Technology Didn’t Kill the Music Industry. The Fans Did…


The following guest post comes from Sahpreem A. King, a multi-platinum music producer, DJ, and author of industry books Gotta Get Signed: How To Become A Hip Hop Producer and Surviving the Game How To Succeed In the Music Business.

Give It Away…Give It Away…Give It Away Now!

Why Fans Are Destroying the Music Business.

It is a scary proposition when paying artists for their music has become a voluntary act of kindness, rather than a consumer responsibility.  The free music fans consume like water, cost artists money to create; money they will never recover as long as the artist’s fan base consumes it for free.  Nothing is wrong with giving away an exclusive FREE track every now and again, but that should be the exception and not the rule.

As artists, we must stand our ground and set the expectation.

The ideology behind music freemium has destroyed the working class musician and independent labels.

Everyone thought that Napster was the second coming of Christ—and the beginning of the music revolution; however, in the midst of this transformation, the fans became increasingly desensitized to the fact, that the free music they were consuming was created by artists who have to make a living from their music.   The fallacy that artists/musicians are ultra rich is just that… a myth, nonetheless, perpetuated thanks to over-the-top hip hop videos and MTV Cribs, leading fans to believe that all artists are rich.

This is hardly the case when only 1% of artists are successfully making a living from their music.

Nevertheless, fans have been disillusioned to believe that their enjoyment of the free music obtained from the remaining 99% only affects the major labels, meanwhile most artists are literally starving.

The music industry is a brutal bitch, a beast that chews up artists and shits them out.

What if artists and musicians grew tired of the abuse and decided to stop making music?  What then?  Radio stations would be nothing but dead air between commercials — if all their advertisers don’t abandon them like rats on a sinking ship — and televisions stations that play music videos would be blank screens.  Imagine your favorite movie with no music to set the tone, or going to a school dance minus the dance. Like I said, a scary proposition.

When fans are left the option to pay whatever they’d like for music, they almost always choose zero.

As a content creator of music, why should I have to pass around the collection plate or hold out the tip jar and jingle it to capture your attention?  What if artists told fans that they would have to work at their jobs for free?  Do you think they would go quietly in the night to the land of acceptance?  Hell no, they would be in outrage, so why do they expect artists to just take one for the team?

Greed perhaps, ignorance maybe, but the one thing is for sure is that fans have a lopsided perspective as to what really goes on in the music business.  Artisans should be able to make a living from their work no different from a nurse or auto mechanic.

Sure, the 1% is living the lifestyle of the rich and famous; however, the 99% are one poorly-promoted show away from being homeless.  For God’s sake, something has to give.

I believe the healing will begin when the public is educated on how the music business works sans the VH1 movies and Hollywood imagery.

If fans understood what it takes to make a record — all the time, money, people, and energy — they would have more respect for the art and science of it.  If they could experience, on some part the dedication and sacrifice artists endure, their nonchalant attitudes toward paying artists what they owe would change.  Fans don’t realize that artists of today were fans of yesterday and the cycle is everlasting.

Fans and artists must come to an agreement on how music will be monetized using fair and equitable practices.  According to a recent CNN poll, the average football fan will pay $143 per game, which includes the cost of the ticket, parking, and refreshments, for a one-time event.  For music, a fans have the opportunity to play a CD as many times as they desire; yet they complain about spending $16 for the CD.   In order to set the wheels of change in motion, there must be a catalyst.

Let’s save the music by starting the conversation!



 Image: The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, Rembrant, 1632.  Public Domain.

97 Responses

  1. GGG

    The conversation has started. Let’s all band together to begin to normalize streaming to the point where getting 100M+ people to not only pay a subscription fee but also generate ad rev (which can be done non-invasively) is not some pipe dream. Start monetizing “exposure” and bringing pirates’ money back into the picture. While that’s happening, by all means we should be going after bigger streaming rates, but still bringing people on board.

    • Anonymous

      “bringing pirates’ money back into the picture.”

      Spot on — there’s no doubt ‘monetizing piracy’ will be the catch phrase of the next decade. Just imagine if Google launches a new variation of Content ID and applies it to the entire internet!

      It will ruin the commercial Piracy Industry in a heartbeat, give consumers what they want, make Google ten times bigger than Apple and compensate content creators so they can afford to produce more awesome content for us all.

      Win, win!

      • TuneHunter

        Dear GGG,
        Streaming in current form is no different to music business than the Medieval times to human civilization!

        We need Renaissance or preferably equivalent of Industrial Revolution to get out of this darkness.
        100 million subs will do NOTHING (… I am sorry, it will kill iTunes and Amazon) 500MM subs plus all advertising will deliver just 40 billion dollars! If we are lucky it will happen by 2020 and that 40MMM will be less than
        HALF of inflation adjusted 1999. Small cash box for all old and new and not discovered yet tunes.

        We have to start collect cash at the discovery moment. Gate keepers of music have to limit information on what is in the air! It is OK to enjoy any broadcast for free if you want to enjoy it again PAY!

        Our problem is music store with walls dismantled by Shazam, Google lyrics ID or radio display, similar tune suggest provider and few others – same folks currently at charitable service to pirates should be able to save themselves from starvation and restore overdue prosperity to all.

          • TuneHunter

            If you get 500MM folks your global avg. will be at the best $5/month = 60 x 500MM = 30 billion than add very generous 10 billion for advertising = 40 billion.

            …and it is very, very optimistic, today in US Pandora is just $3 or $3.99, Sony streaming $3.99, most of Spoofy is semi premium at $4.99. To get your global 500MM you will have to avg with $2 subs from Ghana!

          • Ian Boxill

            Usually streaming refers to on demand playback models like premium spotify or Rdio or MOG or Googleplay Music all access. etc Those are $9.99 a month. So you are looking at 60 billion from that alone if you assume 500 mil sub. Pandora is more of a radio service. There are 2.5 billion people between China and india alone where there is tremendous growth in their middle class, 10% of their pop. gets you to 250 Million. Getting 500 mil subs will be challenging when piracy is still rampant no doubt.

        • Me

          Why stop at monetizing at discovery? We need to monetize before discovery! We need to monetize before the consumer even knows the music exists!

          • TuneHunter

            Well, you might be in to something – brilliant!
            I am just proposing simple and practical solutions.
            …are you into Minority Report of music? Federal government with Google is almost there, watch out!

