Tommy Boy: “80 Percent of All Records Released are Just Noise — Hobbyists”

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Are most musicians today merely hobbyists?

Yes, according to Thomas “Tommy Boy” Silverman, who poked another hole in digital utopianism over the weekend. “80 percent of all records released are just noise — hobbyists,” Silverman told Wired. “Some companies like Tunecore are betting on the Long Tail because they get the same $10 whether you sell one copy or 10,000.”

And the swiping continued.  “Who uses Photobucket and Flickr? Not professional photographers — those are hobbyists, and those are the people who are using Tunecore and iTunes to clutter the music environment with crap, so that the artists who really are pretty good have more trouble breaking through than they ever did before.”

Tough talk, though this is part of a longer-running debate – one that has infuriated Tunecore CEO Jeff Price in the past.  Silverman has largely used Soundscan stats to prove his point, a measuring stick that Price feels is flawed and incomplete.

Part of the problem is that the album is rapidly becoming an outdated format, something that Silverman acknowledges.  Still, Silverman maintains that 10,000 albums (physical+digital) represents a critical threshold out of obscurity, a level most artists rarely reach.  “If you can’t sell 10,000 albums in digital and physical combined, you’re still relatively obscure,” Silverman stated.

Of course, Silverman is quite the operator, and this interview was well-timed just before the New Music Seminar in New York – an event Silverman co-founded.  As a self-appointed messiah of sorts, Silverman is also trying to lead struggling artists to the promise land with some different solutions.

That includes a totally different type of artist deal, one predicated on broader revenue sources and equal revenue-sharing – unlike hopeless recouping arrangements created by labels. “Every artist is a business, and has its own corporation under this model, and all of that artist’s creative equity goes into that — not just music, but everything they do,” Silverman described. “And the investors who are investing and trying to promote on the other side — they own half. So it’s more like a business. An equity partnership.”