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In college I was THE music snob around campus.  Or, at least I thought I was.  Friends of friends would stride up to me in the media center or outside of class, asking my opinion on this release or that release, or requesting names of albums that I deemed worth hearing.  I was, of course, only too glad to oblige, since I practically lived in independently-owned record shops and spent the majority of my meager income on CDs.  To some extent, I was the local in-house expert.  So when the recording industry began to tank, I managed to patch together a few credible guesses as to why it happened and for what reason, but I didn't have the luxury of a full understanding, the way that only someone on the inside would really know.  

Steve Knopper's recent book, Appetite for Self-Destruction:  The Spectacular Crash of the Recording Industry in the Digital Age answers most, if not all of my questions.  It is a work of interest to even those who are not ravenous audiophiles, since the music industry took such a massive role in the American consciousness, particularly with the rise of rock 'n roll, and since its decline, a massive void has been left that has never really been filled.    

Even before reading the book, I had not much in the way of sympathy for the recording industry.  Avarice is one of the easier sins to spot and since it is so omnipresent, we are fine-tuned to detect each and every instance.  Sometimes we are mistaken, but often we are not.  Even a few minutes skimming through the book could provide a tremendous body of evidence for anyone inherently skeptical or openly hostile to capitalism, or at least unregulated capitalism.  What I personally found most interesting is just how many times that the recording industry has crashed, only to revive itself, Phoenix-like based on a combination of dumb luck and embracing the future rather than being stubbornly rooted to the tried-and-true.  

An additional irony to add to all of this is that the compact disc, which revolutionized the industry and temporarily made it wealthier beyond belief, was very nearly vetoed by suspicious major label executives whose reservations primarily stemmed from the fact that they were unwilling to take a chance on something that wasn't a proven seller.  The demise of the industry is a combination of a metaphorical compulsion to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs and an often childish desire to cut off one's nose to spite one's face.  In an earlier era, the backlash against Disco brought the industry to its knees, but the invention of MTV  and the promotion of Michael Jackson and Thriller removed it from life support and returned it to profitability.  A decade or so later, billions upon billions of dollars flowed into the coffers due to the adoption of exploitative profiteering.    

By the late 1990s, the record business had boiled down much of the business to a simple formula:  2 good songs +  10 or 12 mediocre songs = 1 $15 CD, meaning billions of dollars in overall sales.  Cassettes, too, gradually fell victim to this formula, and were phased out.  Attempts to resuscitate the singles market, like the "cassingle" and a shorter version of an album known as the EP, ultimately failed.

"It's no coincidence that the decline of cassettes and the rise of CD burning arose simultaneously," says Steve Gottlieb, president of the independent label TVT Records.

Despite withering criticism and tremendous hostility at first, once the CD became the chosen format, it quickly became a cash cow, and suddenly all the initial reservations were mysteriously cast aside.  Music industry execs willfully revised the history of the proceedings and sang hosannas, claiming they had been in favor of this exciting new technological advance all along.  But yet again, they never even considered restraint or long-term consequences.

Or, as it is written,

But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! "Let us eat and drink," you say, "for tomorrow we die!"

The perverse are hard to be corrected, and the number of fools is infinite.  

 

In the context of modern capitalism, it would be easy to draw parallels.
Cycles of boom and bust have been our fate over the course of centuries, often for identical reasons.  The difference between the recording industry and the major power brokers on Wall Street is that much thought is given to keep the system profitable and stable, since its lasting health is of paramount importance to all with a dog in the fight.  This doesn't mean, as we have recently discovered, that the American economy or the Wall Street pirates don't take dumb risks at times or play fast and loose with otherwise sensible strategies, but most of the time it is fortunately not one unforeseen development away from complete meltdown.  Part of the shock among many during our latest financial crisis was that the existing framework, designed to prevent another Great Depression, completely collapsed, and with its demise came the discrediting of theories that had stood unchallenged for years and years.  Economists will have their theories and counter-theories for years to come, but in this circumstance, how it happened is not nearly as important as the fact that it did.  

Any industry reflects in large part its clientele and those under its employ, and musicians don't tend to be the most fiscally conservative bunch, nor the most inclined to restrain their impulses.  Record executives often partied as hard as the acts they signed, which often necessitated a desire to keep pumping out inferior product.  And it is for this reason that I believe that the industry has only itself to blame.  Indeed, if there were a way for us to rip apart any major corporate entity, I would surely advocate for it.  This is a bold pronouncement, and I justify it from a moral stance, since the more I read about the way any massive conglomerate functions, the more it makes me want to take a hot shower.  As for the recording industry, major movers and shakers acted like low-level mafioso, and none of them comes across the least bit sympathetic or personable.  I believe that the demand for certain services will always exist and since necessity is the mother of invention, someone with a good idea will step forward to satisfy a need.  In time, the systems proposed by today's enterprising soul will probably grow corrupt, but I see human progress as a constant cycle of building up, revising, tearing down when necessary, and then building up again.          

To return to the subject at hand, with the CD boom came excess of all kinds.  Major labels hired far more staff than was necessary and in an effort to keep everyone on payroll, they went for the low-hanging fruit in the form of copycat bands.  For every original act, ten sound-alikes were signed, purely to bleed dry the record buying public and generate the maximum possible revenue.  Profit became more important than discovering new talent and facilitating musical advances.  It was this degree of sustained unethical business practice that led frustrated consumers to embrace wholesale file sharing and illegal downloading of music files.  Though the industry managed to shut down Napster, Pandora's Box had already been opened and it has never been shut.      

To summarize from the book,

Labels were fat and happy, although some executives worried about a market peak.  "You have the huge infrastructure of people...on a ton of floors and all of a sudden you're stuck with these huge costs.  And its harder to cut people than it is to hire them," says Lyor Cohen, chairman of the Warner Music Group.  

"All these companies did was try to find fabricated s**t so they didn't go through having to let people go.  Then you go into an era of fabricated, highly promoted, highly advertised stuff--it's very flimsy, it sells quickly, and we're also hurting our credibility with the long term music lover.  And then [the fans] go away to college."

Teen pop was one last squeeze of the sponge to get the world to spend millions and millions of dollars on compact discs.  It wouldn't last.

As for the music industry, well, Knopper seems to think that it has finally destroyed itself for good.  I wouldn't disagree with his conclusion.  What I am waiting to see is what means of music dispensation the future will provide.  Today we cling to our ubiquitous iPods with the omnipresent white ear buds.  If recent history reveals anything, it promises that in the immediate future we'll be using something else altogether.  As for the established powers, the industry itself is in a bit of a death spiral, running in a million different directions, desperate to find a Messiah.  I admit I do feel pangs of nostalgia at times for the excitement I once felt when looking forward to the latest release by a favorite band and the gratification of buying a CD copy to take home.  Still, there's enough of the DIY anarchist left in me that enjoys the ability to focus more on live music and the amateurs who play for the love of it, not for the love of money.  I have always been a believer that there is something eternal about art; art always survives.  In stating this, I note that I have always believed that it simply isn't compatible with capitalism and never really will be.  Some of the most awkward compromises I have ever observed attempt to bridge the gap between the two with minimum success.

When we discuss change in any context we find that its enemy is a system designed to resist, not facilitate reform.  I honestly can't think of any gathering or organization off the top of my head whose stated agenda is to eventually pass along the torch to new ideas and new generations.  Change we can really believe in is not change in the abstract, rather it is change that is both well said and well done.  It may be against human nature to predicate any organized group on the assumption that incorporating new strategies and new plans of action is a matter of course, not just a a good suggestion and an interesting proposal worthy of contemplation.  Pushing forward in time rather than stubbornly clinging to the here-and-now is a discomforting notion to some, since we often relish control, and in so doing believe ourselves to be obsolete to some extent the instant when we pass the baton, but it is the only way we will ever accomplish anything worthwhile and lasting.  

