I’ve Spent Two Years Making a Documentary About What Really Happened to Musicians…

The following comes from producer, composer, engineer and now activist Mikael Eldridge (aka, Count), who has spent the past two years making a film about the realities musicians actually face in a digitized industry.  The film starts with the bigger picture, then tracks the stories of several artists – Jurassic Five, Zoe Keating, Diplo, Tycho, and  Cracker, Camper van Beethoven, and Old 97’s.  ‘Unsound’ is now in the process of being crowdfunded to finance its completion and make it ready for major film festivals.

Unsound: extended trailer rough cut from Count Eldridge on Vimeo.

53 Responses

    • joshdoyle

      This is a really worthy endeavour and EVERYONE who hits this page should be watching the trailer.

      People “calling out” the Hunter S. Thompson quote for being irrelevant/inaccurate are wasting my time and also misleading to the relevancy and accuracy of the topics highlighted in the trailer.

      • GGG

        I didn’t tell you to read the comment section on a website, which is ALWAYS a shitshow no matter where you go. You’re wasting your own time.

      • Buddy Zappa

        The answer/solution to this is so simple it’s stupid…. EVERY band, musician, author & artist must REVOLT by taking down their work/music off of Youtube, Myspace, Soundcloud, Reverbnation, etc. etc…. all of it… take it all down…. Everybody needs to do this all over the world… Then you’ll see a change… but only then… we must ALL REVOLT.. WE have the power!!!!

    • Buddy Zappa

      The answer/solution to this is so simple it’s stupid…. EVERY band, musician, author & artist must REVOLT by taking down their work/music off of Youtube, Myspace, Soundcloud, Reverbnation, etc. etc…. all of it… take it all down…. Everybody needs to do this all over the world… Then you’ll see a change… but only then… we must ALL REVOLT.. WE have the power!!!!

  1. Myles

    Hate to bring it up (again) but Hunter S Thompson never said that. That quote is a paraphrase about the TV industry I believe. Anyway, it only takes about 5 minutes research to discover this detail and I am not doing it again.

  2. Sequenz_

    Indie Gogo campaign is in “draft mode” and therefore is hidden to public. I can’t pledge.

  3. FarePlay

    Long overdue Count. Look forward to supporting you in any I can to get this film completed and released. I actually believe that artists, not just musicians and songwriters, are ready to step forward and talk about a digital revolution that promised so much and delivered so little. http://goo.gl/eMAf5c

    For as long as I can remember, the music industry has done a terrible job of marketing music and the prevailing attitude is that recorded music is dead and piracy and the Internet have won.  

    After all, perception is reality, and as long as we continue to say game over, or the tech faithful say ADAPT, which is their way of saying conversation over, and allow music to be the “value-less” prize in the box of Cracker Jacks, we continue to eliminate any chance of breathing life back into the music business or provide much needed support for musicians and songwriters.  

    Well surprise, music has value, we’ve just forgotten or stopped trying to have that conversation. Sure there’s a surplus of crap, but that’s what happens when you break down the gates of access and provide an open source to both the creator and the consumer.

    There’s still great music being made, but if you want it to continue, you just might want to pay for it.

    • Anonymous

      Says the man who uses photos on his blog without permission.

    • hippydog

      quote ” I actually believe that artists, not just musicians and songwriters, are ready to step forward and talk about a digital revolution that promised so much and delivered so little.”

      unless that “talk” includes a plan to release music under a new standard format that includes some sort of DRM and is available on all platforms,
      then i would have to say that the only other options is to ADAPT..

    • Paul Resnikoff

      It’s live now. We probably shined the light on it too early.

      • Buddy Zappa

        The answer/solution to this is so simple it’s stupid…. EVERY band, musician, author & artist must REVOLT by taking down their work/music off of Youtube, Myspace, Soundcloud, Reverbnation, etc. etc…. all of it… take it all down…. Everybody needs to do this all over the world… Then you’ll see a change… but only then… we must ALL REVOLT.. WE have the power!!!!

  4. jw

    This should be an interesting film. But it’s not going to make anyone want to pay $16 for a CD again. That ship has sailed.

