The Festival theme STRUCTURES – Backing-Up Independent Audio-visual Cultures will inquire into the current state and future potential of microstructures and networks in independent music and media culture, the true laboratories and matrices of new artistic forms and interdisciplinary, transgressive practices that increase social and cultural latitude for experimentation.
In recent years new hybrid projects and initiatives have emerged at the interface of pop culture, science and art and media technologies, increasingly blurring the boundaries between sound and media cultures. Concepts such as file sharing, Open Source, free software and alternative licensing models, already familiar in computer and internet communities, have revealed new paths for music world too, sparking controversial debate and conflicts that have yet to be resolved. Moreover, the rapidly expanding convergence potential of digital technologies has increasingly linked music with other cultural and economic fields. The music scene therefore now faces the challenge of actively shaping these connecting nodes and points of transition.
Simultaneously, however, the crisis in music has triggered a return to traditional positions. This is evident not only in the re-emergence of classical models of cultural funding (creative industry on the one side, autonomous art and serious music on the other), but also in an ongoing differentiation within popular music between artistic authorship and commercial, creative services. Experimental musicians are turning more frequently to the exclusiveness of the art world and academic music scene, in which public funding guarantees alleged independence, while a "middle-class", active in pop, indie rock and club music and oriented to the economic constraints of the music business, manages indisputably to make a living from live appearances yet finds itself increasingly harnessed to serve the marketing interests of economic sectors that have only little to do with music.
Today, more music is on the circuit, more music is produced than ever before. Yet at the same time, confusion reigns about the value of music as a cultural asset and economic product. Contrasting "mainstream" and "underground" as a means to define personal affiliations belongs to a bygone era. Given the crystallisation of ever-smaller markets and niches, propelled over the years by progressive digitisation and the internet and by the search for solutions to the present crisis, it appears now to be a case of every person for him/herself. From this perspective, the social networks engendered by Web 2.0 can be read not so much as a locus of community-building but as instruments that employ consistent self-marketing as a means to render the last reaches of personal communication fiercely competitive. The other side of the coin is a growing community of enthusiastic and decidedly professional amateurs, who, while not exactly indifferent to a financial valorisation of their creative output at least consider it a secondary factor.
The independent music scene has always stood tall for the emancipatory ideal of dissolving the borders between producers and consumers, for a healthy balance between cultural and economic concerns. However much the interests of music fans, musicians, label managers, music publishers, concert promoters and other participants in the creative and economic processes of music-making may have diverged in the past, the conviction that people act not only out of financial interest but out of a love of music, not only from an independent but frequently, in social terms, from a critical viewpoint has long been considered a common foundation. Networks, communities and social venues such as clubs and record shops were and still are the central forums in which people affirm this common foundation.
Today it is evident that technological developments have brought us closer to realizing those ideals than may be comfortable for some. From this perspective, the crisis in the music business does not only represent a loss. It can also be described as a turning point on the path towards a new, more diverse musical culture that opens up opportunities for more people to try out for themselves different forms of creative activity and independent entrepreneurship.
The current situation presents itself intricately and openly in many trends. Critical stocktaking and cool analysis is therefore the order of the day. In his keynote address in the discourse program in the festival, which is taking place for the first time on this scale, the Berlin musicologist Peter Wicke poses a series of central questions: " Yet, does such a crisis really exist, and if yes, does it really result from the processes of digitalisation and digital networking? But above all, what do the changes taking place in the industrial exploitation of music mean for this itself? Is the seemingly unstoppable erosion of the traditional music industry model for exploitation a chance for new ideas and new forms of creative dealings with music, also and specifically in the cultural spaces of the digital universe? Or does the nearly limitless availability of music by mouse click leave behind a desert of arbitrariness? Does it lead to a nirvana of economic irrelevance with far-reaching consequences for music and musicians?"
Musically, at any rate, we are currently experiencing an openness that there has never before been, in which times and styles exist in parallel but are also merging into unimagined hybrids, which can only be explained by the electronic archives that are increasingly better accessible. Intellectual property and copyright regulations are, not least for this reason, of central importance. What is clear is that the relationship between established and newer players, between producers and consumers, has shifted and that chains of added value production in the music business have undergone a fundamental change. The new constellations that have ensued from this are dissolving older alliances that had come to seem a "natural" state of affairs. New ones are taking their place. Questions of common ground and shared interests are consequently acquiring a new urgency.
STRUCTURES therefore inquires not only into the organisational and legal conditions that might carefully foster music as a socially and aesthetically relevant experiment but also addresses the ethical scaffolding that supports a player’s line of action: his/her convictions, attitudes, motivation and goals. How do future structures have to be designed so that the conditions for independent, more distribution-equitable creation of music can be improved? How can it be organised so that more individuals can live from their art in a self-determined manner? How can the exchange and the cooperation between different cultural fields be structured? Which forums does a critical discourse that also discusses music as a socially relevant and political practice require? Which alternative perspectives appear for musicians, artists and producers in a time in which the "ownership" of digital files itself still plays a subordinate role and the main focus is centred on "access"?
Given the situation triggered by the crisis, club transmediale decided to provide a platform for interdisciplinary exchange and bring together protagonists from various scenes. STRUCTURES aims to encourage debate from several different perspectives about how the most broadly accessible, artistically self-determined and at the same time economically viable musical cultures might be organised today; to actively promote democratic structures, diversity, critical discourse and creativity.