If You Really Want to Help Musicians, Then Help Me Finish Making This Film…

The following comes from producer, musician, and filmmaker Mikael Eldridge, aka ‘Count,’ who is currently seeking financing to finish his documentary about dramatic shifts experienced by musicians in the digital era.  His indiegogo campaign has raised nearly $30,000; the goal is to raise $52,000 by Thanksgiving. 

“Unsound and the Story of Today’s Robber Barons

For the past 2 years I have been working on a documentary called Unsound  which is about the internet revolution and the impact it is having on the creative world (both positive and negative), particularly on musicians. For all of the haters out there, don’t worry. There is plenty of blame to be thrown around. I equally criticize the old music business as much as the new. The point of the film is not to blame or complain, but rather to shine a light on what isn’t working so that we can make things better.

The film looks beyond the often industry-specific issues we discuss here on Digital Music News. The story of the collapsing music business is the backdrop to the much larger story of the unintended consequences of the internet revolution and how this is impacting creators of movies, books, journalism and the things that not only power the internet, but inform and shape our lives. Although there are so many positive changes affecting the creative world, this is the part of the story most people already know. What is more interesting to me is what most people don’t seem to know. So I decided to take a more critical look in this film.

You can see a collection of some of the clips from the film here.

For months as I’ve worked on this film, I’ve been thinking that in the post-internet age, musicians and creators have been getting the short end of the stick in what otherwise should be an improvement over the old music business.  I have also been feeling that that many of the people who have been prospering from the new music business are reminiscent of the robber barons of the 19th century.  In fact, that comparison was also made by several of the insightful folks I’ve interviewed in the film, from Noam Chomsky to Bad Religion guitarist and Epitaph Records founder Brett Gurewitz.

This greed from today’s robber barons is transforming what should otherwise be a positive change from a previously dysfunctional industry, into a winner-take-all system motivated by short term gains.

This transformation seems equally, if not more unsustainable as the old music business we rebelled against years ago.  I read an article recently that Spotify raised another $250 million, which apparently now values the company above $4 billion.  This seems to actually value the company above the actual labels that own the music Spotify streams, which makes absolutely no sense to me.

But it proves the point that today, the mere distributors of content are worth more than the actual creators and the content itself.

Again, this is unsustainable.

This kind of detail about specific companies is not a part of the film, which mostly follows 5 artists and juxtaposes their personal stories with commentary by industry experts and other noteworthy artists.  Although the film takes a much bigger picture view, this Spotify story is exactly what the artists I have been interviewing are concerned about. They’ve seen this happen several times already in the post-internet industry, and they are naturally suspicious of platforms that make no investment in their work, offer no promotional value, and in general only extract value from their work.

I heard that Spotify’s CEO Mr. Ek said in August that at some point investors will likely want to get their money back, potentially through an initial public offering. 

This is the short-term, unsustainable game that has plagued the music industry for over a decade: create a platform, don’t worry if you lose money, get massive market share, get massive investment, and make a fortune on an IPO.

Meanwhile artists are hurt as their work is devalued, especially independent artists. You see, Spotify doesn’t need to make money as a company to make money for its executives and original investors. This is the big point that people have been missing. It is all so cynical. It is all for the short term gain of the new robber barons who have no interest in a sustainable world for the people that actually create the things that make their wealth even possible.

Of course, things are not all bad for artists in the digital age. There are many people working on platforms that actually help facilitate the artist to fan relationship that is needed. This is what makes this story so compelling and so often misunderstood. That’s why a film like Unsound is so long overdue. Regardless of your views are on these issues, one thing that we should be able to agree on is that the public needs to know what is happening. They need to know that there are indeed serious problems.

For music fans, things have never been better. They have instant access to music any time, anywhere, and they don’t even have to pay for it if they don’t want to. So fans have thus far had little incentive to look deeper in to these issues of how creators are being impacted.

Although we in the industry debate these problems regularly, as far as fans know, things are just fine. They hear the occasional story about somebody raising a million dollars on Kickstarter, and they think all is well. Until fans know there is a problem, there is little chance that things will get better for artists. So although I’ve received a ton of support from industry folks, Unsound is really for fans.

Production for Unsound is nearing completion and we are about to begin editing.

This week on Thanksgiving Day, the indiegogo fundraising campaign for the film ends.  You can contribute starting here:

Count is a San Francisco based music producer who has worked on projects with such artists as DJ Shadow, Radiohead, The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, New Order, No Doubt, Galactic, Zoe Keating, Tycho, Trombone Shorty and more. 

55 Responses

  1. jw

    I’m not sure that fans need a musician’s explanation of what’s happening as much as musicians need a tech or business person’s explanation of what’s happening.

    Rhett says it himself in the interview, he wasn’t cut out to be a business man. So when he says his his niece watches youtube videos with pre-roll ads all day, he shouldn’t be expected to know that the artist is likely seeing their fair share of that money. Then again, he probably shouldn’t be in a documentary commenting on such things, either.

    It’s easy to look at the effects of the digital transition & point the finger at Spotify, but was Technology Crossover Ventures going to otherwise give that money to artists? No, of course not. It’s inconsequential, & if anything, it’s a HUGE BENEFIT to artists. Why? Because 70% of that $250m is going to go back to artists. It’s a gross oversimplification, but you could almost say that Spotify just sold 17.5m records. If they go public, are folks going to spend all of their money on Spotify stocks & have none left over to buy cds & artist merch? Of course not. It’s inconsequential. I understand that temptation to say, “Well shit, we’re broke & they’re high on the hog.” But there’s more money in distribution than in creating content, & that’s always been the case because it’s aggregation. It’s got nothing to do with the internet or Silicon Valley or whatever. The more transactions you’re taking a slice of, even if it’s a tiny slice, the more you’re going to make. There’s nothing new about that. Past a certain scale, the distribution company SHOULD be worth more than the content creators. Amazon is worth more than companies whose products it distributes. Like it’s said in the interview with Rhett, Third Eye Blind paid for the Pixies record. Why? Because Third Eye Blind wasn’t getting all of the cash earned, the label was pocketing a huge chunk, & HMV was making their cut, too.

