What is a recording artist? what makes an artist an artist?


I’ve never really had to ponder these things in the past because I have always just followed my passion in music without regard for the trend of the moment being so in bedded in the uk underground music scene i have been pushing music forward in ways that might not be the normal expected sound of the moment and that said I would never presume to have invented anything or any style but i’m pretty sure I have been influential in moving things along in the uk dance music scene but that’s not a fact its just how I see it and your welcome to think otherwise, but recently with my new and very difficult set of albums  i’m questioning what exactly i’m supposed to be and to who?

Putting my name on music and I’m  feeling more like an artist than a record producer, especially since recently i’m reading feedback from the self professed movers and shakers in radio and press who question where I am with what i’m doing , i’m getting feedback like “this is not in one style?” or “its all a bit too varied” and for the acid dubs album comments like “its interesting to listen to but will people get it “ or “it sounds very old skool”

I read these things and wonder how if i’m a creative artist I can truly be creative without being stamped on with comments that want to place me in one style rather than just take the trip for what it is meant to be, comments like it sounds a bit 90’s on an acid house albums is like saying every morning the sun will rise (like der?)

My intention in my music will always be misunderstood I supposed because too many people want one thing and nothing different as an artist its not my intention to follow the trend of the day just to be in and trendy,

I know my ability to make music is varied and those that know me know i’m able to match up to anything right now that’s being made but as an artist i’m trying to be different and break out from the normal expected sound of now and i’m trying to mix up old and new and not be categorised as one style, to me being an artist is all these things and anything less is a compromise and blatantly designed for the masses and the reviewers to just keep with the current flow (if you fit your cool).

I suppose that’s why I never used to put my name on tracks as being told the stuff is rubbish or doesn’t fit by someone who has not skills in making music them selves but has the power to diss you in print is very painful its like people can totally not understand what your doing but tell everyone its rubbish and you have no means to respond.

I realise that’s one of the reasons I have all my life just put the music out and let it work its way up on its own merits, the main stream only want main stream and if you try to give them anything different from what they want they just think its old or wrong or wont work.

Ho hum i’m just ranting but also realising my fears of rejection as an artist are always hard to take and it’s a bit like being bullied but someone you cant fight back against but can turn the hole class against you.

Being an artist is when you stand up and say this is who I am do you like me, I realise having been a ‘record producer all y life’ that why I don’t like being an artist but this is where I am and I will stand up for what I do and hopefully people will take the time to see each album as a journey and not the next lady gag a release, what make what I do special is that I do it with a serious history of success and so i’m not blind in what i’m doing i’m just determined to do it this way. 

It you try to bag and tag this music it you wont get it, you have to want to take the trip for what it is and it is not the next big thing its just an artist being totally unique and pushing things in various ways outside of the obvious norms.

We (artists) are not all of us, commercial robots in the music industry. Put on your raving shoes and unplug your-self from the matrix of bland music that is currently in control of your lives. I cant guarantee you’ll like it but at least you would have understood that this artist is pushing thing in a totally different and unique way to anyone else right now and yes it has an old skool flavour which is intended and being different well, that’s what I have always done its just now I’m so far different that those that are designed to only understand the sound of the moment with that attitude to creative artists your never gonna get this at all, you just have to want to try to understand that its nothing like now but its still underground from the uk and its all totally original. and maybe my nothing like now might trigger off other to make similar experiments and my nothing like now will be come the now..thats was a good artist can do when trying to be different.


Its never been easy being an artist but in today’s world it now both easy and almost totally impossible.


20+ years making music and I look back on what I have done and I understand why others don’t believe its all my work as I have spent all my life covering it all up so well, I could make music like Mac Donald’s makes hamburgers, i’m a music junkie, I live for music in ways I can’t explain but while my music making is my way of breathing its also for me become almost impossible to breath anymore in this new world where music has no value or support.

In the past I could knock up a tune and take it straight to the mastering room (where my mate did the cutting) and get the dub plate cut for cash and within 1 week would have fresh pressed vinyl manufactured by the pressing plant (10 mins up the road from my house) and it would be shipped to my distributor (20 miles up the road) to sell around the world.

This was a great way to just make music and put it out and once I knew the right few people in my chain to retail then I was sorted! it was easy and almost all my time went into making music. I would live in my studio every day only doing only music things that helped my music and the scene I love so much. (uk underground music scene)

For me this was a simple route with no clutter and no distractions all artwork I drew myself all artists were actually me under different names it was a 1 man factory with a global outlet ‘Strictly Underground Records’, I had a handful of friends  (under ten) over my whole life of running Strictly underground they came and went and all stayed friends most of them helping in the studio on various music we made together some were mc’s some were other passionate producers and all got paid for their help which I could structure based on what money was coming in from my record sales.