We as humans are frequently paradoxical creatures, and each of us wishes to leave our mark, to some extent.  We prefer edifying experiences, shall we say, in which we might be remembered by subsequent generations and thus find a way to live forever.  Here in DC, this is evident by the number of public buildings bearing the name of some elected representative or all around important person.  For a time, people might hold close to them the memory of someone who rose to a position of high authority or accomplished something supremely influential, but the passage of time renders that memory fainter and fainter.  Eventually, inevitably, most people see merely two proper nouns and a building, not some rich legacy of accomplishment.  Our greater accomplishments might not be measured in individual achievement, but in the immeasurable elements that go well beyond personal gratification.  The edifying tendency keeps those who have always had power from sharing when it justifiably becomes the duty of a younger generation to take the reins.
     
We often are confused because our hearts lead us one direction and the world leads us another.  The world tells us to put our own selves first and our heart compels us to use our talents and gifts for the betterment of others.  Perhaps those things that do not threaten another person, no matter how unintentionally, and cannot be perceived for any reason as a direct challenge to someone else's competitive spirit and personal insecurities are those that truly stand the test of time.  The memory of sales figures may fade and so too a lifetime's worth of legislative accomplishment, but a contribution to the ongoing business of finding ways for people to live in peace proves to be immortal.  Proposing the means to co-exist based on love and not fear will live on beyond a few paltry decades.  Compassion and kindness cannot be commodified or copyrighted, nor should they, else they soon be the domain of the archaeologist.  

Originally posted to cabaretic on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:19 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  the music industry isn't destroyed... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      confitesprit

      Not yet, anyway.  The lethal mistake they made was to give Steve Jobs a de facto monopoly on the distribution of legal online music sales.

      Not a good strategy to give your only hope for future income to someone else.  Oh well, they fucked themselves.  Karma's a bitch.

  •  This is a technical-innovation story (9+ / 0-)

    The moral element is only incidental.  A technology was developed that permitted consumers to take just what they wanted, without paying for it.  I don't really see much of a story beyond that.  Record companies were completely entitled to treat their products in exactly the same way as a brick company treats their products: as something to be sold at whatever price, and in whatever format, the market would bear.  But nobody has figured out a way to get bricks without paying for them.

    Enrich your life with adverbs!

    by Rich in PA on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:28:12 AM PST

    •  You're missing the other 2/3 of the equation (9+ / 0-)

      The technology now also exists to record high-quality music in one's basement without the need for a multi-million dollar studio.

      Audiophile snobs will drone on and fucking ON AND ON AND ON AND ON about their tube-driven microphone preamps and their original 1970's Neve mixing desks, but the fact of the matter is everything can be simulated with some clever software and the average listener can't tell (and people who claim the can are frequently lying and wouldn't pass a double-blind listening test).  You can now have a recording studio in your home for under five thousand dollars if you're smart.  

      So, there's one huge piece of infrastructure the modern musician no longer need beg access to from the milk of overflowing kindness of some coke-addicted asshole record executive.

      The other 1/3 of the puzzle is the distribution method.  Consumers can take only what they want, but furthermore, a band can promote themselves without a record company's approval.  The gatekeepers are only belatedly realizing that the walls to their exclusive community have been torn down and people are running in and out on all sides and don't give a ripe shit what Jann Wenner thinks is cool in music.  Myspace and facebook are FULL of band self-promoting their work, and original music is very much in vogue again.

      I think the process will take another few years, but I also don't see the need for a recording company ever again.  

      Republicans and personal responsibility are distant, estranged acquaintances.

      by slippytoad on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:50:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This assumes an equal distribution of merit (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Hannibal, milkbone

        ...as defined by "what people want to listen to."  Most labor-of-love artists are not the artists that people wish to listen to in large numbers.  I recognize that the progressive assumption is that people are just hegemonized by the corporate model of artistic production, and obviously it's true that tastes are to a large extent manufactured, but I think we're too quick to say that nothing's lost if we replace a Celine Dion with 10,000 Joe's Garage Bands.  And I don't even like Celine Dion's music.

        Enrich your life with adverbs!

        by Rich in PA on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:54:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Who cares? (5+ / 0-)

          What requirement is there for music to be massively popular?   I'm really struggling with that premise.  Music that becomes massively popular does so because of a massive marketing campaign, not because it's really any good.  People listen to prepackaged pop crap because they don't know any better.  They go to Wal-Mart to buy their music where there's about 20 artists and 50 copies of the same old shit that everyone's already heard a million times before, so given a severely limited selection people with no real taste will pick the crap that they've been exposed to via mass repetition.  

          There is a wealth of very good and very interesting music available online.  I don't see a crying need for it to be sale-tastic massively popular.  If an artist is good enough word of mouth will overtake any effort to market them.  Everybody thinks they're going to be the next Beatles but that kind of phenomenon is rare, once in a generation if that.  There has not been a similar occurrence in music since then, but record companies have been trying to re-create that phenomenon over and over again by assuming artistic control of whatever trend seemed to be emerging at the moment.

          I think we're too quick to say that nothing's lost if we replace a Celine Dion with 10,000 Joe's Garage Bands

          I just wanted to highlight that quote again, because, seriously?  You think the world needs Celine Dion?  Maybe we actually don't.  She could try standing on her own merits.  Like most musicians.

          Republicans and personal responsibility are distant, estranged acquaintances.

          by slippytoad on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:02:17 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The future belongs to aggregators (3+ / 0-)

            People and their web sites that you trust to recommend artists that you might like. That way good new talent can find it's audience.

            There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain. - R.D. Laing

            by brenda on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:09:53 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Massive Marketing (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Hannibal, MKinTN, IreGyre, thethinveil

            The problems that are coming are related to this.

            The fact is that the music industry has tried every single time to prevent people from using the music they purchase for whatever the hell they want to use it for.  Every single time.  Evey format change has been accompanied by lawsuits attempting to prevent you from using your product.  It's really simple.

            The issue I see coming up is that there will still be massively promoted artists who are inferior.  They will get this promotion, because of the existing network of promotion in radio and television.  So those crappy artists will still be there. Additionally, the way that Disney and others use their other departments to create brand loyalty, we'll be seeing repeats of the same episodes of marketing this crap.  

            This does, however, leave a separate place for those enterprising artists who make their own music, sell it from their website or other aggregating site.  

            ABout 15 years ago, I was listening to a futurist on NPR.  This futurist appears to have actually been correct- for once.  She said that the changes in how we access artistic works will result in essentially the giving away of most artistic works for free or a nominal charge, and that the artist will then earn their living on the road by doing readings, tours, or other similar activities.  

            In one of his essays, Corey Doctorow writes about how the vaudevillians were up in arms about radio, because they were charismatic people who made their living by exploiting their personalities.  At the advent of radio, they saw that their cash stream was going to disappear as more people stayed in to listen to the radio.  Ironically, that concern so many years ago seemed to come true, but if this goes along the way it seems, we are slowly returning to the original state where people have to sell their art based on their ability to present it in an entertaining show.  

            "I'm going to take a dump and come back. If it hasn't been changed...I'll take it to mean that... it is meant to deliberately misinform Kossacks." Setrak

            by otto on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:29:12 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  And in a normal economic setting, I'd like to (0+ / 0-)

              see that happen. I love live shows. I love discovering new artists in live settings. I was in the music business myself for a while, on the editorial side, and I was married to a musician for 13 years.

              The marketing machine turns me off. I don't want to be told what I like, no matter what the product is.

              But this evolution (or is it devolution?) to the original state requires money and time to consume that product. It's not like downloading the latest tunes to your iPod and hitting the road, which is currently relatively cheap and easy to do.

              As more people are reduced to being simply citizens and not consumers, the disposable income evaporates. Likewise, there is little time or money to devote to live shows. That's when file-sharing runs rampant, and now people are socialized to not paying for content, and the content providers (that is, the artists, not the record companies) don't want to give it away for free.