    Through all of this, the artists’ tale is an absolutely essential piece of the greater story & needs to be told. However, if the idea here is to complain for 90 minutes in an effort to moralize the internet, that’s just not going to happen. It’s hard to take a film too seriously when it leads with that Thompson misquote, but more than that it shows it’s true colors by featuring some of technology’s most outspoken critics & yet seemingly no credible voice from technology to offer insight, defense, or hope for a better future. The reality of the situation is that the internet is here to stay, & if content industries are going to have a bright future, it’s going to have to include technology.

    Yes, musicians’ industry has been disrupted on all sides, but that doesn’t necessary make it their place to dictate technology’s role in content distribution. Lord knows, Prof. Lowery should be the last person explaining to anyone how Pandora should be operating. This is just a piece of the story presented in the wrong context, & I get the impression that it will fuel anti-technology sentiment & only set the industry back further.

    Who is going to make the documentary that bridges the gap? Who is going to see technology not for what it’s done, but for what it could do? That’s what I’m interested in seeing.

    Then again, I’ve only seen the trailer. But it is a 9 minute trailer.

    • Geewhizpat

      Great reply….right on point with what’s happening in ALL media….

    • Buddy Zappa

      The answer/solution to this is so simple it’s stupid…. EVERY band, musician, author & artist must REVOLT by taking down their work/music off of Youtube, Myspace, Soundcloud, Reverbnation, etc. etc…. all of it… take it all down…. Everybody needs to do this all over the world… Then you’ll see a change… but only then… we must ALL REVOLT.. WE have the power!!!!

  5. FarePlay

    Yes, JW that ship has sailed, CDs are ten bucks. Steely Dan’s five. You have Amazon Prime 2 day shippings free.

    What are you giving for the holidays a card for a digital download?

    • jw

      Lol. Gift cards are so impersonal. Do you give gift cards, FairPay?

    • GGG

      The issue is that physical copies of any kind are just becoming obsolete. It’s not even about the price of a CD. If you brought 100 people into a room, and said here’s a $6 Lady GaGa CD and here’s a $10 Lady GaGa DL, I hypothesize more people would still just take the DL. It’s about where culture and consumption is headed, which is everything you could possibly need on one tablet. Honestly, look ten years in the future? Do you REALLY see up to date CD collections?

      So it’s about monetizing music again. If anything, we should be championing vinyl even more to try and get that niche to grow as large as possible just because why not? But more importantly, we can’t be pushing for something that’s not coming back. Physical product is not coming back in full swing. Digital potentially good, just need to figure out how. Streaming is probably the future.

      • FarePlay

        Ah the GGG distortion filter, once again. You have 3 tactics; find a way to discredit the information, shift the conversation, discredit the source.

        Yeah, I am trying to get musicians more money and dispel the fantasy that LPs, CDs, album downloads have one worthwhile track. You got a problem with that? “Streaming is probably the future.??” GGG

        I prefer LPs myself, but CDs offer a wider range of titles and are a more accepted format by the masses and to your point they’re not expensive. I’m sure in another post you scoffed at how small the LP market is anyway. I don’t envision you as a proponent of vinyl.

        Lastly, with physical copy sales in decline, it makes it even a better gift or something bands playing 5,000 seaters and above would give away CDs, if they were smart. Scarcity creates value, right? Isn’t that right out of your playbook when you exclaim , “music has no value, because it’s everywhere”.

        What bothers you that maintaining physical sales has value and artists simply need to be fairly compensated for their work. Why do you fight so hard for the man, technology. It makes you sound like someone who has an agenda other than seeing artists succeed.

        Why should tech feed mercilessly off of creators and why do you support that?

        • GGG

          Jesus, and you call my post a distortion filter?

          1) When have I ever said albums have 1 worthwhile track? I’ve said people bought albums because of 1 single, which is 100% true, but that’s always in the context of showing how a la carte DLs hurt record sales. Not that I think no artist writes more than 1 good song a record. That’s just stupid.

          2) I never scoffed at vinyl. I said something along the lines of “it will probably continue to go up but won’t become the “mainstream” consumer format.” And I meant that completely innocent/matter of factly and some dude and I guess you decided to take that as the ultimate insult to vinyl and life. That psychotic interpretation is on you, not me. I would love if sales grew like they have been. Not to mention, I fucking say “If anything, we should be championing vinyl even more to try and get that niche to grow as large as possible just because why not?” in the post you quoted. Try reading.

