+++ open letter +++|
"The li'l folksinger bat mich, diesen Offenen Brief an die MS. Magazine Redaktion, zu verbreiten, als Antwort auf einen kleinen Artikel in deren Sept/Okt.97 Ausgabe. Es ist ein wenig lang für eine E-Mail aber Ani wollte, dass die Leute die Gesamtheit ihrer Botschaft lesen können und nicht nur die überarbeitete Version. Wir würden es wirklich gerne auf Webseiten, wo immer möglich, veröffentlicht sehen.
**Bitte verbreite oder verschick das folgende nur wenn du es nicht veränderst oder kürzt**
, the righteous babe records minister of communications
aus dem Englischen übersetzt vom Webmaster
November 5, 1997
Marcia Ann Gillespie
Editor in Chief
135 W. 50th Street
New York, NY 10020
So I'm poring through the 25th anniversary issue of Ms. (on some
Please let it read:
airplane going somewhere in the amorphous blur that amounts to my
life) and I'm finding it endlessly enlightening and stimulating as
always, when, whaddaya know, I come across a little picture of little
me. I was flattered to be included in that issue's "21 feminists for
the 21st century" thingybob. I think ya'll are runnin the most bold
and babe-olishious magazine around, after all.
Problem is, I couldn't help but be a little weirded out by the
paragraph next to my head that summed up her me-ness and my
relationship to the feminist continuum. What got me was that it
largely detailed my financial successes and sales statistics. My
achievements were represented by the fact that I "make more money per
album sold than Hootie and the Blowfish," and that my catalogue sales
exceed 3/4 of a million. It was specified that I don't just have my
own record company but my own "profitable" record company. Still, the
ironic conclusion of the aforementioned blurb is a quote from me
insisting "it's not about the money." Why then, I ask myself, must
"the money" be the focus of so much of the media that surrounds me?
Why can't I escape it, even in the hallowed pages of Ms.?
Firstly, this "Hootie and the Blowfish" business was not my
doing. The LA Times financial section wrote an article about my record
label, Righteous Babe Records, in which they raved about the business
savvy of a singer (me) who thwarted the corporate overhead by choosing
to remain independent, thereby pocketing $4.25 per unit, as opposed to
the $1.25 made by Hootie or the $2.00 made by Michael Jackson. This
story was then picked up and reprinted by The New York Times, Forbes
magazine, the Financial News Network, and (lo and behold) Ms.
So here I am, publicly morphing into some kinda Fortune
500-young-entrepreneur-from-hell, and all along I thought I was just a
Ok, it's true. I do make a much larger profit (percentage-wise)
than the Hootster. What's even more astounding is that there are
thousands of musicians out there who make an even higher profit
percentage than me! How many local, musicians are there in your
community who play gigs in bars and coffee shops about town? I bet
lots of them have made cassettes or CDS which they'll happily sell to
you with a personal smile from the edge of the stage or back at the
bar after their set. Would you believe these shrewd, profit-minded
wheeler-dealers are pocketing a whopping _100%_ of the profits on the
sales of those puppies?! Wait till the Financial News Network gets a
whiff of _them_!
I sell approximately 2.5% of the albums that a Joan Jewelanis
Morrisette sells and get about .05% of the airplay royalties, so
obviously if it all comes down to dollars and cents, I've led a wholly
unremarkable life. Yet I choose relative statistical mediocrity over
fame and fortune because I have a bigger purpose in mind. Imagine how
strange it must be for a girl who has spent 10 years fighting as hard
as she could against the lure of the corporate carrot and the almighty
forces of capital, only to be eventually recognized by the power
structure as a business pioneer.
I have indeed sold enough records to open a small office on the
half-abandoned main street in the dilapidated urban center of my
hometown, Buffalo, N.Y. I am able to hire 15 or so folks to run and
constantly reinvent the place while I drive around and play music for
people. I am able to give stimulating business to local printers and
manufacturers and to employ the services of independent distributors,
promoters, booking agents and publicists. I was able to quit my day
job and devote myself to what I love.
And yes, we are enjoying modest profits these days, affording us
the opportunity to reinvest in innumerable political and artistic
endeavors. RBR is no Warner Bros. But it is a going concern, and for
me, it is a vehicle for redefining the relationship between art and
commerce in my own life. It is a record company which is the product
not just of my own imagination, but that of my friend and manager Scot
Fisher and of all the people who work there. People who incorporate
and coordinate politics, art and media every day into a
people-friendly, sub-corporate, woman-informed, queer-happy small
business that puts music before rock stardom and ideology before
And me. I'm just a folksinger, not an entrepreneur. My hope is
that my music and poetry will be enjoyable and/or meaningful to
someone, somewhere, not that I maximize my profit margins. It was 15
years and 11 albums getting to this place of notoriety and, if
anything, I think I was happier way back when. Not that I regret any
of my decisions, mind you. I'm glad I didn't sign on to the corporate
army. I mourn the commodification and homogenization of music by the
music industry, and I fear the manufacture of consent by the
corporately-controlled media. Last thing I want to do is feed the
I was recently mortified while waiting in the dressing room
before one of my own shows. Some putz suddenly takes the stage to
announce me and exclaim excitedly that this was my "largest sold-out
crowd to date!" "Oh, really?," I'm thinking to myself, "that's
interesting...too bad it's not the point." All of my achievements are
artistic, as are all of my failures.
That's just the way I see it. Statistical plateau or no. I'll
bust ass for 60 people, or 6,000, watch me.
I have so much respect for Ms. magazine. If I couldn't pick it
up at newsstands my brain probably would've atrophied by now on some
trans-Atlantic flight and I would be lying limp and twitchy in a bed
of constant travel, staring blankly into the abyss of the gossip
magazines. Ms. is a structure of media wherein women are able to
define themselves, and articulate for themselves those definitions.
We wouldn't point to 21 of the feminists moving into the 21st century
and define them in terms of "Here's Becky Ballbuster from Iowa City,
she's got a great ass and a cute little button nose..." No ma'am.
We've gone beyond the limited perceptions of sexism and so we should
move beyond the language and perspective of the corporate patriarchy.
The Financial News Network may be ultimately impressed with me now
that I've proven to them that there's a life beyond the auspices of
papa Sony, but do I really have to prove this to _you_?
We have the ability and the opportunity to recognize women not
just for the financial successes of their work but for the work
itself. We have the facility to judge each other by entirely
different criteria than those is imposed upon us by the superstructure
of society. We have a view which reaches beyond profit margins into
poetry, and a vocabulary to articulate the difference.
Thanks for including me, Ms., really. But just promise me one
thing; if I drop dead tomorrow, tell me my grave stone won't read: