The sun is shining, the sky is blue & the temperature brisk.
The world is mad, if television news is any guide to the world. The news according to English tabloids suggests, the world is madder than that. Any reasonable person would despair. But hope is unreasonable and love is greater than that. And love is greater than that.
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 consists of:
1. 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 firm.
2. 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 their work.
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, indefensible.
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 the supports;
future 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 rescue attempts;
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 history.
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 machine;
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.
This 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 beans » on DGM dealings, as he puts it, he has my encouragement and support.
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 it.
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 know.
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 dust.
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 call.
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 players.
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 Website: 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 website 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 up failed.
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 me.