          3) Please find anywhere where I said “music has no value, because it’s everywhere.” Don’t fucking quote me on shit I never said. “White people are the superior race!” – Will Buckley, Founder FarePlay. See how childish that is? As for what I actually say; I think music has a perceived value and many people overvalue their product, especially before they are popular. I could make a record right now and say it’s worth $30 because oh I’m just a brilliant undiscovered artist. Would you think that’s silly? Probably, but according to your train of thought, you have no right to tell me what it’s worth and should just accept that. I just translate that to the Steve-Jobs-issued $10. Why not 8? Why not 5? Instead of trying to find the actual value, we all just bent over to Apple/decided it was that or no dice. (until Bandcamp came along and gave people an option.)

          4) I’m not advocated getting rid of CDs or any physical, as again, noted in the quote above. I’m just shifting focus. I focus on building fan relationships, which leads to more income, more consistently, for longer periods of time. Sucks we can’t finance 2 years of dicking around from one record anymore, but instead of crying about it, I like figuring out how to make money.

          5) I don’t fight for technology. I fight for certain artists’ careers by navigating the inevitable evolution of technology and not wasting time/money/resources bitching about a past that won’t come back. And if it does, you adapt. I wasn’t telling my artists to print vinyl before the fad started, but now I do. It’s adaption. If CDs come back, great. But in the meantime, I’m not going to order 10K discs in the off-chance everyone decides to start buying physical product en masse again.

          6) I don’t support it. I usually (don’t always remember or feel the need to) say that streaming royalties should be higher. I support Spotify 100% from a fundamental standpoint, not because I support their pay system. However, I also understand why their pay is where it is now (though, could make it more uniform geared on the higher end) and that it should go up with growth.

          • Buddy Zappa

            The answer/solution to this is so simple it’s stupid…. EVERY band, musician, author & artist must REVOLT by taking down their work/music off of Youtube, Myspace, Soundcloud, Reverbnation, etc. etc…. all of it… take it all down…. Everybody needs to do this all over the world… Then you’ll see a change… but only then… we must ALL REVOLT.. WE have the power!!!!

        • jw

          Look, Fairplay. The reason debating with you is never productive is because you have an incredibly narrow view on which income streams are legitimate & which aren’t. Like I’ve said before, you seem to be more concerned with the morality of the consumer than the bank account of the artist (this was never as clear as when you called Vince Gilligan an idiot). Your refusal to entertain new sources of revenue, & your misrepresentation of anyone who does, & your inability to separate technology from piracy make these debates arduous if not downright destructive because, the more spirited the debate, the less credible either side seems to any onlooker.

          I would love for you to acknowledge the following points…

          1) Pandora is not out to screw artists. Artists are unhappy with TOTAL payouts from Pandora, not payout RATES. These qualms are related to a) a misunderstanding of Pandora’s true reach due to confusing accounting on royalty statements, & b) the variety of artists played on the service spreading royalties thin. The payout rates themselves are incredibly favorable no matter what you compare them to, & this issue of total payouts will only be solved as Pandora scales, though it’s important to note that Pandora is replacing radio, rather than sales.

          2) Spotify is not out to screw artists. And streaming ad revenue will not replace sales of recorded music. This is not a model that a company like Spotify could support indefinitely even if they wanted to. However, we’ve seen with Rhapsody what the future of a new service behind a paywall looks like. Spotify is subsidizing free use with premium revenue & venture capital in order to usher in a format change, which will set the stage for a more profitable premium streaming model, augmented by severely limited free streaming, if at all.

          Streaming services like Spotify & Rdio, & even Pandora, can potentially be massive cash cows for the recorded music industry. And, like it or not, this is the future. Not compact discs. Not digital downloads. See… Shawn Fanning didn’t invent anything new. Napster was essentially an IRC client with a private server network & built in file serving capabilities. This was already happening on IRC networks across the internet, he just found a way to market it to internet users who weren’t total geeks, & to therefore build a larger network of file sharers than had ever previously been amassed. This wave of mass consumption was already building, & that’s acknowledged in the above trailer… where we are was inevitable, Napster only sped it up some. And I know this is difficult for you to understand, but this type of mass consumption is a greater cultural phenomenon than the morality of compensating rights holders. And to make money, you have to appeal to the greater phenomenon. And it can be done.

