In 1969, with the Vietnam War raging and World War II still visible in the rear-view mirror, John Lennon and Yoko Ono devised a plan for an avant-garde, peaceful protest. The now-infamous Bed-In for Peace was widely panned and mocked by stiff-collar types, but Lennon and Ono's premise was actually pretty simple: In the age of modern advertising, peace itself should be creatively advertised, and people who occupy themselves with making art will consequently be too busy to make war.
It all seems quaint now, but with tensions rising around the world once again under President Donald Trump's unpredictable watch, Miami record label and fashion house Bribery Corporation hopes art and creativity can give peace a chance once again.
Rostislav Vaynshtok cooked up the idea for Bribery about two years ago, after his own stint in music was derailed by business complications. Some friends suggested Vaynshtok might possess the knack for developing talent. He agreed.
"Honestly, I think some of the most fun I had with my own career was doing the behind-the-scenes stuff," he says. "Obviously, playing out and releasing music was great, seeing people's reactions, but at the same time, when I do that for one of my artists now, I feel kind of like a proud parent."
Lest people dismiss their hippie approach as an underhanded money grab, Bribery Corporation's fashion line offers a chance to donate to groups that align with Vaynshtok, Gonzalez, and Vargas's ideals. In exchange, says Vaynshtok, fans get a tangible reminder of their contribution and a conversation piece.
Proceeds from sales of their "Give America Xans Again" hat, modeled after Trump's "Make America Great Again" trucker cap, will go to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, NPR, and the National Alliance for Mental Illness. Vaynshtok says the Xanax shout-out is meant to be a comical nod to the mental duress many Americans have experienced in the first few months since the inauguration.
The Bribery Corporation label is also spearheaded by Maciel Vargas and Luzalma Gonzalez. Vaynshtok is proud to note that Bribery is one-third female and 100 percent minority-owned. Vargas and Gonzalez are Dominican and Puerto Rican, respectively, and Vaynshtok came to the States as a child on a refugee visa after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Bribery Corporation has partnered with BitTorrent, the file-sharing site, which will host and distribute the label's quarterly song compilations for free, requiring only an email address. The first compilation, featuring songs from Mystvries, ROOMS, and Ascendants, was released late last month.
The compilations will also be available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music, but Vaynshtok and company aren't too keen on streaming — they prefer offering free downloads to fans. Considering the state of the music business, they believe the newer model ultimately makes better sense.
"If you give people something awesome for free, they're going to run around and tell their friends. Getting a million downloads is better than getting 100,000 sales," Vaynshtok says. "Those million people have a potential to go on and buy the record or buy merch or see the artist when they go on tour."
For now, Vaynshtok views creative endeavors like those of Bribery Corporation as small but integral parts of the resistance.
"I think a lot of creators are the opposite of hateful," he says. "I think to be creative, you've got to have an open mind and an open heart. Music has always been a response to tough times. I think that music will always be the best rebellion."
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