist's
work, for which the artist paid. If the record company, or owner of the company,
sells the catalogue or the company itself, the artist receives nothing for
their work, even though the artist paid for it to be made.
The copyrights of the compositions rest with the performer and post-performance
compositor. Crimson Music recognises no valid or ethical reason to assign them
to publisher or manager as an inevitable, necessary or useful part of the business
of collecting publishing royalties.
The artists affirm their moral rights to be acknowledged the authors of these
works, subject always to the operation of grace.
Let us sadly acknowledge, in the spirit of preparing the future and repairing
the past, that the publishing industry and music industry has often and repeatedly
failed to treat its artists honourably, equitably and with common decency.
There are too many instances of abuse, exploitation and the betrayal of trust
for us to view this world with equanimity, confidence or ease.
Actions from the past which we now view with regret, including our own, may
yet be addressed: they are reparable, they are forgivable; they are not excusable,
they are not acceptable. To do otherwise is to place ourselves outside the
natural circle of healing. This is truly terrifying.
Cynicism and bitterness are natural, reasonable and likely responses for anyone,
whether performer or audient, who knows a close relationship with those who
control money flows within the music industry; music can be a gate to Paradise,
but cynicism holds us at the threshold.