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Short Cuts: “What’s it going to leave behind?” Rich Robinson on creation vs service

Rich Robinson, the songwriter behind the Black Crowes and Magpie Salute, offers his thoughts on the line between creativity and commerce

“When you get signed, you have to quickly make a decision: do you want to be an artist or an entertainer?

“Bankers have taken over the music industry. They’ve done it for the last 25 years. These people have zero talent, but they’re the ones telling artists how to make records that sell. That’s all it comes down to, you know? ‘I can make you a lot of money if you do these things: dumb your music down, shorten it…’

Focussing on making money like that turns it into a service industry. It’s like, ‘How do you want your hamburger?’ ‘How do you want your coffee?’

“There has to be a broader scope in creation. And that goes for architecture, film, music, literature. Any kind of creative endeavour.”

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“Instead of the creative element, we have to ask, ‘What’s it for?’ Is it for the sale of a toaster oven? Or is it a little more important than that? I see that it needs to be more important than that. It’s art and creation where people can actually have a friend. A song that you connect with can bring you solace and peace and validation. That’s the ceiling. That’s what everyone wants. That’s what we’re looking for.

“There has to be a broader scope in creation. And that goes for architecture, film, music, literature. Any kind of creative endeavour. What’s it going to leave behind? Is it something that future generations maybe could benefit from? Instead of just cynically writing these bullshit pop hits that no one will fucking care about in 10 years because they’re not saying anything.

“To me, a song like ‘It’s Alright, Ma. I’m Only Bleeding’, which is a Bob Dylan song, is more relevant now than it’s ever been. Look at a Bob Marley song and what he went through in his life and how those songs resonate stronger now than they ever did – and that’s what I’m talking about. That to me is what’s the most important.”

As told to Matt Parker in June 2018.

Rich Robinson (interviewed) and brother Chris, of The Black Crowes
Rich Robinson, pictured left. Credit: Josh Cheuse

Short Cuts is Creative Money’s series of quick tips, tricks and thoughts about saving or making money in the creative industries.

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