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My interview with AbsolutePunk.net (lots of industry talk)
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Sage Francis
Self Fighteous


Joined: 30 Jun 2002
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My interview with AbsolutePunk.net (lots of industry talk)  Reply with quote  

Here's an interview I did with someone from AbsolutePunk.net on my last show in Europe. This one was conducted back stage at my concert in Lausanne, Switzerland.

http://www.absolutepunk.net/showthread.php?t=1982952

This is your last show on your European tour, how’s it been going?

It’s been going good. I think every single show has been fantastic except for one which was, what the hell, it was recent, I’m trying to remember what countries I’ve been in. There was one show with a really small crowd; it was in Hamburg, Germany I think. I can’t remember if that’s correct (laughs). Berlin was awesome though. I was scared of Berlin because the Hamburg show wasn’t that great and it was small crowd but Berlin was HUGE and they knew English where as in Hamburg it seemed like they didn’t really understand me which made the show a little difficult. A lot of my show depends on high interaction with the crowd.

Yeah, I would assume that not a lot of people at your shows around Europe speak good English and won’t catch the gist of what you’re saying?

Yeah exactly, and we had most of our shows in France. I say “we” I mean myself and B. Dolan. We had six shows in France and they always bring us out there and the crowds are always packed, but they don’t understand me. So it’s just funny and strange to me that what I feel like is the most interesting part of my music isn’t even totally understood by the crowd there, but they still really seem to like it anyway.

Does that bother you?

(pauses) Yeah it does bother me. Because all I care about is saying what I say, you know? And that propels everything else that I do, so if they like the afterbirth of my art, the by-product of my art, that’s cool. Well, I guess it doesn’t bother me that much because I find it fascinating. I know that they get enough of what I say when they’re following along but it’s often the little things.

The heart of it?

Yeah, but they like passion.

Is there a difference between the hip hop cultures and vibes over here in Europe as opposed to back in the States? Are there any key differences you notice?

Hmm, that’s a good question because here it’s different from country to country. Some countries seem to be more eclectic in taste; others seem to be more the hip hop crowd that I was used to from years ago. Because the hip hop crowd doesn’t change in America, or at least my fan base doesn’t, which are not so much the hardcore hip hop kids. They are great mixes of different types of people who listen to all different types of music so when I come out here it often reminds me of my old audience, they really want to battle. It’s cool it reminds me of when I was a teenager, you know? After the shows they ask me if I want to freestyle with them and I’m just like, “no, I just want to go to bed” (laughs)

You’ve had the privilege of collaborating with quite an eclectic range of different artists spanning many different genres which is especially noticeable on your last album, Li(f)e. Having the opportunity to collaborate with so many artists, do you build a wish list?

No, I think the wish list goes away. You start realising there is no real need. It’s weird, I have no urge to hunt down anybody and do a song with them…at all. I scratched that itch and there are a lot of people I got to work with and it was great, but some people who I wanted to have a great experience with kind of ended up shitty and vice versa. It’s just like any path in life. I’m probably better off just hunting down some talent around my own town. At least I think there is.

In Rhode Island?

Yeah

Is your record label (strangefamousrecords) going well then?

My label? No (laughs). I always say that. My expectations are so high. I have such high expectations of myself, the people I work with, the record label and of the fans and when it doesn’t totally knock me out of my socks I get frustrated so I keep thinking of more stuff to do and how to work and fix things. The industry is falling apart. I’m not even sure there is a need for labels anymore. I think we’re going to have to think of a new purpose. Not to be the guys who put together discs and distribute digital media. Like, who the fuck cares about that? Anyone can do that, you know? That’s not the job of the label. Well it shouldn’t be. I guess that’s why I am bummed out about the whole label thing.

Right when I started it, it was the height of me bootlegging my own shit and having a way to get it out to people and when I figured out all the angles of the industry, I was able to help others out. I was able to incorporate what I had learned; apply it to their projects and let them benefit from that. And that to me was the purpose of a label. And to be a trustworthy label, one that you can rely on for a certain style of music that you can enjoy, hip hop in our case. The indie hip hop scene, year after year gets more difficult and when I can’t cut an artist a big cheque or a cheque at all it’s frustrating to me and it’s frustrating to them.