          It’s like this… we’re all in contact with musicians on a regular basis, so we have empathy for these artists & we know what’s happening & the repercussions of the disruptions. But there are people who create the things we use every day, & likely people who are getting screwed by our choices, but we just don’t think about it. If I shop at a Wal-Mart because it’s closer, am I putting a mom & pop shop out of business? If I buy a t-shirt manufactured in China because it’s cheaper, am I putting someone in Detroit out of the job? If I open an account at a national bank because it’s more convenient, am I contributing to something like the real estate bubble? For most people, especially young people, “stealing” music is just another of those situations. I’m not saying you’re right or wrong, or that this movie is right or wrong, I’m just saying that pursuing the moral aspect is ultimately going to be fruitless.

          • FarePlay

            Yeah sometimes I will make that call JW. I’ve only been in a Walmart once. It was in the 70’s I was driving cross country and needed batteries and duct tape. And yes I do value neighborhood stores, although I don’t always shop there. There is an interesting doc on Walmart, where there advance team comes into a small Midwestern town and convinces the town council that Walmart will draw all these people into their town, it will be great for their local business. Well Walmart opens and within 2 years the 25 stores the town had is now down to 3 or 4 and they’re barely hanging on. And those people who used to work in those stores are now working at Walmart, part time of course, and you guessed it. They’re now customers too.

            It was interesting hearing Jaron Lanier speak last night in SF. He talked a lot about the destruction of the middle class by tech. Not just artists, everyone. Ironically, he also talked about Walmart, not last night, but in a video interview I watched. You sound like your familiar with Walmart. So anyway, aside from putting local businesses out of business, and I imagine in your Ayn Rand kind of mindset you would call that inevitable progress, which I guess it is, Walmart also crushes their suppliers so hard that for many of them going into business with Walmart puts them out of business, if you get my drift. Reminds me of Spotify a little.

            But hey that’s just business and nobody’s put a gun to their head, right?.

            So call me narrow minded if you like, you’ve certainly called me a lot worse. And it is true that I am a proponent of community, no I don’t mean social media. So, as always, it will be interesting to see how you respond. Although this time it would be nice if you didn’t say I had contempt for Midwesterners or Ayn Rand. But we’ll see.

          • jw

            So the root of it all is that you’re against efficiencies. Is that it?

            This is more than just payouts to artists, you have a problem with Spotify effectively putting retail salesmen, delivery truck drivers, cd manufacturing plants, etc out of the job, right?

            Should we all switch back to CDs & discmans in order to save jobs? Do you really want to live in a pre-internet world? (Judging from the time you spend on the internet, I’d guess no.)

            In time, that stuff will all correct itself.

            Look, I appreciate that you shop locally & yadda, yadda, yadda. But that’s your choice, & it’s not a standard you can hold others to. Because no matter what moral high ground you point to as the baseline, there’s always someone else pointing to a higher moral ground. In the end, it’s all relative. You say, “but what about the artists?” And someone else says, “but what about the starving children in Africa?”

            What’s not relative is a quarterly royalty statement. And according to those royalty statements, Pandora is paying out more than fairly. And at the point that Spotify’s free-to-premium ratio turns over, they will be, too. And that’s what we have to look forward to.

            Spotify isn’t squeezing anyone… if you want to talk about artists’ woes, we can debate the behavior of the major labels & I’m sure we’d agree on most points.

            And Wal-Mart isn’t putting anyone out of business. If you’ve been in a Wal-Mart lately, & looked at the shelves, you’d know that’s the truth. Wal-Mart gets that “market rate” that Paul is always championing (speaking of objectivists… when it’s convenient, at least), & a lot of people are making a LOT of money selling products through Wal-Mart. Of course it’s not the most ethical business, but McDonalds doesn’t sell the healthiest food, & that doesn’t stop people from eating there, does it? Well maybe it stops St. FairPay… maybe you only eat farm-to-table. And good on you. But you’re not going to make any money for anyone “correcting” consumers’ behavior to match your model, you have to match your model to people’s behavior. That should be business 101.

          • St. FairPay

            St. FairPay, I like that. Me and Don Quixote, or is it Monty Python can ride into the sunset or the storm, whichever. Oh, but we will not be riding into Walmart, that’s a certainty.

        • Anonymous

          I believe that FairPlay is actually a caricature and perhaps a satire of the prevailing record industry attitudes in the late 90s/early 00s.

