Who Killed The Music Industry?

Genesis Live 01An interesting interactive journey through the death of the music industry from Pando Daily:

Since 2000, the amount of revenue created from selling or streaming music in America has been cut in half, from $14.3 billion to $7 billion, according to that most despised trade organization, the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA. And yet listeners have more access to music than ever, and there’s nothing to suggest that demand for music is down.

So what or who is to blame?

Is it Apple’s fault for launching iTunes and forever severing songs from albums? Is it the record executives’ fault who, facing this shift from $17 albums to $0.99 singles, continued to rely on old, byzantine licensing and sales models, even as their industry hemorrhaged money before their eyes? Is Internet piracy to blame, with Napster forever changing the way we find and consume music, and BitTorrent bringing about the record industry’s worst nightmare? What about Internet radio stations? Are the rock-bottom royalty payments the result of corporate greed or government meddling? Do we blame Spotify and other music streaming services for striking opaque, unsustainable deals with record labels? And what about the unchecked proliferation of copyrighted material on YouTube and other platforms?

For this explainer, we looked to identify and unravel the complex network of industry stakeholders — the rightsholders, including performers, songwriters, record labels, publishers, and licensing agencies, all of whom play a part in the process of making music, and all of whom expect a cut of the proceeds. There are the digital music sellers like iTunes and Amazon, which have supplanted brick-and-mortar stores and play by a different set of rules. And finally, the webcasters and streaming services, which struggle to achieve profitability even though they only pay artists fractions of pennies per song per play.

Follow us on a trip through recent music history as we try and figure out how we got here, where we’re headed, and whether today’s industry slump is a disruptive dip or the new normal…

[continues at Pando Daily]

  • http://garagerockpunk.tumblr.com/ drew franklin

    I personally think youtube has hurt musicians. Well, not youtube directly, but the software that allows someone to strip the audio from a video. I know a lot of people that do it on a constant basis. It takes a whopping 20-30 seconds with very little effort.

    • Codgitator

      It’s not very often that I can’t find a particular song on youtube, no matter how new or obscure. However, the rips you get from youtube are generally, discernibly, crap.

  • Hadrian999

    musicians need to take a clue from the porn industry, It takes very little actual physical infrastructure to produce and distribute entertainment content, talent and producers don’t need to support the “industry” any more. the old business model is done.

    • Codgitator

      I think musicians do recognize that the marketing & sales channels have changed and are adapting. However, the equal access channels that are actually effective at reaching the public, and influencing listening, are so inundated and overwhelmed with submissions from every ‘me too’ band, dj, singer, etc. that separating the chaff from the wheat becomes very difficult. Just having the music on blogs, bandcamp, emusic, or otherwise, as a sales & marketing channels doesn’t have the innate ability to connect with masses the way that large scale promotions (ie. paying for airtime, magazine ads, organized tours, etc.) do with larger recording industry companies.

      • Hadrian999

        the cut musicians receive from the traditional arrangement is minuscule, they don’t have to connect to as large an audience when they are the ones keeping a majority of their earnings.

        • Codgitator

          Yes, but most people would rather have a small piece of a big pie, than a big piece of a small pie… especially if they don’t have to do anything beside be ‘a rock star’ to get it. If this wasn’t the case, artists wouldn’t sign with labels.

          • Jonas Planck

            I’m getting really sick of having my consumer choices limited exclusively to what “most people” allegedly “want.”
            …And I am not alone in this.

          • Codgitator

            Not sure what you’re referring to. As far as music and media is concerned, there are more consumer choices now than ever before in history.

          • Jonas Planck

            That is precisely what the industry is complaining about. It’s why they keep attempting to push legislation filled with loopholes that will allow them to censor competition. They want to return to a time when they (or rather, their investors) got to decide what gets promoted and what gets tossed aside. The corrupting glut of “reality” TV shows is a symptom of this… That they promote the false idea that success is the reward for rotten, selfish, immature behavior, and the ultimate damage that it does to society, is of no concern to them, since their “hands are tied” by “what people want.” That many people do NOT want it is of no concern, either. In the same way comic books gradually phased out all genres except for superheroes in tights, television decided to appeal only to the largest demographic possible, which squeezed out everything that wasn’t derivative of what the marketing department decided was popular. The resistance to this was spearheaded by the consumers themselves, because it turns out, the marketing department was WRONG. And now that we have the technology to circumvent the “authority” of the media companies, we do so, because we don’t like being TOLD what we’re supposed to like. Investors fear risks, but without risk there is no innovation. As a result, creative success cannot be engineered artificially in the same way it once was.