    Speaking of which, suggesting that Google should be investing in artists is like suggesting HMV had an obligation to recording artists because it was making a killing selling recording music. That’s just not the case. It’s an erroneous & misleading comparison that is only made by artist-types who don’t have a very good grasp on how everything works.

    The real change is that technology has brought, which doesn’t seem to be addressed in the film, is consumer behavior. I’m currently trying to cull my favorite records of the year down to my 100 favorites. I never would’ve been able to afford to listen to that many records in the ’90s. It was the iPod that transformed consumer behavior… listen to everything, just skip around. But that has gone from “put all the music from your CD collection on here & just skip around on your iPod” to “skip around through all of the music ever recorded on YouTube, Spotify, etc.” I mean, people don’t even watch whole tv shows anymore, they just skip around through 90 second youtube videos. For artists to be compensated like they were in the ’90s, the value of music would have to increase relative to the increase in variety. I can make arguments that the digital download (and certain specific choices that music industry executives made over the last decade plus) severely devalued music in the last decade, but the tech companies like Pandora, Spotify, etc that this doc rails against are actually RESTORING the value of music, only their relatively fair payouts are being distributed among a larger variety of artists, making it seem to the single artist who doesn’t see the larger picture of total payouts versus total plays as if his or her music is being devalued, when in fact it is not.

    So the reality is not that music is being devalued by tech companies, it’s that too much music is being made & the revenue is being spread too thin for artists to make a living the way they did in the ’90s. So does that mean that this variety is the death knell of the middle class artist? Not if companies like Spotify can successfully raise the value of music beyond what it was in the ’90s by offering a product that’s worth $120/year to users (which I would’ve never spent on CDs in the ’90s, but gladly pay now), or by growing ad revenue by localizing or creatively targeting ads. And not if they can scale their listenership & monetize the listening of consumers who wouldn’t otherwise pay for music, or monetize the music that consumers have already purchased in another format.

    The doc is right in that this is a pivotal moment in the history of the music industry, & that these issues need to be discussed. But they need to be discussed responsibly by people who know what the hell they’re talking about. Noam Chomsky? Really? I mean, I love Chomsky as much as the next guy, but I’ve actually heard him say specifically that he has no interest in modern music. Foreign policy, sure. The future of the music industry? Give me a break.

    Also, it would be nice if this is going to get posted again, for the guy to at least correct the Thompson quote.

    Hey Mikael Eldridge, you know Hunter S. Thompson never said that about the music industry, right? It’s been pointed out a few times.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      “I’m not sure that fans need a musician’s explanation of what’s happening as much as musicians need a tech or business person’s explanation of what’s happening”

      And I’m sure nobody around here needs a pro-pirate like you to explain anything.

      Reply
        • FarePlay

          “I’m not sure that fans need a musician’s explanation of what’s happening as much as musicians need a tech or business person’s explanation of what’s happening.”

          Dude, you’ve crystallized your perspective for us in your first sentence.

          Reply
          • jw

            Dude, that was the point.

            Are there any specific points in my comment that you disagree with?

          • GGG

            Umm…isn’t the whole idea of your FarePlay thing you, a non musician, supposedly clearing things up?

          • FarePlay

            GGG don’t you feel kind of irrelevant following in the other guys tread marks all the time? Although there is some pathetic symmetry at work there.

            Also, why would I be redundant. As I’ve told you before, I have no interest or obligation to respond to either of you. Done that, been there.

            Why is my opinion so important to you? Or is this just another ploy you play out to discredit those who don’t agree with you? Either way you’re tiresome.

          • GGG

            I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt here and take your complete and utter avoidance of what I posted as you not wanting to acknowledge I’m right, as opposed to you really not seeing the irony in the quote you pulled out and derided.

            Please tell me you aren’t that clueless.

          • FarePlay

            Here’s something to talk about:

            Breaking news. We’ve been talking about whether streaming services are legitimate businesses or undercutting the careers of musicians so they can cash out on Wall Street?

            This comes just after Spotify announces another round of financing to the tune of $250 million.

            http://goo.gl/jHcO5E

          • GGG

            I’m sure a little bit of column A, little bit of column B, as with pretty much every tech company. Just because you want to cash out a shitload of money doesn’t mean you don’t care about the thing you created.

          • jw

            Breaking news. We’ve been talking about whether streaming services are legitimate businesses or undercutting the careers of musicians so they can cash out on Wall Street?

            Fairpay, there’s nothing there about streaming services undercutting careers of musicians. If you want to discuss that, you’re going to have to qualify it first. But you can’t because it’s not. There’s no data you can point to that supports this. You just added that in there like someone at hypebot is expressing that view. lol

            I’m detecting a pattern here… I post something reasonably well thought out, you make some emotional, dogmatic response about how technology is evil, & I ask you to qualify your argument & all of the sudden you have no interest or obligation to respond. I’m genuinely interested in all points of views, & am interested in any relevant data available to form & shape my opinions, which are not set in stone. It’s a shame that you exit the gate with your opinions in stone & are only interested in data that can be skewed to support your dogmatic presuppositions, if you have any interest in data at all. It really does come across as some sort of religious opposition to technology. I’m interested in debating these topics, & better informing myself, but it doesn’t seem like you’re equipped to debate, only to spread propaganda.

            So if you’d like to follow through with your multiple resolutions to not respond to my comments, you won’t find me crying myself to sleep or anything.

        • Anonymous

          “Nothing I said has anything to do with piracy”

          Jw, we have 2 notorious pro-pirate posters on this site. Casey is the other one. Trust me, music-lovers don’t need any of you to explain anything.