    • Blahblahblah

      I pay for Spotify and Rdio, at the moment. I really don’t see why they ever offered the free option or why labels went along with that. Maybe it’s too late now to undo it and force people to pay but it’s worth a shot. Why have I never seen a Spoify commercial that shows how easy it is to create a playlist of new releases on Tuesday morning, sync them to your phone and listen in your car or on the train on your way to work? Probably because they can’t afford to advertise because they’re giving it away. If they don’t want to just piss off their spoiled users by taking away the free option, at least advertise what’s good about paying for it. Yes, Beck is right that the sound quality isn’t great but if people are able to hear more new music on the go, they might actually get into an artist enough to buy a CD or vinyl LP. I also believe that artists whining about being broke isn’t going to help one bit. They need to stop that now.

  2. JoeShmoe

    I hate to sound like a dick, but turning a hobby into a career is extremely difficult no matter which industry you choose. Just because you create, doesn’t mean people are willing to pay for your creations. Even if you’re good at it, it requires additional skills to distribute your creations in order to turn them into a money making venture. If anything, we should blame the artists that keep creating music even though their prospects for making any money are slim to none. I believe the term for this is ‘enabling’. However, I think most artists understand that they are most likely not going to make money from their music, but that obviously hasn’t discouraged the practice. It just seems that people who once relied on music as their bread and butter now have to find days jobs and they aren’t happy about it.

    • Me

      I agree with this wholeheartedly. There are a ton of musicians in my neighborhood. Some of them are extremely talented, and many are not. There’s a lot of competition out there, and the ones that are breaking through are the ones that have varying combinations of talent, connections, hard work, and luck.

    • socialrolla

      The solution to the artist/fan monetization crisis is sitting in the palm of every aspiring musicians and fans hand and has the capability to disrupt the entire industry by re-thinking the over all fan music experience capturing a massive market at a lower price point that can provide revenues from the start of the writing process through the last note played on tour and beyond for the bands.

      This same philosophy can be applied to the bands that have already made it by helping them interface and monetize their fans more efficiently bringing in more revenues and in so doing finding their global audience over mobile and social networks.

      But to Joe Schmoes point, every successful band has one thing in common and that is at least one great song! with out that it doesn’t matter how much technical support you have or what label you are on…as a business your content and relationship with your consumers is key!

    • Anonymous

      “Even if you’re good at it, it requires additional skills to distribute your creations in order to turn them into a money making venture.”

      Nonsense — if you’re good at it, people will stand in line and ask for your permission to do all that for you. I’m sure you’ll agree that you’re entitled to financial success when millions love your work. If you don’t get financial success in that scenario, it’s because something’s wrong.

      What’s wrong is theft. The reason for theft is lack of consequences, and the reason for the current lack of consequences is that politicians only now begin to understand the astronomical amount of money and jobs we lose each and every year to the commercial Piracy Industry.

      People would also steal your car, your house and your food, if they could do so without consequences. The result would not only be that you lost your car, hourse and food, but that nobody could afford to produce cars, house and food anymore.

      And that would have zero to do with distribution skills or any lack thereof.

    • Ianb007

      That is very insulting to say the least. Just flippantly insinuating that professionals in music are some how trying to turn their ‘hobby” into a career is so off the mark and ignorant I don’t know what what to say. Your first sentence was correct. You are sounding like a dick.

      • Anonymous

        “Just flippantly insinuating that professionals in music are some how trying to turn their ‘hobby” into a career is so off the mark and ignorant I don’t know what what to say”


    • Ritch Esra

      You don’t sound like a dick! You sound like someone whose given this a lot of thought and has the courage to speak an unpopular attitude. In the old system when music artists “Got Paid” you have to remember there were far far fewer of them in “The System” and even then only 10% or so actually made money. Today, so many more musical artists ARE making money doing music. That’s the good news – There are no more gatekeepers preventing thousands of musicians from reaching an audience. The bad news – There are no more gatekeepers keeping thousands of musicians from reaching an audience. It’s the dark side of the solution that no one likes to speak about. At the heart of this problem lies an even deeper one as it relates to making a living doing music because it’s a far greater one than getting paid. It’s the ability to even get people’s attention. Today, we all live in a completely over-communicated and endless choice world in most all areas of media – not just music. This one factor has created this “Race to the Bottom” mentality in all areas of media, and music has been hit one of the hardest by it. The Film/TV Music World is a classic example of this. You have far too many people who are willing to license their music for next to nothing or for FREE (hoping to get something on the broadcast performance side) Even in conversation with the Major Label licensing people. They all tell me that the fees they can charge in 2013 are 40-50% less than what they go 10 years ago on a lot of their catalogs. My point is in a music world of ” Abundance and Endless Choice” you lose value. You want the value to come back to music – get everyone but the best of the best?? to stop making so much of it.

      • Incredulous

        Your point is valid – that a much larger number of artists are finding some sort of an audience today than did in the past, so it could be reasoned that each individual artist could expect to receive a smaller slice of the pie. This issue is interesting but it should be addressed as secondary to the issue of music’s overall devaluation. The total quantity of recorded music consumption (measured however you like) has surely increased over the last ten years, while the total value of the recoded music industry has plummeted. The ‘pie’ (to stick with the metaphor) would be much larger if the revenues reflected the actual value of the music being consumed – not the artificially deflated value that piracy has brought about. To return to your point, it is true that there are zillion artists being listened to for all of the three minutes that their music merits, but there are also – as there always have been – artists who are distinguishing themselves by making music that has earned them a more intimate and time-devoting relationship with their fans. These artists are not being rewarded, and it it is not just because they are competing with a much larger pool of artists – it is because the fans have learned how to get something for nothing.