    • Calypso_1

      note to self: teen facial next live show.

    • The Well Dressed Man

      This is happening to some extent, but in the mainstream, music just isn’t the money shot it used to be. It’s background noise, what you hear while you’re looking at something. People go to clubs and shows to be seen. Everybody is watching the stage through their smartphone camera. Getting your song into an Apple or Volkswagon commercial is the new Billboard Top 40.

  • Anarchy Pony
  • flipdog

    Major labels also have themselves to blame regarding their demand for instant return on investment of artists, which pushes artists to make music that’s more likely to sell rather than that which they may in their heart of hearts want to make, and also means everyhting gets paraded before marketeres and A&R people, all making sure it ‘presses the right buttons.’ Therefore, mainstream music is about as useful as the mainstream media.

    I laugh at the woes of the major music labels. if you want real music, go and look around the underground. start off at Bandcamp.

    • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

      Survival of the Fittest in all scales…

  • Rus Archer

    add to it the lowered expectations/musical vocabularies of the majority of the audience AND the musicians
    and the fact that everyone and their gramma plays in a band now
    -> supply outweighs the demand

    • Codgitator

      I’d say there is always an unlimited demand for really good music. Perhaps what could be said is that the supply of ‘me too’ bands & musicians that can record and distribute their work has proliferated.

      • Rus Archer

        ok
        we’re talking about sales
        does this list seem like the best music ever in the world to you?
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_albums
        do you think these qualify as the best songs being written and recorded right now?
        http://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100
        really
        good
        music

        • Codgitator

          Sales aren’t a definitive measurement of whats good or best, but they are a metric of popularity. Yeah, I don’t find most commercial music to be the cream either…but for a lot of people they get a great amount of pleasure from it. “I don’t want to hear any more good music” said no one ever. How people define good music though is another story. Which is where I think you were at with your comment about lowered expectations/music vocab. Personally, I think there is more interest in multiple forms of music than ever before because access to it has proliferated. There were many years where the only mass access to artists were through label distribution… and if the record store owner / radio programmer didn’t like blues/soul/jazz/whatever (let alone some obscure 45 from Gary, Indiana) then you weren’t going to know it existed. Now niche musicians are the cool “I like bands that don’t even exist yet” thing.

          • Rus Archer

            yes
            we agree
            the article isn’t about who killed good music
            it’s about record sales

    • VaudeVillain

      Lowered from what, exactly? When were they higher?

      Look at what the most popular songs were in any given year, and you will be extremely disappointed. Not which songs from that year are most popular now, which songs from that year were most popular then; it’s a VERY important distinction.

      Most of the music from every era is forgotten, because most of it is complete shit. It’s true today, it was true yesterday, it was true a century ago, and it will almost certainly remain true forever.

      • Rus Archer

        there was a time when you could assume that a musician knew the difference between an Am7 and a Cdim
        knew how to count and play time signatures outside of 4/4, 3/4 and 6/8
        and knew the names of the notes on their instrument
        in fact there was a time when NON-musicians knew a lot of this stuff
        there was a time when singers had to be able to sing
        we didn’t have autotune
        now you can even buy GUITARS that autotune
        thanks obama

        • The Well Dressed Man

          Interesting times indeed. During the “Guitar Hero” videogame craze, a non-musician gamer I knew insisted the game was more challenging than actual guitar-playing, because “you have to use both hands” :/
          Garageband for iOs actually delivers some fairly convincing “shortcut” virtual guitars.

          • Rus Archer

            ha
            guitarists don’t use both hands?
            i’ve been doing it all wrong
            being able to actually play is definitely not a plus with those games
            it has next to nothing to do with each other

          • emperorreagan

            I never quite got how people were so into guitar hero.

            I played it once through with the sound off while listening to music I actually liked. It took less skill than 99% of video games I’ve ever played.