              Until the American economy turns around, I don't see much success for primarily live shows. They cost too much. And don't even get me started on how Ticketmaster et al. have fucked the ticket buying experience in a way that screws the artists as well as the audience, in an attempt to extract their pound of flesh.

              "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain

              by Brooke In Seattle on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:57:19 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Look for sub-tier acts (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                otto

                I went last year to an Electric Six show.  Look them up on Youtube.  They're an amazing act.

                The show was $15 I think.  I didn't go through Ticketbastard, although for the show I'm going to see in April I had to.  I think bands are slowly working out how to get around those assholes.

                At any rate, the show was a lightning bolt for me because not only does E6 have a very loyal and hardcore fanbase, but the band brought along 3 opening acts who were also very high-quality and a lot of fun to watch.

                Point is, this sub-tier music scene is growing, it's promoting itself with Youtub and Myspace and whatever else, and it's surviving.  The record company looks like it does nothing but sub-tier acts, and I sure don't see a wild marketing campaign out there.

                And it is clear that those acts are permitted to control virtually every aspect of their image, material, and presentation.  This is important to me because as a musician myself I balked at the professional scene because I was constantly bombarded with well-meaning but clueless dolts who wanted me to suppress everything about the music that made it enjoyable and artistically fulfilling for myself in order to "succeed."  I decided that if succeeding meant playing the most boring shit I could possibly imagine, I'd rather fail.

                Republicans and personal responsibility are distant, estranged acquaintances.

                by slippytoad on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 12:13:53 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  Massively popular music? (0+ / 0-)

            If you're making your living on a percentage (say, as an agent) would you rather promote ten acts worth $1 million to sign, or one worth $10 million?

            If you're pressing CDs and mounting an ad campaign, do you want to run the plant for a different CD each day for 10 days, or for one CD for 10 days?

            How much art do you want to have done up for the ad campaign? X, or 10 times X?

            How many mastering jobs do you want to pay for? One, or ten?

            How many music videos? One, or ten?

            The record industry has always been about controlling the distribution network, and if you control distribution, you want to ship out the maximum amount of a small number of products or items.

            See also "the winner-take all economy" for why the music market works this way -- here are a few links.

            http://www.halfsigma.com/...

            http://www.economist.com/...

            http://findarticles.com/...

            •  why do we need cd's? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dadadata

              They're an archaic form of music distribution.  My kids barely know what they are.  They listen to music on their cellphones.

              Who cares if these massive industries survive or not?  They are not the musicians and I could care less about their well-being.

              And what use is a marketing campaign for a bunch of talentless dopes who only know how to lip-sync and dance under flashing laser lights?

              That's not music.  It's karaoke.

              Republicans and personal responsibility are distant, estranged acquaintances.

              by slippytoad on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 12:04:28 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I'm not arguing. I'm 'splainin', Lucy. (0+ / 0-)

                They want non-CD music distribution to work the. same. way.

                Note that the thing that didn't change over all those years was a physical product in a wrapper in a store.

          •  Typical indie-snob bullshit (0+ / 0-)

            Music that becomes massively popular does so because of a massive marketing campaign, not because it's really any good.  People listen to prepackaged pop crap because they don't know any better.

            And I'm saying that as someone whose indie-snob credentials go way back.

            Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað

            by milkbone on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 11:06:41 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  My examples of artists who only exist (0+ / 0-)

              Because the record company causes them to exist:

              Milli Vanilli

              Hanna Montana

              Ashlee Simpson (of the SNL lip-sync fame)

              And so on.

              None of those people would have had a career had they not been force-injected into our consciousness.  

              There is a lot of good music out there that's not fake.  So I'm struggling with why we must maintain superstar musicians with massive record company monopolies because . . . why?  If those people want to make music they can.  They can do it all, by themselves.

              Can't they?

              Republicans and personal responsibility are distant, estranged acquaintances.

              by slippytoad on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 12:02:25 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  Explain Europe then (0+ / 0-)

      European companies don't have the problem of illegal file sharing that they do in the states.  They've figured out how to stay in business in an era of online downloads.  

      If its merely about the technical, then explain Europe.  

  •  weren't CD singles available too? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brooke In Seattle, Hannibal
    •  Yes, but they were limited. (0+ / 0-)

      There weren't singles produced and stocked in record stores for any but the most popular songs.

      I guess you could order them online at some point, but who wants to wait days to get a single in the mail? I guess that's one reason iTunes was such a hit.

      "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain

      by Brooke In Seattle on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:00:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Being from Seattle, (0+ / 0-)

        do you know if the Sub Pop singles club ever offered CDs or did they only offer seven inches? I remember people pissing there pants over that back then we did mail order through zine-distros.

        "What is the robbing of a Bank compared to the FOUNDING of a Bank?" Bertolt Brecht

        by thethinveil on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 11:31:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I am basically with Ian Mackaye, (5+ / 0-)

    If piracy destroys the entertainment industry it is worth it. We need more non-professional local music done for the sake of building a community, it is the best way to enjoy music anyhow.

    "What is the robbing of a Bank compared to the FOUNDING of a Bank?" Bertolt Brecht

    by thethinveil on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:35:30 AM PST

    •  We need a better term for 'music industry' (9+ / 0-)

      Because bands and musicians are largely self funding their projects, and bypassing labels right now.  

      If widespread piracy continues unabated in the new paradigm, you will be stealing from the very people who produce the music, not some coked up supermodel dating cliche from marketing.   And all the money they'll make will be from clubs, because they'll never get big enough to perform in arenas - because they won't have the money to go on tour.  

      I am struggling with this issue right now because I'm in the middle of recording an album, but I don't know how I want to get paid.  I'm considering giving the music away with a T-shirt sale, since people will steal it anyway, and at least I get my brand on someone's back.  

      What are your thoughts?  

      Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time. -- Harry S. Truman

      by Nada Lemming on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:50:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Live music, and community funding (3+ / 0-)

        but I am from a realm where people expect to be poor, and create music regardless with no regrets.

        The only answer is donations, if not government funding or arts organization funding, then through personal donations - this is how it is with house shows - pass around the hat (this requires a tight community) and/or like Radiohead did it - provide the album free, ask for a donation - but this required them to build fan loyalty first.

        "What is the robbing of a Bank compared to the FOUNDING of a Bank?" Bertolt Brecht

        by thethinveil on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:57:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  OK So Now Authors Only Get Paid for Reading Their (3+ / 0-)

          books out loud.

          We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

          by Gooserock on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:02:32 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Or if there is art support for all media, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Nada Lemming

            like most other governments have. It will really be the death of the best seller, or there will be locally supported or niche online community supported art.

            "What is the robbing of a Bank compared to the FOUNDING of a Bank?" Bertolt Brecht

            by thethinveil on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:07:53 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I like the idea (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Brooke In Seattle, thethinveil

              but in practice you would get an NPR model of listernership because arts benefactors like what they like and don't' fund what they don't like.  

              I think the capitalist model can work - with regulation like any other thing.  

              Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time. -- Harry S. Truman

              by Nada Lemming on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:13:35 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Well you have micro-capitalism via the live show. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Nada Lemming

                We have done it for years in punk, but jazz has done it before as well.

                No matter what, capitalist or socialist, you have to have community support.  

                "What is the robbing of a Bank compared to the FOUNDING of a Bank?" Bertolt Brecht

                by thethinveil on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:19:03 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Here is an really fascinating series (0+ / 0-)

                  of videos on the reality of the business, by my former manager.  

                  I'm having trouble embedding it, but here's the link.  

                  Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time. -- Harry S. Truman

                  by Nada Lemming on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:28:41 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  So far since I am now listening to (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Nada Lemming

                    bunch of it, I found that he is very manager centric - ie moving to the city to find a manager.