          • FarePlay

            Actually mid 60s to late 70s would be my wheelhouse. And frankly, if you weren’t there you missed it all.

          • GGG

            Generally not the best idea to base your business ideas/decisions off of 6 decade old ideals. Just a suggestion.

          • FarePlay

            Yeah, I figured you weren’t there. Sometimes progress isn’t really progress at all, it is repression. Have you ever considered that perhaps it is your worldview that is limited? Of course not.

          • GGG

            Please. Spare me the attempted condescension and get off your stupid high horse. Your worldview is just as limited as mine. The only difference is mine is based in 2013 and yours is based in 1971.

          • FarePlay

            So, then you’re saying you weren’t there in 1971? It is not condescending, but rather exploratory. It is difficult when individuals are so personal, yet anonymous. All in all this a valuable exercise for me. Many, artists in particular, don’t speak out because they don’t want the abuse. So experiencing it first hand enables me to better understand their reluctance.

            I mean can you F…ing believe that everyone still references Lars Ulrich. Today 13 years later? The power of negativity is palpable. Don’t you agree, GGG?

          • GGG

            No, I was barely there in 1991. I’m 27 years old, but my life, between education, leisure and work has completely revolved around music for almost a decade now, and partially for years prior to that. And I’m sure there are valuable lessons/ideas we can and do take from the 70s, but it’s such an absurdly different culture you can’t past a certain extent. We can carry every bit of data/media we want on a 5 inch, touchscreen device that can instantly put you in touch with someone on the literal other side of the world. Why would you look to the 1970s for advice on navigating that atmosphere?

            As for negativity being palpable, not sure if you’re being sarcastic or not, but I certainly agree. It’s one reason so many of my posts are negative on here; because every article and every comment is just as negative. It might not be the best way to figure shit out, but it’s one, which is why I even waste my time. I learn plenty on this site from comments, so even if some argument teaches me one thing it’s worth some degree of pettiness.

          • FarePlay

            GGG, thanks for your response. I’m 64. Was 18 in 1967. Love to be younger, but wouldn’t have traded the incredible ride of the 60’s for anything. Not to discredit your point of view or your knowledge, things were very different and some of the Record Labels, WEA and WB in particular actually had people working for them that loved and understood music. And the managers in those days were often the ones looked on as the crooks, not the labels so much.

            By the time you arrived to the party, the record business was pretty ugly. The RIAA thought they had a problem they could solve in the courts and Lars Ulrich was the wrong guy to lead the charge for artists. I could get very general here and I don’t want to. Perhaps we could have a conversation off-line one of these days. I would certainly value that.


  6. murr1968

    donation link is not working…is that some kind of ironic play on the subject?

  7. What in the...

    Why the hell is Lessig in there? For the love of Christ would someone tell me what is the (*)&)^&*^(&*(*&^^&%% Lessig is doing in there seemingly advocating for musicians’ rights? Are we seriously going to recast that slippery bastard as a champion of the music business after all he’s done to hurt us? This movie can go suck an gigantic egg if it is going to give him anything but an upraised middle finger.

    • Guest

      In my view, there is a game being played in lots of places by the tech crowd that they are “pro-artist”. Their objective is to split artists and labels and songwriters from being unified on the issues they agree on. Then they pick them off, one by one.

  8. The Axxmann

    When we dropped our cd Bea B and the Axxmann in June of 2012, if you went on line the day before and typed in Bea B and The Axxmann you might get sites talking about us, no music…Two weeks later there were 200+ and 90% were stealing our music. The real down side is that I had only released it in one way at the time. That was through Tunecore.
    These free down load sites were from all over the world. How did they get our music so fast?
    There was a sight from Russia, we to this day have never received even .0003 from Russia..
    There were even sites people where being charged for our music and we had no idea who they were, and you cannot find them.

    I wish all my fellow musicians good luck but honestly I believe the video is correct. It may be a dying industry.

  9. Silkiesongs Music

    Thank you. This is helpful. To those of us who spin our wheels in the mud, this adds clarity. I am more inspired now, just knowing that I am not alone and the difficulty that I face, creatively, is shared by many and not just a few.

  10. Chuck

    Isn’t it ironic. Liberals coming face to face with the hard reality that capitalism is a good thing!