          • Calypso_1

            My youngest brother made an attempt to impress by displaying his virtual chops on a SRV solo after which I took the rarely used guitar i had given him & performed it + vocals. Asked him how his calluses were coming along.

          • The Well Dressed Man

            was the axe strung for srv? cause those .013s are no joke. i’m back to .010s after a .009 decade. at some point the calluses seem to go away, and it’s a matter of no more pain receptors left on the fingertips of the left hand

          • Calypso_1

            Oh yeah! It was one of my old guitars and he had never changed a thing. I usually detune a whole step and capo up if need be. I pretty much play slide now but when I was hammering away if it was on a lighter set up I would knock it out of tune in the first few chords. I need some mass to move (could be having started out on bass).
            As to pain receptors. After the hot wax did nothing. I used to set the stove eye on low and hold my fingertips down.

          • The Well Dressed Man

            i had to go from 11s to 9s due to tendonitis. far fewer broken strings at lighter gauge, but needed super hot pickups to compensate. so glad to be back to 10s on the old strat. still like guitar bands? doesn’t seem to be much going on out there. the melvins actually get better every time i see them though. newer band: gram rabbit actually puts on a good show too.

  • http://www.youtube.com/merelyateacher opposite of you

    Broke musicians make better music as they’re hungry! Therefore don’t feed them. Besides why should humans should get more than their supper for making music anyway ?

    • Codgitator

      The reason musicians (and entertainers) can make a lot of money is that their product can be sold on an economy of scale (to the masses). For example if you’re a plumber you can only fix one house at time. But as a musician you can sell a million albums.

      • The Well Dressed Man

        The potential is there… but how many are able to survive until that scale is within reach? In my experience in the biz, the people (trust fund kids) who could promote themselves and network full-time for about 10 years were able to actually start cashing in. The rest of us had to work crap jobs to live. Over the years that opportunity cost made all the difference.

        • Codgitator

          Such is life. Which is why so many musicians are still eager to sign with a major. If the A&R guy believes in them… they get a producer, a studio time, an advance to live, distribution, promotion campaigns, social media campaigns, managed tours at venues that are heard of, etc. Doing all that on your own takes every free second of time, and talent on top of that. I’m not advocating majors or minors, just saying.

  • BuzzCoastin

    the funny thing is
    that the “muzak” industry was a pirate organization
    muzak was produced, distributed & pimped by them
    bands/musicians received very little of that revenue
    the decline in revenue for the pimps
    has meant more money for the hoes

    • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

      wasn’t the original purpose of the music industry to bring crappy musicians together to have an incentive library to sell record players

      • thejynxed

        Actually, the music “industry” started as a way to license, copy, and distribute music for player pianos back in the 1800′s/early 1900′s.

        • Rus Archer

          we had printed music before that

          • thejynxed

            Indeed we did, but the industry as a whole to protect licensed works didn’t exist until the consortium formed to protect the sheet rolls for player pianos :)

  • emperorreagan

    Me. I killed it.

    I realized I didn’t need to buy the back catalog of every band I like or every new album they put out. I don’t need to buy a single I heard someplace because I’ll probably be tired of it soon enough. I don’t need a record because I liked a band when I saw them open for someone – especially if I’m drinking at a show, because odds are good I won’t listen to it or like it later.

    So I buy maybe 2-3 albums a year now, instead of that many or more every month.

  • The Well Dressed Man

    We did, and we deserve it too. Not just by torrenting and p2p and single song downloads. We allowed the industry to sell us regurgitated pablum of increasing insipidness for so long that we’ve forgotten what music is. The curated sounds that accompany our meals out, shopping, and various forms of entertainment have been stripped of any meaning outside the self-referential pop-cult continuum. I’m really glad to have worked in record stores and played in bands in the 90s, cause I don’t think Western music culture will ever bounce back from this crash. Any new sounds of value will come from the developing world, and the meaning will be lost in translation when appropriated by our media.