                    Which is largely foreign to me. I grew up in a small town - nobody came there, many have built a fun community without the industry model.  

                    So we rented out community halls, booked the bands ourselves, then moved to house shows, got tired of being shut down then made our own club and booking our shows regularly. Then that got shut down by the city, because our venue wasn't up to regulation. Then we went back to house shows and an old member of the punk scene opened a bar and started holding shows. But all of it was built on artist network supported through their DIY zines, distros, their own booking, promotion and labels.

                    Punks have been doing what the internet offers for years. But with the internet it is much much easier. The trade off for me, both as an artist and a community member, is well worth it. I have been able to easily book shows through the internet when before we only had snail mail. I suddenly, through social networking, can pitch ideas for shows to huge numbers easily. Record distro is hundreds of times easier and expands the tour route as there is larger chance bands will come out. Long distance promotion becomes even easier as posters can be sent and printed easier and music samples even record can be passed out between friends locally very quickly. The number of people who can now produce their own music at an even higher quality than before will increase community competition. The weird ones will stand out, the talented will too just as the flavor of the moment will be in demand. And it will also include a lot of community input, feedback and more - just like the punk community.  What it does do is cut out a lot of middle men. And lowers the bar in becoming a taste maker. Having loyal and devoted fans will become an even greater commodity. It will probably expand cult music or niche genres.

                    As you mentioned the missing links are better financial support. I am a socialist when it comes to basic needs so I feel I am consistent, I am not proposing to leave artists starving or homeless. That situation needs to change.

                    The model centered around management-lawyers was never really a reality to me but to me can go ahead and die. Labels will probably still stick around as a way to associate musicians with one another and sort out whatever remaining records they sell to distros and help with promotion. Your former manager seems to be very much emphasizing how much an artist can make from live gigs as well. He also warns about the costs of working with majors and the debt associated with it - this risk, on indie labels, is shouldered with the credit cards of friends. MAjors and radio is completely useless in creating venues for new music. I might be fine with a major label managing everything but they control more than any community system would control art. Artist freedom he describes always comes with a price - either make a lot selling record or make money from touring, or make money from selling to movies and ads. Prince had to build an identity and use a lot of promotion to give him the artistic freedom. Everywhere is a sacrifice, but bands who cannot preform live will not make it.

                    "What is the robbing of a Bank compared to the FOUNDING of a Bank?" Bertolt Brecht

                    by thethinveil on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 11:16:18 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Your experience tells me (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      thethinveil

                      You see this very consistently, kind of a socialist, utopian vision in looking at this.  If we were in Europe, we'd have it easier.

                      MAjors and radio is completely useless in creating venues for new music.

                      With XM, Reverb Nation, MySpace, and LAST.FM, imo, this is changing quite fast. They can be the national tastemakers, with no label middlemen.  And now you can get paid.  That's the last piece of the puzzle for me, and as a jazz artist, I see this as similar to the punk scene - even if you're out in the boondocks, as I am now.  

                      I am mainly a songwriter.  But I also produce and perform on my recordings.  The money in recording is in publishing - radio and club plays.  What's interesting is that the artist (performer) is the one who gets ripped off in a situation where a CD is successful but it's pirated.  If the radio's playing it, the writer gets their royalties.  

                      My ultimate goal would be to never perform live. I get a kick out of the energy in a performance, but the drawbacks outweigh the satisfaction for me.  Now a national tour with a big bus and my own limo?  I'd try that once, but only with a hit record to promote. If I ever play in a club again, it will be for fun, jamming with the house band.    

                      Husney talks about how to keep more of your money by being smart.  The part about not being 'recouped' is a thing I saw with some of his other acts.  He had something to do with that, as you maybe could see.  If you sign a contract for $500k, and you spend $100k on the recording, you still have $400k.  He talks about fighting for the artist now, but he was all about getting his back then (having lost Prince). But that didn't mean you had to sell out.  Having a manager isn't the same thing as having a boss.  And he/she doesn't even have to live in the same city or town as you do.  My music was about as subversive and punk as you can get for the times, and Columbia wanted to sign me anyway - due to having a top manager.   Now I didn't sign their contract for some of the reasons you said and he mentioned.  

                      Now I'm doing something akin to jazz - without a manger.  Why can't I do anything easy?  

                      Fun conversation.  Apologies to the diarist for being slightly off topic.  

                      Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time. -- Harry S. Truman

                      by Nada Lemming on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 01:05:49 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

          •  that seems to be coming as well n/t (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Nada Lemming

            if we can't accept change, things will never be the same again

            by le sequoit on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:24:15 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Nah. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            thethinveil

            Music is essentially a live and communal experience. Writing a book is not.

            Being a shanachie in Ireland was a live, communal experience.

            Before books, they had the stories.

        •  You are suggesting (5+ / 0-)

          that we live as Mozart did, dependent on a benefactor or 'passing the hat'.  I've known too many artists who have to have fundraisers so they can get that heart surgery.  I used to dumpster dive when I tried to be a full time musician.  Are you saying that that's the best model?  How about an artist getting paid for what he or she creates?  

          The realm you describe is all musicians in the world, except the ones who get to go on MTV, which is about 0.0001%.  So let's leave them out of this and talk about the rest - how can this be sustainable, or do you think we should be slaves to a 'hat'?  

          Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time. -- Harry S. Truman

          by Nada Lemming on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:11:27 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  That to me is an issue with the Health Care (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Nada Lemming

            system in this country along with food access and housing access. These are issues that should be addressed, saving an industry that basically as you said only rewards a few, isn't really a solution.

            Some communities reward adventurous music, as the jazz community has for years. Music does become as much about community as it does about technique and this mixture does bother me.

            MORE exposure through the internet and using home production will in fact lead to more listeners and reasonably a larger fan base - it is easier and easier to see how groups gain nationwide attention on a myspace single or other new forms of distribution. This means more people in the seats.

            I give money no matter the artist when ever the hat is passed around. I know it is about building a reputation for the scene to pay for the artist's travel expenses and other bills. More artist will come if you have a reputation for the community. I don't necessarily nor do most expect it to pay for all their needs. But as I said that it an issue of social justice, which we talk about every day here.

            "What is the robbing of a Bank compared to the FOUNDING of a Bank?" Bertolt Brecht

            by thethinveil on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:29:33 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Doctorow (4+ / 0-)

        The guy who started Boing Boing gives away his books in an electronic format, but sells the print versions.  

        He has increased his audience and is able to earn more by doing readings and workshops than he would have by simply following the typical plan of selling a book and hoping that enough copies get sold to earn a living.  

        I would bet that you could email him, because I'm pretty sure he would respond to you.

        He'd have an interesting and future looking take on it.  

        "I'm going to take a dump and come back. If it hasn't been changed...I'll take it to mean that... it is meant to deliberately misinform Kossacks." Setrak

        by otto on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:31:38 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  thanks. (3+ / 0-)

          I still like the idea of T-shirt sales, with a download code attached.  I suppose I could impose DRM, but people hate that.  

          Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time. -- Harry S. Truman

          by Nada Lemming on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:45:21 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Here's a talk on DRM (0+ / 0-)

            I haven't watched this, but I read the text of a talk he gave directly to Microsoft employees about how they'd screwed up with DRM.  

            Doctorow's Law-
            "Any time someone puts a lock on something you own, against your wishes, and doesn't give you the key, it's not being done to your benefit."

            He's a very credible voice on the issue, because he's practicing what he preaches, and is doing well by following his own rules.  

            Also, something the band Pinback does, (as well as other artists) is to sell music at shows that can only be found at the shows.  For instance, they sell a live CD of the previous tour during the current tour.  

            "I'm going to take a dump and come back. If it hasn't been changed...I'll take it to mean that... it is meant to deliberately misinform Kossacks." Setrak

            by otto on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:59:53 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  er, here's the link (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Nada Lemming

            "I'm going to take a dump and come back. If it hasn't been changed...I'll take it to mean that... it is meant to deliberately misinform Kossacks." Setrak

            by otto on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:00:21 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Good stuff (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              otto

              I'll check the link....

              Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time. -- Harry S. Truman

              by Nada Lemming on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:00:57 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yup, good luck, er, break a leg- whatever (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Nada Lemming

                I do public show type stuff for a part time job- science entertainment (Bill Nye, Mythbusters...), and people tell me "break a leg." I don't really care about bad luck, because I don't really believe in luck in the superstitious sense.  Luck favors the prepared is what I would say.  

                "I'm going to take a dump and come back. If it hasn't been changed...I'll take it to mean that... it is meant to deliberately misinform Kossacks." Setrak

                by otto on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:08:03 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  So dont' say (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  otto

                  'break a leg'!  I mean, if you don't believe the superstition.  :)

                  Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time. -- Harry S. Truman

                  by Nada Lemming on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 01:14:20 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I don't (0+ / 0-)

                    I had an idea while I was out shopping.  What would you think about a Dailykos artists' info and sales diary every week or so?  

                    It would be a diary where people could post links to their art, whatever it is, so that way people from around here could go and check it out with the knowledge that they'd be supporting someone's art.  

                    There are so many people here  who make art of one form or another, and who likely sell it somehow.  

                    "I'm going to take a dump and come back. If it hasn't been changed...I'll take it to mean that... it is meant to deliberately misinform Kossacks." Setrak

                    by otto on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 02:33:48 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I think I'd be very glad to have something like (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      otto

                      that.  Of course, I'd lose my anonymity, and I like it.  But for the chance to sell some widgets, sure!  

                      Let's not make the unacceptable the enemy of the preposterous.

                      by Nada Lemming on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 10:13:13 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I was trying to think of a way to protect anon. (0+ / 0-)

                        If someone wanted to send me info, and if I could verify their status here, then I'd be able to just post it without giving them away.

                        It's a thought.  Although, people might like to know who they're supporting.

                        "I'm going to take a dump and come back. If it hasn't been changed...I'll take it to mean that... it is meant to deliberately misinform Kossacks." Setrak

                        by otto on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 11:20:56 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  How would that work? (0+ / 0-)

                          I mean, you'd provide links to the art, and a  way to donate?  We'd have to have paypal accounts or something.  This is a really good idea, so i am not trying to discourage, - trying to figure out a way to stay on as a DK contributor and to contribute some art.  Or sell some t-shirts

                          Let's not make the unacceptable the enemy of the preposterous.

                          by Nada Lemming on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 01:09:14 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

          •  I think a download coupled (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            otto

            with a  t-shirt sale is a great one.  I'm going to be making a feature film in a few months and am trying to find a way to distribute it for free, but still make some money.  It can be done.  The trick is to embrace file sharing, since it's going to happen anyway.  If you build a fan base, they will support you.

            Be safe every day, President Obama.

            by Grumpy Young Man on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:07:11 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  What kind of film? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Grumpy Young Man, Nada Lemming

              I'm always curious to know what people do.  

              And I agree, the artists who are not the focus of the major marketing strategies, but who embrace the unstoppable future of art will be the ones who come out the strongest.  

              "I'm going to take a dump and come back. If it hasn't been changed...I'll take it to mean that... it is meant to deliberately misinform Kossacks." Setrak

              by otto on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:10:04 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  A super-low budget musical comedy (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                otto, Nada Lemming

                with a very small, but very good cast.

                Be safe every day, President Obama.

                by Grumpy Young Man on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 11:25:13 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Cool (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Grumpy Young Man

                  I don't know of many low budget musical comedies.  

                  My favorite low budget film of the past few years was Primer.

                  It's a 10k sci fi time travel movie about some guys who create a time machine in their garage.  If you like time travel movies...  Slow, but cool ideas.

                  "I'm going to take a dump and come back. If it hasn't been changed...I'll take it to mean that... it is meant to deliberately misinform Kossacks." Setrak

                  by otto on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 02:29:40 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Primer is awesome. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    otto

                    But, I made the mistake of walking out of the room for about 15 seconds while watching it, and was completely lost when I came back in.  It takes some serious concentration to keep up with that movie.  I have to watch it again.

                    Be safe every day, President Obama.

                    by Grumpy Young Man on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 02:38:26 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  The only way I was able to get it (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Grumpy Young Man

                      I watched it with my then 11 year old son.  That made it so that every 5 minutes, I had to stop the movie and explain what was going on so that he would be able to understand it.

                      It's the only reason I understand how some things work.  

                      I asked Nadalemming about this, but maybe you have some input as well.  What would you think about a weekly Dailykos artists' diary.  It would be a diary that someone would write, but that anyone could post links in.  That way, people could promote their work within this community, and other people would know a little bit about who they were supporting.  

                      I don't have anything to sell, but I'd be happy to be one of the writers.  

                      "I'm going to take a dump and come back. If it hasn't been changed...I'll take it to mean that... it is meant to deliberately misinform Kossacks." Setrak

                      by otto on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 02:45:28 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I think that is fantastic. (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        otto

                        This is a huge place and a weekly spot where guests can write or promote their stuff would a.)help break up the monotony of repeat diaries and b.)serve as a controlled forum where it can build up a regular audience instead of having many small diaries get lost in the shuffle.

                        Yep, I'm all for it.

                        Be safe every day, President Obama.

                        by Grumpy Young Man on Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 03:12:38 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

            •  ASDF (0+ / 0-)

              The trick is to embrace file sharing, since it's going to happen anyway.  If you build a fan base, they will support you.

              So true.  You can't defeat this in any meaningful way.  Maybe you can sell popcorn in stores, with a movie download cart attached?  Atl least you'd have sold the popcorn.  

              Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time. -- Harry S. Truman

              by Nada Lemming on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 01:12:32 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  So what's next? (7+ / 0-)

    The recording industry still remains a necessary vehicle for national distribution of music, it just seems that the initial promotion will be band and fan generated with the record industry waiting to swoop on who gets a following.

    The thing that sucks most about this will be the demise of the record stores.  One thing I saw a local record store doing was having a Sat. afternoon mini concert with a cover charge to bring people in and give away that bands CDs to the first 100 customers.

    No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

    by Magster on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:37:33 AM PST

    •  That is how it has worked up until now, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pstoller78

      at least from my perspective via the underground. Band tours, builds fan base, puts out their own records or CDs, gets signed to label - repeat, then gets signed to a major label.  

      I think recorded music will be means to promote the tour now that it is easily distributed via the internet or where you can manufacture the CD yourself, cheaply. Word of mouth gets out, then people show up to your shows.

      And then there is Ticket Master, which is just pure evil incarnate.

      In Europe community spaces for art and music are provided by the government, to a lesser extent here but by the community orgs or groups of friends (house show circuit).

      "What is the robbing of a Bank compared to the FOUNDING of a Bank?" Bertolt Brecht

      by thethinveil on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:48:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  No, it isn't (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pstoller78, thethinveil

      You can get SCADS of music online without ever visiting a record store.  Or going through a record company.

      I won't miss record stores either.  It's unfortunate but a record store is too physically small to satisfy my needs for music, and I got really tired of the same old shit everywhere.  Record stores that really cater to the listener are EXTREMELY hard to find.  I know of two in the nearest 150 mile radius to me, and I don't think either of them is going to last much longer.

      Republicans and personal responsibility are distant, estranged acquaintances.

      by slippytoad on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:52:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Record chains never offer much anyways, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brooke In Seattle, Magster

        specialty stores or independent stores will still exist I think, but even the best of them are now offering a huge online catalog by comparison to their in-stores offerings. I think most of them died in the seventies and were replaced by mall outlets. There were no good record stores where I grew up but we still had, let me count, seven. Couldn't find anything I would want in them.

