This Writer Doesn’t Think Musicians Deserve To Get Paid. A Musician’s Response

Musicians Don't Deserve to be Paid?

I wanted to ignore it.  And I did for a solid 4 hours.  But then Facebook happened.  Damn you Shayna for posting the article on my timeline.  I guess I was tagged.  Who knows.  But some hipster-hater out of Minneapolis got his 6 Reasons Musicians Don’t Deserve To Get Paid article (ironically) syndicated across a few of the local arts and entertainment free weekly newspaper blogs in various cities across the country.

Apparently Minneapolis “music journalists” love to hate more than they love to love.

I get it.  Music journalists love music so darn much that bands who they deem ‘sucky’ are a direct insult to them as ear-benefiting humans and everything said humans stand for.  They walk around with Q-tips and regularly hand them out to jam bands, hippies, singer/songwriters, guitarists with Marshall stacks, guitarists with 12 strings, drummers with double kick pedals, drummers with more than two toms, singers who show too much chest hair, singers who button to the top sans tie, girls who play ukulele, boys who loop, and club owners who book these musicians and invite their throngs of ear-clogged lemmings into their establishment.

This writer in question, clearly wrote this piece to garner attention. And it worked. I was awfully confused as I wasn’t chuckling like I do when I read the Onion. I wasn’t fuming like I do when I tragically land on Fox News in a hotel room and I wasn’t nodding in agreement or shaking in disgust like I do reading most other Buzz-feed style bloggy posts out there. I was head-tilted and cock eyed with one eye brow raised wondering how this dude gets off. Well, clearly doesn’t very often.

Self-proclaimed “music journalist” who penned this confusing piece of words, sentences and occasional periods, apparently hates music. All music. Because he doesn’t believe musicians (of any genre or expertise) deserve to be compensated for bringing people joy, comfort, solace, or courage.

So clearly, every song he downloads from iTunes is another Apple-fan-boy sticker to post across his chest. The $9.99 he pays for his monthly Spotify subscription is two thumbs up to Sweden for an incredible invention that (thankfully) doesn’t pay musicians very much. He listens to the radio for the commercials. Damn those voice over actors are sexy! The $25 he paid for that concert ticket was clearly for the $3 Tall Boys. I mean, how can you pass up a special like that! Even though his ears had to be assaulted by some group of long-haired “musicians” having way too much fun on stage while he violently muttered “none of my ticket better go to this group of talentless noise makers.”

The t-shirt he haggled for (well below the asking price) at the merch stand was because American Apparel shirts are so darn comfy. His bargaining put the band’s profit margin in the red. Go team!

Shitty writers don’t deserve to be paid. Shitty plumbers don’t deserve to be paid. Shitty teachers don’t deserve to be paid. Shitty politicians don’t deserve to be paid. Shitty people don’t deserve to be paid. But, apparently these ‘shitty’ professionals may not be as shitty as you think. They may be awesome to some people. And shitty to others.

Just because you don’t like a band doesn’t mean they don’t ‘deserve’ to have a career. I don’t particularly care for many artists, but I don’t wish perpetual poverty on them because I don’t like their kind of music. Are you disgusted by all dream-seekers or just musicians? Musicians who passionately love their art so much are willing to do whatever it takes to turn their love into a career. Are you so disgusted by this that you have to chastise and publicly mock us? Musicians have a hard enough time pushing through the constant rejection, empty shows, inner-band turmoil and ramen dinners, to then be piled on by self-righteous ‘music journalists’ who get off on making people feel bad. That, my friend, is kind of a shitty thing to do, done by a shitty person. But hey, you’re getting paid for doing something you love. Or maybe you hate it and are miserably stuck in your shitty life that anyone who seeks out a bit of happiness around you is a nauseating insult to your monotony.

Musicians who are great (and work hard) deserve to be paid. Musicians who suck and work hard don’t…yet. Musicians who build even a small fan base deserve to be paid. Musicians who can’t draw a crowd for 5 years running, don’t. Musicians who are smart about their business deserve to be paid. Yes, musicians need to be great. That’s #1. But once they are, and put in the work to understand their business, yes, they deserve to be paid.

Another reason he believe musicians don’t deserve to be paid?

#3. Feeling Pain Makes You Better:

You can’t trust an artist of any medium who creates with the absence of genuine pain. That’s what this stuff is all about — communicating profound emotions through the cathartic process of creation. Contrived as it may seem, genuinely beautiful and memorable art (unless constructed by a brilliant and hollow master manipulator or impersonator) stems from an indescribable rawness that lacks a vehicle yet begs to be released. By keeping you miserable on some level, you’re being granted a favor.