  • THEUNSEENofNOTISH

    From where I sit, its not and Industry problem, it happens even at the DIY level with art scenes enforcing fascist divisions of cultures and scenes breeding less diversity of social interaction to spark more interesting and diverse product at the top (which has always done this, but feel we are also now witnessing the death of underground counterculture as a source of new ideas and forms of expression in artistic mediums, largely due to drug war politics and aggressive social intimidation, made easier by digital networks bringing crews and scenes together to create a “unified” public image to see to larger industries and even other communities of DIY/local business types of people.

  • THEUNSEENofNOTISH

    To add to my previous comment, it seems we’re losing the randomness of emerging art scenes and abilities of individual artists or collectives to emerge from the communities due to a prevalence of what I’d call “scene police.” Which ive found as a man in his late 20s, to be something that emerged with Hipster Culture, at least locally in my city.

    • The Well Dressed Man

      I think this is related to the speed that information travels. Used to be a “scene” would need years to grow, subcultural lore was the social currency of youth tribes. You’d find out about new things by hanging out at record stores, mixtapes from your friends and trading zines. Search engines are so much more efficient.
      I feel like the most fanatical youth cults of the 20th century (mod, punk, goth, skinhead) are still so visible because of how much time they had to gestate in secret before becoming recognized by the mainstream. “Grunge” was the last gasp by the old industry to successfully codify a regional style in the states. Hip hop was able to deliver on this regional level for significantly longer, but the end result may have been ICP :/

      • Codgitator

        Regional style do exist (for example B-more), but you’re right… the incubation isn’t fostered like it use to be when each area of the country had a bit of their own thing going on.

    • Codgitator

      Scene Police have always been. The difference being that now anyone with a music blog or a DJ name can consider themselves an authority. Hipster culture just happens to coincide with the technology that allows everyone that voice. But to that end, I see more Scene Police vying to break the ‘next cool thing’ to the point that ‘anything new is cool’… until it’s old after about 15 minutes.

  • Craig Bickford

    Duh. Drummond and Cauty killed the music industry in the early 90′s with the JAMM/KLF/K Foundation, everyone knows that. All Hail Eris!

    • The Well Dressed Man

      was “ford timelord” the last coffin nail?

    • Jonas Planck

      Surely the Subgenii played a role in that…

  • kcorb

    It’s funny, reading the article, I’d say the actual artist represents 10% die off. I’ve know so many musicians with real talent that never make it to that “quit you’re day job” point in their career, that I really don’t have that much sympathy for the ones that do–great for them but my sympathy is pretty much spent on the ones that don’t. People who love making music will keep on making music despite what happens to all of those trying to monetize it. The major labels can’t die off fast enough for the good of the “industry” in my opinion.

    • Dan Muench

      I agree entirely.

      I’ve often cited my 85% rule – any scene of human endeavor is going to be 85% crap. Go back to the actual, not just remembered, output of the 50′s or 60′s and realize there were a LOT of shit acts out there that aren’t remembered – because they SUCKED!

      I only say 85% because even that sounds cynical – at first. I can’t believe how many people actually will go, “Um, really, I think you’re being a bit generous” – people that usually paint me as a negative nancy. They come right around to it of their own accord.

      Henry Miller wrote of being worth your artistic salt in Remember To Remember, written in the 40′s. Some things truly never change, and for those that don’t have the talent, or the drive, or the creativity, sorry, there’s little room in my limited time on Earth for 3rd tier bullshit. My tastes are my own, but this is essentially true for most people – if Lil Wayne is your shit (ewww) you’re not going to want a 4th order imitation of him, not if you value your time on planet Earth.

      • kcorb

        While I am in agreement over the estimation that over 85% of what’s produced is crap (more like 95% if you take into account personal taste), I was actually giving the artist the benefit of doubt in my comment and asserting that 90% of the music industry is just a bunch of parasitic middle management that won’t really be missed.

        • Dan Muench

          Hmmmm…well, I wonder about that.

          Advertisers are ‘evil’ until it’s YOUR product they’re promoting, all of a sudden, their craft is invaluable to you. Especially if you’re not a natural salesman. Most artists, thought they might be magnetic personalities, are not. Just like many race car drivers couldn’t engineer or maintain their cars, and why should they? They should be concentrating on their job – piloting said car to victory.

