Gilberto Gil and the creative economy

So the Guardian interviews the Brazilian minister of culture, who is none other than that hero of latin jazz Gilberto Gil and he has no problems relishing the hippy legacy “when you ask him about his intellectual influences, he cites Timothy Leary. “Oh, yeah!” Gil says happily, rocking back in his chair at the Royal Society of the Arts in London. “For example, all those guys at Silicon Valley – they’re all coming basically from the psychedelic culture, you know? The brain-expanding processes of the crystal had a lot to do with the internet.”
I have never quite put it all together like that, but he’s so right, after all Silicon Valley is just down the road from Grateful Dead Country, Haight Ashbery and all that is still a roach hanging off the lips of every uber-geek – of course the technology is the ultimate hallucination. No wonder we have such difficulty explaining what any of it means. I mean take David Hornik’s most recent valiant efforts to get anyone, anyone at all, to explain what Web 2.0 actually means – zip, nadda, a puff of weed on the breeze, brother. Toni Schneider name checked Yahoo – berlimey Toni! And the best quote from David’s podcast is the guy who says “It’s just like web 1.0 only the funding rounds are smaller”.

At lunchtime I met with my old friend Horace Truebridge who is now something terribly important at the Musicians Union. He told me at great length how frustrating the UK government’s current position was because on the one hand they were looking to tax musicians’ earnings as a self-employed entrepreneurs and on the other hand they were trying to ban the Union from collective bargaining on the basis that it is monopolistic in some way. In the end what we both agreed on was that there is no model for the Creative Economy. UK Plc apparently believes that with manufacturing industry vanished and service businesses disappearing from the fair old sceptred isle, it is the Creative Economy that is going to become the UK’s defining characteristic. And this is, allegedly, because we have such fabulously bolshy musicians who create magic sounds that are just not to be found anywhere else in such deliciously creative form.

Then this evening, Sarah brought Professor Angela McRobbie round for a quick glass of wine and we had a smilar discussion about the paucity of any provision for small businesses or entrepreneurs who want to develop creative ideas in this country. There are lots of artists who get hand outs, there are even a smattering of small companies who survive through one grant application after another, but the reality is there is no model in the UK right now for a creative economy – just more forms of patronage, state, church, etc Plus ca change, etc.

So how does that connect with Gilberto Gil? Well he is really pressing the Brazilians into a different kind of creative economy – apparently. He is also directly attacking notions of intellectual property. He is way more radical than our good creative commons friend Laurence Lessig. Gil explains: “Pharmaceutical companies selling patented Aids drugs, for example, were informed that Brazil would simply ignore their claims to ownership and copy their products more cheaply if they didn’t offer deep discounts. (The discounts were forthcoming.) Gil himself has thrown his weight behind new forms of copyright law, enabling musicians to incorporate parts of others’ work in their own. And in one small development that none the less sums up the mood, the left-wing administration of President Luiz Inacio da Silva, or “Lula”, has announced that all ministries will stop using Microsoft Windows on their office computers. Instead of paying through the nose for Microsoft operating licences, while millions of Brazilians live in poverty, the government will use open-source software, collaboratively designed by programmers worldwide and owned by no one.”

Now that is really challenging everything that the US and UK economies are based on…

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