Our Digital Innocence Just Died. And David Lowery Killed It…

I spent an entire afternoon reading and re-reading the storm of articles, comments, analyses and emails related to one impassioned and eloquent retort.  The New York Times, NPR, Los Angeles Times, Techdirt, Hypebot, Lefsetz, the Huffington Post.  Thousands of words, hundreds of comments, dozens of emails, several proposed guest posts; I’m not sure I’ve experienced anything quite like this.

Because David Lowery didn’t just touch a nerve this week, he may have single-handedly crushed years of post-physical, ridiculous digital utopianism.   In one crystallizing, cross-generational and unbelievably viral rant.

And after a decade of drunken digitalia, this is the hangover that finally throbs, is finally faced with Monday morning, finally stares in the mirror and admits there’s a problem.  And condenses everything into a detailed ‘moment of clarity’…

(1) No, artists can’t simply tour and sell t-shirts.

It doesn’t work.  In fact, shockingly few indie artists can pull this off, except for those developed at some point by the major labels (ie, Amanda Palmer) or a serious group of professionals.  Most of the others that are managing to squeak out a living on the road are doing it with great difficulty and are working non-stop.

(2) The recording is now effectively worth $0; its surrounding ecosystem has collapsed.

Some people buys CDs.  Less purchase vinyl.  iTunes downloads are still increasing.  But averaged across all formats and personal valuations, the recording has effectively become worthless.  And that has had drastic repercussions for the music industry, and the lives of otherwise creative and productive artists.

(3) Spotify is not a beneficial solution for artists.  Certainly not right now, and quite possibly, never.

Will Spotify ever put a meal on an artist’s table?  That’s extremely speculative.  Sure, it might eventually mimic Sweden-like penetration in the US.  But that is not happening right now; it’s not a fair solution for artists right now.  Instead, it is shuttling people like CEO Daniel Ek towards stratospheric riches, fattening major labels, and potentially giving Goldman Sachs bankers another joyride.

(4) Kickstarter will mean something to artists in the future, but only to a relative few.

Amanda Palmer may hold the world record for a long time, but there will be other Kickstarter stories.  Some will come out of nowhere, most will involve previously-established artists, particularly those already developed by a major label or similar entity.  This will not replace the vast financing once offered by recording labels.

(5) DIY is rarely effective, and almost always gets drowned by the flood of competing content.

It doesn’t matter if you’re singing directly into the ear of your prospective fan.  Because they’re listening to Spotify on Dre headphones while texting and playing Angry Birds.   Some can cut through, but most cannot without serious teams, serious top-level marketing and serious media muscle.  Justin Bieber ultimately needed the machine, no matter how beautifully his YouTube story gets spun.

(6) Sadly, most artists are worse off in the digital era than they were in the physical era.

Actually, we have David Lowery himself to thank for this realization.  Because the implosion of the recording has impacted nearly every other aspect of music monetization (though certainly not music creativity itself.)  And its replacement is generally a fraction of what a ‘lucky’ artist could expect in an earlier era.

Again, all great for fans like Emily White, but not so great for everyone else.

(7) Younger people mostly do not buy music; they do buy hardware and access.

They gravitate towards free digital content, and occassionally pay for things like concerts when they have the money.  Emily White isn’t a fourteen year-old, she’s a young adult that probably doesn’t want the morality trip.  And neither does anyone else – regardless of the generation.

(8) Older people buy less music than before; they more frequently buy hardware and access.

If you really want to sell a marked-up bundle, make another Susan Boyle.  It’s still a market that doesn’t revolve around free music and constant fan contact.  But older people file-trade, they stream, they steal and they buy less than before.

(9) Google is a major part of the problem.

Lowery is right.  Google is not interested in protecting content creators; their interests lie elsewhere.  Copyright is a nuisance to them, unless it involves their own code and algorithms.  In fact, anything beyond the DMCA erodes their ability to serve customers, remain competitive, and make money. Which is why the Pirate Bay is one of the ‘hottest’ searches, and why adding ‘mp3’ to any artist search produces pages and pages of results.

(10) You are a major part of the problem.

Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s helping musicians.  It’s not file-trading, but the payouts on Spotify, Pandora, Turntable.fm, or whatever else are shockingly low.  It’s a rounding error, towards 0. The paradox is that music fans are living in abundance, while artists are barely getting scraps.

(11) Google, the ISPs, and hardware manufacturers have won.

It doesn’t matter how brutal the war with Hollywood becomes; how many Dotcom mansions get raided.  Music fans aren’t going to start buying albums again; in fact, beyond the playlist, the concept of pre-packaged bundling will become increasingly foreign to newer generations.

It’s not about who’s right, it’s now the world the entire music community lives in.

(12) Everyone lies about stealing.

I’ve only heard a few people actually admit to file-trading: my close friends, Bob Lefsetz, and Sergey Brin.  If you have an iTunes collection of more than a few thousand songs, you’ve almost certainly swapped, torrented, or swapped hard drives in your life.  And almost everyone has a collection of a few thousand songs.

(13) Mass-marketed, ‘lottery winner’ style successes will continue.

Niches are available and sometimes responsive; more often, top-down mass marketing wins.  And most musicians are playing extremely bad odds.

(14)  This ISN’T the best time to be in the music industry.

Conferences like MIDEM make money off this sort of Kool-Aid optimism.  But I work in the music business right now; I was at a major label in the late 90s.  And the reality is that this is the greatest time ever for fans, but definitely NOT the best time for those trying to make money from those fans.  And as David Lowery so darkly described, it can be one incredibly depressing trip for even a ‘successful’ artist.

That’s the reality we now live in, and you really have David Lowery to thank for making it obvious.

173 Responses

  1. REMatwork
    REMatwork

    Paul, your points sum it up perfectly. I am glad you are here to chronicle all this.
    But about that ecosystem (“The recording is now effectively worth $0; its surrounding ecosystem has collapsed”) … we have not fixed it, only because we have not tried.
    For example, I was told just today by an RIAA official in response to our Digital Content Exchange proposal: “We have been examining the concept of the use of trusted third parties to evaluate the nature of sites distributing music content. [Not our concept, by the way. Far from it]. In reviewing your proposal in more detail I could see your concept was actually much broader and comprehensive than that so I asked our technology expert to look it over. We have come to the conclusion that whatever the merits of your proposal, it involves matters outside our charter. As a trade association we have the authority to act on behalf of our members in matters relating to public policy advocacy and enforcement. Your proposal goes to the fundamental design and operation of the marketplace in the music business. Antitrust laws preclude us from engaging in business and marketplace matters on behalf of our members.”
    And then I was told on the phone in my follow-up phone call to the same guy that Victoria Espinel, whom we have been trying to get at for years, will probably never call us back because she only takes proposals from the copyright holders themselves. This despite the fact that she is “dutied by President Obama with the development and implementation of the President’s overall strategy for the enforcement of intellectual property.” In other words, she should be open to good ideas that work and save copyright. But instead, all she does is act as juror of the ideas of the exact same industry that has made every wrong decision it can possibly make for the last decade and a half.
    So I am quite certain that as surprising as it sounds, no one with the qualifications to fix the ecosystem has ever been consulted by Ms. Espinel, by anyone in government, or by any of the stakeholders. I believe Jim Yates has the qualifications. He fixed a similar problem for the securities industry and that business method was sold to Thomson Reuters and is used umpteen times a second today. Do you think the securities industry would stand for an unthriving, uncompetitive and insecure digital ecosystem? That industry had their problem fixed decades ago. When new problems arise today, they fix them in nothing flat. But we, the entertainment content industries, do nothing, as if our content was not worth anything. (It is the “competitive” part that may be scaring away some segments of the industry. Where competition rules, the consumer is king and gets his price.)
    So, I cannot say definitively that the DCE is the answer (although I believe that it is). But I can say confidently from places I have gone and the things I have seen that no one who may be looking at a wholistic solution is getting the time of day from any of the powers that be. They are all given lip service, but no real examination. (Again, a prime example how I know this is just from today, when we were told today by the RIAA official who claims that he and his technology chief examined our materials, that our system “embeds markers into content” even though slide 26 of our slide deck specifically says there are no markers, and no DRM).
    ~REM
    p.s. Spotify is there to make money, not fix a problem. Spotify hopefully one day will be a valuable player in a thriving ecosystem. But Spotify will not fix the ecosystem. It will not because it cannot.
    p.p.s just to give you one example of how far off base Google is, they recently stated at the All Things D Conference that they “invested a huge amount in Content ID.” This will never contribute one iota the fixing the ecosystem, therefore, it was a huge waste of money. A fixed ecosystem will not focus on ID’ing content but on ID’ing ownership (which consumer has lawfully purchased or borrrowed what content, a/k/a voluntary registration).

    Reply
  2. Ed Donnelly - Aderra
    Ed Donnelly - Aderra

    Nice job summarizing Lowery’s long winded thoughts.
    None of this is new news. Move on and make some money with a realistic vision of what is possible. If fans want the music for free, give it to them. Then create something they are willing to pay you for.
    P.S. I am guilty of trading songs, even way back in 1983 when I made U2 mixtapes for friends by recording off the radio with my boombox.

    Reply
  3. Debbie Harry
    Debbie Harry

    For all the bemoaning of the death of the industry, literally not one article I have read has offered a single solution or suggestion to change the situation.

    Reply
        • elias
          elias

          now now.
          DMN’s got some serious brains in the comments section. I’d say I learn just as much here as up there.

          Reply
          • Bald Headed John
            Bald Headed John

            The comments here do contain useful information and opinions.
            Only because a lot of smart people in the music recording-distribution-marketing business have plenty of time on their hands these days.
            They have plenty of time because either they are no longer working or are still working but need an outlet that allows them to rationalize the viability of a failing business model.

      • ZoSo
        ZoSo

        the smoking gun… and what does masnick know about music case studies?
        he’s never been a musician, run a label, or been responsible for the welfare of a single band. He actually HATES musicians (see gearslutz) and calls them “trolls” if they disagree with his half baked ideas (NIN was made by the OLD model BTW) and it all boils down to this…
        the smoking gun is in the numbers, plain and simple…

        http://thetrichordist.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/why-arent-more-musicians-working-professionally/

        Reply
      • Erik P
        Erik P

        Andy is right in posting that video. It’s the only proven solution at this time. Masnick isn’t talking about music, per se; he’s talking about a business model using Trent Reznor as an example of how it’s done.

        Reply
        • Andy
          Andy

          If this is the Erik P I think it is, I got the link from your Twitter feed several days ago, before this little firestorm broke out.
          cheers & vinyl.

          Reply
        • Mark
          Mark

          But it’s NOT a proven solution… I’m not trying to discount their methods, because NIN are/were a hard working band.
          They’ve been together since 1989! – they got popular on traditional radio, major labels, the whole spiel. Not saying it was a cakewalk back then, but how can anyone compare a band that grew that way to someone starting out nowadays?
          I can’t take Masnick seriously… I think he’s a total douche so I’m quite biased in this discussion.

          Reply
          • Erik P
            Erik P

            I’m guessing you didn’t watch the video in it’s entirety, because this has nothing to do w/ NIN being branded by major label money. It’s a simple formula that neither Masnick nor Reznor invented, and it WORKS. I’m not going to argue about it though. Artists always have the option to continue doing what they’re doing by throwing spaghetti against the wall.
            The defininition of insanity is to continue doing the exact same thing over-and-over again, but expecting a different outcome.

          • Mojo Bone
            Mojo Bone

            Sure, it’s no secret that the way to get fans is to play shows, and that works if you’re the Allman Brothers. It’s slow, but it’s a surefire method, if you write great music, play great music and can find upwards of 200 gigs a year and travel to them, budgeting as you go for stuff like strings, picks and gas. Trouble is, you’ll have to start at the bottom, and last I checked, that gig still pays the same $300 it did in nineteen seventy-something, while gas is four bucks a gallon.
            But not even great musicians are also great writers and vice versa; all these alternative proposals leave no place, no income for the non-performing songwriter; those folks have disappeared from the landscape, gone like the hairy mastodon, and I believe music is the worse for their having to hang it up and get a day gig. We know there’s money being made, and we know who’s making it; we just need a legal way to shake that tree and get what’s rightfully ours, not because we feel entitled, but because we’ve earned it.