It was all my music so I had total control of how I could spend the money, which allowed me to build my own little bubble of an underground music scene.

My team of friends was a really tight team of friends all who loved the scene and the vibe like me but maybe only had one great skill and wanted to use that with me on my massive mission.

People used to moan back then on how hard it was to get up the ladder in music and how you needed a deal with an advance to get anywhere and to some extent that was true especially if you were so unique or looking at the main stream industry ,then you needed a lot of promotion for people to get into you and buy into your music vibe.

I built strictly underground up just from the music and the parts that were musically driven (pirate radio/ raves) it was a real scene and it was independent from the world of the music business and the pop culture of music. 

I created my own vibe and life style via my label, parties, and radio and music it was driven by the passion of the UK underground and making money was something that just grew and grew over time and allowed me to grow also with what I was doing (better studio, bigger parties, more pirates radio stations always about the music and the raving ..

My little bubble just got bigger and bigger but to me it was still a totally ‘non music biz’ bubble and everyone in it was passionate about the scene and the vibe we created.

NOW all Those things have all been reset.

The Internet and the MP3 has made getting music to the world very easy and with programs that make the music for you just clicking the randomiser button makes you an instant reording artist. 

 It’s very easy to make music and get it spread around the world. So being an artist has never been any easier than it is now and that’s a good thing for people who want to express them selves through music making, but the downside is that now music seems so disposable and worthless. 

 This new way has many drawbacks and now with so much music it’s not easy to make any impact as everything sound and looks the same and nothing really sticks out.

I never made music to be and ‘Artist’ my music was a specific expression and it evolved around a scene which I help to expand and create because my passion to enjoy the music was as important as the music I made which also came from the scene i loved.

I had a bubble that was the UK Underground Dance Music scene but I don’t see any scene’s growing in the real world or any serious cultural niche’s anymore there are some but its not like before, its all just music and its very disposable to people, its good that more people like more music but no one seems to be passionate about any music now. 

So how do I create a following and captivate an audience to get them into what I’m doing and how can I be different and standout as more than just a 5min track that’s just like every other 5 min track out there?

I have had to start again right from the beginning almost re-running my life all over again from the first day I made my first ever record and got knocked back by every single distributor and could not get my music plaid on any radio stations or get anyone to promote it.

I’m back at this point like a start up having to find all the new points of contact in this new computer programmed world of music and finding those computer people who can help me on my specific music mission… This i have found is almost impossible. 

I have been Trying to regroup a new network like the one I used to have in the old model of music but this time its not about music lovers its more about programming and computers and money.

My music is now part of a bigger set of tools that are expected with the music in today’s world, I need to program for iTunes LP and that needs videos pictures all sorts of in direct music things. I found that I never needed to create this stuff my bubble in the old days but now, in this new digital virtual world of music I need to create a scene for my music with all these different tools.

My new world distributor is Apple inc.  and that contact alone took 5 years to get locked down, they are like the secret service when it comes to communications (at least I could call my old distributor and tell him my plans and see how it would or if fit with his network), yeah I know i’m an ant in the scheme of Apple but that’s the problem and what makes being an artist now almost impossible beyond just releasing stuff blindly. 

As small as I am I still have to jump though the same hoops as the major record companies  (like I did in the past) but the challenges now are not as easy as finding the mastering room and pressing plant  

Its now all about finding the right programmers and designers and all things computers and very tons of other non-music but also very specialised technically challenging and mind bending things that a normal artist would never know (me included) .

These people in the know are extremely hard to find and also very very expensive to use (if they have the time to even deal with you) 

Making my underground music compete in this new worlds is now almost impossible unless you have bags of money. In the past my record could sit next to the major releases because they we both records (vinyl or cd) and both had gone to the retailer who decided what to rack up.

As much as my music was an underground style it could still site with the most commercial release that week if the retailer liked the product and knew it had a market that wanted it.

Now you need serious money just to get to the product stage (its no longer a record it’s a specialized file format)
Yes I know anyone can upload an mp3 release and it’s for sale but what’s the point in being the billionth release that week if no one knows? and single MP3? that’s not my format I want to sell a ‘trip’ an ‘adventure’ a ‘scene’ and ‘escape’ i’m making albums not 5min tracks




ITLP the format that’s could release me or ruin me in my plans to stand up again

You need now more than ever all the computer geeks to make your product rich in content and special, even deserving to be shown and seen and I’m not afraid to make, grow and improve.