I saw you give an interview for a TV talk show and you mentioned that the major labels ‘missed the boat’ with the illegal downloading phenomenon and that they ignored it for too long and now it’s too late. So far though, it seems that no one’s come close to an actual viable solution? You have huge bands like Radiohead setting up a ‘trust-box’…

I hate it when people bring up the Radiohead thing but I am glad you stated it like that because (pauses) well I just hate it when people mention the Radiohead thing. They had the benefit of being pushed by a major label, being on MTV when it mattered and had everything going for them. More power to them, they deserve it, they’re a great band, according to my friends (laughs) but they did this thing where they said, “look, we can just give it away for free and people will pay”. Well of course, you built an army of fans around the world who will support you and you already are millionaires. You get paid a fucking million dollars a show. Give me a fucking break. You SHOULD be giving your music away for free. And the audience sometimes has a tough time differentiating Radiohead from Atmosphere. (Laughs). Like, there’s a difference man. So when it comes to giving out music and people say, “well, Radiohead gives it for free, why are you making me pay, sellout!” It just pushes my buttons.

So do you see any hope at all on the horizon? Digital downloads etc?

I’m not endorsing it but there are some gross stuff that could happen that might help the music industry out (pauses) but I just want to put more faith in our fans and make them understand. But you start to sound like a fucking clown after a while whining about people not buying your music, you know? Educate your audience and explain to them that we need you to support our stuff so that we can stay active and live off of this music. I know that a lot of people give away their music for free but as you’ll notice, a lot of it is junk. So support what you want to get more of and ignore the rest. But that’s it. That’s the only thing I would recommend, is just being consistent. Sell your music. Don’t keep giving it away for free. Don’t keep pushing EPs, albums and songs every week into the great mess that is the internet. I mean, a free album feels like a burden now. People can’t be bothered with free album downloads anymore either. It’s such a saturated market. 10 years ago someone would offer something for free even I would go out of my way to be like “shit it’s free, I want to hear it”. Now it’s the opposite. Even if it’s someone I kind of like offering a free album I’ll be like “eh, I don’t know” (laughs). What the hell happened?

I remember when Napster first came out I was on that like hot cakes.

Oh me too. It took me a little while but Napster was huge for my popularity. The difference between Napster and what’s going on now is that back then people were still accustomed to paying for music. Well, in my case I really wanted the album as well. I remember people that saw me at my shows would actually give me a $20 bill or a $50, even a $100. Freely. They would say “Here is the money that I owe you, I downloaded your shit and I really love it”. That happened for a few years but now you never see that anymore. It was a common occurrence and now the fact that people don’t do that I think is one indication that people truly believe they are entitled to free music. They don’t have a guilty conscience like we used to when Napster first started. It’s different; (pauses) and now music releases are easier to produce with all these home recording devices. Especially in hip hop. It’s so easy to make. It’s not easy to make great hip hop but it’s easy to just make a hip hop record. Or rap. Or a beat that you just made on some program and then you put it out by yourself. There are a billion fucking MySpace rappers who have, (pauses) I mean they’re hitting up all the same social networks that real artists are. And yeah, I say ‘real’ artists because they’ve paid their dues to be considered artists. They don’t follow trends, look at what’s popular and try to make a name real quick. It’s just not something that I am accustomed to and I can’t jive with it.

Would you ever consider writing a book of your works and poetry?

Yeah, I think about it a lot. Especially with my touring career coming to a halt and considering never touring again and how I am going to use my time. A book has always been in the back of my mind. I’m not entirely sure of what would be best. I might experiment a little bit and play around and see what’s possible but if I can publish a book incorporating works, incorporating my stories from experiences in the music industry, some advice but also just experiences and things that have happened that people don’t even know about. It would be fun. But then I think, should it just be a blog? (laughs) And that’s when you know your mind is infected with the internet.

Too true, but no blog please. I was listening to ‘The Best Of Times’ on the way here and started reflecting on my own life. Is this something you do a lot? Do you often become nostalgic and miss the way things were when you first started getting into hip hop? Or the first times you remember performing as a teenager, things like that? It got me thinking because I think that the first moments I picked up a guitar and discovered I love music and started a band was actually more fun then actually being in a band and trying to play shows. Not saying the latter was not great as well but somehow the magic isn’t as magical?

