An hour-long conversation and thousands of words exchanged between us, these simple few still hang on my mind days after sitting down with Moby. Here I ruminate on how the meaning of a term like ‘public capacity’ can shift over the course of a single career and how it may come to affect the artistic integrity of an entire industry.
How were such phrases like ‘artistic integrity’ and ‘public capacity’ back when Moby first cut his teeth and gained initial success different than what it is now? Because back then, Moby would anxiously hustle down the street to see how the latest print magazine deemed his own artistic integrity and authenticity.
Compare that to the reality where similar critiques are mere inches away behind the black mirrors of our phones and laptops. Compulsory or not, any artists at a similar stage today would consider Moby’s era a luxury; to have no other option than to keep your addiction to public perception tucked away behind the counter of a news kiosk blocks away from your apartment. Moby, while doing his best to not sound like an ‘old-cranky-guy,’ will be the first to admit this as well.
But admissions and tact aside, the reality is that artistic integrity cannot NOT be compromised when creatives are forced to live in the shadow of public perception.
The landscape, and thus the definition of ‘public capacity,’ turned on its head the moment online media took precedent over print. It was roughly fifteen years ago this new wave of media began to rear its ugly head, forcing Moby to the front lines of lambastation as the anonymous world tested the waters in what was truly possible in this new frontier.
The hive mind of media, social to be specific, has spent the last decade and a half honing these knives to scalpel precision. Nobody knows this better than creatives trying to make a name for themselves in today’s world; a world whose metric for success is engagement, visibility, and any form of clout ( in a public-capacity of course).
Making lessons Moby learned years ago more salient than ever to today’s artists…
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Which leads us to the through-line of this entire conversation – the compromise of artistic integrity.
Much of the modern music industry runs on fear. Fear your single will flop or when you push on a boundary it will recoil you to the ground to the raucous thunder of anonymous laughter (for after-all, everything is done in a public capacity).
And Moby is far from the only artist to take this view on social media.
Though while he admitted in the first minutes of our conversation together that there were no specific stars that aligned to create this moment, it’s hard to ignore this contempt is the likely catalyst for Moby to launch his new record label, Always Centered At Night.
To ensure the artistic integrity remains the focus of the imprint, Moby takes a hands-on role with everything except the A&Ring of the music released; instead letting the art, and the value therein, speak for itself. Perhaps he’s just being coy when Moby admits he doesn’t think he’s doing anything revolutionary by taking this approach to releasing music, but in a world where the draw of labels forces many artists to adapt their sound to get signed, I think Moby’s vision makes all the difference.