I have spent the last 5 years doing just that on this new set of six albums that are a massive journey incorporating all the new media parts, but its been so hard and costly and the music is just one part in this new media format

I have to play this game like its going to me a massively popular major release just so I can stand out from the crowd.
That might not sound like a bad thing but remember these programmer designers and stuff are really expensive and that’s if you can even find a good one.

 I’m all for competition but when the door (to iTunes lp) is so small and almost always closed its not really a fair game trying to get in and the entrance fee is so ridiculously steep

As much as I’m potentially accessible around the world i’m also now locked out from having the chance to compete side by side with the big companies like I could before. I’m frustrated by ITLP (iTunes LP) because its the format I want to use but its so expensive to get anything done on this format!
I feel locked out and the challenges are daily for me on all levels of this new media world because i’m doing almost everything myself and the only thing i’m building up is a nice fat dept mountain in this process.

I have found people who can offer some help here and there and those I currently have are the bomb for what they do for me and while also realising I don’t have a money tree in my garden im just getting by so far..

This is so much like when I first started Strictly Underground, it was always driven by passion and determination to succeed and the debts to pay were just as high for an unemployed youth back then
But now 20years on with a family to feed and still my mission to complete I wish I could say it was easier or even the same but its now almost impossible as the challenges now are enormous and even if you had money you might not find the right people to fit with Apples strict and secretive rules of acceptance for your product.

Its not easy anymore to be a serious indpendent artist unless you have all these things in place and it all costs a ton of cash, Yes I can still do underground but if there is no underground scene how can I plug in?

Now like in the old days I have to start again and try and create a scene but without spending thousands and losing my house and sanity

I suppose what frustrates me the most is not the challenge because I believe in what i’m doing. It’s really the fact that most of the challenges have nothing to do with the music but more about the programming and Apple geekness.
My music and plan was done ages ago but i’m still trying to get it ported to this very expensive and frustrating media so it will work right and this is not the same as smelling the vinyl I made and selling it to the shops or making posters for a little rave and handing out flyers to clubbers, as you could feel the excitement and passion in doing all those things.

Now its just computer code and huge bills to pay all held together by my 18-hour days I spend in front of the computer for the last how many years?..where did the music and enjoyment go?.

 (To those who are now thinking ‘that’s life shut up and get on with it’ I would agree with you I don’t blog to always make points I sometimes blog because i’m so frustrated and need to reference my own thoughts later on and right now i’m trapped and just thinking out what’s been happening and what’s changed.I know there will be loads of other artist who also need to get their music out but find its behind a list of computer things that have to be done first.)

And dont get me started about release date and all the pirating on my music thats another whole worrie on if i can keep going..

Get educated before posting homer style comments about the music Industry


Please take the time to understand the technologies you complain about

There seems to be awash of people that remind me of the woman who sues mc Donald’s because the coffee was hot and it was not written on the cup. DOH!

Why do people think that buying a cd gives then the right to do what they want with the music on it?

Its like a homer comments like this

“I bought a television why do I have to pay for certain channels”

So many People are the real life homer Simpson being so very ignorant with their comments

Homers SUPER Dumb comment.

“I bough a cd so I can do what I want with it?”

Answer (for homer Simpson) Music is not a cd; a cd is a piece of material that holds data the data is the music (if it’s a music cd). 

Music is separate from the cd as a “different product” which has its own rights and limitation and it is put on the cd to create an enjoyable format experience for the user. Its sold at a price determined by the owner of the music cd, and that price YOU PAY to buy the CD is not the price to OWN the MUISC, YOU ONLY OWN THE CD with specific rights on using the MUSIC on it (THEY ARE DIFFERENT THINGS with Different rights and use)

You never BUY and OWN the songs because if you did OWN the song, then no one else could OWN it also could they?

When you buy a car you only own the car you buy not everyone else’s exact same cars on the road, imagine that all the different people that travel in the car like your friend are the media (songs) you don’t own them because they are in your car? a car can carry all types of passengers (music) but you don’t own those passengers you maybe have an understanding to drop them off somewhere (AGREEMENT) but you don’t ever own them.

Music is just the passenger and the cd is the car.

So for the cd we actually call it a ‘FORMAT’ (cd) but there are many FORMATS music can travel in and you only bought one format (your car/the CD) you don’t have a right to take others cars because they are newer (like a Ferrari might be a newer format but if you want a farer you have to buy it).

If you want a new car you have to buy a new car and the same is for the many different formats that hold music it might be the same music but it’s a new upgrade and like the new car you upgrade also “your new format will still play the same music but  now its a different and hopefully improved way to enjoy it ” 

Your new car will still have four wheels and you music might still be the same but they are actually totally different to your old car and music format.