    • dr dark
      dr dark

      modern solutions:
      1) be a complete internet jack-ass (riff raff/lil b theory) to attract attention, once you have it, show yr serious side
      2) sell enough drugs or kiss the right dumb people with money to blow’s asses to aquire enough money for a massive promo team to push you past the noise
      3) continue to hit people over the head with the same easy to define brand of music/image
      4) play 200 or more shows a year throughout the country, losing money but gaining attention
      5) 2 years later when the buzz dies, re-join the blue collar work force

      Reply
    • solutions
      solutions

      if your read the article mentioned, a few are proposed, e.g.
      google can stop linking to pirate sites.
      google can stop letting adwords run on those sites.
      etc.
      also, ISPs can perhaps be charged royalties as they “transmit” the millions and millions of files…

      Reply
    • TechnologyHasNoMorals
      TechnologyHasNoMorals

      To fix the problem, please revoke the Safe Harbor Provision of the DMCA that allows Tech corporations to ignore copyright. It is a bad law bought by Tech corporation Lobbyists. Thank you.

      Reply
    • weedy
      weedy

      I wish I had THE answer; but apparently no one does.
      It may inmany ways be too late.

      But certainly PIPA, SOPA, and the like, are at the very least attempts to enforce some sense of protection for copyright, and that should be perceived as a very good thing.
      It was of course villified by big tech, but in truth the civil liberties aspects were sold to the public as a scare tactic (when exisiting laws have as much or more potential for intrusion on your privacy)… but it was EFFECTIVELY sold and the public was scared off. In reality, it was not in Google’s interest to have to police itself. That’s ALL that was about.
      so one “solution” is an effective law enforcement approach that at least recognises that this stealing IS illegal.
      As artistes and producers we need to stop being afraid of alienating the poeple who are (anyway) stealing our work and destroying our industry.
      When everything is DIY, pay for it yourself and give it away for free, then no Chrysalis, no Mike Chapman, no Pete Coleman, no Record Plant, etc.

      Reply
  4. REMatwork
    REMatwork

    Paul, your points sum it up perfectly. I am glad you are here to chronicle all this.
    But about that ecosystem (“The recording is now effectively worth $0; its surrounding ecosystem has collapsed”) … we have not fixed it, only because we have not tried.
    For example, I was told just today by an RIAA official in response to our Digital Content Exchange proposal: “We have been examining the concept of the use of trusted third parties to evaluate the nature of sites distributing music content. [Not our concept, by the way. Far from it]. In reviewing your proposal in more detail I could see your concept was actually much broader and comprehensive than that so I asked our technology expert to look it over. We have come to the conclusion that whatever the merits of your proposal, it involves matters outside our charter. As a trade association we have the authority to act on behalf of our members in matters relating to public policy advocacy and enforcement. Your proposal goes to the fundamental design and operation of the marketplace in the music business. Antitrust laws preclude us from engaging in business and marketplace matters on behalf of our members.”
    And then I was told on the phone in my follow-up phone call to the same guy that Victoria Espinel, whom we have been trying to get at for years, will probably never call us back because she only takes proposals from the copyright holders themselves. This despite the fact that she is “dutied by President Obama with the development and implementation of the President’s overall strategy for the enforcement of intellectual property.” In other words, she should be open to good ideas that work and save copyright. But instead, all she does is act as juror of the ideas of the exact same industry that has made every wrong decision it can possibly make for the last decade and a half.
    So I am quite certain that as surprising as it sounds, no one with the qualifications to fix the ecosystem has ever been consulted by Ms. Espinel, by anyone in government, or by any of the stakeholders. I believe Jim Yates has the qualifications. He fixed a similar problem for the securities industry and that business method was sold to Thomson Reuters and is used umpteen times a second today. Do you think the securities industry would stand for an unthriving, uncompetitive and insecure digital ecosystem? That industry had their problem fixed decades ago. When new problems arise today, they fix them in nothing flat. But we, the entertainment content industries, do nothing, as if our content was not worth anything. (It is the “competitive” part that may be scaring away some segments of the industry. Where competition rules, the consumer is king and gets his price.)
    So, I cannot say definitively that the DCE is the answer (although I believe that it is). But I can say confidently from places I have gone and the things I have seen that no one who may be looking at a wholistic solution is getting the time of day from any of the powers that be. They are all given lip service, but no real examination. (Again, a prime example how I know this is just from today, when we were told today by the RIAA official who claims that he and his technology chief examined our materials, that our system “embeds markers into content” even though slide 26 of our slide deck specifically says there are no markers, and no DRM).
    ~REM
    p.s. Spotify is there to make money, not fix a problem. Spotify hopefully one day will be a valuable player in a thriving ecosystem. But Spotify will not fix the ecosystem. It will not because it cannot.
    p.p.s just to give you one example of how far off base Google is, they recently stated at the All Things D Conference that they “invested a huge amount in Content ID.” This will never contribute one iota the fixing the ecosystem, therefore, it was a huge waste of money. A fixed ecosystem will not focus on ID’ing content but on ID’ing ownership (which consumer has lawfully purchased or borrrowed what content, a/k/a voluntary registration).

    Reply
  5. Alex
    Alex

    It makes perfect sense when you think about how music itself changed over the years. Music became simpler, easier and cheaper to produce or record, it reached more people than ever and…lost it’s magic and, therefore, value. It’s no longer exclusive, elite or else. Anyone can do it, with little investment and preparation. I got (okay, pirated, i admit) my first sequencer and sample pack as early as in 1999 with absolutely no knowledge of music theory or production, i just wanted to do it and i could. Now it is even easier, much easier. How’s that adding to the value of the music itself?
    Also the important issue is the evolution of home sound systems and audio compression tech – majority of the population listens to music on a systems which are unable to reproduce and translate fine and tiny details of the mix and the compositon, therefore devaluing the value of top class production and sequencing. And they listen MP3s as well. Great sound is no longer a major factor, because it is out of reach for the average listener. It’s just got to be done properly and that’s all. The competition dries out in this area, searching for other avenues to success. And here we are – only way to reach people is huge scale promotion which can get anything right to the top. I’ll not even mention the term “art” because there’s almost none or little known to majority – they are not interested. Music became something like a cell phone for modern day citizen. A common thing, a snack. Back in the days cell phones were exclusive, luxury, elite etc. But then – mass-production, cell phone became cheaper and more accessible and guess what – it became nothing special. You have a cell phone? So what? You make music? So what?
    That’s why it no longer worth much to a lot of people. Now add enormous web-accesibility for sharing to the equasion and we’ll have 2012.
    I’m close to finishing my album at the moment, i’m trying to interact with people’s imagination by providing them with a written story expressed in music form, leaving them the space to imagine and visualize it. I want to do it, but there’s no hope of selling it realistically – most certainly i’ll have to give it up for free and place a “please donate” button on my website…and i spent years of my life and loads of money for my setup and to learn to create and produce. I’m sleeping on the floor of my home studio and it won’t change because there’s no real value in what i’m doing for the dominant part of the society. There’s more value in my meaningless dayjob at the local tv channel than in trying to make a world a better place by providing emotions through sound. It is modern day reality and we have to accept it.

    Reply
    • REMatwork
      REMatwork

      I like a lot of your comments but I will quibble with the idea that “Music became simpler, easier and cheaper to produce or record, it reached more people than ever and…lost it’s magic and, therefore, value. It’s no longer exclusive, elite or else.”
      In the golden age of music, you had opportunities to buy music every time you turned around. It was sold in every department store, toy store, dime store, and even drugstores. Plus standalone record stores with great selection were on every corner. There was a huge yellow looseleaf book called Phonolog and the record stores could get any 45 you wanted that was in Phonolog shipped on the next truck, with practically daily deliveries.
      And music was not devalued.
      It was not devalued simply because it had a working ecosystem. A major feature of any ecosystem was that you could tell who owned what. The records I own were under my arm and the records you owned were under your arm. Develop a system for doing that today, in a way that is completely voluntary, and the ecosystem is on its way to repair.

      Reply
      • Visitor
        Visitor

        I think you are absolutely right, but i must point out that there are different aspects of music value – artistic and media-related. My point was that artistic simplification, widespread minimalism and everybody copying everybody devalues music (all of the aforementioned leads to greater reach and appreciation in the short term, i believe). The market became extremely huge and customer is spoiled for choice, in a bad way, hence the kick-in of the promotion machine. It is one part. Another part, which you correctly pointed out is ownership-related increase of value. I always though that the latter could be solved technically and i still think it will be, in one way or another. But that won’t change the face of the music itself, which is also a part of a problem.

        Reply
          • dangude
            dangude

            You are correct that music was widely available in multiple formats. However, you can take that entire singles catalog that you spoke and find the majority of it on itunes or spotify or rip for free if not available to purchase. Now add to that an equivalent amount of new music compounded every decade and you have more music than anyone could ever hope to randomly search through.
            I also believe that since it is much easier to create and distribute music online then there will be much more new music added to the digital cutout bin then ever before

      • Visitor
        Visitor

        In the golden age of music, you had opportunities to buy music every time you turned around. It was sold in every department store, toy store, dime store, and even drugstores. Plus standalone record stores with great selection were on every corner. There was a huge yellow looseleaf book called Phonolog and the record stores could get any 45 you wanted that was in Phonolog shipped on the next truck, with practically daily deliveries.

        Yep.
        And then the record labels made it harder and harder to return unsold product. And the sellers either stopped selling the product or jacked the prices up to compensate. As the labels slowly screwed their retail and wholesale customers, the customers worked on other means. The industry is repaing what it has sown.

        Reply
    • Buddie
      Buddie

      “Anyone can do it, with little investment and preparation.”
      That’s where you lost me. Only people who have the talent and are willing to put in the hard work of learning how to make music and how to use all that cheap gear can do it. No matter how inexpensive the hardware is, that sentence is still false.
      All that hard work, and the fruit of all that hard work, is worth something.

      Reply
      • Alex
        Alex

        Of course! It’s worth a lot. But tell me – is there a difference between crazy guitar solo played by yourself and that cool guitar sample from a pack you bought the other day? For us, there is, and it’s huge. For listener – there isn’t.

        Reply
    • Jan Loimand
      Jan Loimand

      Background:

      I stumbled across Music Tank by accident. The radio was playing “Good Morning Starshine” by Oliver. It brought back some memories, but as I listened to it, the song had been “modified”. It sounded like someone had added some percussion. I found a version on YouTube, and this sounded much more like the original. When I have time, I’ll have to see if I have it on reel-to-reel. This reminded me about the poor quality on many or most CDs, so I contacted Music Canada. Music Canada believes that the quality on CDs is “good enough”.

      I then stumbled across Nettwerk Music Group (http://www.nettwerk.com/), and they suggested I have a look at “Meet The Millennials”, so here I am.

      If anyone reads this and knows of a similar site in North America, please let me know. Music Canada and the RIAA are not “friendly” to consumers. ([email protected])

      Here is my response to Alex…

      I do not disagree with your comment that “the majority of the population listens to music on systems which are unable to reproduce and translate fine and tiny details of the mix and the composition, therefore devaluing the value of top class production and sequencing”.

      But when your statement “and they listen to MP3s as well” escapes me. I did not purchase a cassette recorder until Dolby C was added, and I still have a cassette recorder with Dolby HX Pro. I have always paid for my music, but playing records or reel-to-reel tape in a vehicle is not really an option. The tapes I made were for playing in a vehicle.