(laughs) Yeah, right. Because you realise every day that the world is less and less magical. I remember the first time I held a microphone and trying to hold it like Run DMC, looking in the mirror and posturing, fantasizing about what could be. I also remember winning my first talent contest. It was like a battle, but it wasn’t super serious. I was like, 12 or 13, whatever the case, I remember how exhilarating it was, truly high. That night I went to bed I couldn’t even sleep at all because I kept thinking, “holy shit” and I kept fantasizing about what was going to happen and how I was going to pursue this. As I grew a little older after that, I never really expected that I would able to maintain the lifestyle I lived through my music and live off of my music and I was very lucky. Every time an opportunity came to me, I used it. I made sure I didn’t pass up any of it and that took a lot of time and a lot of work. A lot of attention to details and a lot just making sure it would pan out somehow because there was never any promise. So, if anyone offered me a DJ gig or reading poetry at the cancer society meeting or whatever, I did it and eventually I did so many things it started to culminate and then winning the big battles, like, every time I could sense it. I could sense when I hit a new benchmark. I’d be like “oh shit, I’m at this level now, that’s pretty exciting”. And then after a few of those I stopped getting that feeling. Even now, I’ll step out in front of 10,000 people at a big festival and it will still be really cool but it will never feel like the way it did when I won that first battle when I was 13 years old.
Post Mon Nov 01, 2010 3:20 pm
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Captiv8



Joined: 25 Aug 2006
Posts: 8423
Location: Third Coast
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The question is: would you sign up for a little World of Jenks action?
Post Mon Nov 01, 2010 3:31 pm
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pedavis



Joined: 03 May 2007
Posts: 1425
Location: Illinois, US
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Captiv8 wrote:
The question is: would you sign up for a little World of Jenks action?

awesome idea. that would be something to see.

this interview was really insightful. i've always thought about paying for music i've downloaded in the past upfront and direct at a show, but never really knew what kinda reaction i'd get. sorry for being that guy. really.
Post Mon Nov 01, 2010 3:42 pm
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Mikal kHill



Joined: 29 Jun 2002
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I think the real killer of the music industry isn't the fact people don't feel like they should pay for it, it's the loss of disposable income in a lot of households that means it's either download or stop listening. It sucks, but it's sorta how it is. The argument that you could just buy cds instead of a computer and all those cd-rs doesn't apply anymore, the internet and computers are a necessity in homes, and music is a luxury.

I still buy records, for what it's worth, but that is mostly at shows. When I see anyone that's on tour, and they come to my town, that's a risk, it's a risk to tour, so I try to alleviate some of that risk by buying something, anything, off the merch table. I honestly don't know how anyone survives off of making art anymore, unless they are in to some kind of art that has financial backers like ballet or something that just pay people to do it because they know other wise it'll die. I guess maybe that's the future of music, too.

There's a good chance I never would have heard of sage francis without downloading. In the future, we won't get "sage francis's" because of downloading and the cheapening of art through accesibility. It's evolution, for better or worse. The idea of making a living off of art is going to become progressively more laughable over the next ten years, though. I think it's just as scary to imagine the loss of collective influence over the next ten or twenty years, as everyone just moves from band to band in a matter of days. Soon the mainstream will be underground, everyone's going to be listening to some dude cranking records out of his basement. Musical anarchy.

Poor people can't go buy records, though, so that's why the music industry is fucking dead. that's the original point I was trying to make.
Post Mon Nov 01, 2010 4:29 pm
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Disharmony



Joined: 01 Jun 2003
Posts: 2993
Location: Buried in Minnesota dirt.
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Mikal kHill wrote:

Poor people can't go buy records, though, so that's why the music industry is fucking dead. that's the original point I was trying to make.
Hmmm, I'm not sure I really agree with this. People have always been poor. If digital downloads didn't exist these so called "poor" people would find a way to purchase music they enjoyed.

I remember being poor and still saving up to buy records, but once Napster hit it changed all of that. I no longer had to wait/save up to get my music because reward was only one click away.

It's definitely a mind set/privilege thing for the most part.
Post Mon Nov 01, 2010 4:39 pm
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Mikal kHill



Joined: 29 Jun 2002
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It's a not a mind set if the money really isn't there. It's gotten more and more expensive to exist. People don't have jobs.
Post Mon Nov 01, 2010 4:46 pm
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Raoul DeGroot



Joined: 30 Apr 2009
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The economic downturn isn't the reason people stopped buying cd's.
They stopped because you don't need to anymore if you don't want to. And who wants to?