    • GGG

      Dumb comment. Pretty sure the staunchest republican would complain about their shit being stolen, as well.

  11. Claude Baulz

    One solution to the problem of creators and copyright holders getting financially raped by the internet industry would be for artist/authors/developers to create their own file sharing service and charge a subscription fee. This area would be certified “fair trade” like they do for coffee at Trader Joe’s. It could be run by an alliance of member elected artist representatives and have a democratic fabric. I envision it as a cross between ASCAP/BMI and a union for people who make stuff that can be pirated digitally that are not profiting from the current system. Many large companies would fit under that description.

    I suspect given the choice most thoughtful consumers would pay the monthly equivalent of a record on iTunes to have the ability to download whatever they wanted from the “fair trade” area knowing that the money was going to art instead of, for example an Ukrainian child prostitution ring. Obviously there are tremendous legal issues, but I feel that the sooner artist, labels and publishers get on the bandwagon the sooner they cut into the actual losses of piracy.

    Although this idea is not a digital version of the old media industry (like iTunes) at least the monthly subscription fees would be going to creators of art instead of internet moguls.

    If the big media companies weren’t so stubborn they would also cut their loses and develop a similar approach to diverting the loses from piracy. If they realized that people are paying Kim.com and similar services already to get “their” content and that they could drive those parasites out of business by offering a better, legit, cheaper service (with solid consistent legal product). The advertising aspect of this idea for large media companies could be very powerful. The ability to target consumers at the most popular internet site in the universe would be very valuable to them for their own products and could bring in tremendous revenue on the open market. They could even offer different levels of service with monthly fees scaled to throttling and figure out where the balancing point is between peoples desire to be lawful and support artists (or at least media companies) and laziness. It would also give them market research by tracking every download and help them improve their future offerings.

    I view it as the idea of “legalizing drugs vs prohibition” solution to piracy. They both have their problems but one is better than the other. By doing nothing the situation gets worse every week.

    When people rant about the losses to piracy they often only talk in terms of lost sales under the “pre-interape” business model. Those discussions devolve into conjecture around people who didn’t buy stuff because they could take it for free. Not every download is a lost sale, I would argue not even 80% of downloads are lost sales. I am defining a lost sale as somebody downloading for “free” something that they would be willing to pay for. For those 80% of artists that get their work investigated by a potential future consumer this is actually a positive result.

    The actual losses of piracy are the revenues that Kim.com, google, yahoo, rapidshare and the others generate by offering content that they do not legitimately have a right to. This is the money that is actually on the table. It is going to flow somewhere, it would be wise to capture as much of it as possible and drive the unlawful exploiters out of business. From a large company point of view it would also shift the balance of power that the top 5 tech companies have over the media creators.

    Another issue is that the music/movie/book industry is really a canary in the coal mine. As income inequality grows and the purchasing power of the previously music-buying public diminishes the less life-sustaining aspects of life go by the wayside. What was previously a necessity is now a luxury. I believe that music is essential to living, but given the choice between food for my family and the new Beyonce…. People are learning to live with less and it has been a long slow decline. There are also many new expenses to the digital era that did not exist in the prime of the brick and mortar days. These new expenses eat up a significant portion of today’s discretionary income. How many more records, movies or books would people buy if they didn’t have a cell phone bill, internet bill, streaming music service bill, streaming movie service bill, video game network bill and so on.

    You can’t beat free. People are spending vast sums on access to content, it is just going to the wrong place.

    • Anonymous

      yes…. my solution is figuring out a way to give consumers enough incentive to buy physical albums again…. the mechanism to do that.. i figured it out.i’m working on it.

  12. FarePlay

    Claude, I agree with parts of your proposal and there have been previous conversations along these lines that I’ve been party to. The disparity between the current industry streaming models, coupled with the continuing decline of physical product and paid download sales is creating a situation where the majority of mid-level professional musicians and songwriters are being so heavily downgraded financially that they will either need to get more directly involved in distribution through collective ownership or look for new careers.

    The major disconnect I see in the marketplace and right here on this blog is that creativity is a much different process and skill set than say standard production or manufacturing, yet there are those who believe that those differences don’t exist. At a certain point, as we see in politics today, you run up against differences of opinion that can’t be resolved, at which point even having a conversation becomes an exercise in futility.