        • MattOverMind

          I hope I’m not too late to the discussion, but I find your comments regarding “actual value of music being consumed” and “artificially deflated value that piracy has brought about” to flawed, if you take into consideration the basic economics of the whole situation. You speak of deflated values, but don’t address the possibility that they were inflated to begin with. Technology has removed the strangle hold that big industry used to have on recorded media. This has turned a once limited resource into an effectively unlimited one, because the average person has access to technology that allows for easy distribution of recorded media, where before, that technology was expensive and it the hands of the few (thus rare, thus valuable). “Pirates” is a somewhat disingenuous term for the people who consume and distribute media. It implies that they are robbing someone of a limited resource, thus denying the original owner access to said resource. It is little more than an attempt to vilify a group that is operating out of the desired scope of a particular industry. It can be argued that they are acting illegally, by way of copyright infringement, but even that brings up some hard questions. Essentially, while “piracy” may be technically illegal (maybe), I don’t see it as an unnatural action. The average person has recognized that a once limited resource has become a lot less limited. That has the unfortunate effect of devaluing it, greatly. I think it’s musicians that have their heads in the sand over this. If we’re honest with ourselves, I don’t even see the technology genie being put back into its bottle, and attempts to leverage copyright laws to enforce a situation where it is attempted to add rarity to this now unlimited resource are going to fail, or at least cause a whole host of different problems. A big and difficult question to answer is: Is copyright law still serving society, or is it being manipulated to benefit an elite few? It’s unfortunate for many that the old model is failing… but it is. If people are to continue profiting from their art, a new model is going to need to be invented, and I doubt it will be as lucrative as the old one. Basically, what’s happening here, is the same thing that happened to the horse buggy manufacturers when the automobile became affordable. Their industry became obsolete (and you better believe that they tried to legislate themselves back into the game).

          • Incredulous

            I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one, as it is over fundamentals that we disagree. I understand your economic argument – it is the ‘normal’ one, but it is one that I am continuing to argue against. The notion that music as a resource has become ‘unlimited’ is dependant on the belief that the ‘resource’ is the medium – whether a vinyl disc or a stream of bytes – rather than the music. This is certainly true in base economic terms, but it is miserably materialistic way of understanding the value of art. I don’t want to make any assumptions about your political ideals, but the kind of faith in economic fundamentals like supply and demand that denounces copyright regs as an impediment to freedom and progress is the kind of thing that would delight nineteenth-century capitalists – to whom labour laws would have seemed equally obstructive. I’m not a socialist, but I believe that we can and should apply minimal regulatory measures like labour laws and copyright laws to ensure that our laissez-faire economic model continues reflect our humanity rather than enslaving it. Finally, I have heard the horse buggy analogy before as well. I don’t know how to make this point any more simple: MUSIC IS NOT AN OBSOLETE TECHNOLOGY.

    • Incredulous

      That you hate to sound like a dick isn’t really coming across. It’s true – artists create because they are driven to do so. The economic model we live under is meant to remunerate a producer (of any product or service) to the degree that there is a market demand for the thing they supply. No one should be penalised (as you seem to be advocating) for being driven to do the work that they do. No one can question the fact that artists who reach a sizeable audience are creating something of enormous and widespread value. The only reason our economic system is not remunerating them is because the system does not police or punish the illegal activity that has undermined their industry. Your economic philosophy is depressing and offensive.

  3. Me

    Interesting that he compared music to football. Going to a football game is not like buying a CD. The average football fan may spend $143 on a one-time event. All the while, football games can be watched for free on CBS or FOX. Meanwhile, music fans will spend $500+ to go to a music festival (including tickets travel expenses, lodging, refreshemnts), even though they can listen to the bands for free on Spotify or YouTube (or in a small number of cases, the radio).

    Fans will still spend money on music, as long as there is a product that is desirable to them.

  4. rd

    I’d feel better if I knew that the $16 I spent on a CD actually went to the artists. I would prefer to pay my favorite artists by purchasing music from them directly or seeing them live.

  5. rd

    Also, this line really bothered me, “It is a scary proposition when paying artists for their music has become a voluntary act of kindness, rather than a consumer responsibility.” It is not a consumer’s responsibility to pay for a product they feel is not worthwhile. If nobody is willing to pay for a product, that product’s value is inherently worthless in the market. Produce something of value and your customers will pay. For example, premium acts can charge over $100 per ticket for a single live show and still fill the seats. This does not mean that all ticket prices should be $100.

    • Ianb007

      That line was spot on. The consumer has always had the option of not paying for a product they did not think was worth it. The problem is the consumer in todays market has a sense of entitlement and believes that they have a right to consume other people’s work and not be asked to compensate them for it. I can’t tell you how many comments on blogs and news sites such as this i have read where posters boast that they have huge collection of music and they haven’t payed for music since 2004. They mockingly ask “Who pays for music anymore?” That is the attitude of many consumers today. Sad

  6. jesse

    Ironically, what’s missing in the music biz is creativity. Over the last 50 years the NFL has slowly monetized their product and brand. And it’s been tacky, massive, and glorious. Meanwhile, the music biz tried to sell “enhanced CDs” to kids using Napster.

    The problem with the music biz is the model, not the fans. Morality should not be a part of the conversation of re-building the music biz because it’s completely irrelevant. No one sits around thinking about the morality of spending money for pro football. They just LOVE it, and they love it within the context of an biz model that takes advantage of that. People hate NFL owners more than they hate major labels (i’m from Cincinnati – Mike Brown, anyone?).

  7. Anonymous

    “For music, a fans have the opportunity to play a CD as many times as they desire; yet they complain about spending $16 for the CD”

    That’s not relevant. People will always bitch about prices, but history shows they will pay whatever you charge for a wonderful new song.

    $1,000? Sure.

    $10,000? No problem.

    $1,000,000 + a new concert hall? By all means.

    Provided, of course, they can’t steal it without consequences.

  8. The Ghost of Fuck You Pay Me

    “Technology Didn’t Kill the Music Industry. The Lack of Long Term Vision and Leadership at Major Labels and Publishers Did…”

    There. Fixed it for you.

    Napster opened the labels jugular and fans didn’t care because the labels had never given a shit about the fans. Had the labels bothered to learn who was their customers were, and developed *any* kind of brand relations, perhaps the customers subsequent behavior would have been mitigated by affinity.

    But no, labels were mostly and correctly mythologized as profiteers who got rich by screwing artists. Turns out, karma is a bitch and artists were (unintentional and unfortunate) collateral damage.

    Fan behavior is a correlation, not a causality.

    • Ianb007

      Sorry. That just not based in reality. Labels have always cared about the fans. That’s their customers. it’s the artists that they routinely screwed.

      Secondly, people are downloading stuff for free because of economics and law breaking without consequences. When given the option of getting something for free or paying for it. 99% of them will go for getting it for free. It’s just that simple. It has nothing to do with fans wanting to stick it to the man.