      In 1982, the Revox B710MKII achieved 20–20,000 Hz and dynamics of over 72 dB with Dolby C on chrome and slightly less dynamic range, but greater headroom with metal tapes and Dolby C. But at $2,000, it was well out of my price range.

      In other words, transferring music from one medium, e.g., vinyl to reel-to-reel, cassette, or 8-track (probably the equivalent of a 128 kbps MP3) is not new.

      Then you state that “great sound is no longer a major factor, because it is out of reach for the average listener”.

      This is not a recent development. The majority of the population has never had systems capable of reproducing and translating “fine and tiny details”. This has been a reality from the beginning.

      When automatic “stacking” turntables were available, the majority of the population probably had an automatic turntable, and stacked six records on the spindle. The turntables originally came with flip-over ceramic cartridges (16/33/45 and 78), and when they started to come with magnetic cartridges, it was generally with a spherical stylus, not an elliptical stylus. The tracking force was probably close to 5 grams or more, which destroyed the vinyl.

      The majority of the population did not want manual turntables, e.g., Thorens and Lenco. They considered them to be too much work, just like cleaning a record before playing. I suspect that most “consumers” were also as “technically challenged” as they are today. Installing a cartridge with proper stylus, weight and anti-skate adjustment required reading the instructions. (The automatic turntable may have been the first “Plug and Play” device.)

      A stereo that produced more than adequate high-fidelity could be purchased for under $1,000 CAD, e.g., Rogers amplifier, Lenco turntable with elliptical cartridge tracking at about 2 grams, and a pair of B&W loudspeakers. That was a lot of money in the seventies, but one needs to remember that a record back then cost about $5.00 CAD. I knew individuals who had collected hundreds of records, but did not have the foresight to invest in their sound system, or at minimum, purchase a manual turntable and a cartridge with an elliptical stylus that could track at 2 grams.

      The music industry did not lower the quality of the records so they could be played on the lowest common denominator sound system. The quality of the majority of the systems was so poor that a listener could not hear the difference. The record industry continued to release recordings, especially of classical music, that could not be properly reproduced on the majority of the systems. A tone arm and cartridge with a stylus tracking at 1 gram was close to $1,000, e.g., Thorens TD 150 with Shure V-15. We do not know the life expectancy of a record that is properly cared for, but it is definitely longer than the life expectancy of the purchaser. The same cannot be said for digital media.

      A consumer can purchase a 5.1 home theatre system for under $2,000 CAD (5.1 receiver, Blu-Ray player and loudspeakers). A good manual turntable and cartridge can be purchased for about $500 (not a “DJ turntable”). If inflation is taken into account, this is less $400 CAD in 1973 dollars when I was selling consumer audio. I can assure you that today’s system will definitely perform much better than a $400 CAD system from the seventies. Moreover, my least expensive system was about $600 CAD, or over $3,000 CAD in 2012 dollars. The most expensive system I managed to sell consisted of a Crown IC-150 preamp, a Crown DC-300 power amp, a Thorens TD-150 with a Shure V-15, and a pair of B&W Model 70 Electrostatic Loudspeakers. That system was close to $4,000 CAD or about $22,000 CAD today. And it was “only” a stereo, no tuner, no sub, no surround sound.

      Sound systems are much less expensive today than they were in the seventies. Based on the same rate of inflation, an album today should cost about $30 CAD, or more than most CDs.

      My burning issue is that I am unaware of any technical limitations for digital music, primarily CDs that explain why so many CDs sound so terrible. CDs have better dynamic range than vinyl, so why do so many CDs have little dynamic range. Why does the industry boost the bass and treble on CDs? (It sometimes sounds like the bass is boosted at around 100 Hz.) The “Loudness” control was based on the Fletcher-Munson curve, and boosted the bass at around 40 Hz. That’s why you rarely see it anymore. It has been replaced by a “Super Bass” or something similar, but not “Loudness”.

      So why has the music industry decided to release CDs that generally sound nowhere as good as vinyl?

      It is probably because if they released CDs that were as close to vinyl as possible, they would probably sound terrible on the sound systems owned by the majority of the population.

      This is pandering to the lowest common denominator. Is degrading any product, e.g. music, ever acceptable? It is also a “choice”, and it is the major reason I no longer purchase as many CDs as I did.

      In closing, I am being reminded far too often of what little I remember from my first year economics course.

      Gresham’s law is an economic principle that states: “When a government compulsorily overvalues one type of money and undervalues another, the undervalued money will leave the country or disappear from circulation into hoards, while the overvalued money will flood into circulation. It is commonly stated as: “Bad money drives out good”, but is more accurately stated: “Bad money drives out good if their exchange rate is set by law.”

      Or in this case…

      “When the music industry overvalued one type of music i.e., CDs and digital delivery, and undervalues another, i.e., records, the undervalued money will leave disappear from circulation into hoards, e.g., collectors, while the overvalued and digital delivery. It is commonly stated as: “Bad money drives out good”, but in this case can be more accurately stated: “Bad music drives out good music if their exchange rate is set by the music industry”.

      Reply
      • Econ
        Econ

        The music industry did not lower the quality of the records so they could be played on the lowest common denominator sound system.

        No, but they lowered the quality of the product for other reasons.
        RCA Dynaflex, for example. Absolute garbage. Polystyrene 45’s didn’t stand up to repeated playings with average consumer equipment, but they cost less to make. There’s a reason record collectors look for early pressings, the later pressings are of lower quality.
        Fast-forward to the CD age and you get the labels jacking up the volume on the recordings to the point where the dynamic range is lost. That was the final straw for me, pushging me to Rhapsody and Spotify.
        Product quality in the recording industry is usually getting worse. CD was a great improvement, and they even worsened that. When the US auto manufacturers followed this same downward spiral in product quality, their revenues shrank. As usual, the failures start finger-pointing instead of examining themselves.

        Reply
        • wallow-T
          wallow-T

          If you get out of the pop stuff, there are some breathtaking recordings being made in classical / folk / world / what we might call NPR music. 🙂 I imagine there is some great-sounding jazz out there too.
          Perhaps, as these genres have been marginalized by commercial radio, the engineers are free to go for good sound quality — these songs don’t have to try to sound louder than the other songs on commercial radio.

          Reply
    • Novi Novak
      Novi Novak

      This article excludes the most obvious point in why records don’t sell today….. No one has fucking talent. No one is ‘IN IT’ for the music or fans, the love of the craft, or the lyricism that invokes emotion…truly invokes emotion. They do it because they watch too much TV and since the artist are so Garbage and it so easy to get your hands on a weeks pay check even from McDonalds and buy a USB microphone and start recording…. Every body does it.

      The artist are taught ‘How to make money and sell’ by professionals but the pros get carried away in the industry shit and don’t realize the roots are a big portion of the selling percentage. Personality, Image, Sound and everything that makes up the Brand is only a part of it.

      The ‘Rock Star’ mentality fucked up society, so did the ‘Gangster’ mentality and in turn it created a generation of wanna be artist that think they are artist simply because they see wack artist doing something they could honestly do just as well and that process repeated until this day in 2012 and will continue until someone actually fucking changes something. All you record label A and Rs need to stop signing GARBAGE artist.

      Think about the top selling artist of all time in all the genres… Michael Jackson, Eminem, The Beatles Etc etc… These artist all made music because it was what they loved… they didn’t seek a pay check that was just the bonus. These people didn’t stop making great music because money came in… But you sign a garbage artist and that is what will happen… lack of creativity… lack of enthusiasm… lack of work ethic and the list will pick more words like a South Park manatee.

      People need to actually care about their fans… and not just all of them in one lump sum.. but all of them individually because they are after all individuals. You may not be able to talk to ALL of them… but you can sure as hell put down a video game controller and put away the movies and spend more time on the fans.

      I could talk about this shit all day…. everytime I get on this site all I fucking see is all of you people complaining but NOT DOING ANYTHING! You argue with each other like fucking sheep (which most of you are!)…. like anyone outside of this site gives a fuck about your opinion you posted. The internet has a habit of letting people talk too much and let’s them express their opinions and as soon as it’s expressed in text on a forum people think since other people saw it that they have actually done something…. False my friend. False. Stop talking and start doing FFS. If you care enough to sit on here all day and read articles and then comment back in 10 paragraphs you should care enough to help make it better.

      The Music Business isn’t just a day job ladies and gentleman.

      Reply
  6. Sam Mendez
    Sam Mendez

    David Lowry didn’t kill anything. He just spoke the truth and truth is, You can’t handle the truth!
    So what are we going to do? I have an idea. And it’s coming. Maybe we’ll show it to DL first.
    Or not.

    Reply
    • FarePlay
      FarePlay

      However you choose to interpret David’s post, as Paul got, something very special has happened here.
      People are actually responding to the heart of the matter and not SOPA or PIPA or MegaUpload or the $675,000 fine, whatever. For once dark holes like Tech Dirt and Lefsetz are scrambling for an argument, a hook, a reason for their existence, when in reality they are merely pawns in the game and only prove that emperor really has no clothes.
      There is really no legitmate argument for unauthorized file sharing other than you can. Everything else is just so they can hold their head high and say ‘I’m not paying, because I don’t have to.”

      Reply
      • Hello
        Hello

        The intern from NPR who wrote the original column wasn’t file sharing. She did admit getting a few tunes in 5th grade through file sharing networks. Most of what she acquired she did by ripping CDs at her college radio station or acquiring recordings of bootleg live concerts from her friends.
        Do we really want to have a debate whether ripping promo CDs at the college radio station to your iPod is a morally bad thing or sharing live bootlegs is a criminal offense? How long has this been going on?
        Ultimately, the NPR intern admitted that she wanted to pay for access to music. She can, sort of, with Spotify and Rhapsody. But David Lowery hates Spotify, so that’s a no-win proposition with him, unless of course Spotify raises royalties so much that users are forced to spend $100 a month for access. And in the end, whatever money Lowery is getting from Spotify is entirely more than he’s ever earned from terrestrial radio airplay.

        Reply
        • Karyn
          Karyn

          “And in the end, whatever money Lowery is getting from Spotify is entirely more than he’s ever earned from terrestrial radio airplay.”

          I’m going to venture a guess that statement is not true… not by a long shot. My experience is that royalties received for performance rights (and neighbouring rights) from terrestrial radio airplay are *significantly* higher than payments I receive from Spotify. Internet royalties are piddly. Period.

          Reply
          • HansH
            HansH

            That’s an early period 😉 Just wait for a few years. Remember Spotify has only 3 million users in the US at the time. If it grows it will surely bring more than radio

        • dwoz
          dwoz

          That’s amazing.

          That IN FACT, ripping music from the radio station’s library wasn’t noticed as the blatant, unequivocal, obvious theft that it was.

          just because it cost her a few minutes to do so, doesn’t make it DIFFERENT fundamentally from downloading, in the legal sense.

          Reply
      • danner
        danner

        “There is really no legitmate argument for unauthorized file sharing other than you can. Everything else is just so they can hold their head high and say ‘I’m not paying, because I don’t have to.””
        I’ve been reading through Stereogum’s comment section about Lowery’s piece, and I’m stunned by how many hardcore music fans sincerely think they are justified downloading illegal music. I’m far more understanding of someone who honestly says, “Look, I know it’s not right, but I do it.” It’s the people who make leaps of logic to convince themselves that it’s okay that make me want to pull my hair out.

        Reply
      • REMatwork
        REMatwork

        I do not want to say that “I’m in the middle here” … but I am in the middle (-:.
        I cannot totally endorse your comments because they are aimed at rubbing folks who use illegal content noses in the carpet.
        We, at the Digital Content Exchange, are akin to the 20th century social activist Dorothy Day, who said that the goal of all her work was to “create a society in which it is easier for people to be good.’ We create incentives for people to do the right thing and own or share their music legally rather than illegally, …. and it is not some crazy scheme to do away with ownership and pay only for “access” (as if you could run the music business like the water company or something.)
        I would like you to consider our plan, since you are one of the leaders of those in the digital music community who insist on legal conduct. Will the Digital Content Exchange idea work for you?

