There should really be no need for an introduction to Jean Michel Jarre – a man who’s sold an incredible 60 million records in a career that’s spanned 30 years.
A pioneer in his field, he’s renowned for pushing musical boundaries, his amazing live performances and bringing electronic music to most of the world. All in all, he’s a pretty good source of advice on how to stay in the murky musical world for a long time.
Recognise that record companies are absolutely necessary
I think it’s a cynical attitude to think that musicians can survive as artists without them. Within the labels and record companies there are some really good guys who work 15-16 hour days to try to make things happen. It would be naïve to think you can just launch your album on the Internet in London and someone in Auckland would immediately know what your music is about if you don’t have the necessary distribution network. Although it’s very difficult to accept that the people that invented pirate radio in the ’60s are now the people who want to put today’s pirates in jail!
The Internet isn’t the only answer
I think that the Internet might become the ultimate marketing machine, but I also think that in maybe five years’ time, what will be cool will be not be on the Internet. I’m pretty sure that the next generation, or the next punk attitude will be not being some kind of Internet freak, but instead finding something else. I think we’re in a very ambiguous situation. When you have fantastic tools such as web TV, digital radio, YouTube and iTunes type of systems – they are not THE answer, but they do enable you to stay in contact with your fans. In my opinion what Radiohead did with the download of their album for whatever price you chose wasn’t that positive for music. I think it’s something very dangerous, it wasn’t necessarily fair on young artists. When you’re a band the size of Radiohead you can afford to do that, but for new artists these days it’s very, very difficult.
Keep making music fun for you
I think that’s very important. I think that the reason why we should all try to stand up a little more for record companies nowadays. Even if times are difficult moneywise and in a business sense, then I think the dimension of having fun while you create your music is absolutely fundamental. I think not closing yourself into habits is essential. It’s also a matter of character in the individual – because you know there are people in their twenties who are thinking like fascists in a sense or ‘reactionaries’, and you have artists at the end of their lives who are acting like children. I think that any artist’s aim should be a balance between innocence and ambition. And I think that maintaining that type of innocence is very hard to do.
Don’t lose yourself
You should always remember who you are. No matter whatever the critics say to you, believe in yourself and what you want to do. Recognise at the earliest stage that as an artist you are always doing the same thing. Even if you make every album different, when you take a step back you’ll realise that you’re making the same thing just from a different angle. I think that the earlier an artist realises that then the better they can evolve within their world or universe.
The full version of this article appears in Issue 26 of Clash.