          Should I ever be so lucky, I’ll not ignore all those that toil unthanked and unrecognized behind the scenes. Think about all the music you love – someone brought it to you. Someone made the poster, spread the word of mouth, etc. Because I was that person, oftentimes.

          Not to mention made their guitar, the strings and pickups on it, the cables, etc.

          The picture used above in the main article- do you think any of those musicians lifted a finger to build that stage? Oh, hell no they did not. I’ve done stage work, been a tour manager, been a roadie, and am an experienced instrument tech. Just like the IT folk that are making this discussion possible are unthanked and probably thought of as ‘leeches’ by some – shouldn’t it all just be freeeee, maaaaaan? – all those people contribute to bringing you that ecstatic moment when you finally get to see [your fave band here]. Just because it’s not glamorous and you might not want to have a beer or smoke a joint with them, doesn’t mean that they’re valueless.

          Especially in the classic era, it simply was not possible for a bunch of guys sleeping on couches to go record their own album. It wasn’t – the equipment was prohibitively expensive, required trained engineers to calibrate and operate, etc etc. 2″ analog tape doesn’t grow on trees. Huge PA systems, the trucks that move them, the backs and legs and arms that set them in place and put them in working order, do not simply happen.

          I was one of a few hundred paid monkeys last year helping put up the stage for Roger Waters’ wall show at the LA Coliseum. Though I’d always imagined it, as an aspiring musician smart enough to pay attention to the nuts and bolts of the career of my choice, I had no idea.

          Every section of certified stage pieces was likely hundreds of dollars, we were using thousands of them, and it’s an erector set – the finished product is only as good as the designer’s skill. Good example: the 2011-ish stage crash that nearly killed Cheap Trick, and did kill some other folk. That accident was absolutely preventable, bad stage design, bad location (wind), etc. So you can’t just have ‘monkeys’ you have to have engineers, unless your sense of ‘anything can happen’ includes a lighting rig crushing your skull in the middle of the big solo.

          Those things – the stage equipment, the trucks that brought them, the unskilled guys such as myself that were making 15 bucks and hour, the guys that knew what they were doing that were making far more – don’t just happen, don’t pay for themselves, and aren’t some kind of ‘right’ for some singer songwriter or rock band or what have you because they’re just awesome.

          My long time guitar tech friend – RHCP, STP, John Sykes, LSD, Natalie Cole don’t even scratch the surface – his MINIMUM is 1500 a week. That’s being generous. And you know what? If you’re on tour, want your shit set up just-so, don’t want to risk fucking up your hands before an important show (or before every show), he’s worth every penny. Go watch some Porcupine Tree and tell me those guys are walking in like a local punk rock power trio and setting up their own equipment, etc, and delivering like that night after night. I was on that Wall stage for a whole 45 seconds before I saw a man’s hand crushed between a 2000lb upright and a immobile piece of steel. I doubt Phish fans would want that to be Trey Anastasio’s hand.

          Not to browbeat or demean or say you’re wrong for the sake of it, but people simply don’t have a clue until they really go behind the Wizard’s curtain and see the machinery in motion. You’re likely an expert on something I don’t know anything about, and I might dismiss the mastery of it, or make first-day assumptions that everyone makes – and are wrong about.

          It’s like Charlie Daniels acting like his shit ass band did everything they needed to to make millions of dollars – really, Charlie? You built the roads, smelted the ore to build the trucks, built the Tennessee Valley Authority so you’d have electricity, etc, etc? You promoted the shows, built the stadiums, paid the people to maintain them? Or you were so awesome it was all voluntary and donated?

          I’m not so sure a lot of those people are as disposable as you’d think, because it’s not like the entities that employ them aren’t greedy to the bone. You’re paying someone a good salary and benefits, and they’re useless to you and essentially stealing the money you’re making? Doesn’t sound reasonable to me.

          Not to say there’s not detritus, but it’s more like GM, where the management was getting in the way of good products, which is more or less fixed now. GM used to be the butt of car-guy jokes if you weren’t a dyed in the wool Domestic guy, but the very people that wanted them to go away now love the CTS, ATS, turbo Buicks, Camaro, and especially the new Corvette that’s the culmination of the changes made.