I’m tired of the hipster-haters who think that the only valid musicians are tortured, broke, on drugs and dead by 27. What a miserable life. Musicians who work hard in the rehearsal space, in the songwriting corner, in the club and in the office are the ones who ARE getting paid. And getting paid well. I’ve met (and played with) so many of these tragically depressed musicians who AREN’T getting paid because they can’t get their shit together. Some of these musicians create some of my favorite music, but can’t draw 10 people to their shows because they refuse to put in any effort to their business.

Artists are three-dimensional. Believe it or not, many artists can channel their pain into their art during the creation process and then, later, once the art is created, work the business. As much as you’d like to think that ‘true artists’ are one dimensional, they’re not. The most successful artists of today are brilliant artists AND brilliant business people. Get over it.

I get it, you’re tired of all the musicians who complain about low Spotify royalties. Yeah, I’m tired of them too! But does that mean they should just roll over? Is that what you’d like to tell the teachers of Wisconsin? Or the fast food employees? Or the low-income college students? Or the average citizen who got screwed by Wall Street? Tough luck! Time to shut up and say thank you!

I’m a musician. I’ve had the haters. Many of them writers (actually in Minneapolis – what is it with this town that condones this??). But I’ve built a successful music career because I’ve found enough people who do like my music and want to pay me for it. Did I always ‘deserve’ payment? No. I sucked early on and didn’t expect to get paid for the 12 people I brought to the coffee shop. But when I pack venues, yeah I deserve that income. When I perform at private events and universities, yeah, I deserve that check. When I get streams on Spotify and YouTube, I deserve some money. Downloads on iTunes? Merch at shows? Backers on Kickstarter, PledgeMusic or Patreon? You bet. As does every other musician. And you deserve the money you’re paid as a writer. I may not care for your writing, but hey, some dude in an office in downtown Minneapolis thinks you do. So you do! Congrats on making money as a writer. Even though, by your own logic, you don’t deserve it.


Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

48 Responses

  1. Name2

    1) Click-hungry blogger writes drama-attracting manifesto.
    2) In response, a barrage of unsubstantiated ad hominens are published at DMN.
    3) Profit?

    • consent and compensation

      how about EVERYONE deserves to be paid their asking price? The choice of the consumer is to buy or not buy – there is no right to steal, be it music, movies, books, software, handbags, grocery, gasoline, anything.

      the internet is a box of wires controlled by humans who make the rules. technology doesn’t care about money, humans do… whether someone makes a good pizza or a good song, they deserve to be paid the asking price for their work – anything less is thuggery and thievery.

      • Versus

        Yes, exactly. This apparently needs to be stated again and again.
        This is obvious in every other industry, but somehow musicians are supposed to be happy with “exposure” and not complain their work is stolen.

        A creator has the right to set the price, and a potential listener can choose to pay or do without. That’s just basic for the system of exchange to operate at all.

        • Antinet

          Americans have Stockholm Syndrome from abuse by elites. Also, underpaid Americans are so angry at the few examples of wealthy artists that they would rather noone get paid anything.

          America is a wasteland of robber baron elites that must end eventually.


    I Live North of The Twin Cities and if I ever see this POS I’m gonna Flatten His Nose and send him to the Dentist! I sure hope he has Os*ma Care!

    • T.B.

      You’ve obviously never seen his band. Hell take care of that himself, then bleed on you and laugh about it.

    • Vasya Bricklyn

      He’s smart enough to understand history- that musicians getting paid has only become a business model in the 20th century. And they don’t I’m also sure that he’s smart enough not to live in some Northern Minnesota $hithole either.

  3. Michael M

    Ari, why do you insist on calling that piece journalism? There is no research, no interviewing of the subjects of the piece (he didn’t even interview one musician!), moronic and completely uneducated comparisons of classic “artists” and the modern situation faced by musicians, and he lifts “free” pictures from Flickr to line his listicle/complete shit excuse for an article.