And why do you want to change your CAR or FORMAT. You want a better more convenient experience

I know this is still too much for the homers Simpsons to understand but maybe something will get though 

You have ALWAYS had the enjoyment of the songs on the FORMAT you choose to buy it on

You don’t have to buy a new improved format unless you want to upgrade to more connivence and hopefully better sound. 

ANY FORMAT You have not bought you do not own! … and you never own the music on any format it comes in. 

Nor do you have the automatic right to automatically upgrade to any new format

Just like the new upgrade or the model of car you only just bought, you don’t have an automatic right to upgrade your car for free because you had the older model. 

If you “FORMAT convert” any music without buying the new format that would be like going into the car garage and just taking the new car model because you bought the old model. STEALING!!!

When you change the ‘format’ you have changed the product into a new product and you DO NOT had the right to do this BY LAW since THE BEGINNING OF TIME

You might think the music is unchanged but it is changed its a new more convent format if you want to buy it, as its now an MP3 and it might have gone though tons of UPGRADES and re-mastering in the processing thats beyond your comprehension because you can just click a button to change its format and so you think it’s not changed at all.

But it is CHANGED and its DIFFERENT I personally know how hard changing music to mp3 can be while still make it sound amazing

i’m spending thousands re-mastering my music for digital and I know the song might be the same song but the format and work has been costly for me to implement and i’m doing it to make the experience better. And people who want to upgrade do so to make their experience better also otherwise just stick with what you bought on CD.

The only thing that never changes are those ignorant homer Simpsons people who actually think when they by a cd they OWN the songs BUT YOU DON’T and now with so many ways to change the format with a click of the button they assume WRONGLY that if they own the songs then they can do what they want with it.

These people’s brains work like homer Simpson (simplistic to stupidity) 

People now days don’t understand how things work they just turn them on and try to act like they understand all that’s involved in making that image appear on their television or that music come out of their computer, but most people just stand on the shoulders of greatness and then spewing out trot with no real understanding of these things (thats homer for sure)

Too many people assume too much then try to make logic out of the little they think they know.

So to recap for the homer Simpsons out there

A cd is a format like an LP or an mp3 they are all different they are made of different materials and they actually have nothing in common with each other apart from that they can contain MUSIC.

If you buy any FORMAT you’re paying for that FORMAT and what ever is on it is not owned exclusively by you but forms part of the FORMAT you bought and you can enjoy it in the format you bought it

Just like that square television you know you want the new widescreen high def version but you’re going to have to buy that new television  to get that quality and yes you will be watching the exact same re run shows but now in high definition, yes it’s the same programmes just a different format to experience it on but you don’t have to buy you can stay with the square box.

You must understand that the law is against you on this! So you cannot be right no matter how stupid you are. 

You cannot change the product into a different product /format (FORMAT CONVERTION) because you don’t have the legal rights to the music BUT you CAN make the cd in to drinks coaster and the vinyl into a Mexican hat.  Or that old square TV into a fish tank those things you can do (if you have any knowledge on how)

The music is never yours to do anything you can dream of its there to be enjoyed it the FORMAT you paid to enjoy it on

If your cd gets damaged you have to buy another just the same as if you want to upgrade your enjoyment to a new format you have to buy that new format

This has been the LAW since pretty much the beginning of music making its nothing new its just there are too many ignorant homer Simpsons out there that cannot work it all out, they just see music and think all the other media somehow makes it all one thing and they think that once bought that they own the music. DOH!

Nothing has changed only new FORMATS have arrived and more ignorant Homer types don’t understand the different parts involved that goes into creating the one product they buy to enjoy.

For those other homers who say they bough the cd so then they claim have fair use to convert it you should know

If you buy a cd, covert it to an mp3 (its actually still illegalbut there has to be some degree of fairness hence the ‘fair use argument)but after you convert your paid format you throw away the cd what then? You no longer have any means to defend your fair use rights

How can you claim ‘Fair Use’ because you never purchased the mp3 (new format) and you don’t even own the original CD (DIFFERENT FORMAT)?You have simply converted copy write music into a new format (without the owners permission) their cannot be a fair use because you don’t OWN the CD anymore and claiming you used to own the cd just means you had a CD once (different format) it has no defence to why you now have an MP3!

You never purchased the music in this mp3 format and you don’t have the music in another purchased format so now all you have is a stolen copy of the music you never legally bough and you don’t own in any other legally purchased format 

 You cannot trade up without the fee just like you cannot trade up VHS video to DVD for free but you can decide to stick with the format you choose to buy weather it be VHS video or Vinyl record because those are yours if you bought them, but new formats are not your god give right to own for free.

