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How to Take Down the Music Industry

By marktaw in Media
Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 03:52:26 AM EST
Tags: Music (all tags)
Music

An Open Letter to Musicians Everyhwere, or How to Take Down the Music Industry


There's only one type of person who makes money in the music industry. A savvy, wily, businessperson. Whether this person is a lawyer, manager, a&r person, record company executive, promoter, DJ, or the talent, as musicians are called, they all have business smarts.

A friend of mine did the math. A major concert hall will hold 20,000 people. At an average of $100 a head that a major star can command, that's $2 million per night they sell out. Any time you're dealing with that much money you're going to have a lot of people who want to have their hand in it. I know I wouldn't mind getting even 10% of that money, and I haven't even gotten into record sales.

Extremely few bands get signed. I would put it at less than 1%. I've known enough bands, and can multiply the number of bands I know by different neighborhoods and scenes that I'm not involved in. Less than 5% of signed bands ever sell more than a million records, most of them flop. Die in obscurity.

So if you're a musician looking to 'make it' the numbers are against you when you start out. Forget about being an artist too, when you're dealing with that few people generating that much money it's not your art the record label wants, it's your ability to sell records. Whether it's stripping at the MTV Music Awards, or working with producers you hate on songs you hate, and working relentless hours, dieting, working out, rehearsing, touring, promoting, doing TV and Radio at 7 am, record signings at noon, sound check at 3 pm, a show in the evening, and then a 'party' afterwards, which is really just a slimy industry political shmooze-fest just to get on a bus and sleep while you're going to the next town to do it over again. You're owned by the record label.

It's like the Lottery

Seriously. This is how I believe musicians approach the Music Industry. I was buying a snack from my local bodega and the guy behind the counter said "Do you want to buy a lottery ticket?" "Should I?" I asked. "Oh yes, it's $57 million. It will change your life." "No it won't," I replied, "because I won't win and tomorrow my life will be the same."

It will change your life. Think about it. This is exactly how musicians view a record contract. It's a one in a million chance, and it will change your life. What's even more insidious is that unlike the lottery, what you do has a significant impact on your chances. Think of how superstitious people get about their lottery numbers. Now imagine a system where what you do can actually, must, influence your odds of winning.

Of course, getting the contract is just the first step. Most artists, even apparently successful ones, declare bankruptcy. All the money spent recording your album, videos, promotion, tours, makeovers, etc. is loaned to the artist. If all of that cost $1 million, by the time your album hits the stores you owe the record label $1 million. You'd have to go platinum just to break even, and this is assuming you signed a decent contract and your label's being honest with you about how much money you made for them.

Remember, the record industry is in the business of making money, not making you fat, lazy, and unproductive. Back in the 50's and 60's label owners gave their artists Cadillac cars. The artist would walk in demanding their $100,00 and walk out with a Cadillac. Happy. The Cadillac cost 10% of what the artist was owed, but it was prestigious and they didn't complain.

We Don't Need No Education

Payola was proven back in the early 80's.

Pink Floyd is one of the few bands that can sell out concerts without having a hit single. When The Wall came out they planned a tour with an elaborate stage show. So elaborate that they only did the tour in a few cities. New York and Los Angeles among them.

The label owner decided to try a little experiment. He decided not to pay for airplay - a process known as payola - in Los Angeles. Records still sold and the concert sold out, but their hit song Another Brick In the Wall wasn't played on the radio in LA at all. Having learned what he needed to know from his experiment - that it's impossible to get airplay without payola, he paid up. Two of the three rock stations added the song.

The interesting thing is, this independent promotion process started innocently. I can't be everywhere, so I pay someone to promote my song to radio stations. Eventually the major labels started competing against each other and the amount of money got bigger and bigger. In the end, all the major labels were on the same footing, though they were paying massive amounts of money in 'promotion.'

The net effect of this is to make it extremely expensive to break a new act. Once upon a time a small record label could come along and record a hit song in the basement. If it was good, it got played. Now you had to lay out hundreds of thousands of dollars to get enough radio station to play it to make a difference.

You're Just Another Brick In The Wall

Artists are constantly complaining about how unfair the system is. I mean, I'm sitting here writing about it now. With the advent of the Internet and File Sharing (peer to peer, napster, etc.) this has become a very popular topic. Heck, even the Record Industry has been talking about it.