      • hippydog

        Your both right? 😉

        I would say neither the fans NOR technology is really the cause..

        The true underlying root cause,
        is the music industry locked itself into a format, and then created an entire ecosystem to support that format.

        The copyright laws were never meant to protect a format.. They were made to protect the intellectual property..
        The other problem (though not the root cause) is it was decided that all music should be the same price..

  9. SIGSW

    The music industry killed the music industry. Over four decades we built a strong retail network to wholesale our products to. Then label consolidation occurred fueled by debt. Debt payments got made by cutting back on our retail support and our sales operations. Then we sold the same product to Walmart (and Amazon) as we sold to our record stores, and Walmart quickly finished cutting our record stores’ throats. Specialty retailers with no margin can’t stay in business for very long. This is how we became wholesalers with no retailers.

    This is reality. Piracy didn’t help matters, but it was not the cause of our revenue decline. We are wholesalers and we let our retailers die.

    If we priced our products (CDs, downloads, etc) at a fixed rate (rather than insisting on 70% or more of whatever retail price an entity could squeeze from a fan) many new retailers would spring up overnight. Those retailers would fight piracy for us. If record stores had 50% margins, they would still be in business today and lots of music would be getting sold. We should be focusing our energy creating more retailers instead of wasting our breath talking about piracy.

    • GuitarGuy

      Your analysis is spot on. The industry itself wallowed in enormous profits for far too long. I am self-employed and understand profit and loss and more importantly how to prepare for the future. Those who fail to see what is coming and prepare, will fail. Plain and simple. And unfortunately for musicians, the music industry chased short term dollars like so many other sectors. Thus the ‘bubble’ burst far beyond housing.

  10. Thinker

    I agree with you on many levels but this is completely off target;

    “Artisans should be able to make a living from their work no different from a nurse or auto mechanic.”

    There is no inbuilt value in creating art, none. As for a mechanic there is direct value in their line of work and nurse’s work is a necessity that creates a secondary direct value. Any created art creates value only through demand – thus it’s direct value is cultural. Cultural value can be supported by governments and organizations to empower cultural movements that without external funding would wither and die – but there is no direct capital value in art.

    • Dave H

      Utter garbage. Why are artists/musicians expected to not be paid for their work when our society is based on monetary transactions. NO other field or endeavour is expected to be rewarded financially for what they do. Next time you want a tradesman to fix something for you, treat him the same way as you feel justified in doing to the struggling artist and see what reaction you get.

      If artists don’t get paid, then they have to find other income streams to pay the bills. More time chasing other avenues to survive impacts greatly on the time that would be better served on developing ones talent. It infuriates me that so called fans are happy to steal the work of musicians and feel it is their right. Next time my van breaks down and I need to get to a gig, will you come and help me get all of my gear to the venue FOR FREE!!!!

  11. @sahpreemking

    Thank you all for commenting on my article. The idea was to start the conversation and everyone’s opinion is valid and sheds light on a topic that causes much debate. I recently, was a panelists and moderator at the Mid-Atlantic Music Conference in Charlotte, NC and although, there were a ton of excellent bands and solo acts, there was a serious lack of fans present.

  12. jw

    The problem with this essay is consistent with most essays that try to make the same point, and that is that it assumes the value is created when a song is recorded, rather than when the song is enjoyed, or when the song causes a listener to sit through an advertisement.

    Anyone can write a song, that doesn’t mean they deserve to making a living for it. Yes, there is a problem with the monetization of music. But stats like “1% of artists are successfully making a living from their music” (which sound like conjecture to begin with) don’t belong in the conversation because, for all we know that may be because they suck. For an artist to really have a beef with the current situation, they need to first prove that their music is actually being ripped off.

    There are a LOT of artists making mediocre music that are using consumers as a scapegoat when the truth of the matter is just that no one gives a shit.

    Additionally, as has been pointed out, the football argument is bogus. And so is the argument that “Artisans should be able to make a living from their work no different from a nurse or auto mechanic,” as has been pointed out.

    Also the radio wouldn’t be dead air if artists quit releasing new music. Demand for new music is CREATED by elaborate marketing campaigns. If people stopped making new music, there would either be more talk radio stations or we’d just be listening to the Beatles & the Stones & the Clash all day & we’d all probably be better for it.

    The problem that this essay is trying to address is real, only most of the blame belongs on the industry itself. There’s so many poor arguments here, it’s just not a great way to kick off a conversation (that’s already been going on for quite some time, anyhow).

  13. DJ Jason

    If you think it’s bad for musicians, consider how bad it has been for visual artist. Oil Painting, once cherished is now pretty much obsolete thanks to technology. Technology has really screwed the arts. DJing has been reduced to near worthlessness by all of this free stuff for the masses too.

    • jw

      Have you bought an oil painting recently? Do you still buy cartographer illustrated maps or do you use Google maps? How is your penmanship holding up? Do you hand write your own correspondences or send e-mails?

      We all evolve along with technology. The very fact that you’re posting on the internet speaks volumes.

      Technology hasn’t screwed the arts, the arts must simply evolve along with technology. Perhaps oil paintings are becoming less common, but there is some absolutely incredible digital art out there making up for it. The artist has some responsibility to seek out demand for his or her own skills, & if there’s no demand for oil painting, those skills can be easily transferred to a more in demand medium.

      • Tom Green

        Take a walk round certain streets in any major city and you’ll find plenty of oil paintings going for very high prices indeed. And every single one is unique. Which is why they carry a high price tag (as well as being painted by those who’ve got thru a gatekeeping system every bit as tight as the old music industry)

        I’m not sure there’s very much point going round this old chestnut anymore. We have a ‘product’ that can be consumed for free, in a massively over-saturated market. During economic times when a lot of people have no money to spare for being charitable to musicians- and yes, when the ‘sharing’ of music happens to benefit certain very large corporations who have every intention of keeping the status quo as it is, in exactly the same way as used to happen – just different corporations.

        I made a living out of making ‘records’ and doing remixes etc from about 1990-2001, and I was lucky to be able to do that, and knew it, at the time. These days I make a living, just about, from knocking out TV scores and library music. Times change. You have to change with them. It isn’t easy, but you’ve not much choice.

        • Anonymous

          “you’ve not much choice”

          Sure we have. Stop behaving like a loser and do something about it.