        "What is the robbing of a Bank compared to the FOUNDING of a Bank?" Bertolt Brecht

        by thethinveil on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:03:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I would hope (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brooke In Seattle

        A store like FYE would fail.  

        I would not want my local place to fail.  We have some great little record stores here in Seattle, and they are a community asset.  

        I would also hope that people who are interested in supporting the artists would go directly to those artists' sites when they are interested in buying their music.  

        "I'm going to take a dump and come back. If it hasn't been changed...I'll take it to mean that... it is meant to deliberately misinform Kossacks." Setrak

        by otto on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:37:03 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Easy Street Records, Seattle, WA. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        milkbone, thethinveil

        Please don't take away record stores.

        It's like losing all the independent book stores.

        Sometimes it's just cool to browse and hang out.

        Easy Street has/had more music than I've seen in any chain and has mini-concerts at the back of the store. Then, the artists stick around and sign merchandise.

        Now, I moved out of Seattle a few years ago, but last time I visited, the store was still there and seemed to be going strong.

        "The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." -- Mark Twain

        by Brooke In Seattle on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:09:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  When I was last in Seattle, I thought they (0+ / 0-)

          were thinking about closing Easy Street but they still had some issues with selection, access to music is much less a problem than it was before. It was enjoyable being there, lots of friends of friends worked there. The quality of work must be ten times better than moving crates around at a distribution center.  

          Having a place to congregate will never be a problem for music fans in a city like Seattle, I certainly would never congregate at a borders or starbucks. Book fans and coffee fans don't have an option of a live show.  

          "What is the robbing of a Bank compared to the FOUNDING of a Bank?" Bertolt Brecht

          by thethinveil on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 11:46:44 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I think truly independent records stores (0+ / 0-)

          Will survive.  But the chain stores that have four rows of widely-spaced product in giant theft-proofed bins, and nothing that isn't either Jann Wenner-approved "classics" or brand new prepackaged baby pap, well thank GOD those kinds of stores are dying like flies because they're doing nothing but crowding out genuinely interesting music.

          There's a store in Indianapolis (I'd have to think to recall the name) where I found the old record-store style and picked up some great stuff.  There's a couple down here in Louisville (Ear Xtacy and Electric Ladyland).  

          Then there's the bins at Target and Wal-Mart that are indistinguishable from FYE.

          In order to make themselves worth going to those record stores do have to have mini-concerts, cd release parties, and a wide array of artists that appeals to more than the 13-19 demographic.

          Republicans and personal responsibility are distant, estranged acquaintances.

          by slippytoad on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 12:25:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  They need to become (4+ / 0-)

      a self service product.  Distribution, radio promotion and tour planning need to all become self service on an as needed basis.  Ever since the days of Zappa the labels have only had marketing in mind.  If you don't walk in with an image or a concept they can package, they don't care about developing you.  Because they stopped caring about the music in the 70's.  

      Each of these functions used to reside at record labels, but it is not necessary anymore.  With radio stations like Last.fm and royalty arrangements within those models, the barn door is already open.  Now the idea is how artists can get paid and to minimize the piracy because it's not corporations people are stealing from anymore for the most part.  

      Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time. -- Harry S. Truman

      by Nada Lemming on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:54:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm not sure about some of the conclusions (6+ / 0-)

    For instance, the criticism about record companies being greedy, putting out albums with only one or two good songs, and putting more effort into signing clones of the latest big act than ferreting out new, original acts certainly rings true.  But I can't think of a time in history when all those things weren't true.  

    •  Was thinking that, too. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hannibal

      I have some Bing Crosby albums with some real duds on them.

      And when I was in the biz in the seventies, things were becoming damn sparingly corporatist already, enough so that I turned away fairly quickly.

      if we can't accept change, things will never be the same again

      by le sequoit on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:51:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The difference is (6+ / 0-)

      You don't need a record company's money anymore to record, produce, promote, or sell music.  It can all be done independently.  Digital technology hasn't just changed how we hear music; it's changed how we create music.  I have a $1200 device in my bedroom that allows me to make very professional-sounding recordings.  I just have to rent a few microphones and in a few days I can create a whole album.

      Republicans and personal responsibility are distant, estranged acquaintances.

      by slippytoad on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:54:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  there's a big difference (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        confitesprit

        between professional sounding and professionally sounded. It's like the difference between analog and iPOD. One is a facsimile.

        if we can't accept change, things will never be the same again

        by le sequoit on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:00:29 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  No, not really (5+ / 0-)

          There isn't.  People don't actually care, except for fools who spend $10,000 on a turntable and $8,000 on their speaker cables.

          There's a fundamental level of quality that you can reach with musical equipment by spending more money.  After that it's all in the imagination.  I have a $1,000 Spector bass guitar, and a $3,000 vintage 1973 Rickenbacker bass.

          But I prefer to play a $300 Mexican Fender Jazz bass because it has all the tonal qualities I desire, and furthermore can be dropped or slid across the stage without me emitting howls of misery.

          Hint: the sound of the music is not in my bass, it comes from my fingers.

          Republicans and personal responsibility are distant, estranged acquaintances.

          by slippytoad on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:05:37 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Agree people don't care, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            slippytoad, Bill W

            which kind of sums it up.

            if we can't accept change, things will never be the same again

            by le sequoit on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:19:43 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I have resigned myself (0+ / 0-)

              In my band I play and sing.  Most people are only peripherally aware of what I'm doing with the bass so to them I'm the singer.  

              Without sounding pompous I'm a highly skilled player (I cut my teeth on Rush and Yes 20 years ago) but I encounter so many people who aren't even sure what in the hell my instrument sounds like.  I had a comment a few years back . .  my drummer's girlfriend was at practice and I arrived late.  And she said that she finally understood what the bass did because the band were trying to play while I wasn't there and she could hear what was missing.

              One of the reasons I play a $300 beater these days -- I just couldn't make myself take a gorgeous vintage Ricky out on stage if nobody could really tell that it was one.

              Republicans and personal responsibility are distant, estranged acquaintances.

              by slippytoad on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 12:19:10 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Actually, your analogy is not quite as apt as you (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          le sequoit

          may think.  There is a small but not-insignificant audiophile sector of the "music industry" that is pursuing very high resolution digital recording and reproduction, as slippytoad refers.  It is not just about production, either. Current digital format music is being released by such recording firms as Linn and Blue Coast Records in 24/96, and by HRx in sample rates up to 24/176.4, which are much higher resolution files than standard redbook CD quality of 16/44.1.  As for iPods, mine is holding nothing but full AIFF files at the redbook sample rate, which equates to around 600-750MB per CD.  With Westone 3 IEMs (3 driver inner ear monitors), the sound quality is truly fantastic and rivals my in home music server system with high end digital-to-analogue converters, a very nice turntable I'm using to digitize my vinyl without SQ compromise, amplifiers and speakers, etc.

          I think there is definately a very exciting future in music recording and reproduction, it is just not going to be based on a few monster labels as it has been in the past.

          •  We're not far apart. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            confitesprit

            And you're right, the analogy sucks, as most do and I should know better.

            I get all that, but most folk aren't downloading 10 megs a stereo minute, and today's hiss is yesterday's cymbal.

            if we can't accept change, things will never be the same again

            by le sequoit on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 11:27:58 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  No worries, and you are absolutely correct. Most (0+ / 0-)

              folks are not going this route.  I think it's way cool, and have been able to get on the wave for a relatively modest sum (admittedly in contrast to decidely NOT modest options, i.e, the $10K turntable, etc.).  Done well (and I'm working on that part), it does produce great results, but it also takes a considerable investment in time and research that would not interest many.

              Loved your last line reference to the hiss vs. cymbal, btw.  Too true!

    •  Damn few lame songs on any of the early Beatles (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brooke In Seattle, confitesprit

      and Stones albums.

