Saturday, August 4, 2018

Did Smithsonian Folkways Partner With U.S. Capitalism In Distributing Non-Commercially-Motivated Folk Music?

Most people who are into listening to non-commercially-motivated folk music have, historically, been anti-capitalist and been against the denial of a fair share of daily U.S. mass media access to anti-capitalist musicians--like Paul Robeson, Woody Guthrie, Rev. Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick and Matt Jones--by the U.S. capitalism's corporate media gatekeepers. And most people who are into listening to non-commercially-motivated folk music have, historically, been opposed to the commodification of folk music for-profit; and also to the exploitation by the U.S. capitalist system's corporate music industry record distribution companies of the folk music fans to whom they market their commodified folk music.

Yet Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has generally failed to focus much on opposing either the U.S. capitalist system's continued denial of a fair share of U.S. mass media daily access to post-1965 anti-capitalist, non-commercially-motivated, non-professional folk musicians who are working-class. Nor has Smithsonian Folkways demanded that the U.S. capitalism's music distribution system be operated in a non-commercial, non-exploitative way that provides U.S. folk music fans with their cultural right to listen to all folk music recordings for free.

One reason might be because the director emeritus of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings apparently saw nothing morally and politically contradictory in partnering with U.S. imperialism's capitalist system in marketing and distributing the non-commercially-motivated folk music that, historically,was generally collectively or individually created by anti-capitalist working-class people or anti-capitalist musicians; who, historically, had generally only received minimal sums of money or royalties from either Folkways or Paredon Records, in exchange for recording the albums whose folk music Smithsonian Folkways marketed.

As Timothy D. Taylor noted in his 2016 book Music and Capitalism, "Anthony Seeger, director emeritus of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, told me that that label had no qualms about using the capitalist infrastructure of distribution networks to disseminate its music." The Smithsonian Folkways director emeritus apparently told the Music and Capitalism author in 2012:

"At Folkways I always thought I was taking advantage of the capitalist system to distribute a kind of music that was unpopular, by definition...It seemed to me that capitalism and the market system actually was a really efficient way...for anybody anywhere in the world being able to get what they cared about. It seemed to me in principle you could in fact take advantage, sort of ride on the back of the capitalist system..."

Yet, coincidentally, few recordings of protest folk songs written by non-commercially-motivated anti-capitalist U.S. working-class folk musicians  or by members of the People's Music Network [PMN] that were written after 1980, have been produced or distributed by Smithsonian Folkways during the last three decades when it's been partnering and riding "on the back of the capitalist system."