People have been much poorer than they are now. And bought rekkids and went to movies. And had fewer flatscreen tv's and iphones too.
Post Mon Nov 01, 2010 5:13 pm
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Captiv8



Joined: 25 Aug 2006
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Let's not forget quality of output either. If you know a record is mostly shite with three hot tracks it makes more sense from a consumer standpoint to buy songs separately if you're feeling legit, or download/have friend burn them if you're not. If I know an album is aces I buy the whole thing, but rarely the hard copy. The latter part of that statement is specific to me in that I like owning music but I don't like physically accumulating it.
Post Mon Nov 01, 2010 6:04 pm
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jehu



Joined: 25 Aug 2002
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[quote="pedavis"]
Captiv8 wrote:


this interview was really insightful. i've always thought about paying for music i've downloaded in the past upfront and direct at a show, but never really knew what kinda reaction i'd get. sorry for being that guy. really.


do it. i was shown sage's music by a close friend & proceeded to to burn a couple of sick of Cd's & then went to the show & just gave sage money. it was the right thing to do & still is. just saying.
Post Mon Nov 01, 2010 7:00 pm
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PoetryBox



Joined: 14 Feb 2007
Posts: 452
Location: brampton, ON
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Captiv8 wrote:
Let's not forget quality of output either. If you know a record is mostly shite with three hot tracks it makes more sense from a consumer standpoint to buy songs separately if you're feeling legit, or download/have friend burn them if you're not. If I know an album is aces I buy the whole thing, but rarely the hard copy. The latter part of that statement is specific to me in that I like owning music but I don't like physically accumulating it.


I'm actually quite the oppisite with this. Theres something about being able to hold/carry/touch an record/album that I think can't be replaced. It probably has alot to do with nostolgic reasons but theres a sense of "getting your money's worth" when theres something physically to own. For the more independent artists I always buy the album if I enjoy the music, often more then once cause I never keep my cds in good shape but I never feel like I waste money when buying them. I got a couple of friends who always nag on me for some reason telling me "why do you buy cds, nobody buys cd's anymore." Which is true but I love opening a fresh bought cd, putting it into my cd player and listening to it while reading the footnotes behind the album cover.
Post Mon Nov 01, 2010 7:48 pm
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Dr Sagacious



Joined: 01 Mar 2009
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I see the next ten/twenty years of music as a positive thing. I don't give a fuck if I never listen to the radio again, but if Major labels collapse, you're most likely going to hear more quality shit on the radio that is more regionally based. And the shit you don't hear on the radio, you can find on the internet. It's just going to be like now, only shit music won't at all sell. Ringtone Pop shit won't exist; it won't be bought, no one will put money behind it, and there won't be anyone to put money behind it. How can this be a bad thing?

There's going to be a music revival, I think. Yeah, there will be pirating. But, we crossed that bridge. There will be ways to deal with it; to use it like some freakish pimple-faced mule.

I know the world sucks and everything, and humans blow. But please, don't be defeatists when it comes to music. Music was around before record labels, it's going to be here after them.
Post Mon Nov 01, 2010 8:16 pm
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Mr Jenkins



Joined: 13 Dec 2007
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does the supply and demand curve apply?
Post Mon Nov 01, 2010 8:38 pm
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Jack



Joined: 10 Dec 2007
Posts: 678
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I have a question about the book part. I know a nonfiction book would be dope and all about your career, tours, stories, etc. But are you leaning more towards that, or would you consider taking your creative juices and knocking out a book of pure fiction unrelated to you or hiphop?


Both would be welcomed.
Post Mon Nov 01, 2010 9:51 pm
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Sage Francis
Self Fighteous


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I'd like to try my hand at fiction but I may need to do the chronicles-style book first. Just to get my writing in order. I'm interested in both though.
Post Mon Nov 01, 2010 9:53 pm
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Jack



Joined: 10 Dec 2007
Posts: 678
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Sage Francis wrote:
I'd like to try my hand at fiction but I may need to do the chronicles-style book first. Just to get my writing in order. I'm interested in both though.


That is really pleasant to hear. And hey, you can look at it this way. We can download books illegally as well, but reading a book on a .pdf is pretty high up there on the "scale of annoying-ness", that we would all have to buy it to read it.

I don't think bootlegging is that big of a deal in the world of books ;)
Post Mon Nov 01, 2010 9:58 pm
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