Many people have asked me what are my reasons for giving away music for free. Well, why not? Why should everything always cost something? For me music is organized sound that can be used as sonic symbols to communicate ideas. Since my main goal is the communication of these ideas to the people, then why not provide this music for free and thereby facilitating the distribution of this music to the people. However the distribution of music in this way is not in the best interest of commercial music companies, i.e. record companies, music distributors, retail stores etc.
My reasons for providing free music comes from my belief that musical ideas should not be owned by anyone. I believe that ideas should be free for anyone to use (but not to necessarily sell to others or make others pay for the use of these ideas). The concept of a commons area where ideas can be used for the benefit of all but for the profit of no one may seem like an unrealizable concept in the world today. Basically greed runs the world today and it is because of this that the concept of ownership exits.
There would be no need to own something exclusively unless the use of it was restricted to the owner for reasons of conservation, or the owner wishes to rent out the use of the item to others for a fee. The concept of wealth also stems from ownership and control of resources.
I believe that ideas should be an area that is common to all people. It has been proven that real progress is made when ideas are shared and developed collectively. The ancient Egyptian society is one example of this and the development of the Internet is an example in modern times. The growth of the Internet is definitely due to the concept of open-source software, freeware and shareware. For the most part commercial development has inhibited growth by introducing concepts of ownership, exclusive or restrictive ideas, and the concept of paying for information which in many cases is available for free elsewhere.
Although it is not practical in the present society to have a situation where all ideas and information are available for the use of all, there should be areas where ideas and information are free for the use of everyone. This is especially true of creative ideas and inspired thought.
However people have asked me "if you are going to give away music then how will you survive and make a living?" It does cost money to make recordings, engineers and musicians have to be paid and materials needs to be purchased. However it is not necessary to have the mentality that we need to make a profit from all that we produce. If a person has a strong conviction and a reason for what they are doing, that alone should be enough motivation for the action to be consummated.
Money is not real in the first place, it is an agreed upon concept, in fact just another idea. This particular idea has no value unless everyone agrees on its worth. And generally speaking the desire for, striving for and acquisition of money almost always has a negative effect on the mind. The quest for money, and material acquisition in general, is a barrier to spiritual development.
Giving some ideas and music away does not mean that all needs to be given away for free. But there are some people who either cannot pay for the music or would never even listen to it in the first place if they had to pay for it. For this group of people, and for all the others who have purchased and supported the music in the past, there should be an area where they can go to listen to the music at no charge. I envision a situation where maybe one third to one half of the music that I create and make available to the public will be free of charge. The same would apply to other ideas about the music, general information, music theory, philosophy, etc.
There are still live performances that people can come to and these cannot be free as I need, at a minimum, to pay band members and my management team. Sometimes I personally make a profit on performances that my group does, sometimes I break even, other times I actually lose money. Overall I manage to make a living. When we go out on the road there are no big road crews, sound people and equipment. It is not a big operation and no one is becoming wealthy. Any extra money that I do make goes back into research, development of ideas and trips to places that have infrastructures that make it nearly impossible to make money. As a group we have made several trips to countries like Cuba, Senegal, India etc. and in almost all of these cases the expenses have been paid by myself.
There should be some ideas and concepts that are available for all to use, to contribute to the advancement of all.
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Steve Coleman biography
After spending two years at Illinois Wesleyan University Steve transferred to Roosevelt University (Chicago Music College) in downtown Chicago in order to concentrate on Chicago's musical nightlife. Specifically Coleman had been introduced to the improvisations of Chicago premier saxophonists Von Freeman, Bunky Green, Gido Sinclair, Sonny Greer and others and he wanted to hang out and learn from these veterans. By the time he left Chicago in May 1978, he was holding down a decent gig leading a band at the New Apartment Lounge, writing music, playing Parker classics, and getting increasingly dissatisfied with what he felt was a creative dead end in the Chicago scene.
After hearing groups from New York led by masters like Max Roach, Art Blakey, Woody Shaw, The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra, Sonny Rollins, etc. come through Chicago with bands that featured great players with advanced musical conceptions, Steve knew where he wanted to go next. He felt he needed to be around this kind of atmosphere in order to grow musically.
He relocated to New York and spend four years playing with local jazz masters.At that time he founded a street band (Steve Coleman and Five Elements) which later will become flagship of his activities.
Within a short time the group began finding a niche in tiny, out-of-the-way clubs in Harlem and Brooklyn where they continued to hone their developing concept of improvisation within nested looping structures. These ideas were based on ideas about how to create music from one's experiences which became the foundation which Coleman and friends call the M-Base concept. However, unlike what most critics wrote this concept was philosophical, Coleman did not call the music itself M-Base.