      And it feels like I'm livin'in the wasteland of the free ~ Iris DeMent, 1996

      by MrJersey on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:43:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There is still success (4+ / 0-)

    to be had in a model more like the 20s and 30s than the 60s and 70s. Burgeoning acts are doing so with tighter control over expenses that used to be cooked into the books of vertical monopolies. And bigger cuts.

    People grow up and have many more demands on their time that being a ripophile, with all it's workarounds and piracy prevention one-upmanship, is less satisfactory than paying the damn 99 cents.

    If anything, I think the music business is heading in a more innovative, mature, satisfying direction.

    if we can't accept change, things will never be the same again

    by le sequoit on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:44:43 AM PST

  •  The military-industrial-entertainment complex (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thethinveil

    still operates in the same dinosaur-esque modes, appropriating whatever's hot at the moment (hip-hop), watering it down until it's no longer threatening, and choreographing jailbait Lolita popstars to push their product.

    That they got sideswiped by technology actually did surprise me, a little; this was the industry that has mandated obsolescence in hardware, from the vinyl record to the cd to the betamax tape to the VHS tape, and so on.

    "They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time. [...] That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary." -Handmaid's Tale

    by Cenobyte on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:46:48 AM PST

  •  There is Much more to it..... (6+ / 0-)

    To qualify, I'm a producer and performer. I live in both worlds of the music industry, and it's my work too, not just a hobby. I would without regret call myself a professional.

    This diary I guess, is more of an observation of a very simplistic view of the record industry. What happened to it is far more complex than just greed at the upper end. I commented on a diary last week about music piracy, and much of the same thoughts apply here.....

    I'm not one to apologize for record companies. Believe me, they have been (and still to this very day) the bane of my existence. However, now that they're faltering before our very eyes, there is a very real lack of "infrastructure" in the industry, that has yet to be replaced. Basically all of us in the indie/major world failed to recognize this early on.

    In other words, touring, merchandise, publishing and mechanical royalties have ALWAYS been the primary income for most musicians, not record sales. Record sale royalties were always exclusively seen only by the very biggest artists. But, the labels provided an infrastructure mechanism for bands that simply doesn't exist anymore. They assisted in promotion and touring, which was the very thing that allowed artists to flourish. These days, that infrastructure is reserved for only the top sellers, which not surprisingly is all the majors represent anymore.

    The irony is that increased access for artists has led to a surge in music creation, which inevitably has led to a complete saturation of the "market". So what we all (myself included) fought for and banded together to bolster, has turned out to be a significant factor in the demise of the record industry as we knew it. We kind of did some of it to ourselves, not understanding that it would lead to a global devaluation of the art itself.

    The demise has been the confluence of the following factors: content is at an all time low in quality, there is too much content available, big labels obviously got too greedy, and independents were unable to stay afloat when distribution became more accessible to the smallest of artists.

    "From each according to his faculties; to each according to his needs" - M. Bakunin

    by DJamesGoodwin on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:48:08 AM PST

    •  Do you think we can (0+ / 0-)

      find a model similar to how they operate in Europe?  

    •  good points JG.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thethinveil

      global devaluation of the art itself.

      democratization has come to most crafts, disciplines, and professions. In recorded music, the process is pretty much done. Whatever horrors print journalists face today, musicians went through it by 1990.
      Recorded music means a bunch of hand-lettered discs made by the girl up the street, piling up near your CD player.   Live music means going down to the corner pub for the CD release party for that girl up the street.  So be it.  

      But something has been lost, culturally.  Music carried with it the power of the shared experience.  The more shared the experience, the more powerful the medium.  It was mainstream, and it was THE voice of dissent.

      All our media has become cultified, a result of attempts to sell more efficiently.  Some would say the cultification was a conspiracy to divide and conquer.  The corporate overlords bought the old music companies and gutted them.   I'm just saying maybe it was a political act.  Mainstream music used to be the cutting edge of culture.  It drove the social dialog, and through that, eventually, the political climate.  

      Most people commenting on the state of music merely shrug it off and say, "no problem, I like this band and this one and have no problem getting what I need"  Fine.  But the shared experience and the power that goes with it, is lost.

      Our society is suffering for the lack of the fool on the hill.

  •  Advances in technology always... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hannibal

    render existing business models obsolete, if adaptations aren't made.

    The distribution conduits for recorded music have changed...permanently.  There is no going back.

    But this also brings with it an opportunity for good music to rise to the top on it's own merits.  The barriers for recording music have also decreased substantially due to technological advancements, and amateurs can make almost studio quality recordings at home now.

    It's become more organic, and in some ways, more democratic.  The middleman is being removed.

    "See if you can guess what I am now?" -John "Bluto" Blutarsky

    by Bonsai66 on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:48:38 AM PST

    •  the middleman was the record company. (4+ / 0-)

      DIY recording has come a long way since we were doing punk rock on 4-track machines (and did you know, much of The Beatles were also recorded on 4-track?).  

      DIY distribution is as simple as a website with a Paypal button, because if your music goes viral you'll earn more than you'd get from a record deal even if most of the people download it for free and never pay a cent.  

      However the most important link in the signal chain is still the microphone, even if all of your instruments are digital or otherwise have line-outs.  The difference between a mic that's merely accurate and one that's musical is the difference between a decent vocal track and one that feels close and intimate in a way that's hard to describe but you know it when you hear it.  Those mics are expensive, and the studio engineers who know how to match the mic to the voice charge a decent and well-deserved hourly rate.  

      The recording studios weren't the middleman; they provide very real added value, and that can include the kind of artistic advice that actually helps.  

      So the logical trajectory is for bands to start by self-producing on home digital recording equipment or in inexpensive studios, and then when they start earning an income from their music, take it to a bigger studio and pay for a full-on production; and in any case keep up with the self-distribution.  

      There might even arise a new kind of "record company" that's simply a website using something like the iTunes model but without the DRM.  This also on the basis that those who download for free are only contributing to the viral spread of the band, and the paid customers will more than increase as a result.  

      The new "record companies" could be co-ops run by the bands themselves, on the model of agricultural products co-ops with hired staffs.  This will keep them from becoming ossified monsters as today's record labels have become.  

      •  Yes, but.. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek, thethinveil

        There's no POWER in it.  socio-plitical power.  I was a mainstream record producer, and I left when it was apparent the excitement of getting a statement to a mainstream audience was gone.  I guess I'm still looking for a replacement for that.  Hence, hanging out on DKos. (still looking, still waiting, by the way)

      •  not just microphones... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek

        Most people will look at a recording studio and not realize that there might be more money invested in construction, HVAC, electrical, soundproofing and acoustical treatment than there is in all the shiny equipment. And there is no plug-in that makes a bedroom sound like a properly-tuned performance space.

        But, it depends on what kind of music you're making. Some music doesn't demand acoustic space, and some music lends itself to cheap gear.  I recall reading that one of John Lennon's favorite vocal microphones to use on gritty rock tunes was a Shure SM57 that runs about $125 today.  

        •  yes, yes, and yes. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bill W

          I've been involved in this and knew someone who designed studios; the effort that goes into the acoustical design is incredible.  This requires a kind of skill that is impossible to duplicate or simulate using computers, to produce a result that is impossible to duplicate or simulate using computers.  

          A good acoustic space is acoustically sensual in an almost tactile way, by which I do not mean erotic but more like an exquisite kind of sensitivity.  

          Wild coincidence with your mentioning John Lennon, the other night I was dreaming about something to do with a production, and we were using SM-57s.  Basic workhorse mic everywhere in the industry.  

          BTW, I got out of the field shortly after stuff started getting too digital.  One night a guy came in to do a bass track and I was all, "OK, so let's mic your cabinet and get a line out..." and he's "it's all in here" and holds up this black box.  Eeek!   I knew a guy who could compose drum tracks on a drum machine that sounded human; the guy was absolutely brilliant, and he could also draw sketches of people that truly expressed their souls.  I don't know where he is these days but I wish him well.  