          Reply
    • TuneHunter

      JW, I am sorry to say it but you are clue-less on current state of the art.
      Music industry has enough traditional and mature tech assets to double in less than three years and exceed 100 billion dollars in sales by 2020.
      New investment to Spoofy is just infusion of fresh cash to music inquisition!
      …and you and those investors are promoters of DARK.

      Regarding Hunter’s quote – brilliant and visionary – but reality is actually worse.
      Pimps and prostitutes, no matter how dirty business they run, they make cash.
      Music PIMPS, like SHAZAM, promote for free INDUSTRIAL RAPE not profit generating prostitution.

      Reply
    • A Musician

      I’m not sure that fans need a musician’s explanation of what’s happening as much as musicians need a tech or business person’s explanation of what’s happening.
      No, the fans also need to hear from software developer/writers, journalists, novelists, and others who create content for all parts of the internet and are able to do so through study and dedication to their craft. This film might be about music but anyone who creates anything should be interested
      Rhett says it himself in the interview, he wasn’t cut out to be a business man. So when he says his his niece watches youtube videos with pre-roll ads all day, he shouldn’t be expected to know that the artist is likely seeing their fair share of that money. Then again, he probably shouldn’t be in a documentary commenting on such things, either.
      They are ‘likely’ seeing their fair share? How can anyone say that with all of the convoluted business dealing that many companies use to hide revenue streams from artists? And should you be writing a comment on a forum about music? Maybe *you* shouldn’t be doing those things either…
      It’s easy to look at the effects of the digital transition & point the finger at Spotify, but was Technology Crossover Ventures going to otherwise give that money to artists? No, of course not. It’s inconsequential, & if anything, it’s a HUGE BENEFIT to artists. Why? Because 70% of that $250m is going to go back to artists. It’s a gross oversimplification, but you could almost say that Spotify just sold 17.5m records. If they go public, are folks going to spend all of their money on Spotify stocks & have none left over to buy cds & artist merch? Of course not. It’s inconsequential. I understand that temptation to say, “Well shit, we’re broke & they’re high on the hog.” But there’s more money in distribution than in creating content, & that’s always been the case because it’s aggregation. It’s got nothing to do with the internet or Silicon Valley or whatever. The more transactions you’re taking a slice of, even if it’s a tiny slice, the more you’re going to make. There’s nothing new about that. Past a certain scale, the distribution company SHOULD be worth more than the content creators. Amazon is worth more than companies whose products it distributes. Like it’s said in the interview with Rhett, Third Eye Blind paid for the Pixies record. Why? Because Third Eye Blind wasn’t getting all of the cash earned, the label was pocketing a huge chunk, & HMV was making their cut, too.

      For all the double talk about ‘inconsequential’ and ‘oversimplification’ it is very telling indeed when the crux of your statement here is that artists are being paid (Really ? How?) and in the same breath you say “there’s more money in distribution than in creating content… (snip)… The more transactions you’re taking a slice of, even if it’s a tiny slice, the more you’re going to make.” That tiny slice you allude to more accurately describes the amount going to an even smaller slice of working musicians. And your Amazon analogy is full of holes… Amazon may be worth more than the companies they distribute but have you ever considered the concept of synergy? The companies do not necessarily need Amazon (many do quite well without their distro channel) but Amazon would NOT EXIST without those companies whose products they run through their distribution channels. It’s also easy to make generalizations and claim to have insider knowledge but talking about the newer tech companies and content as all being equal is very disingenuous indeed.
      Speaking of which, suggesting that Google should be investing in artists is like suggesting HMV had an obligation to recording artists because it was making a killing selling recording music. That’s just not the case. It’s an erroneous & misleading comparison that is only made by artist-types who don’t have a very good grasp on how everything works.
      No obligation is correct but any company that does not invest in the very thing that makes their income (and Google is a bad example, think CBS, NBC and other radio (then TV) companies who developed their own inhouse staff to create content!) are being short sighted and will eventually have to run with lower quality content… see how well that goes over with the shareholders!
      The real change is that technology has brought, which doesn’t seem to be addressed in the film, is consumer behavior. I’m currently trying to cull my favorite records of the year down to my 100 favorites. I never would’ve been able to afford to listen to that many records in the ’90s. It was the iPod that transformed consumer behavior… listen to everything, just skip around. But that has gone from “put all the music from your CD collection on here & just skip around on your iPod” to “skip around through all of the music ever recorded on YouTube, Spotify, etc.” I mean, people don’t even watch whole tv shows anymore, they just skip around through 90 second youtube videos. For artists to be compensated like they were in the ’90s, the value of music would have to increase relative to the increase in variety. I can make arguments that the digital download (and certain specific choices that music industry executives made over the last decade plus) severely devalued music in the last decade, but the tech companies like Pandora, Spotify, etc that this doc rails against are actually RESTORING the value of music, only their relatively fair payouts are being distributed among a larger variety of artists, making it seem to the single artist who doesn’t see the larger picture of total payouts versus total plays as if his or her music is being devalued, when in fact it is not.
      From what I’ve seen of the trailer for this film it is consumer behavour that is being addressed. The consumer thinks (and pirate backed interest encourage) the mistaken idea that content is free. It may be now but if current trends continue, there will be little new content and people always want the newest latest greatest to appear ‘hip’ and ‘cool’ (see Apple’s new color iPhones for proof). Glad that you have a small interest in music and the arts (I currently have 700 vinyl albums, 350 – 45 rpm disks, 1200 CD and am now adding digital copies (purchased) to my collection… any “top 100” would be a really shallow view of all the great music made since Edison develop his wax cylinder). When all content creators get access to the same sort of incomes that those who would profit from their labors (simply because they ‘understand the business and can explain it to them”), then come on back and add your input. Until then, STFU because you are showing whose pocket you want to sit in… and whose you want to pick.