        Reply
        • FarePlay
          FarePlay

          “I cannot totally endorse your comments because they are aimed at rubbing folks who use illegal content noses in the carpet.”
          First of all i think you have this backwards. To our way of thinking it has been the unauthorized file sharing sites that have rubbed the noses of musicians, filmmakers and writers into a financial abyss.
          What is libertarian about making choices for someone else? If people want to share freely that’s great, but the creator of the work needs to decide, not some guy selling advertising and subscriptions to cash in on someone elses work.
          Also, while we do think laws and regulations are necessary; they sure would have helped out before Wall Street decided to pull off the biggest heist in history, our mission is to encourage people to do what we believe is the right thing. Pay for stuff that doesn’t belong to them.

          Reply
    • Econ
      Econ

      David Lowery can’t handle the truth either.

      Since I enjoy his music, I’ll use him as the perfect example.
      I loved Key Lime Pie when that CVB album came out. Must’ve listened to the CD 40 times in my life. I got my $11.98 worth I’m sure.

      The last Cracker album, I loved it but it got almost zero airplay. But I bought a download for $5 and probably listened to it 15 times. Good value.

      The Palace Guards – again no airplay. I like the title song and bought it, probably played it 30 times at least. The rest of the album… meh. I streamed it on Rhapsody a couple times but probably never in the last 6 months. Not good value. If I had found myself streaming it often enough, I would’ve just bought the damn thing.

      So My. Lowery’s music isn’t as appealing to me as it once was. Maybe that’s my fault, or maybe that’s Lowery’s fault for making music that only appeals to older people that don’t have the time for music they once did. On the other hand, I’ve probably played Nick Curran’s Reform School Girl 40 or 50 times in the last 2 years… Got my $15.98 worth on that.

      Truth is, I’ve bought enough records in my life I don’t have enough life left in me to enjoy new ones as much as the one’s I bought 20 years ago.

      Reply
  7. @PJ
    @PJ

    Don’t think there was ever an “innocence” as the writer states,but it’s a shame that fans help rob artists in this age.

    Reply
  8. Crosbie Fitch
    Crosbie Fitch

    The recording isn’t worth $0. The copy is.
    We pirates can make our own copies for nothing, however, it takes money to put talented musicians in recording studios along with all the others who work hard to produce recordings.
    The market for copies has ended. The market for recordings continues.
    Recordings will henceforth be funded by fans happy to deliver 100% of their money to the artist rather than keep 99% for themselves through ‘creative accounting’.

    Reply
        • what
          what

          Your post is so full of dumb I don’t even know what it means. Are you saying that right now, downloaders who keep 100% of their money from the artist will in the future pay for the artist to make a new recording? and are you saying that fans already exist for new bands?

          Reply
          • Crosbie Fitch
            Crosbie Fitch

            Of course fans don’t exist for new artists (unless you count friends and family who already know them). New artists have to promote themselves and their work, and just as for other labourers, may have to provide free samples.
            As an artist’s fan base increases so increases the opportunity to do business with their fans – exchange their work for the money of those fans who will gladly pay for it.

          • jr565
            jr565

            “As an artists fan base increases son increases the opportunity to do business with their fans – exchange work for the moey of those fans who will gladly pay for it”
            It sounds like you’re describing a market system whereby the artist puts out a product (exchanges work) and then the fan gladly pays for it. It sounds like you’re describing how musicians are expecting the market to work. They put out a record and the fan, if they want it, buy it. But you must have some other exchanged work in mind. Do you want the musicians to come over to your house and clean your pool or babysit your kids?
            What the f are you talking about?
            That’s the whole point of a market. Songs are the product. IF you are using the product buy the f’ing product. Musicians aren’t your slaves.

          • Crosbie Fitch
            Crosbie Fitch

            A market doesn’t work like that.
            In a market the vendor (the artist) and customer (their fans) haggle over the goods (the artwork) and the price (how much is needed from the fans), and WHEN there is agreement, the exchange takes place: art for money, money for art.
            See Kickstarter if you want to see how this works – as opposed to the old “18th century monopoly protected prices of copies” business model.

  9. Jason Miles
    Jason Miles

    There are so many things I can write about right now. I’ve been at it for 38 years and it has never been harder to make a living in this business. There has always been alot of music and dreams except now there are now filters and music has no value because 90% of it is made by amateurs who think they are professionals because they own Pro Tools,Logic and cheaper systems than that. To make a really professional Musial product it takes,time,talent and money. Nobody wants to spend money on a product they will never make any money on. It is a depressing situation. The onlynthing for sure is that a few will make alot of money and the rest will have to figure out if it is possible to have a real career making music in the future

    Reply
    • Adam
      Adam

      I think its much simpler than all this.
      1. Too many artists are able to record and self release albums.
      2. Based on one of the response articles to the Lowery Piece we learned yesterday that 94 percent of all songs were downloaded less than 100 times in 2011. That is not a living for an artist, and that isn’t likely to change. (See yesterday’s DMN)
      3. There is plenty of consumer spending in the industry, it is simply spread too thin across too many irrelevant, unimportant, or just simply bad albums.
      4. DJ’s on the radio used to curate the music for us, when radio wasn’t all owned by clearchannel. We need more music curation.
      5. The partnership between retailers and the industry crumbled after the napster years. This had a lot to do with greedy labels and bad business arrangements. Who loses? The artist.
      So now what? These people can cry all they want, and quite honestly its very surprising that this is still going on. Didn’t we know about this more than 10 years ago??? We aren’t going back in time guys. That’s not an option. Are you ready to move forward or do you want to complain a little more about how things are different? Look, its pretty simple. Too much music, not enough spending, and of course you all want to blame consumers… now who sounds like the major labels did 10 years ago? Hmmmm…..

      Reply
      • Just a Fan
        Just a Fan

        +1 to this post.
        Sad fact is that with 28MM songs on Itunes, I dont really need someone to write another one. The digital music revolution has given us easy acess to the entire historical archive, not just lady Gag-gag and Bustin Jieber.

        Reply
        • M Pants
          M Pants

          yoiks, you really don’t need any more new music created?
          Okay everybody, we can stop culture now! There’s no longer a need for contemporary relevance, hurrah!

          Reply
      • righ
        righ

        right. why blame the consumers who are stealing the music, when you can blame the artists for pointing out that they are stealing the music.

        and to equate individual artists with being like the greedy labels of 10 years ago is absurd.
        and times have changed: we now know that ‘freemium’ hasn’t worked. also, iTunes, Amazon, etc. now have all the music you want, which was not the case 10 years ago.

        there has always been “too much music”. you could never, ever have owned and had the time to listen to all the vinyl/cd whatevers that were released. nothing new there.

        you talk about consumers spending too much on irrelevant, unimportant, or bad albums. so you’re saying that they are purposely not buying good music.

        and as for “more curation”… are you saying that people are just randomly going to pirate sites and downloading just anything? (or more likely they’ve gone there because they’ve heard, or read about, that song/band… in which case, they’ve already been through a filter/curator)

        but you’re right, it is simple: pay for the music you listen to.

        Reply
        • Econ
          Econ

          Denying reality doesn’t help. Can’t wait to get your thoughts about the War On Drugs (not the band).

          Reply
      • Mojo Bone
        Mojo Bone

        #3 does not folllow from #2; quite the opposite, in fact. #4, DJs are making a great living, cuz they don’t pay for music, either.
        In whose interest is it to pay the writers and musicians? Ultimately, it’s the fans; they pay Apple, they pay Verizon, they pay Comcast. The artists will not be paid, until the fans insist that they be paid. Who will hold the feet of the tech giants to the fire, if not the folks holding the purse strings?

        Reply
      • skierpage
        skierpage

        It’s so irritating when commenters ignore facts presented to them.
        “There is plenty of consumer spending in the industry,” No there isn’t. Spending is down, because of the FACT that most consumers only buy a small fraction of the music they own. (As The Trichordist says, the spending has moved to computer hardware and internet access.)
        ” it is simply spread too thin across too many irrelevant, unimportant, or just simply bad albums.” What does that even mean? In no world is it true. As always, people mostly listen listen to popular music from established artists, they just don’t pay for it.
        Anyway, here is the solution: a compulsory license fee on storage hardware and internet access. We’re living in a golden age of access to artistic works, and it’s fair and right to direct much of the money consumers spend for that access to the artists. Simple enough. (F*** the “touring, tip jar, and T-shirts” model, it doesn’t deliver quality sound recordings that consumers enjoy.)

        Reply
    • art
      art

      spoken like a true amateur.

      who is saying money is the main motivator? are you saying that you would prefer that everyone remain weekend hobbyists?

      Reply
    • Minneapolis
      Minneapolis

      “Anyone, who pursues a HOBBY in the arts and does so with money as the prime motivator is a idiot.”
      Fixed that for you.
      A career needs to pay for food, shelter, etc. Hence the need to SELL what you create.
      Ignoring that means you won’t have an artistic career any longer…because it soon will be an unpaid hobby you do after coming home from your day job.

      Reply
      • mdti
        mdti

        If you start doing music as a career to make money, I agree that you are an idiot.
        There are dozens of ways that require less work to make much more money.
        If you are fortunate/unfortunate enough to have become a professional, then it is another story.

        Reply
  10. Colorado Goat
    Colorado Goat

    it’s a shame that fans help rob artists in this age.
    1969 – Woodstock — how many “jumped the queue?” Equally – how bout the 1973 Summer Jam at Watkins Glen, where 150,000 tickets were sold, but 600,000 (world record) showed up?
    More recordings cross my desk today than ever in my 30+yr career. I get over 300 a year just from local/regional bands.
    There are more band/artist names and connect info in my booking db today than ever in my 30+yr career. I now have over 2500 such contacts just from my one state.
    The studio guys I know are recording more records than they have ever done in the past… and there are more new studios now than I can ever recall there being.
    I see far smaller audience sizes per band per venue today, than I have seen in the past … yet I also see more bands and more venues today than I have ever seen.
    I see lower payouts today, where compensation is determined by audience size … and fewer cases where compensation is NOT based on audience size.
    I see far more young people going to school for music and / or music business related studies than I have ever seen before.
    I see more “festival” style outdoor events (free and ticketed) now than I have ever seen. I see higher payouts today at these events than I have ever seen when based on averages paid per band.
    Ironically – I see fewer bands market product at these events, despite the willingness of those in attendance to buy when impressed. Even when told the band gets 100% of merch, I see relatively few bands set up merch tables…. or offer anything to anyone to take with them when they leave.
    I see fewer bands market and promote themselves effectively and meaningfully today than I ever have.
    From wikipedia: Goods (and services) that are scarce are called economic goods (or simply goods if their scarcity is presumed). Other goods are called free goods if they are desired but in such abundance that they are not scarce, such as air and seawater. ….. ….. …. …. and recordings of people performing music at any given level of skill and/or talent.
    There is no scarcity of recorded music. There is no scarcity of those who perform music. There is little scarcity in the number of guitars and amps being sold globally.
    There is greater perceived scarcity of venues to perform in (for now). There is greater scarcity of recording studios (for now). There is an increasingly scarcity of fans as the number of available options for enjoying music increases.
    The scarcity of an item provides the value that determines the price a consumer of that product is will to pay.
    In terms of access to recorded music there is no scarcity today.

    Reply
    • Mojo Bone
      Mojo Bone

      And yet large, well-equipped-and-staffed old studios are disappearing. More records are being made, for less money. Perhaps there’s a shortage of acts who act like professionals by bringing merch (and the manpower to sell it) to the gig, but those aren’t the professionals, dig? Nobody cares if hobbyists don’t get paid. And I reiterate, it’s the songwriters who depend on royalties for their livelihoods who are taking it in the proverbial chute.