One final way to look at it (for you homer Simpson types).

You might have bough something from a shop left the shop driven down the road and lost the item then you go back to the shop and take another because you bought the last one from that shop so you think you have a right to another.

Once you leave the shop that item is yours and if you lose it destroy it or anything else you don’t have a right to a replacement you have to buy it again

 If you rip music from a cd while keeping the cd to some people that might be seen as fair use but if you then sell destroy lose the cd then you just have a pirated copy of the cd which is clearly now defined as stolen as any claim to  fair use can only be applied if you can prove you still own the original format (vinyl cd ect)  otherwise you could by a cd rip it (steal the music on it) then sell the cd again you are only left with the stolen (ripped) copies but they ARE now Clearly STOLEN as you don’t own the legal version in any format.

How do you explain to the woman who sued mc Donald’s over the spilt coffee they should understand that hot coffee is hot?  Sadly most music buying and stealing public must be genetically connected to this lady.

People please just educate yourselves on the subject of music and what is legal and what is not and stop winging like a dumb homer Simpsons who have no idea what you’re going on about..

I’m 20 years as an artist i’m totally independent and always have been and I own my music which I have been making since I was 15 years old and I have a right to not have it stolen by ignorant dumb nuts that spew out so much uneducated garbage claiming the high moral ground over record companies and excusing they’re thieving ways anyway they possibly can.

Its time to think about things in a non-homer S way..if you want new media then buy it because you don’t have to but stealing it and pretending you have a right, does not excuse you’re thieving ways..



The Internet providers should stop aiding the thieves and start being responsible for the access they give.


The internet providers would says that its not their job to monitor what traffic passes through their doorway to the world and into people homes but they will happily take that monthly subscription and keep theirs eyes shut.

The customer also is happy to pay that monthly fee and some of them use that doorway to steal things others have created and then share those things to other thieves who want to steal using the Internet

Between them they both think this is how the world should be?

The internet providers say no to filters and anything that might stop illegal activity using their doorway because they say it would be too expensive to monitor and track and as they are not doing the stealing its not their problems.

The customer say no to anything that might get them found out as to what illegal things they are doing and scream civil liberties and right to privacy as a way to scare off any rules on how the internet should be used.

It’s a happy life for both, as one wants the access to steal and the other want the money fee for the access to steal.

Anyway the customer will say it’s the job of the copyright holder to put protection on their work to stop it being stolen 

(No matter what copyright you put on your work someone will take it off) 

They will both argue that everything must be free and open and no restrictions should be put on this cozy set up they both have.

But hold on a min.

One is stealing and the other is providing the tools. In the real world both would be behind bars but because its all done in people houses and in a closed environment they can steal steal steal.

The internet provider is really just like the supplier of the stolen goods as they allow it to be transfer via their systems (like a courier) they know what is illegal an what is not but they don’t want to lose that monthly wage from the customer who won’t like being told not to steal.

If this were in a uk court then normally the supplier (in this case the supplier of the doorway to steal as in the internet provider) would get a longer term behind bars than the thief as without the supplier the thief has no outlet for his stolen trade and with not means to get stolen goods it becomes harder for him to steal and so is less lightly to steal

Internet providers need to run a business that involves not turning blind eye but they know that any form of monitoring for copyrighted material will eat into their nice profits so they complain its not workable

But think about it we are talking about a ring of thieves here crying civil rights and all the good things we want but actually the cause of all the bad things in society.

The Internet providers have to shoulder some of the responsibility for providing paid access to world and they should not allow their service to be used illegally

Because if they allow illegal material to be transmitted without running any form of checks then they are the supplier of the stolen goods and turning a blind eye does not make them innocent of the crime.

Its the nature of the service they provide that makes them different to other real life examples as they are getting paid to provide the transfer of media so they should hold some responsibility that it is not illegal media being transferred.

They are currently the supplier/ courier of the stolen good and the thieves will keep using them because they provide the means to do what they are doing Stealing!

The only solution to curb the abuses taking place online by thieves is to have those supplying the thieves (ISP’s) with laws and rules that make them show they are active responsibly in checking and filtering known copyrighted material and this is not about openness and civil liabilities because we live by laws all the time its what defines us as law abiding   

If you’re honest and innocent then what’s the problem 

We need laws in society and this utopian view on the Internet is rubbish. Just like we want to pedophiles scum off the Internet touting their horrible wares so the thieving community are just a different sort of scum that needs to be caught and stopped and the only person responsible to do this is those supplying the means in the first place (the sip’s).

Mark Ryder 





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Mark Ruff Ryder © Strictly Underground Records Since 1988