      So the reality is not that music is being devalued by tech companies, it’s that too much music is being made & the revenue is being spread too thin for artists to make a living the way they did in the ’90s. So does that mean that this variety is the death knell of the middle class artist? Not if companies like Spotify can successfully raise the value of music beyond what it was in the ’90s by offering a product that’s worth $120/year to users (which I would’ve never spent on CDs in the ’90s, but gladly pay now), or by growing ad revenue by localizing or creatively targeting ads. And not if they can scale their listenership & monetize the listening of consumers who wouldn’t otherwise pay for music, or monetize the music that consumers have already purchased in another format.
      But you are devaluing both music and all other forms of intellectual content made by others. That’s like saying that the tools a plumber uses are more important than the work that is done with them… that argument is full of crap (just like your house would be if we made plumbers follow the same rules and ways to make a living with their abilities and their knowledge!). If your work involves any sort of tools of the trade, then you might have an argument in this paragraph but until then see my last statement above.
      The doc is right in that this is a pivotal moment in the history of the music industry, & that these issues need to be discussed. But they need to be discussed responsibly by people who know what the hell they’re talking about. Noam Chomsky? Really? I mean, I love Chomsky as much as the next guy, but I’ve actually heard him say specifically that he has no interest in modern music. Foreign policy, sure. The future of the music industry? Give me a break.

      So let us have a discussion and not a diatribe that consists of foisting incorrect assumptions and knee-jerk pop psychology upon those who have no dog in this fight, eh?
      Also, it would be nice if this is going to get posted again, for the guy to at least correct the Thompson quote.
      Hey Mikael Eldridge, you know Hunter S. Thompson never said that about the music industry, right? It’s been pointed out a few times.

      As to your parting ‘zinger’, check out http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/dubiousquotes/a/hunter_thompson_2.htm
      “…Hunter S. Thompson’s book called Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ’80s (New York: Summit Books, 1988).
      “The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason. Which is more or less true. For the most part, they are dirty little animals with huge brains and no pulse.

      “Exact quote. The full piece, clearly lambasting the business of TV journalism, was originally published as a bylined column in the San Francisco Examiner on November 4, 1985. It was not about radio, it was not about the music industry, it was not about show business in general nor about the corporate communications industry (though for all we know Thompson might well have agreed that the characterization fits equally well in every case). It was about television. Period. As for the phantom tag line (“There’s also a negative side”), it’s nowhere to be found in the original article. Nice joke, but Thompson didn’t write it.”

      Have a nice life!

      Reply
      • jw

        Interesting thoughts.

        No, the fans also need to hear from software developer/writers, journalists, novelists, and others who create content for all parts of the internet and are able to do so through study and dedication to their craft. This film might be about music but anyone who creates anything should be interested

        Content creators are an essential part of the discussion, but other voices need to be heard in order for things to move forward. The answer to the music industry’s problem, I can assure you, is not musicians appealing to fans to quit using Spotify, quit using Pandora, quit using YouTube, quit pirating & buy cds again, which seems to be the goal of this film. Content creators have their own problems with the system, & those problems should be heard, but if those content creators aren’t properly educated on the mechanics of the distribution systems & on modern consumer behavior, they can not come up with reasonable solutions (and, in fact, they shouldn’t be responsible for coming up with the solutions).

        They are ‘likely’ seeing their fair share? How can anyone say that with all of the convoluted business dealing that many companies use to hide revenue streams from artists? And should you be writing a comment on a forum about music? Maybe *you* shouldn’t be doing those things either…

        Fair enough, I said “artists” when I should have said “rights holders.” It’s reasonable to expect that the music a tween would listen to on youtube would be monetized via ContentID, I think. Do videos that aren’t monetized via ContentID even have pre-roll ads? If that money isn’t trickling down to artists, that’s another problem all together which ought to be addressed, but I’m not sure this is the thread for it. But Rhett’s assertion that the money must just be going to someone on the board of directors (I assume he’s talking about Google) seems to indicate that he’s not familiar with the ins & outs of YouTube monetization.

        For all the double talk about ‘inconsequential’ and ‘oversimplification’ it is very telling indeed when the crux of your statement here is that artists are being paid (Really ? How?) and in the same breath you say “there’s more money in distribution than in creating content… (snip)… The more transactions you’re taking a slice of, even if it’s a tiny slice, the more you’re going to make.” That tiny slice you allude to more accurately describes the amount going to an even smaller slice of working musicians. And your Amazon analogy is full of holes… Amazon may be worth more than the companies they distribute but have you ever considered the concept of synergy? The companies do not necessarily need Amazon (many do quite well without their distro channel) but Amazon would NOT EXIST without those companies whose products they run through their distribution channels. It’s also easy to make generalizations and claim to have insider knowledge but talking about the newer tech companies and content as all being equal is very disingenuous indeed.

        First of all, I’m not claiming to have any insider knowledge. None whatsoever. Any knowledge I have is outsider knowledge. But these are basic business principles. Say you’re a furniture maker & you make chairs. And I say, “Hey, I’ll sell these chairs for you so you don’t have to worry about that, you can just focus on making chairs. You’ll be more productive & make more money. I’ll take a 10% commission.” Well say I go to 9 other furniture makers & I strike the same deal. I sell 1 chair for all 10 furniture makers & all of the sudden I’m making more in the aggregate than any single furniture maker. Is that unfair? Let’s say I find 10 more furniture makers. And I sell 1 chair for each of them. Now all of the sudden I’ve made twice as much as any of those content creators. That’s just how it works, man. It’s math. The value of the sale of the chair is still only 10% of the cost of the entire chair, & that’s the number to focus on when we’re talking about what is & isn’t fair. And the value of the salesman to the furniture maker is that he no longer has to spend half his day trying to sell his chairs, he can spend the whole day making furniture, which would likely produce efficiencies that are going to more than double his output. So you’re giving up that 10% in order to probably double your actual profits. That’s the value that Amazon or Spotify or any distribution/sales company offers. Their value is relative to the value they create.