      Reply
    • completely missing the point
      completely missing the point

      “There is an increasingly scarcity of fans as the number of available options for enjoying music increases” Huh?
      Your lecture about abundance and scarcity misses the point. There is exactly one “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen at #1, only 100 songs on top of the charts, and there are 500 specific records on Elvis Costello’s “500 Albums You Need”. The oceans of free music don’t change the fact that most consumers primarily listen to these established acts; the central issue is most don’t pay the songs they enjoy, regardless of the legal and moral right to charge them which most creators want to exercise.
      If an artist takes the time and expense to make a quality record and hundreds of thousands of consumers enjoy it, that artist will NOT make money off it. Therefore musicians will not make great recordings. That’s an utter tragedy that’s nothing to do with abundance or scarcity, it’s only about difficulty of enforcing that little “All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited by law” phrase.
      If there was enforcement, there would still be tons of legitimately free music. But musicians who produce the stuff that consumers actually want would once again get compensated by most of those consumers. $0.99 for a song is a great deal.
      (And f*** “touring is the answer”, even if you stupidly believe the artists behind great records must therefore strut on a stage, most will struggle to make enough money to travel world-wide to collect money from the 1% of fans who are interested and able to attend that night’s concert.)

      Reply
      • Econ
        Econ

        and there are 500 specific records on Elvis Costello’s “500 Albums You Need”.

        Hardly anyone over the age of 40 has enough life left in them to listen to 500 albums unless listening to music is their favorite thing to do. Hell, 20-somethings probably aren’t going to listen to 500 albums in their lifetimes, I’d venture to say that only 0.1% of humans would ever listen to 500 full plays of any combination of albums in their lifetimes.
        Even the people who download albums like crazy off torrent sites only listen to 3% of the tracks.
        And you want to lecture someone else on scarcity?

        Reply
  11. Little Dave
    Little Dave

    The problem is that the basis for this rant was incorrect. There was no time when musicians (or artists more broadly) were guarranteed a living. A very small number of artists made a living, a slightly wider circle made something. Everyone else who played music just considered it a hobby or they were simply not economically successful as artists and carried on doing their day jobs (that’s why we even have the phrase ‘day job’). Formal systems of ownership and royalties didn’t actually make people wealthy. Back when I was involved in music promotion etc. friends of mine who did okay made far more money out of busking, selling home made tapes and gig tickets than they did once they were signed to a label and had proper CDs and a corporately and legally-recognised sense of ownership over their musical product. The only artists who actually made a living from recording and playing were the two bands I knew who become nationally (and in one case now, globally) famous. Now, the thing is that every person and their dog wants to think of themselves as an artist. That’s fine, in fact it’s great – we probably have more people making and playing more different kinds of music than even before in human history – but it doesn’t come with a right to a living (well, at least no more than any other pursuit does – and that’s a much bigger disucssion). What we need here at least is a proper discussion about how we value, contribute to and support art. And the Internet, downloading, instant distribution etc. etc. etc. gives as many opportunities for this as it does throw up problems. It’s not bad, it’s different. It’s not the coda, it’s just a new tune. It might be a highly insecure and uncertain time for musicians right now, but what the hell’s new about that?

    Reply
    • Buddie
      Buddie

      Who’s saying that musicians should be guarranteed a living? I’ve never heard anyone say they should. What I did read is that if you enjoy the fruits of their labor you should compensate them for the hard work.
      The same is true of your waiter when you go out to eat. You tip them, right? What physical item did they give you for that money? Don’t say the food, you pay for the food separately. The tip you give the waiter is for something else. Hard work they did on your behalf to improve your experience.

      Reply
      • Little_Dave
        Little_Dave

        You miss my point, and you talk about tipping waiters is entirely irrelevant (except insofar as wait staff are a likely place to find struggling artists!), so I should perhaps explain myself better. I’ve been involved in music one way and another for a long time. My point is really that a lot more people want to be able to make something out of music these days. But there are actually more artists than ever making more work than ever and even in a hyper-consumer society, it’s unlikely that all but a few will actually be able to make very much, and even fewer to make a living out of it, through conventional commercial methods – and this has been the case as long as music has been the domain of corporations and no doubt before that. The point therefore should not be to try to strengthen the dead hand of intellectual property or decry sharing whether its notionally illegal or not, but to reduce the dependency or musicians and artists more broadly on corporate capitalist outlets. The Internet offers numerous opportunities for this, but so also do other rather more pre-modern methods (there’s a major boom in the house concert circuit, to give just one small example – there are many others which attempt to connect people to music and musicians on a more personal level and therefore re-emphasise those face-to-face and social aspects of what art is about).

        Reply
        • Mojo Bone
          Mojo Bone

          No, you are missing the point. What percentage of the waiters do you pay? Not talking about the percentage of your bill, I’m asking how many of the waiters do you stiff? Do you deem ten percent of them good enough to deserve your patronage? One percent? I’m just askin’, as a capitalist.
          Intellectual property is property; even Google believes this, so long as it’s their intellectual proprty, rather than someone else’s. Your arguments are stale, regurgitated tripe, they’ve been refuted ad infinitum, and they amount to “Waaah, I want free music!”. Tell it to Stephen Foster, tell it to Cole Porter, and grow the fuck up.

          Reply
    • Mojo Bone
      Mojo Bone

      You really should do a little more reading and a lot more thinking; the music business isn’t just The Black-Eyed Peas and the next American Idol. More music is being downloaded and enjoyed than ever before in the history of mankind and more than 25% of working class musicians have vanished from the rolls of the IRS.

      “Formal systems of ownership and royalties didn’t make anyone wealthy”? Lyor Cohen got wealthy, Irv Azoff got wealthy. Mo Ostin, Richard Branson, Berry Gordy, Paul McCartney, hell even Jimmy Iovine made a nice nickel. I can name names all day long, dating back tio the dawn of the recording industry, all of whom got wealthy because of intellectual property and royalties they earned or helped others earn, when there was a fairer system of remuneraqtion to artists, which was, incidentally, entirely voluntary on the part of the fans, who always had the free option of advertiser-supported radio.
      Once more, with feeling, nobody is saying that every artist has a right to any kind of living just for being an artist; what we’re discussing here is the misappropriation of revenues where they’ve already been earned. Artists whose work goes unsold are irrelevant to this discussion.

      Reply
  12. Brannon
    Brannon

    WOW, how ridiculous. Some of the richest people are music artist. The one that floored me, was “The paradox is that music fans are living in abundance, while artists are barely getting scraps.” Did he really just say that??? WhereTF is this guy living. It shouldn’t matter the format of the music, be it digital, CD, vinyl, as long as it is being paid for, it’s NOT stealing. Sounds like the problem is with Spotfy, Google, NOT the fans. I am astounded at the stupidity of this article.

    Reply
  13. nash
    nash

    not that I’m in favor of illegal downloading but …. It’s interesting conundrum. I have always bought 90% of my music second hand (albums vinyl etc), because i can pay anywhere from $1.99 to $9.99 at my local shop instead of $15.99-$19.99 just for extra shrink-wrap. Or i can get out of print music on ebay, Gemm, discogs, etc etc. The artists doesn’t see any of that either but who’s been complaining about record shops selling second hand stuff and ripping off the artist?? the argument is the same as for illegal digital downloads. the artist and label made money off it once only, but stores have made more money off it after that, or it got put on a file sharing site. only when digital media came along and physical album sales started to decline did we hear about it. i blame steve jobs. actually i don’t, i think this problem has been coming since the introduction of CD’s, but he exacerbated it. record companies set a price for CD’s back in the day when they were expensive to manufacture. when those manufacturing prices came down the record companies did not bring their retail prices down, and i feel we’ve always paid over the odds for CD’s in particular (especially when i found out how much it actually cost to make my own bands cd’s and yes i know that there are a lot more overheads for record companies than me but still …). in other words the RC’s have been overcharging for CD’s since day one and i won’t pay their prices, sorry to say (don’t even get me started on remasters and re-issues where their costs are even less). in the digital world the manufacturing costs are a factor smaller as there is no physical media, but if you look at itunes, albums are still $9.99, so if i buy downloads i go to Amazon as they often discount an album vs 1 song. i know this is more a rant against RC pricing policy and the artist suffers, but on the plus side. if an artist is selling stuff at a gig i will buy it as they get more money for that.

    Reply
  14. @MusicBizGuy
    @MusicBizGuy

    Messrs Lowery and Rubinstein have been kind enough to encapsulate and shine a bright light on all the ails and issues of the current state of the music business. They have enlightened us in no uncertain terms that today’s artist is basically screwed. Both of them have been around since the good old days and have lived into the struggling new days. What they aren’t telling you is that it’s always been difficult for an artist to make money. Doing well with music has always been about those few artists and/ or the people around them that could figure out how best to do business regardless of the challenges they had to meet. More importantly, as guys like Lefsetz constantly beats into our heads, music must be great before it will ever be able to obtain traction that leads to profitability. Somehow great music finds an ear from the masses and rises above the noise.
    In the early 1980’s, I managed major Mid Atlantic regional funk and hard rock hair bands that sold from 25-50K in albums and toured 200+ dates a year. I built them from the ground up. Competition for live shows was every bit as intense then as it is now. Maybe not as many bands as there are today but much better live acts and many more clubs to perform in. We did everything manually. There were no computers, email, cell phones or social networks to speed up the process and make it more efficient and effective.
    There is a solution to success in the music buisiness. Anything below that you don’t or won’t do more than likely will spell your demise as a musical artist:
    1. You must be into your music and your music business 24/7 and both better be really good.
    2. You must be willing to spend the majority of your time in the street making deep personal connections when you are not writing music.
    3. You need to get email addresses and cell numbers from anybody who says they really like your act or your music.
    4. You must be willing to perform at anytime and within a reasonable distance from where you live.
    5. You need to have an organized and well maintained online presence to engage the fan base that you have culled from your shows and activities in the street.
    6. If you don’t have total belief in what you are doing, getting out is by far the best alternative.

    Reply
  15. skunk3
    skunk3

    I’ve seen this happening for close to two decades now.

    The issue comes down to two key points:

    1. It is much easier to record good-sounding music than ever before. Anybody can record at home these days with a modest financial investment. I’m not saying that buying gear confers talent; all I am saying is that nearly everyone owns computers these days and quality audio interfaces are only a couple hundred bucks. There’s also plenty of free (non-pirated) music software out there, so one could actually produce an entire album “in the box” with a computer at no cost at all! This is linked to point #2 in that the market is simply saturated with music right now. Sure, there was a lot of stuff coming out in the 80’s and 90’s, but nothing like the relentless tidal wave of today.

    2. Virtually everyone has internet access these days and have become spoiled from free releases or easy access to pirated material. From an ethical standpoint, there is no justification for illegally downloading music, but I have to admit that I’ve done it anyway. I know that it’s wrong, but money is tighter than it’s ever been before. Why would I spend money on something that I can get virtually instantaneously, and for free? I’ve been downloading music since 1997 or so, on a dial-up modem!

    I also produce and record my own electronic music and have done so since the late 90’s. I started off with some software, and I’ve downloaded other stuff since then, but I realized that producing on a computer is utterly boring. Since then I have invested thousands of dollars in music gear because it is a passion of mine. A hobby. I’ve never made a dime from my music. Every show or party I’ve ever played at has been for free. I’ve sold some CDs, but I’ve given away far more. Times have changed and musical artists expecting to make a living from recording tunes simply need to accept the fact that those days are pretty much gone unless you tour a lot and sell a lot of merchandise. Even then, you’re not likely to get rich from it.

    It’s really simple – people are not going to pay for something that they can get for free, whether it’s legal or not. There’s always going to be a relative minority that will shell out for physical recordings, but they are, like I said, a minority. If people could get houses for free with very little risk of legal repercussions, they would. If they could get food for free, they would. The same applies to anything that is in demand. Anything that can be digitized will be pirated. Shut down one site and two more will pop up.