The system goes something like this:

  • If a million people buy something for $20 that costs $2 to manufacture, we can make a lot of money.
  • If we get the people to give us a product for free, and to pay for promoting it, we won't have to pay to develop the product.
  • How can we get these people to give us this product for free? We convince them that by giving it to us, we can fulfill some basic need, such as desire for approval, desire to not have to pay your own bills or wipe your own ass. Essentially, fulfill an escapist fantasy.

The Music Industry is still around because we still buy albums - album sales are doing just fine despite the Internet and file swapping.

The Music Industry is still around because musicians are willing to sign over their lives on the off chance that they'll become rich and famous.

How To Fight Back

Courtney Love is fighting back and doing an amazing job of it. She deserves all the support she can get. In a nutshell, she signed a contract with Geffen Records. Saw very little of the money she made for Geffen. Then when Geffen was sold to Universal, so was Courtney Love.

She's suing Universal because she never signed a contract with them. If she wins, there are a number of things that should change. You should read all you can about her case if you care about it.

Another way to fight back is to start low powered radio stations. The FCC recently changed it's ruling on this allowing more low powered stations. This should help release the stranglehold companies like Clear Channel & the Music Industry have over the airwaves.

But the way I really advocate in my day to day life is if you're a musician, don't go for that record contract. If you don't play by their rules, they can't screw you. If enough musicians opt for grassroots old school promotions that doesn't depend on the current industry and prove it can be done, then it will prove that musicians don't need the music industry to 'make it.'

Let's face it, you're not going to make any more money doing it their way, so you might as well go pave your own road. You'll make more money per CD on mp3.com than you ever will letting BMG do it for you, and at the end of the day, you won't owe mp3.com anything, so all of that money is yours to keep.

At the consumer level, turn off your television. Turn off your radio, or tune in to local or non commercial stations. Explore local, grassroots alternatives to commercial TV and Radio.

Commercial radio and commercial television is just that. One huge extended commercial. Your favorite television show, your favorite morning radio show only exists to keep you around so you'll listen to the commercials. I'm not kidding. Now more than ever every moment is programmed to keep you listening longer just so that when the commercial comes, you listen to it. And the music itself is a commercial for the album or the single.

Once upon a time music was a communal thing that happened when two or more people got together and wanted to celebrate, or pass the time. Now music is packaged and sold to us. We believe that only a few talented or skilled people are worthy. We, the unwashed masses cannot possibly master the guitar or keyboard or drum. GET OVER IT. Pick up a guitar and learn to play. It's not that hard. Within a month you can learn a handful of chords and play some of your favorite songs.

Don't be a lemming. Don't follow the crowd, the crowd's been brainwashed by too much TV. Spread the Word.

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How to Take Down the Music Industry | 148 comments (139 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
Fast and loose with the numbers? (4.50 / 6) (#4)
by ktakki on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 04:18:25 PM EST

A friend of mine did the math. A major concert hall will hold 20,000 people. At an average of $100 a head that a major star can command, that's $2 million per night they sell out. Any time you're dealing with that much money you're going to have a lot of people who want to have their hand in it. I know I wouldn't mind getting even 10% of that money, and I haven't even gotten into record sales.

That $2M (on the high side to begin with) disappears pretty fast once the promoter and the owner of the venue take their cut. Security, insurance, paid police details, union riggers and steelworkers, the people who pick the brown M&Ms out of the bowl...it adds up.

Extremely few bands get signed. I would put it at less than 1%. I've known enough bands, and can multiply the number of bands I know by different neighborhoods and scenes that I'm not involved in. Less than 5% of signed bands ever sell more than a million records, most of them flop. Die in obscurity.

More like .01% and .5%, respectively.

Also, are you aware that 40% of the retail price of a CD goes to the retailer? That distribution counts for another 10%? Perhaps the way to take down the music industry is to burn down your local Tower Records.

Record labels don't "loan" money to the band, strictly speaking. The cost of recording and promotion are recoupable expenses, with the proceeds of the first x sales going to the label until the break-even point is reached. If the release really stiffs, the label takes a loss and the band gets dropped. For a band, this is a death sentence.