        No obligation is correct but any company that does not invest in the very thing that makes their income (and Google is a bad example, think CBS, NBC and other radio (then TV) companies who developed their own inhouse staff to create content!) are being short sighted and will eventually have to run with lower quality content… see how well that goes over with the shareholders!

        This is true if you’re broadcasting, because everyone tuned into your channel is getting the same content. There’s an efficiency there. But when you’re selling music… if I go to iTunes or Best Buy or my local record store, I might be looking for one single thing of the thousands or millions of stocked products. The distributor can’t create all of those products, & doesn’t have a financial interest in creating products to compete with the products they can simply get from someone else. They’re two completely different paradigms.

        From what I’ve seen of the trailer for this film it is consumer behavour that is being addressed. The consumer thinks (and pirate backed interest encourage) the mistaken idea that content is free. It may be now but if current trends continue, there will be little new content and people always want the newest latest greatest to appear ‘hip’ and ‘cool’ (see Apple’s new color iPhones for proof). Glad that you have a small interest in music and the arts (I currently have 700 vinyl albums, 350 – 45 rpm disks, 1200 CD and am now adding digital copies (purchased) to my collection… any “top 100” would be a really shallow view of all the great music made since Edison develop his wax cylinder). When all content creators get access to the same sort of incomes that those who would profit from their labors (simply because they ‘understand the business and can explain it to them”), then come on back and add your input. Until then, STFU because you are showing whose pocket you want to sit in… and whose you want to pick.

        That sounds like an impressive collection. I’m an avid vinyl collector, myself. But you seemed to have misunderstood what I said, I was talking about albums specifically released in 2013. The history of recorded music contains more great material than any single person could sufficiently appreciate, but there’s plenty of great music coming out even today.

        What you seem to be suggesting, going back to my furniture analogy, is that the distributor, irrelevant to the value he or she is creating, should never make more than a content creator he or she distributes. So if the sales cut is 10%, at max it’s only fair if he or she is distributing 10 furniture maker’s wares. Correct? Otherwise, as the distributor takes on more content creators, his cut would have to drop accordingly. Do you see the flaw there? This system deters the distributor from creating the maximum amount of efficiency, & therefore the maximum amount of value, & actually encourages the distributor to the least amount of work for the highest cut of the sale. And, as a whole, the furniture industry loses out because content creators are out there trying to sell their work when they could be making more furniture (which translates to more profits).

        So let us have a discussion and not a diatribe that consists of foisting incorrect assumptions and knee-jerk pop psychology upon those who have no dog in this fight, eh?

        That’s what I’m trying to do.

        Thank you for confirming what I was saying about the Thompson quote.

        Have a nice life!

        Thank you, I do plan to. I hope you have a nice life, as well.

        Reply
        • jw

          One more thought on distributors investing in content creation or whatever… my main turntable is a Technics SL-1950 rebranded as an MCS 6700 to be sold in Sears. And my bedroom stereo receiver is a Realistic STA-740, which is also a Technics receiver (or at least Technics parts), rebranded for Radio Shack. (In terms of vintage stereo equipment, I find that the rebranded equipment is often every bit as good as it’s premium branded counterpart, but much less in demand, & therefore much cheaper.) So oftentimes when a distributor appears to be creating it’s own products, it’s actually not. Because Sears & Radio Shack can’t be experts at creating turntables AND remote controlled cars AND walky-talkies AND everything else they sell. But they CAN negotiate a good deal for the consumer by buying product in bulk & rebranding it.

          Reply
  2. Anonymous

    They should try some fucking empathy when they set down to kickstart the film.
    because what happaned to them (being able to make a movie they had no way to do before web 2.0) is exactly what’s happening to all the people starting to make music with the incentives of cost-free digital distibution and the attention and visibility ecosystems (wich is keeping you alive stupid keating!, try to tour like you do without almost uncompensated web music journalism reposting your name everytime you open your mouth, should they get angry at you??) supported by various 2.0. dashborads (Fb, Yt spotify etc…) . DEMOCRATIZATION is a lot more people doing what was reserved to a small elite, with less concentrated and less evident power and benefits. There’s a democratization of voting, and a democratization of creative production. And that comes at the inevitable expenses of the previous elite class. Simple as that, somebody loose a lot, lot of people gain a little. simply saying “i want to makemusic, and be compensated” without putting in context of when, how and how much and for how many people has to be sounds really childish and a little egoistic too, given all that is happening in the world right now in terms of wealth distibution.
    Sorry but i can’t really get in touch with well-dressed people, who have lived and still live their music dream, that think they have the right to complain because they’re forced to do again their math.
    AND FUCKING NO, MUSIC INDUSTRY HAS NEVER COLLAPSED, IT’S JUST YOUR NOBRAINER “I WANT TO GET PAID RIGHT NOW I’M AN ARTIST AND YOU NUTHIN” FINANCIAL MODEL THAT DID. AND THAT’S NOT BAD NEWS AT ALL.
    anyway, would never again buy a Tycho album, given that he spent even a minute only thiking about those complaints instead of working his music. I mean, you’re an ambient artist, nice sound and style and all, but you’re not Brian Eno neither Hans Zimmer and you’re not starving. If you’re humility is not up to your both financial and artistic position, you deserve to get kicked in the ass by the system. or maybe by an ex napster teen, who upload his music on torrent and record cellos in his living room on a blue spark 200$ mic and in some years will be more paid and respected that all you stupid deserving divas.