          My experience is that politicians not only listen but take notes when you tell them what piracy costs and what they can do to stop it. This is not about musicians, this is about protecting the heart of modern economy: Intellectual Property.

      • hippydog

        Heck, I’m sure we could come up with a whole list of how technology has hurt artists.. (and those that make money of said artists)..
        Photographers, Actors, Comedians, etc etc its a pretty big list..

        but on the other side, technology has also expanded the creative choices, you can CREATE things that you were not able to do before.. and yes.. sometimes you do have to compensate, doing the same old things doesnt work anymore..

        example 1: photographer: made their major money in the studio and selling prints.. Printers and scanners are so exact now, that photographers had to sell on talent and the ability to retouch photo’s (cause walmart can print a photo cheaper, and just as good)
        example 2: Painter: forst off, like other arts, it goes thru cycles.. oil painting might be the coolest thing next decade, but technology has opened creative options that are unbelievable, blurring the line between arts (IE: a painter using 3D printers, can also be a Sculpture creating a new art)
        example 3: Actors: Can literally develop their own TV or Movies by themselves..
        etc etc
        as JW said.. Art sometimes has to evolve with the medium, if an artist wants to stay relevant..

    • Numb Nuts

      Ever since Bob Ross went to the happy place in the sky. You don’t get out much, do you?

  14. @sahpreemking

    JW, you sir or ma’am are making an assumption that the article is written on the premise that all music is good or worth paying for. The point that is being made here, is that there is no working class of musician, only rich and poor. There are thousands of extremely talented artists and bands out their fighting their way to fame, but in the mean time they have to make a living, and making a living from your art shouldn’t be a pipe dream. The reference about the NFL is being taken out of context, the point is that GOOD artists should be treated with the same respect—as far as revenue is concerned—as any other service being provided to consumers. And to say that the essay is not a great way to kick off an ongoing conversation is funny because it made you interrupt your day at least twice to make comments, so I think its served its purpose it starting the conversation. You can’t argue with logic.

    • jw

      NFL fans pirate football games all of the time. It has nothing to do with respect, it has everything to do with availability. If NFL fans could download their favorite player’s jersey, you bet they would. In a heartbeat.

      How many NFL fans do you think stole cable in the 80’s/90’s to watch football games on ESPN?

      This is some kind of ego thing that artists think that they’re being particularly disrespected disproportionate to anyone else. That’s just not the case.

  15. Anonymous

    You really should be blaming the labels and the industry as a whole and not the fans. The fact is that the labels were greedy – repackaged their releases dozens of times, allowed retail prices of $18.99 for a single disc and were asleep at the wheel when digital entered. Instead of embracing it and potentially monopolizing on it the industry tried everything to stop it. Maybe if they had lowered their CD prices at the advent of digital consumers would still be purchasing CDs. Now because they still can’t figure out a better business model, they have 360 deals. Isn’t that hurting the artists? Don’t forget the labels pay for all product placement in all stores chain and independent, radio placement, etc. Vevo is a joke – again if they had any fore-thought maybe they would have thought of YouTube? While I don’t think music should be free, it is an unfortunate consequence of the digital age.

    • Anonymous

      “While I don’t think music should be free, it is an unfortunate consequence of the digital age”

      Huh? 🙂

      Wholesale theft would instantly destroy any other industry too if consumers could steal the products without any consequences.

      It’s very easy to instantly stop mainstream theft of Intellectual Property. See what happened to mainstream child pornography. Even Google had to give up at last. All it takes is political will.

  16. V

    The death of the physical music collection plays its roll in all this too.

    People who are old enough to have been around when the physical format was king and actually have a music collection won’t pay for streaming. They don’t pay a fee every month to keep their CDs, so streaming doesn’t make any sense besides hearing something to see if it’s any good.

    The try before you buy that streaming brings into play is a good thing for the consumer, but by nature not something any business wants as the norm because it obviously exposes flaws in the product before you put your money down to buy it. So it’s much harder to sell something to the younger generation that only knows streaming, and good luck trying to find a fifteen year old that has a CD collection.

    People that find value in a physical format collection would probably tell you there are plenty of CDs that aren’t very good in their collection, but for the sake of the collection the not so good album is worth it. I’m sure these people make up a good amount of the people that still buy CDs today.

  17. Radio and Records Vet

    There are over 2 million guitars sold every year in the US. Additionally, there are over 1 million guitars sold every year in the UK. There are an estimated 80 to 90 THOUSAND albums released a year in the US. Over 400,000 albums and 3 million tracks are currently available on CDBaby. The average iTunes user spends $40 per year (US). That’s not quite 40 singles. 2013 was a record year for music festivals – large and as well small one day municipal events. How many bands are there where you are? How many singer songwriters? How many music schools cranking out want-to-be stars of tomorrow?

    I get so terribly annoyed when people who are successful tell others they cannot be successful. I get so terribly annoyed when we’re led to believe we cannot make a living as a musician. I know too many who are – and a lot more who don’t care if they do.

    You all want to make money? How much? Is it better to work for $30,000 a year in retail management or $30,000 a year doing things related to your craft? There’s also nothing wrong with having a nice boutique craft business that brings you joy and the extra money to do “fun” stuff.

    So please, don’t sit here and tell me how you can’t do something – cuz sure as shit, as soon as you say you can’t – you won’t – and I know too many who do to buy into the you can’t.

    • Faza (TCM)

      I, on the other hand, get really cross with people who tell demonstrable untruths to folks who haven’t got enough experience to know better.

      All the things you mention – the guitars, the album releases and all the rest (yes, most likely the festivals as well, for the up-and-coming) – are ways in which aspiring musicians can spend money. Spending money is easy, if you’ve got it. However, it’s making money that’s the hard part and it’s only getting harder.

      I’ve yet too hear an enthusiast such as yourself offer anything remotely sensible as a solution to that little problem.

      It’s not a case of successful people wanting to keep others down. It’s giving the straight dope: with things as they are now – and are likely to be in the forseeable future – you’ll be hard-pressed to make even a living wage playing original music, to say nothing of earning a “rockstar” wage. Moreover, all those things you can spend money on (mentioned above), well… better figure out how you’re going to earn that dough, ‘coz it’s not very likely anyone else is going to pony up the cash (labels and publishers aren’t as forthcoming with advances these days).

