I still buy CDs… and occasionally vinyl. You can keep your free Spotify. I still like to purchase. Now, I have succumbed to the Apple Music deal but I don’t sneak an album that I would have ordinarily have bought. I merely use it to investigate records that I wouldn’t be sure about buying.
Why? Well, there are a couple of good reasons. I like to think that, after I have gone, my children will rifle through my music collection and keep what they like, discovering gems that they have hated through their entire childhood! If I buy the hard copy they will one day own it. If it’s streamed or downloaded it is debatable who owns it.
The more important reason for paying money for the real thing is that I used to manage a few artists and I am aware of the importance of the royalty. Constantly streaming music or whatever art we don’t pay for is a little like theft. Buying a CD after a gig might be the artist’s hotel room or travel costs. Going home and streaming it for free might mean he he cannot afford to play your city next year!
In the end you don’t only rob an artist of a living but the lack of funds has got to do damage to the art that you want to enjoy. I want more music from Northern Ireland’s finest like David C Clements. Ciaran Lavery, Malojian etc. Buying their stuff will give them the finances to make more records. When I get a guest list free ticket to a gig I always make sure I buy a t-shirt or CD.
The same goes for books. I must confess to maybe purchasing too many from Amazon but I also make sure that I regularly go round the corner from Fitzroy and buy books from Belfast’s most amazing and precious independent book shop - No Alibis.
No Alibis is a legendary place. It is so much more than a book shop. It is a community. Proprietor David Torrans is such an important player in a booming writing city, stocking books, doing book nights and pushing literature in the most personal of ways.
Last summer I arrived in to David and told him I was heading to Africa and wanted a book to read while I was there about the red dust roads and heat and geography. He stood in an almost zen pose of concentration and reached down into a box before reaching me Ishmael Beah’s amazing book Radiance of Tomorrow which, though set in Sierra Leone was perfect literary back drop to my three weeks in Uganda.
So, today I reminded him of that moment and asked for another book for this year’s trip. Off he walked across the shop before returning with David Park’s Stone Kingdoms. I am a huge fan of Park but had not come across this early novel, where someone sets off from Northern Ireland to escape our Troubles in Africa! Perfect. David Torrens; Belfast treasure. I added, in my unique No Alibis bag, locals writers Tony Macauley’s new memoir Little House On The Peace Line and Jan Carson’s Postcard Stories as well.
Speaking of Jan Carson’s Postcard Stories. I chaired a panel yesterday that Jan was a member of, at Stranmillis College’s Christianity and Culture conference. While speaking about the importance of supporting the artist she read one of her postcard stories. Now, this is a collection of stories that Jan wrote to friends, every day for a year. Mine didn’t make the cut but the one she read yesterday was powerfully challenging:
“This morning I read that Kay Ryan poem, the one about the fourth Wise Man who disliked travel and preferred how own bed to the open road, which mad me thinking of the shepherd who went off for a quick wee at exactly the wrong angelic moment…
… And finally I arrived at myself and the very many times I have decided to stay in, watching re-runs of Morse and Poirot, reading paperback novels in bed, whilst in the streets and bars and staged rooms of this city miracles are miracling away and I am only afterwards hearing about them on Facebook.”
Which has us back to supporting the arts. Without the arts the muscles of our dreaming become flabby and unfit. The world loses the power of change. We need to resource the art gymnasiums of our imagination.
Buy the record. Buy the book. Buy the painting. Buy the ticket. Don’t miss the miracling. Don’t be complicit in the sinful neglect of our artists.