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The History of Music Media Postscript: The Future

April 8, 2010

 

Behold! The future of music! Um... keytars... I guess...

Senores y senoras: nosotros tenemos mas influencia.

The music industry is dead. After numerous attempts to kill the industry, it has finally happened.

It took turning music into an infinite good to finally do it. And while that may have cut it deeply, it was the self-inflicted wounds that finished it off.

The endless abuse of the very artists it was supposed to cultivate and protect. Locking musicians into expensive, constraining contracts. An intentionally faulty royalty scheme that keeps artists separated from their money. An entire amalgamation of inept management, vindictive legal battles, rent-seeking that serves to keep ASCAP, BMI, the PRS, the RIAA, etc. rolling in money and a perverse (and thoroughly broken) trickle-down effect that only benefits the top 5%.

As much as the record labels and their accompanying dollar-sniffing dogs would like to return to the rapacious days of the $19 CD and its money-printing ability, it’s just never going to happen. So they force it, suing 14-year-old kids and 80-year-old grandmothers. They send out bills to Mom & Pop stores, cop shops, charities, animal shelters, the Girl Scouts, etc. They browbeat or seduce your elected officials into legislating your rights away and otherwise throw all their energy into tipping the playing field back in the direction of their gaping and insatiable maw.

Perhaps it's too subtle...

Take a quick look at the “business plan” of the performance right groups. They send out bill after bill for bogus “public” performance fees (“public” meaning heard by more than one person). This is nothing more than mass mailing. Spam.

Their methodology is no different from the guy at the bar that asks each passing lady if the like anal sex. Yeah, he’ll take a lot of abuse but sooner or later, he’ll get lucky. And to him, it’s worth the damage to his reputation.

Same thing here. They’ll demand money from anybody and everybody, hoping for a 5% return or whatever. If the public can’t shame them in to stopping or the courts refuse to make them stop, they’ll keep hopping from patron to patron, hoping to get lucky.

They waste their time, money and effort on fighting a battle they have already lost, rather than finding new and better ways to help their artists promote themselves or work within the “constraints” of the digital age.

As long as music is an infinite good (and that’s for the rest of forever, folks), it is self-defeating to thrown your energy into clicking your heels and wishing for 1991.

There are thousands of bands giving away thousands of songs every day, having realized that it’s better to get their music in your ears and their name on your tongues than to bemoan every “lost” sale or play penny-ante royalty poker with the major labels and their legal friends.

Thanks Chain Music Store! I never would have found Dinowalrus without your invaluable flaunting of mainstream artists!

Despite what everyone may be hearing from spoiled rotten artists like Garth Brooks and Bono, there has never been a better time than now to be a musician. No matter how small you are, you can get heard.

In the old brick-and-mortar + mainstream radio world, would you or I ever heard of the bands like Dinowalrus, Micro Titanic, Grave Babies, Whitey, Human People, etc.? If they even made their way into the local Musicland, they likely would have been in and out within days, thanks to sales of $0.

Here’s a message for those who still doubt and fear to cast your pearls before thieving swine. A message for every musician out there who thinks that piracy will deprive them of a livelihood. A message for those who think that the only way to self-sufficiency is through the same routes that have been obliterated by a flood of new options.

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?

You can’t sell your music? Well, maybe your product is no good. Maybe you’re not spending enough time promoting it. Maybe you’ve self-imposed a premium on your time and effort that no small amount of money will satisfy.

How can you NOT get your product out?

Case in fucking point: I bought Whitey’s new album from Amazon at 4 am. It took about 5 minutes from beginning to end. By the time I left for work at 4:15, I had it cued up on my mp3 player. And you want to tell me that we should go back to plastic discs? That I should have to wait to whenever it’s convenient for the local music shoppe to open its doors and then, hopefully, have whatever it is I’m looking for?

Another person forgoes the crapshoot of a 9-to-5 for the steady paycheck of a musician.

Message #2:

LOSE YOUR INFLATED SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT.

Since when did becoming a musician become a path to financial freedom? Did your parents ever sit you down and implore you to form a band? “Drop out of college and form a band, son. You’ll be set for life.”

Don’t look to us for sympathy if doing the thing you love has failed to put steaks in the freezer (or veggieburgers or whatever) and a late-model vehicle in the driveway. Many of us don’t even get the chance to do what we really want to. At least you’ll have a few albums or singles out and some gigs under your belt. You went out, got sweaty and drunk and played music for people. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Whatever artistic line you take, whether it’s music, painting, writing, stand-up, etc. is never guaranteed to repay your time and effort. If it does, you’re one of the truly blessed. If not, well, at least you spent some time doing what you loved.

Don’t go down that path. Don’t follow your predecessors in their jaundiced thinking. Their fever dreams of a few hit singles financing their retirements. That a copyright and 12 minutes of music should allow them to want for nothing. It’s sickening to think that your “art” should be used as leverage, as a weapon, against small businesses, charities, animal shelters, etc. If you’re currently riding this diseased gravy train, please, for everyone’s sake: get the fuck off.

Major Labels: It’s too late to adapt. If you hadn’t been so busy squeezing every cent out of music buyers for the last 40 years, you might still have some goodwill left. And it’s not just the fans you’ve been fucking. It’s also a majority of your artists.

The RIAA: If the only trick you have up your sleeve is “We’ll see you in court,” well… there’s just really no hope for you. You assholes don’t even pretend you want to adapt. Fuck you.

ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, the PRS, etc.: The only thing the digital age has done for you is given you the opportunity to attach yourself like remora to any passing revenue stream. Unfortunately, you tend to kill off every stream with your overenthusiastic sucking. You’re nothing but parasites. Spam generators. Aggressive panhandlers.

Good riddance to you all. Musicians don’t need you. Customers never did. You’re as essential and pleasant as a vestigial tail.

-CLT

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21 comments

  1. I sitting here trying to be funny and I thought, gee CLT, what an awesome essay…which it is. Well done, friend. And I completely agree with your insightful assessment. Publish!!


    • Thanks, FJ. If there’s one thing I feel strongly about, it’s several things. But this thing in particular: the music business needed to die before anything exciting could happen to it.

      Thanks for the visit, FJ. I dig your shiny new initials.


  2. FJ is right. (I only wish he would quit getting here before me, because after his comments I always seem to sound like an overly verbose broken record.

    (Ha! Music-related pun.)

    You know you’re a gifted writer when you can drop terms like “anal-sex” and “vestigial tail” into your essays and still the reader never once veers off from the idea you are trying to get across.

    Your passion for music is contagious, CLT. “Publish!!”


    • Thanks, bschooled. FJ is, of course, right and keeps some very odd hours. While the rest of us are sleeping or working, he’s publishing post after post of fine photography.

      I’ve been told before that things about me are contagious. I’m just glad this is one of those things that doesn’t require some sort of balm. Or injection.


  3. Naderite!

    You really expect me to believe that talented artists who are circumventing the traditional path of toiling in the fields of the major banks, er labels, are better than the latest Keyshawnette, or whatever her name is, album? Please. Give me $19 chunks of filler and autopitch or give me death!


    • Of all the things I’ve been called, I think this is a first for “Naderite.” I’ll wear the nickname proudly to family reunions and interventions and such.

      To answer your rhetorical question: yes. The Key$hawnettes of the world are welcome to have whoever will take them. I’ll take the road less whored.

      As for fucking autopitch: Cher’s got a lot to answer for.


  4. Professor… now tell us how you really feel?


    • Rant rant rant f-bomb rant spew rant f-bomb f-bomb rant rant holla rant summary.

      If you need further clarification, please gaze upon the enormity of the “Fuck You” in our tag cloud. It’s easily three times the size of “Moustache Rides” or “Roberto.”


    • The size of that cloud never goes down.


    • It never will. Not as long as Moustache Rides remain such a minor part of our culture. (I would imagine this is the opposite in Greece. I mean, look at Yanni. He’s never said “Fuck you” in his life and look what it’s gotten him. A steady paycheck.)


    • I’m moving to Greece


  5. As Eminem eloquently stated, “That’s why I’m broke as fuck but had the number 1 club hit.” Or something like that. And of course he’s not broke, but it was true for some people…

    This was a scathing and erudite piece, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in the op-ed section of the NY Times. Of course they’d try to fuck you out of a decent paycheck for it but that’s the name of the game.

    At least you’ve managed to talk me out of my latest hare-brained idea of starting a humor blogger cabal where 8 or 10 of us (we know who we are) attempt to attack and bait our fans for kickbacks…preferably drugs. I mean, that is a bad idea ….huh?


    • I’d be surprised to see it in the NY Times, considering they allow Bono to trot out his privileged ignorance on a regular basis. Sure, they’d fuck me out of a paycheck, but think of the prestige! Nothing like helping a dying industry find the “off” switch on their life-support.

      A blogger cabal? Drugs? Flamebait? Now you’re talking my language. Where do we start? Youtube comment threads? LiveJournal? TMZ?

      Sign me up. I’m behind this 100%.


  6. […] F. Lion Tamer: The History of Music Media Postscript: The Future and (from the archives b/c it’s apropos) Hey, Big […]


  7. So how do you really feel and stop pulling your punches. I like that post. It makes me happy that I lived the life. I was a rock star once, how ’bout that?!?!?


    • RR, the rock star. It makes perfect sense. It’s a rough life, the life of a musician. But I guess that’s what makes it all worthwhile. Some get all the fame and fortune, and the rest play dives all over the Midwest.

      I’m glad you liked the post, especially considering your rock star past.


  8. Not sure why your subscription updates are not coming through. I thought you were on hiatus this entire time. Don’t want to miss anything so I am playing ‘catch up.’ Very enlightening essay, CLT. It almost sounds like you are describing the Wal-Martization of the music industry (I prefer those boutique-y places too).


    • I’m not sure either. If you still have a problem, I could kick you off the subscriber list and have you re-subscribe. Perhaps it’s some sort of voodoo curse that only occurs randomly and unverifiably.

      Thanks for the compliments, e3h. The Wal-Martization of music does fit into this, mainly as the non-threatening, homogenizing of the music scene tries to be all things to all people, and ends up sound more like everything else than anything else.


  9. Believe it or not, I sat my woefully ignorant (musical) ass down and re-read this post. Think your thesis is finally starting to sink in a little (plus, I rather like it when you rant, Capitalist…okay, maybe more like on the ‘cusp’ of a rant). You make some cogent arguments.


    • My thesis probably wandered quite a bit. They always say, “Don’t write angry.” Some of the arguments are more cogent than others, but all the f-bombs are straight from the heart.


  10. […] rant a lot about the music industry. And it never fails to give me plenty to rant about, especially when label execs and major label […]



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