    The real crime here is that somewhere, some ivy league fuckwit with one communications credit and a business degree decided this was “journalism” and deserved to be seen. I know it’s all about the “clickbait” but this is one of the more egregious examples of someone espousing completely unfounded opinion for truth/journalism. On his twitter account, he posts his hate mail and angry tweets directed at him like it was some badge of honor. Him being hated plays directly into the extremely myopic opinion outlined in his opinion piece: it’s better to be hated than loved/it’s better to be broke and lonely than sustaining yourself with your art, and that is the one way for true success. He clearly loves the attention. But, like an actual shitty band with no future and no talent, this talentless hack will also float into the internet cesspool, never to be pumped out of the shit filled ground he’s stuck in.

    Or we can hope that’s the case. If recent history teaches us anything, this guy is just like Andrew Sullivan/Ariana Huffington/Matthew Ygelsias, and may find some undeserved success. That’s truly sad and just goes to show how fucked up and screwed our current media is.

  4. TRO

    Ari, I agree with you. I also wanted to point out that giving music away online, as you have suggested in the past, is the same thing. It is a slippery slope.

    Free has no value.

    This means no value to anyone; not the person receiving it and surely not the person giving it away. What is acquired without effort (money) withers.

  5. Jamie St Clair

    Dude! You did it again. I’m laughed so hard my girlfriend came over and I had to read her the paragraph that starts with, “I get it. Music journalists love music so darn much that bands who they deem ‘sucky’ are a direct insult to them as ear-benefiting humans and everything said humans stand for. ” Handing Qtips out to ” singers who show too much chest hair” well…. there’s a point there. No but really, well said Ari. Keep on fighting the good fight against small (read shitty there) people. He deserves whatever pain he’s got in his life if he figures that the only good music is written out of pain by people with a perpetually painful life. Nonsense. Where do people
    get these ridiculous ideas !?!

  6. Anonymous

    If you’ve ever been to Minneapolis you’d understand why the guy is clearly mental.

  7. Mike C.

    Ari, i like your music and i like your articles about music, but this time i think you’re taking this guy a little too literally and maybe too personally as well. If you can get past your indignation from the article’s title, i think you’ll agree he scores some points regarding many musicians and their expectations for being paid. Lots of artists are too early with their expectations of making money from their art, is pretty much what he was saying. Yes, you mention “i get that”, but you spent your first 8 paragraphs attacking the guy for being a band-hater, which is probably not the case.

    • Mic Grab

      I think he should and every other musician or quite frankly honest person who believes in being fair. The problem here isn’t just that this blogger said what he said but also that this is the thinking of so many people. I got into an ongoing argument a while back with a guy who thought exactly like the writer. He felt basically musicians should be as they were before you could even record and share music and instead travelling from town to town and payment should be beer and food!!

      That kind of writing is dangerous

  8. R. Toledo

    Interesting that this writer thinks the dude hipster hater. I immensely dislike hipsters, but I also feel musicians should get paid. Well, if I like their music that is. The guy who wrote the original article is just a douche. 🙂

  9. dying for more..

    ..and as if YOU, you f»»kwad need to “give us” pain by not paying.. if I see you in an alley, ill show you real pain.. as if we musicians don’t have enough pain to keep us teetering upon the fence of suicide without this dumbass mantra, I’m begining to see how people snap and go on shooting sprees… not sayin I condone it, just that I can see how it happens…

  10. Why

    waste time getting upset over a poorly written piece of click bait.

    There are so many things wrong with his polemic that it hardly deserves mention.

    Ari you should have stuck with your initial reaction and ignored it.

    • Myles


      I have two friends who are both huge fans of The Beatles. One of them thought that Vice article I linked above was hilarious the other thought it was insulting and offensive

  11. troy

    I read the article and think its good. Industry is competition. He never said musicians making money is wrong. He just said its no surprise the vast majority dont. I play music, and no one reading this doesnt. I want money and we all do. People make agreements for money. If people dont want to make agreements for money to a musician, yhey dont have to, simply put. Art is like yoga. You should do it, and you will benefit. You use your mind and body to produce a result, and you have then practiced using your mind and body to produce a result. Next time you need to produce a result, maybe it will be easier than if you didnt do art that time. If you enjoy some art, but you cant get it unless you buy it, or its better somehow(viruses?) if you do, then maybe you will. (Actually a happy artist makes a party, an unhappy one makes the party somewhere else. )

  12. Becca Martin-Marx

    The tight knit musical community of Minneapolis in no way endorses or supports this one bloggers opinion.
    Outrage & disgust have been the reactions of fellow music writers, bloggers, & journalists.
    Click bate should not in turn be used to stereotype the hard working, music loving, supporters of our incredibly diverse & talented music community.