Finally, the first payola scandal was in the '50s and involved Alan Freed, the Cleveland DJ who popularized the term "rock 'n' roll".

k.
--
"In spite of everything, I still believe that people
are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

retort (4.50 / 2) (#5)
by marktaw on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 04:25:38 PM EST

I never said anyone kept the whole $2 million from a concert, in fact I was very careful not to say that. I just said there would be a lot of people vying for that money. I believe the 5% figure comes from Courtney Love, but I could be wrong someone was reading the article to me and they may have missed the decimal point. It's easier to say 'loan.' If you start making the label money, it amounts to the same thing. I know about the origins of payola. Perhaps I should talk about the origins of music, and Thomas Edison & "Mary Had a Little Lamb" as well.

[ Parent ]
Rebuttal (4.66 / 3) (#15)
by ktakki on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 07:44:11 PM EST

Now, now. No need to get defensive.

We're on the same side of this argument. I agree that there's something wrong with the status quo. I just feel that the cumulative effect of these inaccuracies undermined the point you're trying to make.

However, I do disagree with your DIY solution (low power radio, break out the bongo drums, etc.). That might be more appropriate for a post-apocalyptic society where mutants wander around a radioactive wasteland. So far as I know, Courtney Love hasn't acquired thermonuclear weapons. Yet.

Seriously, the long-term goal should be to phase out the bottlenecks in the system: retail and radio. Unfortunately, we're a shopping species, a mall culture. Getting rid of retail won't happen until it's possible to click on an icon and have a shrinkwrapped CD emerge from a slot in your PC (or TV). And this still doesn't address the social aspect of shopping in a retail environment.

Radio is an easier problem to solve, needing only a broadband connection to every home, car, boat, and Walkman on the planet.

k.
--
"In spite of everything, I still believe that people
are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

[ Parent ]

Refutation (3.00 / 3) (#17)
by marktaw on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 08:18:17 PM EST

Well then. Since we're both on the same side, let me tell you what I really think.

Nothing we do is going to change the situation. We may win a few battles, but the war is over and has been over for decades. Fighting these mega conglomorates is about as effective as peasants fighting their feudal lords. Unless there really is a massive uprising, along the lines of the Colonies in America fighting the British, we're not going to get anywhere.

And then in no time at all, the Colonies will build for themselves an empire even more evil than the one that came before it. A nation founded on Freedom of Religion whose government 200 years later decisively trounces anyone who says otherwise.

Even the World Wide Web[1], which you claim is going to be able to fight our battle for us is a subversion of the Internet. The Internet used to be a community, a discussion. IRC chat, Usenet. These are the things the Internet was founded on. Corporate America subverted it by creating a passive one way propoganda machine called the World Wide Web. Only a few pockets remain - Kuro5hin, IRC, mailing lists, usenet, but these have been marginalized.

All I can do is influence the way you think. Raise your awareness about the system so that you can change your actions and free yourself. That's the real point of my essay.

[1] Okay you didn't say WWW per say... My point is that big business will be able to prevent the Internet from becoming the liberating system you think it will become. Just look at the DMCA.

[ Parent ]

Rejoinder (4.50 / 2) (#19)
by ktakki on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 12:20:51 AM EST

Nothing we do is going to change the situation. We may win a few battles, but the war is over and has been over for decades. Fighting these mega conglomorates is about as effective as peasants fighting their feudal lords.

No. You're wrong. Here's why...

We're going back to at two-tier system, like how the music industry worked until the mid-'50s, except instead of being divided by race the division will be along a major/indie line. One one side you'll have the Big Five labels, Clear Channel, the Big Three rack jobbers, and the Wal-Mart/Tower/Circuit City retail axis. On the other side are the indie and DIY labels, college radio, and the Internet. Getting distribution to mom 'n' pop retailers out of the local area is problematic, but that just means there's an opportunity for an enterprising b2b'er.

I don't trade Brit'Sync cuts over Kazaa, and no one I know does. Nor do I care if the RIAA cracks down on Brit'Sync traders, as long as it doesn't affect non-RIAA product.

Those are the major leagues. I've spent my whole life playing ball in the minors. Who's got the pure product these days?

k.
--
"In spite of everything, I still believe that people
are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

[ Parent ]

"Going Back?" (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by RobotSlave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:47:24 AM EST

The two-tier system you describe has been firmly in place for at least twenty years.

