The Corporate Hijack of Tattooing

The Corporate Hijack of Tattooing

"I got up feeling so down, I got off being sold out, I've kept the movie rolling, But the story's getting old now, oh yeah".

The Corporate Hijack of Tattooing could well see the tattoo scene feeling the same way as the the character in the above quote. It’s from Outshined off Badmotorfinger by Soundgarden – Just in case you’re wondering. The character in the above lyrics welcomes and revels in his fame and success only to find himself disenchanted by the fakery. And the endless bullshit that comes with the spotlight.
Tattooing started out as an outsider, lowbrow art form. Largely ignored by the mainstream for decades, it grew into a vibrant scene. ‘Going overground’ at the beginning of the 21st century via TV thrust it into the limelight. Because no-one ever expected it’s success to the scale that has been enjoyed everyone enjoyed the new found ‘celebrity’ status. We all “got off being sold out”.

Giving it away

We gave away so much of tattooing for a few cheap toys, some free shit, and social ‘shares’. We’re all starting to realise that the movie is indeed going to keep on rolling. But we’re not in the driving seat. Tattooists are no longer in charge of our industry because, guess what, it isn’t our industry anymore. These days tattooing is owned by manufacturers, merchandise companies, share sites and – in one case – investment bankers. All of whom give not one shit what we think about that.

We could learn from The Music Industry

I often make the comparison – as I see it – between where the music business is and where we could be heading if we’re not careful and I’m going to make it again because the two industries are very similar despite what some may think. Trust me I’ve worked in both and I know what I’m talking about.
The musicians in the music biz sold out to big companies in the 50’s and have been  walking down ‘a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs’ ever since. The Corporate Hijack of Tattooing is very similar to the way record companies took advantage and control back then.

The internet isn’t the answer

When the internet came around musicians saw it as a chance for freedom. Finally a democratic distribution medium that anyone can use without needing a record company. So they heralded it as a new dawn for music in the 21st century but guess what? It wasn’t.
The internet just cheapened music by allowing any ’have a go Harry’ a chance to release his opus ‘lawmower symphonies for the deaf’ using exactly the same tools and distribution medium and the proper musos. This heralded a deluge of noisy wannabes clogging up the channels of the internet. They’re autotuned – ‘drum machine and a keyboard’ racket – drowned out the real music and their ‘softporn’ music videos diverted all the eyeballs. Slowly everyone got used. Now it’s considered pop music when, from a musical point of view. You know, notes and instruments and keys and shit like that?  It’s no more than spoken word poetry. And it’s free.
It has gotten to the point where an entire generation now consider music as free. They can’t understand why anyone would ever pay for it. But no-one gets paid for music anymore, right? No, just not the musicians. A suit is always  making money, somewhere.

Stop The Corporate Hijack of Tattooing

If we don’t drop the anchor soon we’ll be heading to exactly same reef. But is there anything we can do to steer our ship away from the same rocky shoreline? Thankfully, Yes there is.
We haven’t gone nearly that far down the road and control could still be returned to it’s rightful place. But it’ll take those of us who care doing something we’re not very good at.

We have to work together for a common good. Yeah I know, most of the time we can’t even agree about "ink or pigment"! But maybe this is something worth agreeing over, at least if only for a while.

Shift Control Return Power


Is the third studio album by American rock band Soundgarden, released on September 24, 1991, through A&M Records. Soundgarden began the recording sessions for the album with new bassist Ben Shepherd in the spring of 1991. The album maintained the band’s heavy metal sound while featuring an increased focus on songwriting as compared with the band’s previous releases. AllMusic considered the album’s music to be “surprisingly cerebral and arty”; alternative tunings and odd time signatures were present on several of the album’s songs, and lyrics were intended to be ambiguous and create imagery.

The least creative person in the creative industry makes the most profit. Sound familiar?

By exactly the same route as the musicians we sold our secrets and our tools to the lowest bidder and made them available to anyone with a web connection. Now anyone can become a tattooist.
Forget apprenticeships, just get the info off youtube. Buy yourself a load of fake followers on instagram and away you go. Next, cosy up to a load of share sites and get them to pimp you out. Don’t worry about the quality of your work – they haven’t a clue what they’re looking at they’ll just respect you ’cause you have loads of ‘likes’.
Then book your first convention. These days (almost) any convention will have you because they only care about the money. Finally, win an award by rigging the voting. Anyone who has ever judged a show anywhere in the world will tell you how common that is. And bingo! You’re an award winning tattooist!

The Corporate Hijack of Tattooing