    Sure, musicians are less likely to make a living from their music, but it has never been easier to actually get your content out to an audience. No longer do bands need record deals to get heard. Anyone can record at home, and between YouTube, Soundcloud, and all of the other sites similar, these artists can be heard by people all over the world. Try doing that in 1996! I think that most musical artists under the age of 40 realize and accept the state of the music industry… people are always going to make music, because it’s fun and they love to do it. The only people I see bitch and complain are the older cats who miss the “good ol’ days,” record companies, and certain politicians trying to gain support. The industry has changed, for better or for worse, but like people have already mentioned, time doesn’t flow backwards. The truly talented musical artists can still make plenty of money because we have a more global marketplace than we did even 15 years ago.

    Reply
    • Visitor
      Visitor

      You are. You really are. Most people who are premium subscribers to Rdio, Spotify, MOG, et al will end up spending $120 on music per year for the first time ever in their lives. This is a sustainable business model for artists and labels as long as they are fair when splitting this growing pie.
      All of the “Lady Gaga made 30 cents from a trillions streams” comments are lies. It’s an anecdote with no basis in reality that keeps getting repeated, twisted, and exaggerated. The combination of $10 subscribers and ad-supported streams is bringing in an enormous amount of money to the music industry already, and it’s only going to grow.
      Spotify, MOG and Rdio are better than piracy. Far better. They finally did it. I’ll pay $10 for the rest of my life (adjusted for inflation) for this level of convenience and awesomeness. I’m not alone. There is and will be a ton of money here.

      Reply
      • steveh
        steveh

        You are talking rubbish.
        Believe me, the income small labels/artist run labels get from streaming is VERY SMALL – surprisngly small.
        Yes it is.
        I read my income statements every month.
        You do not.
        Where does the bulk of this subscription money of which you speak go? Not to the artists that’s for sure.
        Get your facts straight please.
        Stop spouting malicious PR from Spotify spin thought police central control.

        Reply
        • Visitor
          Visitor

          It’s not rubbish to say that I’m spending $120 per year on music (not including concerts, artist merchandise, etc.) for the first time in my life. It’s not rubbish to say that as this grows it will be an enormous amount of money. It’s also not rubbish to say that this is a far better experience than piracy and that it is therefore going to become incredibly popular very quickly.
          As far as I can tell, no one has posted any verifiable numbers backed up with actual hard data. It’s just this seemingly meritless Lady Gaga anecdote that got thrown into the echo chamber and is being endlessly exaggerated as it is repeated. People would be incredibly interested in reading something that was possible to verify.
          As far as real numbers are concerned (as opposed to ones that place rhetorical value above accuracy) we have several labels, major and minor, saying that Spotify is one of their top sources of revenue. In the old pre-Napster world all of the money flowed to the labels and then flowed to the artists from there. So now you’re saying that all of the money flows to the labels (still) but doesn’t trickle down to artists from there. How exactly is this MOG’s/Rdio’s/Spotify’s fault?
          There’s no need for personal attacks. What band are you in? I’ll give it a listen.

          Reply
          • steveh
            steveh

            It is not rubbish that you pay a $120 subscription
            What is rubbish is your completely unsupported belief that a large proportion of that $120 is reaching the artists.
            It is not.
            Believe me – I know. Do not treat me as a liar because I am not.
            I know about this. You do not.
            Lady Gaga has got no current bearing on this – that anecdote was from several years ago.
            If you are interested to find out details of the payments of streaming companies in particular Spotify to small labels check this out:-
            http://thetrichordist.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/streaming-price-index-123111/

  16. Kitten
    Kitten

    Hey, just have to tell this one thought about your fascinating dialogue.

    I make music, too, and I do it at home, for a band, to play live. There is nothing new to live music except that it is now the only songle way of making a buck in music, IMHO.
    Heard this number I think a year ago that where in the past music was making 80% off records and 20% from live, now it’s vice versa. And it’s about the whole industry.
    My own take on this subject is this; The Music Industry now looks like it is, just another venue with money so badly divided that one can easily see it is in imbalance. It is true in so many places in this day and age that everything is visible, realizable, shockingly, that one wants to shut down the mind from it. The imbalance in the world is shocking. If you want to really see the core of the problem with this fine conversation and topic, the problem is money. Not music.

    I feel obliged to say that music has never been to me about money, it has been about feeling. And no money can buy that.

    Reply
  17. bwo IOWA
    bwo IOWA

    This January I’m staying home. MIDEM has become just a sad little caricature of itself. It’s overpriced legacy clinging really.
    Too bad that they turned Berklee against DMN their friend. Just a bunch of French anti American whiners who can’t take any criticism.

    Reply
  18. effin
    effin

    “don’t get mad, get even, son”
    – from storage wars yesterday

    the viacom v youtube case is still going and could bring real change. maybe someone can start a petition allowing artists to show support for viacom’s position?

    Reply
  19. avi
    avi

    “It doesn’t matter if you’re singing directly into the ear of your prospective fan. Because they’re listening to Spotify on Dre headphones while texting and playing Angry Birds. Some can cut through, but most cannot without serious teams, serious top-level marketing and serious media muscle. Justin Bieber ultimately needed the machine, no matter how beautifully his YouTube story gets spun.”

    Tell this to the YouTube stars with Gold-level digital sales of singles that they own and control.

    Of course, the vast majority of artists make very little money and work their asses off…this is the music business we’re talking about, right? This has always been a business with a very very long tail. Maybe Lady Gaga only makes a few hundred dollars on a million Spotify plays (for now), but all those listens are sure to bolster demand for her tickets, thus driving her quote up. Music is now a marketing tool. Get over it and move on.

    And, frankly, good riddance to the labels.

    Reply
  20. jane siberry
    jane siberry

    think of a garden, how it dies down and grows anew. the music industry grew sick and distorted. it has returned to the earth. the money-smellers have had to go elsewhere because of this process. good. artists were disempowered by expections that were false and unreasonable. these are leaving with those who could ‘make money’ on art. let the rose of creativity and service start from this present moment. if there is no need for our services, music will not be pulled through us. so leave it. let it go. enjoy life. enjoy playing with children. enjoy beautifying things as you walk down the street. be happy with less to have more. see everything for the first time, including what is described in this forum. but don’t read too much of it – other things are calling you.

    Reply
  21. pss
    pss

    pps. you are guilty of not thinking. everyone would love to have a house for free. should houses then be given away, just because people want it?
    ppps. the “create something they are willing to pay for” is always used by someone who downloads a lot and doesn’t make music for a living. musicians aren’t feeling entitled to compensation for their work; however they are upset over people already downloading/listening to their music and not paying for it.

    pppps. you are guilty of being ingnorant. your mixtapes of crappy recordings from the radio with clipped endings and djs overtalking them handed to 3 or 4 friends are not the same as master-quality recordings distributed by millions to millions.

    Reply
    • Econ
      Econ

      You can play the guilt-trip game and get nowhere fast, or you can adjust to reality.
      In the end, the consumer is king. If the consumer finds no value in music anymore, you are an idiot for insisting he is wrong.

      Reply
      • IslandGrrl
        IslandGrrl

        “In the end, the consumer is king. If the consumer finds no value in music anymore, you are an idiot for insisting he is wrong.”
        In response to Econ: if consumers found no value in music then downloading tracks – legally or not – would be a non-issue, i.e. if you find no value in something you don’t bother wasting your time looking for it or allow it to take up space on your mp3 player, computer or in your life.
        Every time I hear the “music should be free” argument I’m reminded that, “you get what you pay for”. If a songwriter/musician/artist cannot make a living doing what s/he loves, s/he is going to have to spend most of his time making a living in the “real” world. That means s/he will have less time and energy to spend using the cheap equipment to put music and lyrics into a format that can be shared with others. Sure, “anyone” can do it, but do you listen to just “anyone”? Do you search multiple mp3 sites for “anyone”? No, you’re looking for that track from Maroon 5 or Adele that was just played on the radio, or that obscure song that you loved 20 years ago but can’t get on a physical product anymore.
        So, while you are listening to “anyone” on those “free” mp3 tracks you just downloaded, Carly Rae Jepsen has had to take a job flipping burgers to pay her rent (no disrespect intended, Miss Jepsen). Maybe “anyone” can make a recording, but not everyone has the talent to craft a song (or to perform that song) in a way that will catch your ear or your heart. Ready for more Florence Foster Jenkins, anyone?

        Reply
        • wallow-T
          wallow-T

          Adele sold 10 million copies North American, 22 million worldwide. How’d that happen in a market ravished by piracy?
          Also, as Clay Shirky wrote, “You’ll miss us when we’re gone!” has never been an effective business model.

          Reply
          • IslandGrrl
            IslandGrrl

            Of course that’s not an effective business model. However, the “business” of music has been built on a quality product (obvious pop candy and flashes in the pan notwithstanding). While that business “model” is now behind the times and in need of an overhaul, the answer is not to give the “product” away for free. Why does the restaurant run by an experienced chef exist? Because that chef has honed his craft to a point that consumers are willing to pay for it. Sure, most of us can cook our own meals, but not quite like that chef can. Do you think that quality would still be available to those other than his family and friends if he was expected to provide his product for free? Adele “happened” because those 22 million copies were SOLD worldwide, not stolen. That fact, put money into Adele’s pocket and THAT will be the reason we will have the opportunity to hear more of her music in the future.

  22. weedy
    weedy

    What David Lowrey pointed out so well is that we DON’T find something “they are willing to pay for”.
    You just end up feeding the content machine that makes millions (billions) for Google and Spotify and the ISPs; while you are giving it away for free. They are not.

    The idea that people traded cassette ‘mix tapes’ in the 1980s is a specious argument.
    Retail stores build in a certain percentage for pilferage. They expect 5% or 10% to walk out the door unpaid for.
    But when it gets to be 95% it’s no longer a sustainable business model.

    Reply
  23. atomicon
    atomicon

    I keep thinking the same things you just said: Give away the music, since people will get it anyways. You can have it for sale, sure, but those that want it free will find it. As the NPR intern said, she doesn’t see her generation ever paying for music again. Move on to creating something they are willing to pay for.
    What if you let everyone have your music for free, then you make your money by selling things that can’t be duplicated digitally? I’m thinking of branded merchandise, primarily. The music becomes a major component of your “brand”, but it also essentially becomes free advertising for your “brand”. Then kids who want to be associated with your brand will go to your shows, buy your t-shirts, your stickers, whatever. It’s the reason kids will pay for a ringtone, but not an MP3. The ringtone tells the world who they are, an MP3 will not. It plays into their narcissism, like facebook, twitter, and all the other social media where people get to show themselves in the light they want others to see them in. So make great music, craft a cool identity/story/image (aka brand), and sell “access” to that brand, via physical goods.
    Maybe this is a viable way artists can continue to earn a living making music. Thoughts?

    Reply
    • Visitor
      Visitor

      @atomicon ” she doesn’t see her generation ever paying for music again. Move on to creating something they are willing to pay for.”
      I think it is far-fetched to say that her generation will never pay for music again. The price has a long way to come down from $1.29 per track before you can conclude that.
      A laudable goal IMO would be to create an ecosystem that was so fluid and frictionless that decisions to borrow, or purchase permanently, a song could be in the $.05-$.45 range. Are people really going to balk at that? 45 cents to own a song you love and cherish for the rest of your life? Especially after the alternative, i.e. a free copy of the same song, is no longer playable in the better apps like iTunes, because you have not registered your ownership with the trusted third-party, the Digital Content Exchange?
      Plus, for your $1.29 now you do not get much mobility and interchangeability. When your ownership is registered with the exchange, true “anywhere access” can begin. Getting that for under $.50 can be worth it to people.

      Reply
      • Mojo Bone
        Mojo Bone

        Emily also said that her generation will pay for convenience, which means that all you can eat on-demand services that feel like free probably have a future. Welcome to Spotify.

        Reply
    • Donnie
      Donnie

      Are you kidding? Music is the value. Atomicon, what do you do for a living? How about you provide me your service or product for free and in return, I will buy a hat with your name on it.