      • Anonymous

        Moreover, all those things you can spend money on (mentioned above), well… better figure out how you’re going to earn that dough, ‘coz it’s not very likely anyone else is going to pony up the cash (labels and publishers aren’t as forthcoming with advances these days).

        Easy. Get an actual day job.

        Musician is 99.99% a hobby and 0.01% a profession and declining. Playing video games professionally seems more plausible career field. Unlike music, that’s a growing area.

        • Anonymous

          “Musician is 99.99% a hobby and 0.01% a profession and declining. Playing video games professionally seems more plausible career field.”

          Hm let’s see, who makes more people happy — gamers or musicians? 🙂

      • Radio and Records Vet

        However, it’s making money that’s the hard part and it’s only getting harder.

        Yes, making money is hard. 99.9% of people have a wage mentality. I’ve rarely ever collected a paycheck from an “employer.” I have learned over my over 35 yrs in business how to make money. I teach how to make money. I teach and consult on product and service valuations. I teach and consult on effective business building techniques.

        So, no you don’t get that for free – anymore than you’d play for free. That said, I contribute 15% of my annual billable hours to charitable causes. 😉

        And, it’s not musicians SPENDING all that money in Guitar Center. It’s moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles buying $300 guitars because their kiddo wants to be a musician. It’s not musicians signing up at the local music academies. It’s kids who WANT to be musicians. It’s not KIDS who attend Berklee or the myriad of other music related schools and colleges and universities … it’s teens and young adults who want to pursue music professionally.

        As an adult musician I already have what I need to be in business for myself. 😉

  18. George Dassinger

    There is merit to the statement here but depending on educating fans is not the full answer to the dilemma. . The record industry played a major role here only to have it blow up in their faces.
    The music business started out as a “single business” and ironically, it is right back where it started only now the configured medium has changed from “records” to “downloads” (and now “streaming” for that matter).
    In the mid-to-late ’50s you did not put out an album until you had several “successful singles”. Prior to that, 78s were also a “singles business”.
    The collective record industry wanted to eliminate the cost of production. Create a configuration where there is no product cost. They believed “downloads” were the “Holy Grail”. It became the “Frankenstein theory”: you created the monster, now live (and let die) with him.
    The record companies created “360 deals” to cash in on all fronts – not just the music. They realized too late “downloads” were the beginning of their own end. They shifted to owning names, logos, publishing, classic photos, etc.
    However, that is starting to change. There are 13 year old fans “discovering bands” and they are keen to hear all their material – not just their hit single. They are going beyond radio – which is “hits” oriented – to find their music. The question is will they buy it? Hard to tell – does the puppy dog sale theory work in the 21st century?
    The only thing predictable about fans is they are “unpredictable” especially in the US.
    Sadly, there is hardly any artist money to be made in the “digital or YouTube world”. On top of that, major talent agencies will not book your act without the “hit” so “the record” goes round-and-round.
    The indie concert promoters were bought out and the “free enterprise system” fell prey to the buy-out oligopoly.
    Carving out your own niche may be the only way to be “safe at home”. Fans can be the support that “safety net banks on” – winning over a fan – one at a time works. It takes time and concerted effort. Are fans iffy – damn right they are.

  19. D

    digital music news could query American Federation Of Musicians or itself to create a fund for musicians who are financially in need – not from sickness, since already works to care for musicians with medical issues. The bank issuing the credit card would give .5% to the fund for certain purchases, just the way they do now.

    Every bit helps.

    <a href=""

  20. ethicalfan

    i disagree vehemently in blaming the fans. ISPs and Google trained the public to consume media illegally becuase it has made them tens of billions of dollars. remember that google AUTOPOPULATED the word torrent after every recording artist name entered into a google search box in the world until 2012. Verizon’s who makes $120B a year deploys their inhouse legal team to block creator’s legimitimate attempts to enforce copyright protecting and shielding their pirate subscribers, isps and internet advertisers have built the current internet to teach people to consume media illgeally without compensating the creators. internet services providers revenues grew from ~$1B to ~$40B a year, internet advertising revenues grew from ~$1B to ~$50B a year while incomes to American musicians dropped

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  22. Joe Edouard

    This discussion about “musicians” is really about “recording artists”. As an interested outsider, does anyone have figures for the number of working musicians? It seems to me there are huge numbers of gigging musicians making a living without ever seriously considering releasing recorded music. Or is that outside the scope of this conversation? Also, what proportion of income is created from performance rather than recordings?

    • Ian Boxill

      Joe. The two are linked. Successful recordings generate both studio work and live show work for musicians. The number of full time working musicians have fallen by about 40% since 2001 or around there according to the IRS.

  23. Anonymous

    Ok, so I get it. But, I have bought music starting with 45rpm, 78rpm, albums, 8-tracks, cassettes, CD’s and now digital downloads. I personally am sick,of paying for all of the same music over and over as technology advances. What about this travesty? I’ve spent perhaps $10 per song on several hundred over the years, what can be done about that? Answer: nothing. It’s just part of this shitty advanced age we live in.

  24. Thursday

    Can we start by blaming corporate America for coming in and messing the entire music scene up?

  25. Raymond Fry, Midas King Productions

    Hi GGG, I disagree with Sahpreem’s claim that it is the fans who are to blame for choosing free music. The blame clearly falls upon desperate individuals that put their music up on these sites for free. If the collective had even half a brain, they would have known that it would make things worse for them than it was before they chose this idiotic route to go down. We cannot expect fans to turn away a freebee because it would be paramount to walking past someone throwing bills in front of us on the sidewalk.

  26. Soniquarium Muzika

    Good read. Great perspective. The 1% of Shitty music is where the money is. Sell out, be a Pop Star, Ride naked on a “Wreking” Ball or pay 10k to get laid in Brazil and then get called out. Bubble gum Music….the industry is a joke and the Zombie Nation eats up their lack of creative choons.

    Now, as a touring DJ/Producer, From the beaches and super clubs in IBIZA to the Gritty get down tech-house clubs in Berling, I make money from “Tours”. Shows, et al. That is where the major part of the “Compensation comes from. Now, Itunes/Beatport are my main two revenue streams for tracks sold. Streaming, I get nodda, radio play, as in Sirius and other EDM stations, I get nadda. But, that’s ok because that “Air”/Internet Play is Advertising I don’t have to pay for. It works out.