  13. Adam

    It sure is annoying to listen to anyone complain, including musicians complaining about lack of income. However, the power does still sit in the hands of musicians. For those with control of their own rights – and many huge and famous artists are in control of their rights at this point… There’s the idea of protest.

    I think if, say, 20 or 30 of the largest and most popular groups or artists just pulled out of all digital distribution for a couple of months, SPECIFICALLY as a protest move to gain a larger share of income, it would make a decent impact. Clearly if Swifty can generate that much publicity on her own, imagine 20 more of those in tandem?

    If there’s a legit demand that includes a specific increase in artist compensation and/or restructuring of contracts to give more digital money to artists (most of it goes right to the labels) then we may see some reaction from the companies AND the fans… They want their music too, take it away and let them feel the withdrawal! It’s real for many…

  14. Jon Vanhala

    this is his LinkedIn Profile description.

    freelance jerk idiot moron
    Riverfront Times
    2013 – Present (2 years)
    I write articles about how I hate Buckcherry. Then the other music editors republish the articles so that I can get as many infuriating comments on my articles as possible.

  15. Russ

    He (the self-aggrandizing writer) and his ego are on heroin (it seems). He doesn’t get a vote on the rest of humanity’s art folk. Lace him up in a 22 year olds stretch jeans and push him out to sea I say. Maybe the whales will value his opinion but I doubt it.

    • Anonymous

      Nevermind. I’m fucking confused. Can someone please explain who I’m suppose to be hating on?

  16. Pro Booking

    how about EVERYONE deserves to be paid their asking price? whether someone makes a good pizza or a good song, they deserve to be paid the asking price for their work

    really? really?? uh no, they don’t.

    • dragonslayer

      Sounds to me like you think nobody should get paid for anything! Do you work? maybe you should’nt get paid either. If you were a musician and had to go through all the red tape we do to get our music out there, you would surely want to get paid for it.

  17. Pro Booking

    how about EVERYONE deserves to be paid their asking price? whether someone makes a good pizza or a good song, they deserve to be paid the asking price for their work

    really? really?? uh no, they don’t. smh

  18. indie dude

    I agree with him and although he’s being a prick I think the article is honest and dead on…and I’m a songwriter/musician/whatever…remember he’s pointing out 6 reasons and they’re all extremely valid…Ari…I hope you’re not getting paid for this crap..all you do is stir shit up..your music (I’ve listened) is vanilla..your writing wishes it was @ least vanilla…why do I come here?

    • Mic Grab

      Yes, why do you come here? That kind of writing is not dead on and in fact Ari is. Just because you don’t like Ari’s or whomever else’s music you deem to suck doesn’t mean everyone will share your opinion and if you like something you pay for it. Don’t like Ari’s music? Fantastic, DON’T BUY IT. It’s that simple. Don’t like his opinions? DON’T COME HERE!!!

      The fact you read an article by someone you clearly have an issue with shows you’re the problem with society and the hate it has for itself that it has to spew it’s ignorance onto others. Go see a therapist and stay off the internet

      Fucking humanity always making things more difficult than they need to be!!

  19. Michael

    I was sort of with you until I read your Marxist/socialist/progressive slam of Fox news. Why is it so necessary to establish your progressive credentials so soon? I watch Fox news, and also the BBC, and CNN, and others less well-known. I like to get a complete picture of events and I like to search for news that isn’t covered by selected news sources. If you don’t agree with the commentators on Fox, then don’t watch them–they are indeed of the conservative persuasion, but their news shows are top-notch, IMO.

    One more thing: an artist’s ‘music’ is never stolen. What is stolen is an artist’s PAYCHECK. Until writers and performers start using that truth, they will continue to be cheated out of their livelihoods, and will continue to struggle to make ends meet.

    In any event, good luck to you.

  20. craig

    Im in Nashville and its more industry standard here- if a musician plays ” on the card” or even if its just for some cash that has typically been their stake. Musicians here have asked to parts of royalties- but that brings in the argument that they should only get paid if song makes money- ie gets cut, singled- when given the choice of a few hundred every time or perhaps a few thousand every now and then if ever….. they all tend to want the sure thing. Im all about supporting creators. I am one. and I’d be happy to talk about what side men, band members should get. But no one wants to live in songwriter world if they can avoid it- no play no pay- no matter how hard or long you work-

  21. Jim Munzali

    The writer is trying to provoke us music makers to be angry, and focus less on our work.but we are decent people and also smart we don’t need to give him more publicity.


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