          The music industry could learn a lot from such a turnaround. Will it listen? Well, likely, no. It’s not being forced to, just like people continue to see crap movies for 14 bucks a sitting and then go and complain about it. If no one showed up and they lost a lot of money, perhaps they’d think differently, but maybe they’ll just try to hammer through more antipirating legislation instead of making a product someone would actually willingly pay for.

          Another analogy to those who thought the Big Three should be left to die – really? That’s 4% of our annual GDP, can we afford to lose that even in a good economy, much less the one we have now? Aren’t these same people going to go rant that we don’t make anything anymore? Etc. I wonder how many people are buying gas, food, paying taxes, etc that are in that industry. That otherwise might have to go compete with you or I for our jobs, whatever that might be.

          I’m just saying it’s a complex issue, and as Einstein put it, things should be as simple as they can be.

          But no simpler.

          • kcorb

            By “music industry” I’m referring to the corporate part of the industry. The major labels, the major players being discussed in the article, as well as other industry entities like the RIAA.

            That said, I’m sure there are a lot of tie-ins between that level of the music industry and the larger music ecosystem that you describe. The thing is, this large organized corporate part of the music industry does everything it can to make their “deal with the devil” arrangement the only option available for artist trying to break out of their local ecosystems. The fact that they’re loosing that power is fucking fantastic.

  • Haystack

    The music industry isn’t dead. It just shifted its focus from selling music to suing music listeners.

  • HCE

    My take on this comes from having been a working musician most of my adult life. Although I’ve not had any involvement in the recording and distribution end of things since the days of tape and CD’s, I’ve worked for, known or taught people who did or are actively trying to sell their wares. Almost all agree that the death of the Dinosaur and rise of the Internet is the best thing that ever happened for them. The few I know or have known who disagree with that are those who want an affluent lifestyle andor fame. Every musician I’ve known who had been signed tells the same story. They’ve been ripped off in the extreme and lived a life of indentured servitude.

  • Angela Monger

    The music industry killed the music industry. Music shouldn’t be an industry to begin with.

    • Rus Archer

      well, if you think people make better music when they have only limited time and resources to put towards the art because they have to work regular jobs to pay for the equipment, practice space, recording, etc

      • Jonas Planck

        That’s pretty much the entire economic theory of the modern age. Everyone is too busy making ends meet to be able to pursue their passions and interests. Innovation, creativity, and experimentation is a privilege, reserved only for those who can “afford” it. As a result, the vast majority of the human race’s potential lies fallow, rotting on the vine. Sure, we COULD solve all our political and social and spiritual problems and make the world a better place to live in, but there’s no short term profit in that, so we have to work at unfulfilling tedious jobs we hate instead. Sorry, future generations, too bad. If you wanted to have a decent world to live in, you should have gone back in time and invested in one.

  • Peter Marshall

    Did someone kill the music industry?? I was under the impression it changed, as it tends to do. Killing it and changing it are two different things. What are they gonna say next when paid streaming fades out to free services like Jango and torch music, that they ate it too? As long as people are listening to music, the industry is alive and well. The only thing that got killed is artists being waaay overpaid.

  • rhetorics_killer

    What bothers the so-called ‘music industry’ is that it has been expelled from the #1 youths’ money spendings. In other times, records were the main budget for every music lover (which were many). Youths today spend money on phones. Piracy is rather a consequence, not a cause, to this nowadays behaviour. By pursuing a copyright war the ‘industry’ fails to acknowledge this simple fact. And desperately tries to save as many parasitic asses it can, pathetically unpowerful.

  • Dan Muench

    Put it this way: the Rolling Stones got between a nickel and a dime for every album sold. That’s the STONES and no, your favorite hipster, metal, or bluegrass outfit that started playing just a relative little while ago will never have that kind of pulling power. So their deal is going to suck a lot more ass than that – say, a penny a unit, and how many pennies are in a million dollars, split how many ways?

    However, look at their live shows and the money they make from them – which side is the butter on?

    Simply put, the market is inundated with LAZY music and musicians. That’s where the chaff is. Bands that never play outside their rehearsal space and perhaps cannot deliver live. “DJs” basically triggering mp3s and putting both hands in the air the whole song – you’re doing what with your hands now? (I’m well aware of Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow, find me a new equivalent!)