What, exactly, are we "going back" to?

[ Parent ]

Fun with alternate history... (5.00 / 1) (#58)
by verb on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:59:13 PM EST

"Corporate America subverted it by creating a passive one way propoganda machine called the World Wide Web."

Err... What 1995 did YOU live through? HTTP and the World Wide Web were just extensions of decades of hypertext and media experimentation by researchers and developers. This comment in particular smacks of distorting history to bolster an argument.

It took years for most companies to realize that the web even existed, and most of them took to it in a clumsy, awkward fashion. I suppose the printing press was conceived of as a 'passive propoganda machine' as well?

-the verb

[ Parent ]
Statistics... (3.80 / 5) (#8)
by nicklott on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 04:47:33 PM EST

Last year 78% of all statistics were made up on the spot. That was up 13% from the previous year, which was 2% longer than the previous year...

[ Parent ]
Payola by any other name (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by MuglyWumple on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 01:32:49 PM EST

It may not be called Payola any more but the practice still exists.

See the Salon articles on payola and Clear Channel radio.

[ Parent ]
Recording and promotion. (none / 0) (#60)
by haflinger on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:30:30 PM EST

The cost of recording and promotion are recoupable expenses, with the proceeds of the first x sales going to the label until the break-even point is reached. If the release really stiffs, the label takes a loss and the band gets dropped. For a band, this is a death sentence.
This is true in the more friendly record contracts. I think Def Leppard was like this. Some, however, are as described in the story; I believe TLC and MC Hammer (who, ironically enough, did a pretty good job of self-promotion before being signed) are in this category, where they owe the company all the costs associated with the release, and the only way out is bankruptcy (which both of them declared).

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]
Selective evidence. (3.00 / 1) (#65)
by RobotSlave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:54:21 PM EST

Actually, most recording contracts are what you refer to as the "more friendly" variety.

Artists get into trouble when they decide to spend more than their recoupable. Do you really need that shiny helicopter in your video? Do you really need five leisurely, catered days in the studio to get that track down? Do you have to have your release party at the Ritz instead of the Hilton?

Contracts cover expenses up to a point, but there are some artists who want the glamour before they have the sales to support it. Record Companies will indulge such artists with risky loans, and Record Companies get burnt when such artists declare bankruptcy.

Yes, some contracts are more unfair to the artists than others, but Hammer and TLC are hardly the best examples of "exploited" artists. They both lived far beyond their means when easy loans were available, and they both have higher net worth and earning power after bankruptcy than most people will ever see.

[ Parent ]

MC Hammer & TLC are the classic examples. (none / 0) (#73)
by haflinger on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 08:31:32 PM EST

They're the great commercial artists who made a ton of money for their companies, and absolutely lost it all. (BTW, I loathe their music, but that's a separate issue. [I'm particularly bitter about Hammer because he actually had talent, as witnessed in the West Coast Rap All-Stars single. Sadly, he preferred to become a record company stooge.] It's a separate issue because the record industry claims that if you want The Brass Ring, what you should really do is commercialize your music to fit into the record company mold, as these "artists" did.)

I'm not sure of the details with TLC, but I believe Hammer wound up working somewhere near the minimum wage. He lost his house, pretty much all his assets, everything.

It must really suck to sell out and then not get paid.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

Bill Seeks to Resolve Recording Industry Spat (3.00 / 1) (#7)
by marktaw on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 04:42:20 PM EST

Article in Yahoo news

Prince (4.25 / 4) (#14)
by godix on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 07:34:57 PM EST

Another artist thats interesting to follow on this issue: Prince. Remember him, the guy who changed his name because record companies were screwing with him? I've heard him claim that he makes more money now selling his own albums that never get airplay than he did back when he had #1 hits.

Yes... (4.00 / 1) (#18)
by rickward on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 10:50:01 PM EST

...but if he didn't have his airplay-based reputation to drive sales of non-radio sales, he'd be back on the streets of Minneapolis.

"Crack don't smoke itself." —Traditional
[ Parent ]

More Prince (3.00 / 2) (#22)
by godix on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 03:57:11 AM EST

True, but he brings up another strategy for wanna be musicians. Use the record companies to get famous then dump them. Most people either have an all or nothing attitude towards record companies.