    Reply
    • FarePlay

      Your rant would actually have some relevance, if the consolidation of wealth within the tech industry wasn’t so meteoric.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        That for sure is a point, if you maybe wanted to say that DISTRIBUTION of wealth in tech was meteoric and really illusionary, guess. But they clearly not playing luddist given they kickstart, neither they’re onto Apple for brickwalling they’re music ecosystem after exploiting the illegal one around the ipod fetish, wich is not a technology, is a brand (they could have an image rappresenting mpeg or ogg format or even a brandfree usb pendrive with a stupid violin key on it to symbolize a “good” innovation in the beginning of the video, steve job pleased face instead, ouch!!!). They’re superficially running against the simple fact that a paradigm has changed. They say a little (maybe i should, to be honest, wait to hear they’re argument fully) about what creators lost in the war and maybe gained, they simply crying out loud about the brutal blindness of the war itself. No need to say that big changes are like wars, they blind and the don’t give out refund cheks.
        And by the way, who can speaks as a rapresentative of ALL ARTISTS, and ask money to fund THEIR FILM, because they have an urge to say THEIR MUSIC had been devaluated (in THEIR MIND, and in THEIR POCKET) and they think that will help musician (to do what? not to be known) without at least having some crazy bedroom spotify polluter ranting at them and giving out some honestly biased musical hatery? cmon, are they the only one allowed to have egos?

        Reply
  3. Anonymous

    I hope your film is going to be a huge success — but I don’t think it’s fair to blame legitimate companies for making money.

    Yes, the only way to make money from streaming is to start a streaming site. But that’s not our problem.

    Our problem is piracy. Nothing else matters today.

    Reply
  4. FarePlay

    Waiting & Wondering.

    I didn’t want to cloud the message of a documentary that simply presents one viewpoint of a challenge that seems to polarize. It is unfortunate that so few, speak so incessantly and so loudly.

    Reply
  5. The Response from Betty

    All:

    I have no connection to Jaron Lanier, but I recommend musician and artist friends read his book, “Who Owns the Future?” – this is an Amazon link, but I also recommend that you purchase it locally (if there’s still a local bookstore in your neighborhood).

    It goes past the heart of the music industry, into the larger changes that affect all industries. Music is only one of the canaries in this coal mine.

    http://www.amazon.com/Who-Owns-Future-Jaron-Lanier/dp/1451654960

    From the description: “Who Owns the Future? is a visionary reckoning with the effects network technologies have had on our economy. Lanier asserts that the rise of digital networks led our economy into recession and decimated the middle class. Now, as technology flattens more and more industries—from media to medicine to manufacturing—we are facing even greater challenges to employment and personal wealth.

    But there is an alternative to allowing technology to own our future. In this ambitious and deeply humane book, Lanier charts the path toward a new information economy that will stabilize the middle class and allow it to grow. It is time for ordinary people to be rewarded for what they do and share on the web.

    Insightful, original, and provocative, Who Owns the Future? is necessary reading for everyone who lives a part of their lives online.”

    Reply
    • FarePlay

      Saw Lanier speak in SF recently. Interesting guy who speaks “tech” and has had an epiphany about tech and how it destroys culture, art and the middle class. Also, an interesting story in the NYT on Evan Williams, one of the founders of Twitter, expressive concerns about the internet and how it is inherently unfair to creatives.

      http://goo.gl/7hCACl

      Reply
  6. Adam C Smith

    Just read the article on Williams, interesting read. Read the comments from jw, GGG, ..same tired freehadist crap. Unsound will be effective, especially as more of what’s going on behind the scenes with the ‘tech’ industry becomes understood by fans of the arts, and stories like the Goldieblox/BeastieBoys story get more mileage in the press. For now though, it’s a strange kind of limbo for us ‘creatives’ to be in.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      Please point out my post where I promote free music. Thanks.

      Also, please link to your work so we can hear what a creative genius you are. Thanks.

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      “and stories like the Goldieblox/BeastieBoys story get more mileage in the press”

      Not here though, which is pretty weird…

      Goldieblox’ steal-a-song-and-blame-the-victim-routine is the weirdest and most disgusting pr-stunt I’ve heard of in a long time. Let’s hope it’ll cost them every cent they’ve got.

      Reply
        • FarePlay

          I don’t think that story will hold much interest for JW and GGG. Unless they like the toy company or visa, versa.

          Reply
          • GGG

            For someone who claims not to care about he and myself, you seem to spend an awful lot of time thinking about us.

            Second, I have never and will never promote free licensing except in very favorable/personally OK’d circumstances. In fact, a large chunk of income my artists, and ultimately I, make comes from synchs. So nice try attempting to make us look like the bad guys again, but fuck off. Your crusade to be the white knight constantly wagging your boner for artists is respectable until one realizes you don’t so shit for anyone. Your lack of any remotely constructive ideas for anyone and constant push backwards is just as, if not more destructive to artists than any piracy. I’m glad you make yourself feel good spouting generalized dreams, though. You’ll be a real difference maker.

          • Anonymous

            “I don’t think that story will hold much interest for JW and GGG”

            Well, I for one wouldn’t compare the two. GGG is definitely annoying 🙂 but he isn’t anti-music.

          • GGG

            I’ll gladly take annoying since being as mutable as the industry/culture apparently means being annoying. I’m so sorry I’m not going to spend my career fighting against technology, since you know, that’s gone so well throughout history. I’m sure nothing you use in your life has ever put anyone out of work.

  7. FarePlay

    JW “Content creators have their own problems with the system, & those problems should be heard, but if those content creators aren’t properly educated on the mechanics of the distribution systems & on modern consumer behavior, they can not come up with reasonable solutions (and, in fact, they shouldn’t be responsible for coming up with the solutions).”

    Now, I want all you musicians, who make this content, which clearly there’s an over abundance of, to go stand in the corner, while we tech guys, who are so steeped in the music business, decide how this is all going to work. And if you don’t like it, just shut the F UP.