    The Idea that an “artist” is going to make money off their “work” is a great one. But the reality is, you better have a second job, period. Many many many artist, worked other jobs until their break. Many more never got a break. “FREE MARKETS” a bitch people. But the consumer sets the scale. Supply and Demand, This isn’t Socialism folks. Problem is, most artist are from the camp of thinking. They will end up failing. Socialism doesn’t work, nor does the thought of help make you successful.

    Bottom line. The odds are against all of US. But the opportunity is there for everyone. Plenty of “Shitty” music flooding Itunes et al. So, it’s a Catch 22. Learn a few other trades and keep at it, make the music and tour. It will never be easy. Just ask the folks that brought us Motown….soul and Jazz. Many are broke, ripp’d off from their labels, left in the dust. The Music Business isn’t fun, it’s pure evil. But making the music is the Holy Grail, the art form of such.

  27. HighwayDre

    This is a great and very relevant topic I am personally interested in, due to the fact that I myself give away tons of music. My reason for constantly giving away songs, is that I m a creator who is always creating . So over a span of a year I usually write (& comfortably record thanks to technology advancements) 50-1000 songs selling some as singles, using some for an album, others for a special mixtape and give most away to my fans as a symbol of my appreciation for their support on my journey through this maze we call the biz. Which I believe has been very helpful because you empower your fans, get great word of mouth promotion (that almost completely missing human interaction in this digital age) a inspire giving and most importantly inspire giving.

  28. the Artist and the label

    Not ready to put all the blame on the fans, in the end they are the bosses that pay the corporations that pay the artists. I’m making sales but all these corporate loopholes either cut views on youtube – take 40 percent sales, then I another cut of 20, then another cut of 20 percent with distribution gatekeeprs ….I’m down to .04cents a sale ….so let’s not say it’s the fans fault – because without fans we wouldn’t have a job to begin with ….let’s blame the people making excuses to tax us to death – the industry is killing the industry with their greed…..really sucks that they are trying to blame fans for places like spotify paying .0003 cents per play and itunes taking a cut, and distributors taking a cut – and Heaven knows if they are reporting the actual sales to begin with. Pirate sites, at this point is free marketing ….put things in perspective. If a corporation got ad money for letting pirates give your music away free – why isn’t the corporation hosting the file being held responsible ? they are making money, pirates aren’t.

  29. @sahpreemking

    I love that everyone here has agreed and disagreed with so much passion. Once we get out of the matrix, maybe we will be able to collectively bring all the perpetrator’s—whether fans, labels, wholesales, pirates, ISP, etc’s heads to the guillotine. I wrote this article because I spent a weekend listening to over 100 artists complain about the same things. I admit, some of the artists shouldn’t have ever entered the music business, while others really deserved a break, but the fact remains that the playing field must be leveled once and for all. Call me an optimist, but I still believe if you put enough smart people in a room and they all want the same thing, you can still solve problems. Thank you all for your participation!

    • black amber/appiah king

      The good and bad of the global village.You see people are working for nothing

    • Pie Rate

      “.. I still believe if you put enough smart people in a room and they all want the same thing, you can still solve problems.”

      Lots of smart people have wanted the same thing, solving the problem of delivering copies of lots of music to the masses, worldwide, for little to no cost. So far it’s worked out quite well.

      • hippydog

        actually, I think that happened more by accident.. 🙂
        what actually happened is a bunch of smart people got together and decided to ignore the possible problem in the hopes it would go away 😉

  30. @sahpreemking

    Everyone has an opinion, but seldom do people do anything beyond complaining. I have more respect for people who try and fail than people who never tried at all. Life is messy, regardless of your vocation, you must roll up your sleeves and get messy. We can either point at the hole in the hot air balloon, patch it, or build a better flying device. Peoples action or inaction strengthen or weaken the cause, but those who instigate the issue without a fruitful contribution are useless to both sides. There was a lot of school yard bickering going on here, but beneath it all quite a few people offered solid solutions. My mindset is never ask a poor person advice on being rich, because you will only get poor advice.

  31. David

    So if technology didn’t destroy the “music industry”, then that means that we don’t need DRM or restraints on internet freedom & privacy, right? Maybe people will start caring about the music industry when the music industry stops backing garbage like SOPA. Good luck.

    “The music industry is a brutal bitch, a beast that chews up artists and shits them out.”

    Couldn’t have said it better. So why, if I were an offending yoot who downloaded music and knew what the industry was like, would I give money to support that industry? Perhaps artists need to figure out another way to make money sans the “brutal bitch”.

  32. real talk hawk

    Music is not a service, it’s an art. A service has immediate value. If your car is broken and a mechanic fixes it, then there is immediate value for that service. Art on the other hand doesn’t have immediate commercial value upon creation. Art only has value when there is a demand for it. When you accept that idea, you will open yourself up to a few questions, which illustrate the process of how to make it in music.

    1. How do we create demand?
    Through exposure.

    2. How do we create exposure?
    You pay 10k a month to a great PR firm or spread music freely online (many times the best PR firms spread your music freely, but do it more efficiently using their contacts)

    3. What happens when I’ve been exposed?
    You can begin to reap financial rewards through various streams (live shows, sales, royalties, licensing, merch, etc..)

    The idea of going to war against fans for the use of free music is ridiculous. Just remember that music was originally created by indigenous people for the reason of communication. That reason is STILL the core reason for the existence of music, and why art SHOULD be made, and why it’s no coincidence that many huge songs are successful because they are communicating something very sincerely..

    I’ve had multiple #1 singles on itunes… I’ve seen all sides of this equation. The truth is, if you really touch people with your music, and have your business together, you’d have a hard time not making a living from it. Many musicians just don’t got it.

  33. Peter

    All you have to do to kill piracy and freemium is stop giving it away for free whether is bandcamp spotify which i also consider a free service, go after google they are the music industries saviours.

