Artistic credibility is ultimately a question of control and transcendence, harder to effect in this Internet age. Now the arbiters of credibility are not the musicians themselves, the competition is less between artists for creative leapfrogging, but between record labels for commercial gain. Back in the ‘60s, if you knew the blues and could get a residency at the Marquee Club, that’s all you needed. Now the industry is so bloated, and artistic relevance so convoluted that making the connection is much harder, often nigh-on impossible. The Arctic Monkeys phenomenon was more down to the fortunate fusion of technology with enthusiasm than a conscious effort to define artistic credibility.Controlling influence and preventing it overriding the musician’s natural creativity is the harder skill. Rock and roll, and latterly rap and hip hop, has always been a way of vocalising power, of representing the psychology of control in a musical language. Rock and roll and blues was an illusory expression of looseness, a freedom within a tight musical structure. Artistic credibility is about sustaining this link between freedom and control, a job harder now as the line between performer and audience is constantly influenced by other parties.This question of artistic credibility also now faces the inevitable problem of an ever-widening cliff-face of influences. Back in the early ‘60s, if you were cool it was blues you were listening to, along with rock and roll. This made the performer-audience link easier to establish and maintain because their reference points were the same, to the extent that riffs and sequences were swapped and appropriated between musicians with the audience in full collusion and agreement. This created an interlocking framework of musical matrices, where the aural link was clear, cool and elite. Modern pop/rock music has so many contrasting influences that the heady whiff of the past confuses the music. This leads us to the final point about artistic credibility: it only matters if the audience are aware of the reference points the performer is using. If they are not, the comparisons are pointless and irrelevant, a sobering point for Jerry as he dusts down his promo-only copy of Marquee Moon. But this in itself is the outstretched arm between performer and audience and has its roots in the power concept. Knowing the reference point gives you, the listener, power both to feel involved with the band and the extra sense of belonging that community gives the individual. Jerry might have been in love with his bands, but what he really digs is the power the music itself abstractly represents, the power it gives him as a member of an elite, knowledgeable collective, and the power of identification with another individual, which is, after all, what the truly artistic performer needs and what the audience wants and will pay for. Artistic credibility: it’s just the redistribution of power. by Ann CoatsThere used to be an old record shop down the street where I live. A guy called Jerry owned the place. Drainpipe threads, grey highlighted hair slicked back into a rat’s tail, wizened face, a few days’ patchy stubble, black T-shirt under genuinely faded denim. Jerry loved his music. He had all the vinyl in plastic sleeves, lovingly labelled with a C to A quality system. Blues, jazz, rock, metal, hip hop – all were there in neat rows. Sure, the records were dusty, stained and smelt like a rolled-up rug in an attic, but Jerry and his shop were cool, back in the days when cool was easy, right down to the ancient gig posters on the wall, the slightly sticky floor, and the VHS tapes of long-lost bands lining the wall. He’s gone now, but Jerry was the pall-bearer for a long-lost purity of faith. His rock-fan routine was in no way affected, the grooves in his records were scratched through excess of playing, not carelessness. His was a deep sense of admiration, of constancy, loyalty. Every note on his tattered copy of Live/Dead he’d studied and assimilated. Jerry was a fan and a mythmaker, the cause and effect of rock and roll culture. He was as much of an artist as the musicians he listened to; his own arbiter of taste. He had the whole artistic credibility gig down to a T. He wasn’t talking about revolution, it was always love, power and loyalty, and whether these truths are enough. Sure, Oasis love The Beatles, sure the Stones loved Muddy Waters, but what does that actually mean? Loyalty is too often equated with hagiography. Jerry deified his heroes, because he felt, through the private aural experience of listening to a record, that they spoke to him. Like reading books that effect a mood or an atmosphere, the best records create an alternative culture or universe, where everything within that space relates to everything else. The individual becomes involved inside this sphere and this creates the illusion of empathy, in turn powerful enough to give birth to emulation.This in itself is an inevitable issue, a crisis of influence, that only the best artists can transcend. Back before the press and the critical circle that grew up around the music industry, artists wanted to please other artists. Record labels knew their returns weren’t going to be massive, so their investments weren’t so great. The machinery of TV marketing, magazine placement and music videos didn’t feature. The oft-spat at multinational record companies with their ‘tyranny’ of artistic control is actually a salute to the potential for music to reach Everyman in a way that other art forms have really been unable to do. Music is the ultimate combination of the private and the public experience and changes accordingly. It’s something to enjoy in the comfort of a room as well as in a large, unpleasant venue with thousands of others. No other art form really comes close to the objective power that represents.