The buzzing of the microphone spread its voice throughout the coffeehouse, where footsteps attacked the floor and conversation littered itself amongst both active and dead ears. The quiet aura of Janita, the self proclaimed “genreless” musician who was gracing St. John’s University with her presence, mellowed those who spoke to her; the most prideful of minds lessened themselves to a whisper when engaging in conversation with her. Sipping her Starbucks coffee, the blue pools in her eyes wandered across the room and splashed themselves on any source of movement.
The man across from her, Blake Morgan, was vibrant, thriving within his own character and exuding energy from his facial expressions. Also a recording artist, he founded ECR Music Group, which advocates for the royalties and privileges of its signees. The ends of his lips touched the top of his cheeks as he spoke his words to Janita while downing his treats from Starbucks. Slouched flannels and ruffled jeans began walking through the curtains of the coffeehouse at varying paces, some brisk and unusually impatient, others perfunctory in their movement, and searching through the tables and chairs for places to be seated. When seated, many robotically took out their phones then quickly sheathed them, subsequently setting their visions onto the front of the stage where the two people of interest were rotating their eyes across the entire room, picking on the pieces of the room like a broken couch.
Shortly after her brief introduction, Janita walked to the microphone with a slight hunch in her jet black blazer, with her neck poking slightly out of the buttoned collar of her white shirt. Her first sentence was seven words long; yet encompassed the landscape she would be speaking about for the next 15 minutes:
“I’m Janita and I’m a recording artist.”
“Meet The Artist” is an event where the musician talks about themselves and their artistry. Janita’s twist was saying that she’d only become an artist six years ago despite being a celebrity since 13 years old. She was being molded under a different image, ironically molded to be an “artist.”
Her speech touched upon her molder’s definition of artistry, which lacked genuine passion, and her definition; a spiritual movement where she discovered what defined her and how her music reflected her newfound personality.
Janita ultimately took the concept of “Meet The Artist” and transformed it entirely: What is an artist?
“Being an artist is about having a vision. But however sharp your vision, there’s no way to make money,” she preached to the audience. In an industry where passion is assigned a dollar sign, it’s very easy to get caught up in the convoluted struggles of individualism when your very essence is scrutinized and constantly pressured to change.
Blake Morgan, the smiling man eating his Starbucks snacks, referred to themselves as “Middle class artists: we don’t tend bar; we’re also not Beyonce and Justin Timberlake.” He began to talk about a series of events involving run-ins with the industry, where the price placed on artists and their content is constantly in question.
An email exchange with the internet radio application, Pandora, and their CEO outlined the pricetag and the desire to minimize the payment of artists to an extremely small amount. “We can’t pay you because it will crush innovation.”
Janita further remarked about her disappointment by telling the audience about her reduced income after traveling from
Finland and becoming a United States citizen. As a result of a law involving the
relinquishing of revenue incurred by artists’ music playing on the radio, she ended up losing “one-third of her income.”
The way she and Blake Morgan have conducted their musical and personal careers has been a testament to the passionate minds involved in the music industry, and the drive to further pave the way for musicians.
The “I Respect Music” movement has made waves over the world, uniting those who love music and would wish to see the best for the artists involved.
The road to equality in the eyes of the industry is a very dangerous and precarious path to take.
“When you have everything to lose, you have nothing to lose,” Janita says.