After reaching an agreement with the West German JMT label in 1985, Steve and his colleagues got their chance to document their emergent ideas on three early Coleman-led recordings like Motherland Pulse, On The Edge Of Tomorrow, and World Expansion. The late 1980s found Coleman working to codify his early ideas using the group Steve Coleman and Five Elements and working with a collective of musicians called the M-Base Collective. As his ideas grew Steve also learned to incorporate various forms of research to expand his awareness, these techniques included learning to program computers to be used as tools to further develop his conception. He developed computer software modules which he referred to as The Improviser which was able to spontaneously develop improvisations, harmonic structures and drum rhythms using artificial intelligence based on certain musical theories that Steve had developed over the years.
These emerging concepts were documented on Steve's subsequent albums Sine Die , Rhythm People, Black Science, Drop Kick, The Tao of Mad Phat, and the first album of the entire M-Base Collective called Anatomy of a Groove (all on BMG Records).
In June 1994 Steve formed the group Renegade Way which at that time consisted of Steve Coleman and Greg Osby on alto saxophones, Joe Lovano and Craig Handy on tenor saxophones, Kenny Davis on bass and Yoron Isreal on drums. This group also did its first tour of Europe in late august 1995 but never released album.
Steve spent 1995 and 1995 playing with local musicians.
In February of 1996 Steve rented a large house in Havana and along with a group of 10 musicians and dancers, a three person film crew and the group AfroCuba de Matanzas (who had been bused in from Matanzas) the collaboration was started. For 12 days the two groups hung out together, worked, practiced and conceptualized in order to realize their goal. After their performance at the Havana Jazz Festival the musicians went into a Egrem Studios in Havana and recorded the collaboration. The results of this effort are preserved on a recording made for the BMG France recording company called The Sign and The Seal by Steve Coleman and The Mystic Rhythm Society in collaboration with AfroCuba de Matanzas.
The combined group of Steve Coleman and The Mystic Rhythm Society in collaboration with AfroCuba de Matanzas did a major tour of Europe in June-July of 1997. This year also saw Steve form a large group (big band) called Steve Coleman and The Council of Balance. This group recorded a CD called Genesis which was released as part of the two CD set released by BMG France called Genesis and The Opening of The Way (the second CD in the set featuring Steve Coleman and Five Elements).
1997-1999 saw a continuation of the projects involving cultural exchange with musicians around the world. Partially funded by a grant from Arts International (1997), Steve took a group of musicians from America and Cuba to Senegal to collaborate and participate in musical and cultural exchanges with the musicians of the local Senegalese group Sing Sing Rhythm. Using his own funds he also led his group Five Elements to the south of India in January-February of 1998 to participate in a cultural exchange with different musicians in the Karnatic music tradition.
This work came to the attention of IRCAM (the world renown computer-music research center in Paris France) leading to Coleman receiving a major commission from IRCAM to further develop his ideas, in the form of interactive computer software, at the IRCAM facilities in Paris with the aid of programmers Sukandar Kartadinata, Takahiko Suzuki, Gilbert Nouno and IRCAM technology. A premier concert in June 1999 featuring Steve Coleman and Five Elements interacting with what Steve calls his Rameses 2000 computer software program was the public result of this commission. In 2000-2001 Steve withdrew from performing/recording and began study sabbatical. During this time he traveled extensively to India, Indonesia, Cuba and Brazil and continued much of his research as a music professor at the University of California at Berkeley and at CNMAT (the Center for New Music and Technology). He also overhauled his business organization and signed with another record company from France called Label Bleu. After returning to the world of performing Coleman recorded a live double-CD set called Resistance Is Futile (2001) on Label Bleu records.
In 2002 Steve Coleman and Five Elements recorded a CD that is available free of charge on Steve's website (www.m-base.com) called Alternate Dimension Series I. Also recorded in this year is the On The Rising Of The 64 Paths on Label Bleu records.
Steve's latest CD is entitled Lucidarium and was recorded in 2003 (also on Label Bleu records). For this CD Steve and his group explore the dimensions of an alternate tonal and rhythmic system, continuing the spirit of research and experimentation that marks all of his projects.
Much of the important segments of this activity from January 1996 on have been preserved in the form of a documentary film shot by Eve-Marie Breglia based on Steve's music and the theme of cultural transference tentatively entitled Elements on One scheduled for release in 2004-05.
bio prepared by Slava (Snobb) on th basis of Steve Coleman site's info.