    You can make T-Pain esque tracks with an iPhone app where you just speak the lines into the phone and the track comes out in a particular ‘style’ all done. Ke$sha uses it in the studio – anyone surprised?

    LAZY music is on it’s way out. There is a value in SEEING live music, in BEING there, and in those that can DELIVER in a live situation – something that didn’t have to be explained, especially the farther back you go. Music literally any shithead could do – tell me your granny couldn’t speak into a phone and buy a 10 dollar app – is finally losing it’s value. Of course, music with a message or heart of any kind isn’t considered ‘promotion worthy’ by the Culture Creators, they want the vapid shit out there. No one listens to Miley Cyrus and wants to go start a revolution, artistic or otherwise, and such simplistic pap doesn’t expand the mind in the same way, say, Tool, Hendrix, Coltrane, Porcupine Tree, etc might.

    Any musician sitting on their can waiting for the clicks to come in is doomed to obscurity, barring sheer luck. Even then, you’re going to make the money off of your notoriety how? The irony of the ‘indie’ scene (a label which is about as useless as ‘alternative’ and then ‘extreme’ became in the 90′s) is that most of them are making their money whoring out to corporations like Apple. How “indie” is that? A: not at all, when you’re beholden to the corporation writing the big check, whether that corporation is WEA Entertainment or Samsung.

    This is where we come back round to the problem with big labels, though, the major record companies – they want your tour revenue now, they want your merch, which is the lifeblood of, say, an underground punk or metal group. Or most any rock/blues/’live’ group. Record sales are secondary.

    That’s why Metallica was roundly ridiculed in the original Napster fiasco, while Dr. Dre wasn’t – look how often he tours and how many seats he actually fills vs. Metallica. The latter makes their money off of live shows and merch, a lot of hip hop and electronic artists are stuck relying on record sales.

    Eminem was one of the top acts in the genre, and even as a fan of his core material – the first 3.5 albums – his live show sucks. Two turntables and a microphone, yawn. Cypress Hill is viable, but then, they got a band together a decade ago, too. Something to see. So such acts are very protective of royalties.

    The record labels have nothing to really offer – you’re going to get sidelined unless you’re the flavor of the month, and even then, if you want to tour your ass off, they get your money for that – and can even keep you out on the road burning yourself out due to contractual obligations.

    The history of those companies is inextricably tied to racketeering, the ‘advances’ are loan sharking essentially – you don’t just get paid, they loan you money up front (if you get any front), loans for a ‘real’ studio that they’ll pressure you into using though similar results can be had for a fraction of the cost with modern DAW equipment, promotional monies spent, etc, are all debt – that you have to pay off before ‘you’ make a dime.

    You’re better off simply getting an agent or even just booking your own shows, forking over the money for either recording equipment of your own or studio time from a local studio (they’re ALL hungry for the revenue and will be light years cheaper than big name ones in LA or other industry centers), and in other words, just doing it yourself. It’s like being your own mechanic – you might fuck something up, but at least you’re not paying someone else a ridiculous rate to do the same thing.

    It’s a brave new world, perhaps, but frankly, even the small labels like Biafra’s SVT and Roadrunner records were rife with exploitation and one sided contracts. The bitch is that I have the same access to outlets as, say, Radiohead. I even had a loophole I exploited on a well known but now defunct site, and was #2 one day behind Thom Yourke.

    The problem is that without said loophole, even if the music was equally compelling (it wasn’t, it was an old experiment that I like because it’s funny to me, but it’s shit to anyone else!) I have to compete toe to toe with big, established acts for attention.

    Again, you have to have compelling material, be able to deliver it live, where someone will come out and buy a ticket and maybe be enticed to buy a T-Shirt or hard CD or what have you because you rocked their world, and pay your dues in the trenches. Which is no news to those established acts, because that’s how they got noticed in the first place.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. A musician still has to put the same amount of work in – but are you working for THEM, or YOU and yours?

  • The Well Dressed Man

    OK, just to try to balance all the pessimism, here’s the Melvins covering Butthole Surfers in front of an ice cream truck.

    http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-melvins-cover-butthole-surfers,101241/

  • Kat

    music isn’t dead it’s just underground

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