    I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the record business being compared to the furniture business. I always thought furniture was made in some kind of factory. Although, sometimes I do think these tech guys believe music is like sausage and you just turn the handle and crank that shit out.

    Reply
    • jw

      Wow. You just have no interest whatsoever in understanding, do you? You’re skewing what I said in a wildly irresponsible fashion. Expected, but still disheartening.

      In plain english, if Rhett Miller doesn’t understand YouTube monetization, what value does his commentary on YouTube really hold? The ContentID system is widely praised, & could be a model for solving bigger IP issues on the web. And yet, Rhett Miller believes that all of the monies from all of the ads go to Google’s board of directors. This is a problem, don’t you think? I HOPE you think that is a problem. Rhett Miller’s general situation is important, & I empathize. He’s not being floated by a record label anymore. It’s unfortunate. But that doesn’t mean that someone needs to fill a documentary with his half-baked anecdotes about how his niece consumes music. Or at the very least have someone who can complete that picture for him & they can, together, with all the facts, collaborate on a solution. Although I think YouTube is doing a fair job with ContentID. Many would likely agree.

      This is the big picture… The money that the artists want is in the pockets of the consumer & the advertiser. Now, an artist can license his or her song or songs to an advertiser, but that’s not a sustainable business model, it’s only even an option for very few artists, & the more common this practice becomes, the rates drop correspondingly (google Jessica Hooper’s article for more on that). And the consumer… well we’ve watched that play out over the past decade & a half. For more reasons than it would be reasonable to list here, consumers aren’t chomping on the bit to purchase music. So the tech industry is in the awkward position of trying to figure out how to get the dollars from consumers & advertisers to the rights holders of the content.

      Now, it’s important not to conflate piracy with the tech industry, which you often do. Modern music tech is in the business of solving marketplace problems. And it’s tough because of fragmentation. Because consumers now demand availability, & availability breeds variety-heavy consumption, & variety-heavy consumption scatters payouts. And this is not a concept that artists, by & large, understand. When it comes to something like streaming, there’s two components that influence a payout… there’s the payout rate, & then the consumer behavior. And artists (and you) are quick to blame music tech for consumer behavior problems. The truth of the matter is that payouts aren’t particularly unfair & music tech is not “undercutting artists’ careers.” This needs to be understood.

      It’s easy for you to demonize music tech, & to play some kind of “they don’t care about musicians, they don’t understand musicians, etc,” but without Spotify or Pandora or whoever else, what does the industry look like? Much sadder shape, & with very little if any hope for redemption.

      I spend relatively enormous amounts of money on music (Shovels & Rope’s self-titled on vinyl just came int he mail the other morning), & all of my best friends are songwriters. Pretty much everyone I spend any amount of time with is a songwriter or in a band. You’re knowingly painting me out to be someone I’m not… someone who doesn’t care about or understand artists, because you can’t understand my point of view. Because you’re not trying. Because you have your own narrative mapped out in your head & facts & data & reality don’t play into it.

      Your agenda is to slander technologists who are, again, trying to solve marketplace problems, & music fans, many of which are spending a lot of their hard earned dough on music, in an effort to what? Without reasonable arguments, of which you have none, you aren’t going to change anyone’s mind. You’re just preaching to some kool-aid drinking choir. And I’m sure that strokes your ego & all, but there’s no PRODUCTIVITY there. Sure, you’ve invested a lot of time & effort & probably money into this cause, & even considering some other narrative of what’s happening means considering that you might’ve been wasting all of that time & effort & money. Because you have been. And that sucks for you, but the truth will ultimately set you free.

      Reply
      • TuneHunter

        “…but without Spotify or Pandora or whoever else, what does the industry look like? Much sadder shape, & with very little if any hope for redemption.”

        Sorry, but you are clueless, the industry has more options and resources than you think.
        We do not need “religion of FREE” or semi-free and ad supported nonsense.
        Musicians can start life without streamers and Tube tomorrow and we can double the industry to 35B in two years using just billion users of Shazam, Soundhound, Gracenote and Echo Nest and all conventional and internet based radios. Not having them will actually make radio to discovery pingpong more efficient.

        Reply
  8. FarePlay

    Aside from all the partisan bickering, this film, Unsound, had a huge surge in funding yesterday, and is an important story that needs to be told. With less than forty-eight hours remaining, time is running out.

    http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/unsound/x/5306583

    There is no debate that mid-level working class artists are being forced out by the digital economy, as much as the other side would argue that there’s more music and more people making a living from music than ever before. While I do actually agree with that statement, it is misleading. The reality is, that there are, far more part-time hobbyists making tiny slivers of change, and at the same time, contributing to the complaint that music should be free because so much of it is so bad that people wouldn’t buy it anyway.

    I believe part of the reason online piracy and corporate advertising on pirate sites is so widespread is because the public is continually bombarded with false information by those who either profit from piracy or have a sense of entitlement that outweighs their sense of fairness or decency. This is at the heart of why this movie deserves the funding to be completed.

    The film and my protestations are not about eliminating streaming or a false hope that CD sales will save the industry, but rather looking at the problem from the individual artists’ perspective.

    The fans need to understand that this fight is about great art surviving.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      “The fans need to understand that this fight is about great art surviving.”

      Thanks for summing it all up in a sentence, FarePlay!

      This should be the headline for every anti-piracy initiative from now on.

      Reply
    • GGG

      I don’t disagree with most of this, but I think you severely overestimate peoples’ empathy. Like you and others often say (correctly), it’s about no consequence for people to steal, not really people not understanding artists’ struggle. Is there a large population of people who are pro-piracy because they legitimately think the exposure guarantees the artist some money elsewhere? Yes, but I believe most people are well aware they are stealing, well aware it’s costing the artists money, but can easily shrug it off for whatever reason, whether it’s the exposure justification or simply they don’t give a shit.