  •  It's hard not to milk the cow (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BachFan

    We have seen this in many industries. When an industry has a successful business model that provides substantial cash flow it is very difficult for the existing industry participants to change the business model. That is why it falls to startups to change the business model first. They have no stake in the cash cow. It is only after the flow of cash starts to decline that the existing industry participants begin to adapt. This is a very common pattern.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 08:50:35 AM PST

  •  Cover art, liner notes, bonus tracks, benchmarks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, Hannibal

    Say goodbye to those as the CD catalog disappears.

    The CD's peak seemed to be about 1992-1994.  I remember seeing a huge box set of the King Cole Trio's complete recordings and knowing as a college student I couldn't afford it.  Every few months there was a release like that-- beautiful photographs, great liner notes and alternate takes as bonus tracks.  Every Sinatra album was available on CD, even "Watertown."

    Classical music had great series like The Originals and Great Recordings of the Century that led me to benchmark versions by Karajan, Barenboim and Bohm.  I wonder if there would be the same feeling downloading Bohm's Figaro without the cheesy cover photo of Hermann Prey.

    I'm talking about old recordings on CD-- and last year the same thing happened to old movies on DVD.  Except for Sony/Columbia (surprisingly enough) the old movie releases just dried up, and gone were those great box sets like the "Thin Man" collection.  Warner instead launched the wretched Warner Archive series-- no remastering, lousy cover art, no extra material.  But you can download the unremastered classic "Johnny Eager" for $15.

    To get back to music on records-- this took a big hit in 1949 with the American Federation of Musicians strike.  That helped to kill Big Band and new ballads (too expensive) and usher in novelty pop and white kid covers of legitimate rock 'n' roll.  

  •  Corporations are always thinking they can (4+ / 0-)

    turn everything into a mediocre formula for the masses and the masses will continue to buy it.
    At first they do in hopes of improvement but, once it's decided the formula won't improve, people move away and stop buying.
    And yet, corporations keep thinking they can keep doing this to us.
    They always lose in the end.

  •  At the heart of this... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thethinveil

    ...is the whole question of the commodification of intellectual property, or, if you like, a calling into question of the notion that there can be such a thing as "intellectual property."

    We should remember that the notion of music-as-product is at most two hundred years old, and is almost entirely a product of the West, and of the capitalist system (which is conditioned to think of everything as product).

    In oral traditions the world over, there may be a notion that songs "belong" to particular people or families, but this built on the idea that the songs are valuable because they are rarely heard.  The entire system of values argues against treating music like a commodity...because, of course, music is not a commodity.  Music is music; it is a culturally mediated behavior universal to the human species.  If the capitalist system is going to try and make music into a commodity, it will fail.  As it is failing now.

    To which I say, "Good. And good riddance."

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:27:48 AM PST

    •  Back in the day.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WarrenS, thethinveil

      .....at the very beginning of the internet, John Barlow (lyricist for the Grateful Dead and a damn good writer and thinker in many ways) said "Information wants to be free!" and that became something of a viral meme.  My version was "intellectual property is an oxymoron."  

      The idea that someone can turn ideas or their expression into a commodity in the same manner as overtly physical objects, is inherently doomed to failure.  

  •  Video did kill the radio star........ (3+ / 0-)

    For all this talk about formats, for me, the two big tipping points were when large entertainment conglomerates bought up record labels and started to worry more about the bottom line than the music they were putting out, and the corrosive factor of MTV.  Music people have to meet today's criteria of primarily looking good, before their musical creativity may be established.  Neil Young once said about the MTV age, "How could anyone who looks like me ever get on television" and he's right.  There are lots of reasons that mass market music is so lame today, but the insistence on lookism, that you must be more than slightly glamorous to make it in the music business has been the most corrosive element in the deterioration of the quality of mass market music.

    And it feels like I'm livin'in the wasteland of the free ~ Iris DeMent, 1996

    by MrJersey on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 09:41:37 AM PST

    •  Great Classic commentary song on the Biz (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MKinTN

      Take it away Frankie....

      Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

      by IreGyre on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:08:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  that plus the execrable machine that... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thethinveil

      ....turns any vocal track into a note-perfect performance.  

      There was a time when no element of a performance could be faked.  Then one by one, instruments succumbed to sequencers and synthesizers that could "correct" a performance on the fly if needed.  Vocals were the last holdout.  No longer.  

      It's legitimate to use the technology to fix a blooper on an otherwise great vocal track in the studio.  Anyone who's ever worked on the other side of the glass knows the feeling when that happens, and a retake just doesn't do it, even by punching in one section of the retake.  

      But in any case, what we have today is a flat Earth paradigm where anyone with zero talent can come out sounding (almost) as good as Bono, and what that does is devalue artistic skill to the point of cynicism.  

      Just as punk rock reacted against the overproduction of mainstream rock starting in the late 70s, we are going to see a reaction against this kind of overproduction.  

  •  Every age(let) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wash the Bowls

    has its cultural forms and excesses in the form of its celebrities, its forms of gouging, the tastes and worldview of the audience the artists have to cater to, its preferred choices of drugs, sector of society to rage against, ecstasy.  The music of each decade at least somehow matches to what the dominant recreational drug of the time was, that sort of thing.

    I read "Appetite for Self-destruction" a few weeks ago.  It's lacking in a sense of the terrain of cultural sociology of the audience of popular forms of music in the 80s/90s/00s, that's my sense of its blind spot.  Or maybe I'm the blind one in thinking there were various crosscurrents in middle and lower middle class American taste in music during that period that mattered as much as the technology and money.  The infamous fragmentation/niching of the American music market the early Nineties was initially great for CD sales because much of the audience tried to keep up with as wide a range as they could.  But as the fragmentation and niching and stagnation of quality continued into the early 2000s it simply got beyond the time and the budget of average people to do so.

    I remember reading the book and thinking about how the careers of my two favorite artists matched up to its story.  One of them got lucky, came onto the scene at just the right time and rode the wave of CD sales and mania across all 15-20 years of it.  The other utterly troughed during the run of CD sales- her career peaked in the last big peaking of vinyl in the early-mid 1980s, she put out one album in the CD era she promoted only in a small way, and now she's back again.  The fandom of the former artist are highly CD-centric, the fans of the later are highly vinyl-centric.  It's quite amusing.

  •  Balkanization of the music scene (5+ / 0-)

    Hand in hand with the demise of the recording industry has been the progressive fracturing of music fans into ever smaller little armed camps, each with a passionate fervor for their favorite genre, and a disdain for (if not outright hatred of, but more typically apathetic ignorance of) other musical forms.  Yes I know that a certain percentage of music fans often go searching for new stuff across genre boundaries; I guess what I am really lamenting is the sheer impossibility of a band like the Beatles to come along and get 50% of the overall fan base to listen to them.

    •  That has an up side and a down side (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thethinveil

      For every Beatles there have been 10 or 20 or more packaged pop formula group... the Beatles were a happy accident in one sense... the real deal that just happened along at the right moment in history to make the most of what they had and to grow with it...

      For so many others since then brilliant or just good, mediocre or cloned execrable unoriginals, they are merely vehicles for multi-nationals to use to try and influence what is meant to be popular so that whatever acts they have signed will make them loads of money...

      The new anarchy-democratic wave in music is refreshing... while more people are finding a core of same old music that they feel safe in and will likely not escape... the scariness of too much choice leads to too less desire to choose...

      But counter balanced with that is the astonishing freedom of those who do search to find things they would probably never have found in previous decades...

      Long live the new age of music Balkanization!... the Middlemen and gatekeepers have lost their stranglehold.

      Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

      by IreGyre on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 10:18:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  JD. See my post upthread on this.. (0+ / 0-)

    Good point.  
    Jeez you write as fast as you can and post and the thread goes on without ya.

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