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:
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 "loans" to 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 recalibrating itself.
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 consists of:
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.
iii) DGM was useless at establishing the names and careers of artists who were not already well-established.
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.
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.
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".
iii) Not very good at promoting the careers or artists that the public didn't know.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Irritation, angst, disagreement. Pride in the work. No ill-will.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 musicians.
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 and immoral.
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 these:
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.