      Reply
      • atomicon
        atomicon

        Wow, you guys don’t have to be assholes.
        The fact is that music is not a service (unless you’re a commercial composer). It’s not really even a “product”, in that anyone can reproduce an exact copy of it digitally. Music is an art form. The entire music “industry” has been built on the fact that the only way to experience this art form outside of a live (or radio) performance was to buy it on a manufactured piece of plastic. The plastic has been the product, not the music. If you want to print a poster of the Mona Lisa and sell it, you’re not selling the Mona Lisa. You’re selling a poster. I’ve been a musician for over 25 years, and I’ve made far more money composing music as a commercial endeavor (a service) than I’ve ever made in the dozens of bands I’ve been in, but I sure would have enjoyed making money from selling little plastic discs filled with my music. As a composer, I am actually selling my music. As an “artist”, I would have been selling plastic discs, not music. That was the old model of “access”. The new model of music access is digital. There are no barriers, though. Piracy and the devaulation of music are here to stay. The new reality, is that “artists”, as opposed to “service providers” need to find a new way to replace the income they’re losing to piracy. Face it – it’s not coming back.
        My suggestion of the t-shirt model was a very basic and easy example. What I’m actually talking about is more about replacing the sale of discs with the sale of other items that enhance the artistic experience, and also identify the “fan” with the artist whose music they “stole”. Your experience of music is what matters to you, and the experience of popular music is inextricably linked with the identity of the people making it. It’s not just the sound of the music you may like, but the album artwork, the message in the lyrics, the style of the clothing the artist wears, the graphic design of their logo, and yes, even the “scene” they’re associated with. If I’m into rockabilly, I probably like the way the artists dress, do their hair, and mix their cocktails, too. If I’m into black metal, I likely appreciate the design of the band logos, the artwork on their t-shirts, and may very well enjoy the same horror movies as the artist I like. As a fan, if I like the music (that I got free from a friend or wherever) enough, and I like the artist’s “brand” enough, then I may very well be willing to pay $20 for a t-shirt, or a limited-edition silk screened poster, or a branded beer coozey, or a piece of fucking jewelry with the band logo on it. I’m suggesting a new model of monetizing music wherein investment is made in crafting the artist’s brand, and manufacturing products that augment the experience and allow access to the “club”. I’m thinking outside the box, because probably like you, I’d love to get paid to make my art the way I want to. But unlike you, I know the old way just isn’t going to work any more.

        Reply
        • Craig Bancoff
          Craig Bancoff

          The merchandise model you tout, is more of the same rhetoric. It is part of the pervasive, “everything free but my work”, attitude toward intellectual property that has defined this debate. I believe your kind of thinking, underlies the rational that has led to the vast inequity that we see today in the industry. Plain and simple, it hasn’t worked. This model focuses heavily on the wrong things!

          While I believe ultimately branding is an important part of how music is sold, I would like songwriters and musicians to focus on what they do best, writing and playing music. I don’t know a single songwriter/musician who isn’t horrified by merchandise centric model. Not one. As a person who has dedicated the better part of two and a half decades to the craft of songwriting, engineering and producing. I am deeply bothered by the notion that I should have to sell t shirts to make a living when that’s not what I’m good at. This kind of thinking has broader social implications. I believe we want a culture where people are encouraged to do what there good at, other wise the culture will reflect the lowest common denominator. It sounds like a lose lose to me! Ill leave the shirt design and merchandising to people that are skilled and passionate about it. That’s how thriving free market economy’s work best. We encourage people to do what they love, become the best they can at it and then value that skill monetarily.

          Reply
          • atomicon
            atomicon

            I agree that musicians should do what they do best. Totally. I’m not suggesting that musicians should design t-shirts. And yes, I think it would be fantastic if every artist were to be able to make a living doing nothing but their art. But the reality is that to continue to make a living creating music, people need to look at alternatives, since the old revenue model is drying up – like it or not.
            If you’re a successful artist now, you don’t design your own website, make your own t-shirts, do your own booking or publicity. You hire people to do all that. I’m suggesting that perhaps more emphasis should be placed on hiring folks that can market your brand and help you extract value from the brand as opposed to the music, since the digital music genie is already out of the bottle. People will take your music for free, whether you try to stop them or not. So produce something they can’t copy digitally, hire people to market it, and then make the best music you can, so people want a piece of your brand to show off.
            I’m making no claims that this is a better way to earn a living than just getting a check from the sales of albums, but let’s be realistic. Do you think we’ll be making a living from fucking Spotify any time soon?

        • Mojo Bone
          Mojo Bone

          Apparently we do have to be assholes, because you still. don’t. get it. Music never was a product; it has always been a service. The product has never been the plastic disc, which you’d never buy if it didn’t contain the music. The notification, though small in print, appeared on everything you ever bought, “all rights reserved”, meaning you were buying a limited license to listen to music that’s owned by someone else. The ability to digitally copy is not the right to copy; that belongs to the artist and the composer.(at least until they sell it to a label and publisher, respectively)

          Just because I can design a T-shirt doesn’t mean I should; I am not in the T-shirt business. Tell me how many T-shirts Danny Elfman sells? You do not have to pay for my music, but if you don’t, you shouldn’t listen to it; it slays me when I hear these specious arguments from musicians themselves, eager to cut your own throats. The verdict is in already; that dog won’t hunt: http://thetrichordist.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/why-arent-more-musicians-working-professionally/

          Reply
      • Grant
        Grant

        Exactly. Im very happy to give away my music for free, hell, free entrance to show as well. But in return, all I ask is that I pay no rent, I want to be able to buy food for free, and clothes. I want free electricity and water and everything else I need to survive.
        Oh, wait a minute…that guy who run the shop down the road that wants me to pay for the burger, he wants my stuff for free.

        Reply
    • steveh
      steveh

      jesus fucking christ! not another asshole pushing the “T shirt model”
      omg!
      to quote Hermann Goering:- “when I hear the word T shirts I reach for my revolver!”

      Reply
        • steveh
          steveh

          You said:- “I sure would have enjoyed making money from selling little plastic discs filled with my music.”
          You’re the loser here.
          I’m sure many of the people to whom you profer your idiot T shirt “advice” have succeeded in this and still do.
          You didn’t.
          Yet another musical failure with a chip on your shoulder – that’s you.
          You can stick your T shirts up your pathetic arse…

          Reply
          • atomicon
            atomicon

            Listen fucktard, you appear to be the one with a big chip on your shoulder. I didn’t give any “advice”, I merely brought up the ‘alternate income stream’ thing, and obviously it touched a raw nerve with someone.

          • steveh
            steveh

            For your information oh wise one, the ridiculous “why don’t you sell T shirts and other merchandise” proposal has been flying around for at least a decade.
            And yes it absolutely definitely touches a raw nerve on virtually every musician or artist who makes a living from recorded music.

        • Cody
          Cody

          @atomicon I’m having trouble understanding your delineation of how what you do is “a service” versus what a musician or band writes and records (entirely “in-the-box”, if you like).
          Your’s is to-spec for corporate clients or something?
          Regardless, for the purposes of this discussion, let’s understand that creators of even the most banal pop songs are, for all intents and purposes, “composers” in this day and age.
          I eagerly await the link for the free download of your entire catalogue. Mark me down for one of those ball caps as well.

          Reply
          • atomicon
            atomicon

            Yes, that’s my website. And yes, I make money from the “service” of composing for clients. It’s a skill, and I sell it. I also make music that’s my personal “art”, and I sell very little of that. And you’ll notice (if you look just a little harder) that I indeed do have free music available on that page. I offer some of my personal music for free, I offer a set of loops for free under a creative commons license, and two sets of tracks that can be licensed for any purpose for a very reasonable $25 each.

          • jr565
            jr565

            WHAT A HYPOCRITE.
            “By downloading and paying for any music on this site, you are agreeing to abide by the terms of the applicable license agreement.”
            Nah, I think I’ll find your content online and skip paying you that buck. You should start selling t-shirts.

    • tomafd
      tomafd

      You’re assuming that the music we make is primarily aimed at ‘kids’, and also assuming we have the kind of marketing budget that can create the level of demand required to sell enough of that kind of merch to make a living. All those assumptions are plain wrong, for a lot of artists, and even plainer wrong when the music concerned isn’t the kind of thing kids who wear t shirts will probably go for.
      In the end, what you’re saying is that all music has to be ‘commercial’, in the most crude and ‘branded’ way possible. I’d rather not make that kind of music. I’d rather people accepted the ‘product’ as it is – music- and pay for it, if they like it.
      But they don’t, and won’t. And since I have to make a living out of this, I write media music instead, and my ‘fans’ (who in the past have bought tens of 1000s of my records, and allowed me to make a living out of it through the 90s)don’t get the music they might like. There just aren’t enough of them willing to pay to make it something worth the time and effort required to create it. Never mind the time spent ‘marketing’ it, most of which will be a pointless waste of time.
      I’d like to, I really would. But I’m not 19, with no responsibilities to others, all the free time in the world, and willing to starve for ten years in an attempt to make it work. I’m a ‘working composer’ who has to put bread on the table, and can’t disappear for months on end touring. So writing music for libraries and tv – which scrapes a living – it is. Art music it certainly isn’t, anymore.
      For years, everyone has been shouting at me that free music was the one thing which, unlike any other product in the world, could be ‘arranged’ so that somehow the musician isn’t the one being totally ripped off, by their ‘fans’ as well as by the industry, and Google. And for years I’ve ignored the shouts, knowing full well there was no business model in the world which could survive this kind of thing.
      There simply isn’t, ok ? No other ‘profession’ in the world survives by giving away their ‘product’ for free – yet we’re expected to. It’s a ridiculous, demeaning, expectation that values us and our work at zero.
      I don’t work for zero.

      Reply
    • jr565
      jr565

      Would you have a problem with a company selling copies of bands merchandise for cheaper than the band would charge without paying band a licensing fee for their image? Why not?What’s the diff?
      Companies shell out millions to license images and brands which they then sell as merchandise. But there’s no reason that such a market HAS to work that way. Why couldn’t I just appropriate a bands licensed image, not pay them the royalty and profit from the sales of their t shirts that would otherwise go to them? If I have the technology to reproduce said memorabilia (and how hard would it be to make a copy of a bands t-shirt say).
      So, there would be another means by which outside entities could get rich off of the work of artists without paying them a red cent. I suppose then you’d argue that artists should have to buck up and face the new economy there too right?

      Reply
  24. JRH
    JRH

    One part of the problem is how easy it is to “record” music nowadays. Software companies (including Avid) have made it ridiculously cheap for anyone to afford a “recording system”. Too many people are thinking “oh, I can do that – it’s easy” The recording process itself has been devalued in a way. It realistically takes many years to learn the art of recording, mixing, engineering, mastering, etc. Now every idiot and their blind brother with a few bucks in his pocket can do it immediately – or so they mistakenly believe. That’s the equivalent of going out and purchasing a scalpel, a surgical drill and saw and proclaiming “Look! I’m a brain surgeon, now.” The point I’m trying to make is there’s way too much “music” out there being made by people who should be just be hobbyists, at best. The market is flooded with too much garbage and the perception seems to be “I can do it too because I have Fruity Loops and I can put my song on You Tube.” Guess what? Just because you can throw a few loops together in some free recording software doesn’t make you a composer. I’m not saying people shouldn’t have fun and play with this stuff as a hobby, but please, keep it in your bedroom! There are no more gatekeepers. There was a time when true professionals and amateurs were separated by degrees of talent and ambition. There was a time when you had to make a lot of sacrifices to be a musician and even more to put together a recording studio. It was costly and very time consuming, i.e., you really had to want to do it regardless of the cost – now it’s too easy, how can it have any value, when any idiot with an iPhone and Garage Band can “record” something? It’s all been somehow demystified. The “magic” is gone. The whole world now knows about Auto Tune 🙂 Hell, I’ve been recording for 20 years and I’m still learning new ways to improve. This may seem off topic but I see it as a contributing factor to the overall perception of the value of music in society.