He's also interesting to watch because he's probably the artist that's done the most in using the internet. Even if you don't want to use the record companies like he did, you can still learn something about how to use the web for promotion. He has made some mistakes though (like not registering prince.org till fairly recently) so you'd have to study his methods instead of blindly copying them.

[ Parent ]

Huh? (3.00 / 1) (#24)
by RobotSlave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:38:21 AM EST

"True, but he brings up another strategy for wanna be musicians. Use the record companies to get famous then dump them."

How does that hurt the industry? They still own the material that made the artist in question famous, no?

And wouldn't the Beatles be a better example than Prince?

[ Parent ]

Probably not... (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by ShadowNode on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:50:03 AM EST

Since Michael Jackson owns the copyright to most of their work.

[ Parent ]
Ah, but that is exactly the point. (3.00 / 1) (#29)
by RobotSlave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:20:07 AM EST

What, you mean ditching a major label and forming your own doesn't solve all the problems?

Yes, do let's ignore the less convenient examples. It will make things easier to think about, surely.

[ Parent ]

Well... (3.00 / 1) (#31)
by ShadowNode on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:23:55 AM EST

Not if you don't release anything new after ditching the major label. From what I've heard, Prince is doing just fine.

[ Parent ]
Retire? (none / 0) (#32)
by RobotSlave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:29:03 AM EST

That's your answer? Wow.

So, you hear Prince is doing well? I kinda heard his last record bombed, but maybe I'm not reading the right papers.

Hey, have you heard anything about how that label the Beasty Boys started is doing? That might be an interesting example, too.

[ Parent ]

What? (none / 0) (#50)
by ShadowNode on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 03:11:17 PM EST

I said it didn't work if you retire.

Why does an album have to go platinum to be successful? From what I've heard he is indeed selling fewer copies, but he's making more from those than he did when he was with the RIAA.



[ Parent ]
So we have one example, then. (none / 0) (#55)
by RobotSlave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:32:56 PM EST

Yes, any independent label would be ecstatic to have a record go gold (100k copies sold) within a year of release, so I suppose we've got an example of success in Prince, for now.

But what about the Beatles, and Apple records? What about the Beasty Boys, and Grand Royal? What about Frank Sinatra, and Reprise? Are they still sticking it to the man, or is it possible that perhaps there just might be something amiss with this very old idealistic plan of ditching the label and forming your own?

[ Parent ]

I don't know (none / 0) (#57)
by ShadowNode on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:42:41 PM EST

I only know about Princes situation because of a conversation with a fan.

I agree that this probably isn't a good strategy to plan a musical career around, but it may be useful to people who are currently under the RIAA's thumb.

From what I've heard of the Beasty Boys, they're also doing just fine (and I think they're even helping other musicians). Didn't Frank Sinatra die recently, though?



[ Parent ]
Well, let me tell you, then. (5.00 / 1) (#61)
by RobotSlave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:32:18 PM EST

Since you don't know:

Yes, the Beastie Boys are doing fine, but their label is bankrupt.

Yes, Frank Sinatra is dead, and his independent label is now owned by the big five (and was for quite some time prior to his death).

[ Parent ]

Beatles vs Prince (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by godix on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:05:57 AM EST

"How does that hurt the industry? "

This wasn't a 'how to hurt the RIAA' suggestion, it was a 'how to make a living doing your own music' suggestion.

"They still own the material that made the artist in question famous, no? "

The record companies own Purple Rain or 1999 sure, but those songs aren't making much money regardless of who owns them. You have to be a music giant like Elvis or the Beatles to have old songs still rake up the dough.

"And wouldn't the Beatles be a better example than Prince?"

The Beatles became so big that they could dictate terms to the record companies instead of the other way around. Prince never got that large so other groups still under the RIAAs thumb could identify with him more. Besides, Prince is the only artist I know of who went away from record companies and still makes a good living. From interviews with him I've heard, he says he's making more money selling 100,000 records now than when he sold millions under the RIAA. There may be other artist in the same situation, I just don't know of them.

[ Parent ]

Ooh, point-by-point rebuttal! (4.00 / 2) (#35)
by RobotSlave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:20:09 AM EST

You just made my day.