  34. Aaron Boule

    I’ve been hearing this forever! Ever since Metalica’s drummer got all upset. The music industry has not been and will never be destroyed. That’s like saying: ” The fans are destroying the candy industry”. You can’t. As long as there is demand, and there always will be, there will be a music industry. My fellow musicians (when I was actively playing in and recording with an original band in the 90’s) were always crying about not being discovered, not making money, blah blah. Bunch of cry baby’s. If your music is good, you will make money. If you’re talented, you will make money. If you are willing to sacrifice and work hard, you will make money. We did very well recording, promoting and playing in colleges. We weren’t all that talented. We put together a package and marketed it. We got airplay. The band decided they didn’t want to tour. That’s when I knew the band didn’t have the desire and drive anymore and I quit. But then I started a cover band and you know what? I made money. again.
    Don’t worry about whether the infrastructure will support you. It will if you are super talented and have your finger on the pulse of what the kids want to hear. Otherwise get to work. Build your own infrastructure. I just recently stopped playing in cover bands because it started to feel like work. But I had a long run and made a lot of money playing drums and singing in bands. I’m not very talented but I got it done and I had fun.

    P.S. “I love music, but I hate musicians”. My 25 plus years having to work with them showed me that they are greedy, self lovers/haters, think everything they produce creatively is gold, shallow and never miss a chance to stab each other in the back for the smallest of rewards/punishment. Oh yeah, lets not forget cry babies.

  35. evan houseman

    here’s an idea: limited edition runs, like painters do 500 or 1000 signed prints. Raise the price to reflect its desirability. Embed some sort of security into the music files, tailor the license to protect the music from mass distribution and market to individuals that are willing to pay the piper.

  36. Moto

    Music changes brain chemisty-thus it is a drug. People will always steal drugs before purchasing them.

  37. Klive dreemtime

    Amazing comments and statements and revelations by all.

    All I want to say is that from the thousands of 00.4 and less, streaming on my current Album with an average cost around $600.00 a track there’s 12 tracks.. – paying the best available musicians the very minimum fee’s I am roughly down %89 on my sales compared to the previous album.Yes I can play some instruments myself and yes I did.
    Before you reach the possible conclusion that this may well be due to wether the music was good enough on this one.. I received ‘Best new Soul album ‘of the month in the UK (ECHOES magazine) and the royalty payments from my Distributor increased almost 10 fold but decreased in value equally. I also had literally hundreds and hundreds of radio play and some stations deciding to use a track ‘Elliot’ as their signature tune for their programs. My point here is that an increase in value of the ‘Art’ (attributed to musical acclaim and an a huge increase in streaming royalty hits) has amounted this year in a savage decrease in the remuneration ..unbelievably so..The fact is if the streaming paid out the correct value (even itunes is inevitable acceptable)then I’d have had enough to promote and tour and pay some’ bills..
    A license deal from Japan,that I am very grateful for, was two thirds less than on the previous album too.
    I am one of the very few ‘lucky’ ones in the business- for now- My Wife is gracious enough to take the strain and I am a Dad first-doing all the Mum/Dad parts including everything a babysitter nanny cook and cleaner (or grandparents if they were willing and alive)would do..I’m fortunate- Love my kid my wife and my life- but without the rent being paid and money for food there would be no music to be made.
    If ASCAP can only be joined if you’re published I wonder why ‘we’ as a whole didn’t simply set up an association for ‘professional Artists’ and block Pandora and Spotify etc.

    Within the last month- ‘ the horse has bolted’ I’m aware, I removed all streaming and am now just a digital download and CD Album sales artist-I now have the Taxman telling me ‘It’s a “Hobby” I have never seen such a drastic devaluation of a product-the song is a product-good or bad.. nor read of anything comparable in history.What to do.

  38. RR

    To whoever’s reading this – it’s true something’s gone very wrong in the music industry, possibly even with pop culture at large.

    I have proof.

    I teach guitar. Most of my students are 14-19 years old, male and female. I ask them to bring in bands they listen to. The female students bring One Direction, Fall Out Boy and a handful of sound-alikes. The male students, almost without exception, say “I don’t listen to any new bands.” No new bands. Only Bon Jovi, Guns n’ Roses, old Metallica and so on.

    I asked my male students what the heck is going on. “I don’t know, the new stuff just isn’t as good. The old stuff is better, the production is better, it’s just better.”

    I asked one of my female students the same question, why only the girls are bringing new bands. “It’s because the new bands are better looking.”

    Today, the likes of Elton John, Billy Joel, Phil Collins and even Frank Zappa would be working crummy jobs all day. You’d never hear a single album they made – if they had time to make anything good at all – or if they even thought it was worth the trouble in the first place.

  39. Disposable Heroes – The current state of music | Official FN Radio

    […] Blogger, Paul Resnikoff writes that it was the fans of music that killed the industry. Everyone thought that Napster was the second coming of Christ—and the beginning of the music revolution; however, in the midst of this transformation, the fans became increasingly desensitized to the fact, that the free music they were consuming was created by artists who have to make a living from their music.  […]

  40. babu

    Good Music or movies? That was untill 13 years ago. Artists need lot of time and care to make something impressive enough for others.
    If they don’t get paid for due to some technology which make is easy to copy and hack their work, they ll quit making the masterpeice and that’s what is happening.
    After 20 years Music will be replaced by stupid cell phone games, and humanity will loose its soul.

  41. babu

    All the end mediums which allow to copy and play music should put a share contribution to the music industry from their profits.
    Yes they can charge it on top of every piece of crap they sell, so that people ultimately pay the price of art

  42. a guy

    Do not blame this at all on hip hop. that’s not a fair or even discernible accusation.

  43. 99PB1

    I know this is super late but I was sick reading this. Some of its true but its not as bad as all that. People know more about the cost of being creative then this person thinks. Over the years I have found many up and coming artists that like the times have changed and along with the craft they use marketing skills and make money for the art they love.
    I am not saying that the artists should be forced to bill new listeners, but understanding how to market oneself on the internet is something people have been forced to learn. If you don’t or just let others handle it for you it leads to crap like this. Yes its true not everyone pays or feels they have to but most up and coming artists get that and if they are good and want it to work they mess around and give an out for people to not pay.

    Most people understand you can’t get mad for people taking when you give it away for free. food music whatever. I follow loads of artists known and unknown, I am happy to pay, however, the free gifts they share with the listeners is always a nice treat. Like I said the free music will slow down over time with apple,google and etc…. and as more people get skills and learn how to build a strong following.

  44. Cameron

    This is why I stopped using YouTube as my music library and now buy physical CDs for every album I listen to, as well as listening with Spotify. Artists need all the help they can get


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