      I think this film should be made and I hope I’m wrong, but no matter how well done and correct it is, I feel like it’s just going to end up preaching to the choir. I think we see over and over again in everything from entertainment to business to politics, that once you’re on the defensive side of things you’re kinda fucked. Whether you’re right or wrong, people just look at you differently. A more effective battle is fighting along with the advance of tech. In other words, explain how streaming can be beneficial to artists. If (and it does) that means challenging what it is now, and doing some math and figuring out what streaming rate makes sense with what subscription rate, then great! Get some opinions and traction and let’s figure it out. But pulling people away from what will undoubtedly be how music is consumed in a decade is fruitless. I mean, movies and TV stream, do you REALLY not believe music will be there?

      Reply
      • FarePlay

        GGG, you’ve had it your way for a long time. Perhaps it is your turn to be on the defensive.

        Curious that the 2 of you spend so much time and energy responding to me.
        I’ve told you before, don’t waste my time. You’re not my audience.

        Reply
        • GGG

          1) Uh…what is my way? I’m pretty sure your answer will prove you lack reading comprehension and critical thinking skills above a 4th grade level.

          2) Not sure how out of shape and intellectually slow you are that it takes you so much energy to type and more than a minute to complete a thought, but I can assure you it doesn’t take that toll on me.

          3) Since the first time you said you were going to stop responding to us, you’ve responded numerous times and even randomly called us out in a couple posts. So you can stop pretending you’re such a big man and trying to avoid interaction with us. You are way to transparent and it’s obvious you hide behind this “oh, just stop responding to me guys!” schtick when you can’t actually rebut anything we say.

          4) I am your audience because your myopic thinking is a detriment to artists. As I said before, you are as destructive to artists/the industry as any pirate is.

          Reply
  9. FarePlay

    Anonymous. Thanks for the positive feedback. No one is right all the time and most of the time I’m hearing back from individuals, who oppose my position and do so in a manner to obscure that with pragmatic “facts” as if we’re having a debate purely about their subjective views about economics with data parsed to support their “position”.

    One only needs to look around and use their common sense to understand that most artists are barely hanging on. And if my fault lies with the position that the individual artist is more important than corporate America, so be it.

    Reply
    • GGG

      “One only needs to look around and use their common sense to understand that most artists are barely hanging on.”

      EXACTLY! So why do you continue to fight for the model that is disappearing and putting them in that position? Your last sentence is self-serving bullshit, but your general pro-artist stance is not the problem anybody has with you. It’s that you’re fighting the wrong battle, or at the least ignoring the bigger one while fighting the small one.

      Reply
  10. AnonAnon

    Don’t be fooled – this film is already made and the creator wants to get paid for their work, which was already done. Clearly everyone was already interviewed and it’s in the can. Most people reading this have already been interviewed by The Count with big fancy cameras. We all know the movie has been made. He travelled to see many of you. Anyone who goes to conferences saw this film in process over the last two years. This film is already done, but has not been edited. Now that it’s already been made, the filmmaker is clearly asking for editing costs, and even goes as far to ask for more than what he is asking (watch the video). Since Mr. Tim Quirk is right, and art cannot be valued, Unsound raised what the crowd decided was justifiable. It raised 42,000 bucks, 10k short of the goal and 30k short of the desired goal. If $42,000 is not enough to get it edited and out there independently then the filmmaker has not been paying attention to the last 20 years of growth in the industry of self releasing. It will be interesting to see if he is able to follow through on any of those prizes since “only” 42,000 was raised, which would be enough for most indie filmmakers to tell a story, especially given that the footage has already been collected. Now it remains to be seen what he will do with that money and how long it will take him to do it. What will he do with 42,000? Buy extra tissue for the tears or actually do something meaningful without complaining? As one who donated, I never received a thank you note from the creator. I’ve donated to many projects and the creators are always sure to say thank you. Not this one.

    Reply
    • FarePlay

      Anon. Such sour grapes and typical of the type of misdirection your faction has thrived on for the past decade. You really don’t want to have the substantive conversation about the dramatic deterioration of not just artists rights but their ability to earn a living.

      But even more revealing about your statement Ian’s telling of where you come from is your statement about the “power” of tech and how it enables “Everyman” to crank out “digital content” on one’s lap top. Anyone, who has worked “professionally” in film understands that post-production is typically a long and costly process and yes the filmmaker could probably find a film grad to edit the film for $15. an hour.

      Now, for someone so focussed on money, it is also telling that you whip-saw from too much money and transition directly into who reaching only $43k is telling as to the appetite for support for this film. To that I would respond it is actually more telling to the lack of awareness of the problem and the real reason the film was made in the first place.

      Lastly, I do believe this blog has the resources, to handle submissions with paragraphs. You may consider that wasteful, but it actually makes it easier for the reader to understand what’s being communicated.

      Reply
      • jw

        Now, for someone so focussed on money, it is also telling that you whip-saw from too much money and transition directly into who reaching only $43k is telling as to the appetite for support for this film. To that I would respond it is actually more telling to the lack of awareness of the problem and the real reason the film was made in the first place.

        Are you suggesting that music fans should be paying for this film to be edited? lol. That’s rich.

        Reply
        • FarePlay

          You really have no idea, what’s going on, do you? You’re so focussed on digital as the only solution, you don’t see anything else. And you think you’re the smartest guy in the room. Good luck with that.

          BTW, I contributed.

          Reply
          • jw

            You’re so focussed on digital as the only solution, you don’t see anything else.

            Oh the hits just keep on comin’.

            And re: contributing, I figured as much.

  11. jw

    Regardless of what you think of the content of the video, or the motivations of the filmmaker, the last 24 hours of a project are often pretty crucial to its success. One take away might be don’t end your campaign in the middle of the night on Thanksgiving.

    Reply

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