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An AAJ Interview with Steven Joerg of AUM Fidelity

By Published: March 1, 2004
AAJ: If you could change one aspect of the recording industry at large, what would it be?

SJ: It would be very nice to have the role model status of Kid Rock and William Parker be directly inverted.

The recording industry at large? In general, reducing the occurrence of ignorance meshed with arrogance, the combination of which—as in the world at large, gives rise to some of the greatest evils. For example, when it comes to the old chicken vs. the egg conundrum, there is a rampant belief in many sectors of the industry that the farmer came first.

AAJ: Do you think that digital recording technology has made it easier for independent recording labels to be founded and to continue to operate? Why or why not?

SJ: It's ease of availability and portability has made it quite a bit more economically feasible to make very good quality recordings. Founding and continuing to operate a viable recording label is based on many variables.

AAJ: Do you feel that the continued growth of the Internet is making it easier for independent recording labels to be founded and to continue to operate? Why or why not?

SJ: Well, it provides another forum for potential communication, and if one is savvy about utilizing this forum, then it can definitely help.

AAJ: What have been the best and worst aspects of the Internet for AUM Fidelity? Please elaborate.

SJ: Best is common for small business: e.mail saves on long-distance phone/fax bills, and my bulk e.list is the best possible way to keep a lot of folks up to date with AUM news via the click of one button (you can be added by sending a simple request to

Worst: as I have yet to upgrade to DSL or cable, I abhor molasses slow web-browsing, and ever since my local service provider was purchased by a national corporation, the quality of service has gone way down. I'm in the process of adjusting this right now.

AAJ: How do you anticipate that the availability of economical high speed Internet access is going to change the music industry? Is it evolution or revolution? Or merely big business hype?

SJ: Widespread availability of economical and efficient high-speed Internet access? Well, I feel it will still be quite some time before every potential record buyer has ready access.

I believe that IF or when album downloads via the internet become widespread enough that brick 'n' mortar record stores start readily dropping because of this, it would or will be a devolutionary step for humanity by taking out yet more interaction with a literal public space.

Regarding the ease of copying digitized information (piracy in a post-copyright age), and how it currently affects and will/may continue to affect revenue for artists and record labels both (depending, right? )...I would direct all fans of music to this article:

Virtual Tip Jar or Charity Case?: Asking Artists to Take It Up The ARS by Jenny Toomey and Kristin Thomson, archived at

AAJ: What do you think are the greatest artistic and business challenges (problems and/or opportunities) for AUM Fidelity as it heads into the year 2001 and beyond?

SJ: The same challenges exist as ever in the attempt to increase the exposure for these artists, and develop healthy relationships with distributors the world over. The very limited niche that "jazz" has in the music marketplace also has a very narrow and very short staircase attached. It remains a massive challenge to create bridges to new audiences with all the false constructs that exist around "jazz."

Me, I appreciate Jazz as a distinctly Afro-American means of expression. It is a language that has been continuously updated and advanced through the work of truly original voices throughout this century, in order to retain a direct relevance to the present day.

One of the major problems has been the fact that the 'Jazz Industry' is a death industry—box sets as relative coffins—which automatically relegates jazz to the past. Thereby, it has principally ignored—for decades and decades—the lifeblood of invention that pulses and sometimes pours forth (like now, for instance). So, to the music-consuming public at large, it is presented as a music that is not new, that is not 'happening.' It has remained solely up to independent entities—artists, labels, writers, presenters—with our relatively negligible financial resources, to bring the present evolutionary state of the music into the light. To bring this "rather intensely beautiful new soul music" closer to the fore. Gosh, this all sounds rather familiar, don't it? Oh yeah, then there is the racism which remains so prevalent.

Creatively, I'm blessed with having a positive working relationship with artists who remain in peak form—artists who inherently retain a deep sensitivity to the changes taking place in the natural and unnatural worlds today.

AAJ: Aside from AUM Fidelity recordings, what would be on your Top 10 Desert Island Discs?

SJ: Well then, expanding your caveat—I won't list the work of any of the artists who I know, and whose work I love, which appears on other labels like No More, Eremite, Hat Art, OkkaDisc or in one highly distinct instance, Omnitone.

Actually, thinking about it, I'd choose to either take my whole collection or drown on the way there, or actually, no, I'd prefer to take along a set of tools in order to build my own instruments on the island.

Well alright, I'll play along. If I were to suddenly be banished this week, I'd bring the following:

  • LE TIGRE / s.t.a. (their wondrously ROCK'ng debut)
  • FELA / Box Set #1 (fefe naa efe, to all you gentlemen out there)
  • The SHRIMP BOAT tapes (the album isn't out on AUM yet, and I've still got a couple hundred hours of listening to do.)
  • EPMD / (the 90m mix tape I made a couple years ago...Brooklyn roots music, yunno)
  • DUKE ELLINGTON / The Far East Suite
  • REAL: The Tom T. Hall Project / (one of the best artist 'tributes'...ah, it's the songs just can't be killed)

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