    Reply
  25. Michael Hansen
    Michael Hansen

    I admit I used to pirate music. I don’t anymore, because I’ve learned something about how difficult it is to write and record a good song, and how hard it is to make any money in music.
    One point I don’t see people making is that the people who write the songs are frequently not the people performing them. One of my professors wrote roughly half a major rock band’s catalog, but no one outside the industry has heard of her. Unless she can negotiate a cut of the band’s cut of the merch revenue, she’s out of luck under the t-shirt model.
    Also, it is really expensive to make high quality music. You can do a lot better on your own now than you could a few years ago, but you can’t get anything like the results of recording in a properly acoustically treated space, using a $3,500 Neumann U-87 hooked to a $100,000 SSL console, operated by a professional engineer.
    Of course, I doubt most young people today can hear the difference. They all seem to have their earbuds cranked so loud, I can make out the lyrics from ten feet away. At 32, I shouldn’t have better hearing than most early 20-somethings, but I’m afraid that is probably the case.

    Reply
  26. Christopher T Amenita
    Christopher T Amenita

    Agreed. I read every word of David’s article just this morning and it is refreshing, to say the least, to know that at least one individual is out there knocking common sense into my generation (sadly, yes, I’m a part of the ‘give me give me’ generation).
    I’ve proudly purchased 95% of the music on my iTunes library. The rest is either music I’ve recorded or someone gifted to me. As an artist I guess I’ll always be biased towards supporting other artists, but there is no excuse – artist or not – to steal other people’s property.
    Thank you, Paul, for your further support in this ‘enlightenment’ period. I hope it continues to grow stronger and create a bigger impact on young America.

    Reply
  27. OD-OldDog
    OD-OldDog

    Hey Guys, I’m just an amateur songwriter that realizes I don’t have much chance of ever getting a major cut. I’m okay with that because I have a long way to go before I have invested the time and energy to learn the craft as a Pro has.
    I worked a day job that payed my bills and offered some security in order that I could play with my hobby of music. I did not have the courage to risk everything to move Nashville, New York, LA, or any other major music city to chase my dreams. The few that did, had to endure a life of poverty and endless rejection before they finally got a break. Most artists and musicians never did get a break and their lives ended up with a sad out come; unless they were able to find employment elsewhere.
    Now it is even worse because the revenue has almost dried up and it’s even more difficult to make a living in the music business because of the “music is free” mentality. It may be free for anyone that can’t play anything other than the radio; or enjoy their downloads on an Ipod, but believe me, someone has paid dearly to get that music to you.
    Sure, many hard working folks that buy new technology and take the time to learn how to use it, are allowed to enter their creations into the competitive music industry, that is the challenge of changing with the times.
    Lots of people that creat music from the home studio have the right to give their music away for free, and even enter their music for sale on a fair playing field; but that does not mean anyone can take advantage of their music; or that which came from professionals who depend on royalties and CD sales for their living.
    I come from a proud generation (that most of you may feel is old and out of fashion); and I admit I don’t buy as much music as I did in my younger days. However, I still buy music I like, and I still have a large collection of music I purchased when I was in my younger years. I may share a CD for a friend to listen to but never for them to copy.
    Food for thought:
    It is wrong and illegal to break into someone’s home, steal all of their posessions, even if you share the items with your family and friends; so they don’t have to buy the items themselves.
    It may not be illegal to download songs that don’t belong to you and share them with family and friends, but it is still wrong.
    In any generation; Wrong is Wrong, and no wrong will ever make it Right.
    Just consider me an old guy that still believes honor.
    OD

    Reply
  28. APS
    APS

    I guess pirated music is like the ultimate loss-leader for hardware and data plan sales, because the vendors don’t actually take the loss on it.

    Reply
  29. Me
    Me

    i dont think this is entirely accurate,

    

i mean sure, if you’re in an 4 piece alt band that sounds like every other band out there, then yes, all of this applies to you.



    however, if a band/artist is doing something truly unique with their music or style i think they can make a decent living, as i have seen many times over in the past few years.



    a) you have to assume all of your music will be illegally downloaded/streamed/found on spotify. this is pretty much my golden rule with new music. tracks are easily found on the internet and to continue fighting it (from the bands or labels perspective is just pointless) the people who illegally download are going to do it, the people that buy will do that and the people only stream will do that. this will not change



    instead consider giving away your recorded music for free as an investment and concentrate on effective distribution of it to the right channels, building up mailing lists (via musicglue etc) or via social media sharing (tweet for a track etc) you can help put an extra 50 people per city you play to.

    my personal suggestion would be than, rather than releasing 1 album every 12 months, release a 4 track EP every 3 months or even release a new track every month. this will help you appear to be constantly active and keep buzz around you constantly. dont forget, with decent software on a computer, you can have your own indoor studio (as long as you have some decent post production skills) although it might not be suitable for everyone

    

b) be a proactive band. i’ve seen so many talented bands sit back and assume that, because theyre talented, industry and fans will come to them.
    

bands HAVE to be proactive. go to a gig of a much larger band but with a similar fanbase give out cds for free in exchange for say an email address, you may yeild small results but EVERY FAN COUNTS.

    getting involved with facebook, lastfm, tumblr, bebo, wordpress and fuck it, if its worth an extra 5 fans get myspace too. make sure you are talking to fans in all of your spare time, get their feedback, learn their trends, run online competitions weekly or daily to help get a bit of buzz around your band

    

also find who can help give you a leg up, advice or press and go out and get drunk with them at a club. some of the industry people dont care about the music per se, its about the people they meet and how they can get on with them.



    c) merch is key. it doesn’t take a genius to figure out. t shirts are walking billboards for your band. so if you have your band name scribbled in the corner of a t shirt. you might as well burn them because they are simply useless

    

you need to have a clear logo, at about chest height (the main focus for eyes during social interaction) and very large. you are essentially using your fans to imprint the name of your band in the minds of others with the result of them checking your stuff out when they get home.



    other than that, look at what your rivals/similar artists are doing… maybe its worth getting a professional merchandise designer to make you an awesome print.


    d) make special edition records. depending on your genre, it might be worth looking into smaller “limited edition” runs of your releases to sell at your live shows, wether it be touring cds, coloured vinyl, even cassette tapes are getting a little resurgence.
    

sometimes fans enjoy to have something that little special to take home with them and put on a mantelpiece, it makes them feel apart of something special and most important of all appreciated.



    e) take a few business seminars. no buts, just go. having worked with so many bands who have no idea what money is coming in or going out has me pulling out my hair constantly
    by learning the basics of running a business, you can (hopefully) learn where your bands strengths and weaknesses. which can help you make easier decisions when you find you have a bit of money to spend.

    
keep a record of all money coming in and going out from live shows, record sales, merchandise etc and keep receipts for all expenditures, it will help you figure out how to cut costs the next time you go out.
    also try and get as much data as you can, for instance how many people are at a gig you played and proportionately how many people watched/enjoyed your performance or how many people from city ‘x’ downloaded your track (this can help deciding where to go next on tour)


    try as hard as you can to keep band money for the band and future investments, basically, dont go and spend your guarantee on booze and wonder why you dont have any money.

    if and when you have a decent excess, consider splitting a portion of it between the members as a “bonus”

    

f) get an ‘easy’ job. if youre on the road alot, you should ensure you have some sort of supplemental income, bar work, telesales or temp agencies are the best place to start where you wont be in a regular 9-5 and they are flexible with you being away alot of the time.

    


i dont think this is a “failsafe” method, but its a few basics bands need to strongly consider for long term survival.

    i think thats all i can think of at 6am


    i hope i’ve helped anyone.
    

feel free to berate me if you think im wrong


    Reply
    • Michael
      Michael

      you have to assume all of your music will be illegally downloaded/streamed/found on spotify
      !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      WHAT ?!?
      !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      The internet experts are getting more and more retarded by the week.
      What the fuck are you talking about?
      Users can’t upload music files to Spotify. If an artist finds his music on Spotify without his approval, then he and his lawyer will make some easy money.

      Reply
  30. @northcape
    @northcape

    I have a psychological need to make music- so I’ll keep making it – despite this list of good reasons why I shouldn’t..

    Reply
  31. Visitor
    Visitor

    Look, there’s money in streaming. Lots of it. And it’s going to the labels. Comparing per-stream revenue to a 99 cent iTunes purchase couldn’t possibly be more (forgive the pun) Apples to oranges if it tried. It’s fantasy to think that even a minuscule percentage of people who streamed a song for free would have magically paid a dollar if that option wasn’t available to them. The other option is piracy. This is revenue that wouldn’t exist otherwise.
    As far as premium subscribers are concerned, a large proportion of that $120 is definitely reaching the labels. Spotify, MOG, and Rdio give at least 70% of their premium subscription fees to the labels. Pandora gives so much money to the labels that they are now saying they won’t be profitable until at least 2013. It’s almost abusive how relentlessly the labels are making sure all of the money flows to them. We know this for a fact because Pandora is a publicly traded company and it’s right there in their most recent quarterly report that shows nothing but red ink across the board.
    You still haven’t told me what band you’re in. Are you even in one? If you’re not proud of your work then maybe that’s why not very many people are listening to it? Seriously, sincerely, I would love to hear your music. I’ll even buy it on iTunes.

    Reply
    • steveh
      steveh

      You are a spotibot from Spotify spin control PR central.
      You are spouting the same infuriating asinine talking points that have been driving us mad for several years now.
      My big question is:- if Spotify is doing so “well” why do they have to use morons like you?

      Reply
      • Visitor
        Visitor

        And now you’re just reposting comments from other articles. Behavior that is, ironically, very robotic. Once you start attacking the messenger instead of the message it’s a sign that you’ve lost the argument.
        I don’t work for Spotify. What band are you in?

        Reply
        • steveh
          steveh

          I re-posted the same reply in order to confirm that you were the same poster as on the other thread.
          You claim you do not work for Spotify and yet you repeat their spin control talking points one by one and word for word.
          Spotibot – you are busted!

          Reply
          • Visitor
            Visitor

            LOL. We have different opinions. That’s all. There’s no conspiracy here. Get a grip. You still haven’t told me the name of your band.

  32. @atheistm
    @atheistm

    Not much in this article will come as a surprise to people in the music bizniz, but interesting nonetheless…

    Reply
  33. daznez
    daznez

    The point David Lowery was making, which still seems lost on a few, is that artists have come to accept that our recorded product is valueless because we have been repeatedly told by the new megalithic tech-industries. He has woken us up to the fact that we do not have to accept this.
    Some people are getting paid from music, just not the people who actually create the stuff. Google, Apple, Verizon etc. are getting paid handsomely and are investing nothing back to artists so they can create more. Ultimately that will be self-defeating. I thought Google’s motto was ‘Don’t be evil?’ Are they not aware of what is happening?
    The others who are benefitting are the illegal pirate sites. Almost impossible to prosecute, so here is where all we can do is educate music fans that using these sites means the artist gets nothing and they will not be able to create for much longer.
    Time for the creative industries to lobby the Governments to uphold our laws, and for us all to educate.

    Reply
  34. fireandair
    fireandair

    If anyone asks for my music for free, I have a perverse desire to say sure and hand them the stinking sheet music. Hey, you want to listen to music for free? Then you can damned well do what I did and what the other musicians I know did and spend a decade-plus learning how to play it. Hey, it’s easier than what I had to do, which is all the above plus writing the stuff!
    People who are not musicians love to whine about how musicians, strange far-flung tribe we, will create anyway, so why can’t they get it for nothing? It reminds me of the punk idiots I used to avoid in college who were all, “Well, as long as you HAVE breasts, why can’t I just grab them?!”
    Just because something exists doesn’t mean you’re entitled to it.

    Reply

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