If 1999 and Purple Rain are still selling at average catalog rates for hit records, then they're scanning at least 50,000 copies a year, apiece.

Do the math.

And go read a book about the Beatles. Jeepers.



[ Parent ]

Old songs and math (4.00 / 1) (#81)
by godix on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 12:19:32 AM EST

The math, more using offhand guesses than hard figures.
Average CD sells at around 15$. 50% goes to the store. Around $2 per cd for shipping, materials, royalty payment, etc. So, 5.50 per CD times 50,000 and you end up with $275,000 before taxes. You responded because I said old albums don't make much money, are you seriously trying to claim that the record companies consider a 275,000 big money? I doubt it'd even cover the payola on Britneys new song.

[ Parent ]
Your "math" and wishful thinking. (2.50 / 2) (#86)
by RobotSlave on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 05:15:20 AM EST

I do, indeed, think that the record companies consider more than half a million (two albums, remember?) per year to be significant money.

Wouldn't you?

If you have access to Soundscan (and I'm rather certain you don't), I think you'll find that 1999 and Purple Rain are selling well above 2k records per week, combined.

I'm afraid Britney doesn't have any bearing on this (or on profits from catalog sales of any number of other hit records by other artists).

Put up or shut up. Is half a million US dollars significant, or not?

[ Parent ]

Another factor for that .5mil (4.00 / 1) (#93)
by Wah on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 10:31:38 AM EST

is that no one had to lift a finger to make it. The only costs are printing and shipping. No promotion, no recording, just adding up the numbers. This is part of the reason media corps fought for the Disney copyright extension act. It lets them to the same thing for 20 more years.
--
Where'd you get your information from, huh?
[ Parent ]
Nonsense. (1.00 / 1) (#140)
by RobotSlave on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 11:33:25 PM EST

Er, you don't think Purple Rain was promoted?

Face it-- that record was promoted, heavily, and catalog sales are part of the return on the initial promotional investment.

You can make an argument that some records go platinum without promotion, but I think you'll find that in just about every case, the Record Company puts significant time and money in, somewhere along the line.

[ Parent ]

Misunderstanding (none / 0) (#145)
by Wah on Fri Jul 12, 2002 at 01:37:02 PM EST

I wasn't talking about it not ever being promoted, only the current environment.  Once something has been promoted and gets a decent following or cultural value there is little need to continue to spend money on that part of the process.  The 20 years extension to copyright highlights this, allowing another generation to reap profits from past promotions and to put that money into the cash cows of tomorrow.
--
Where'd you get your information from, huh?
[ Parent ]
not (4.00 / 1) (#118)
by godix on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 03:21:18 PM EST

Half a million is significant TO ME. To the record companies which make around 40 billion a year, it's an insignificant number.

[ Parent ]
That's a ludicrous argument (4.00 / 1) (#127)
by nne3jxc on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 10:52:39 PM EST

If .5 mil was insigificant to the record companies they wouldn't continue to manufacture and sell the old recordings. Yes, as a SINGLE instance, a half million dollars is insignificant in a 40 billion dollar scheme. But when you add up ALL the "old" hit records, you can bet your boots that is pretty damned significant. Another way to think about it -- $40 Billion divided by $500,000 is $80,000. Coincidentally, I make roughly $80,000 a year, so you could say a single dollar is to me similarly insignificant -- but you know what? I'll still pick up a dollar if I drop it. And so will most people I know.

[ Parent ]
More correctly.. (3.00 / 1) (#42)
by mindstrm on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 11:02:02 AM EST

THe record companies own THOSE RECORDINGS of those songs.

The artist (no pun intended) can probably go record them AGAIN with someone else. You do not sign over the copyright to the song in question, as a composition, to the record label.. you sign the rights to a particular recording.

You also may sign, say, an exclusivity contract, saying you will not record the song for anyone else for X years, or forever.. but who knows.


[ Parent ]

Actually... (none / 0) (#62)
by haflinger on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:35:51 PM EST

Some artists do sign their composition rights over to record companies, too. I don't know if Prince fits in this category.

However, if Prince rerecorded Purple Rain, he'd get sued anyway under copyright. You don't have to make an exact copy of an album to infringe copyright; taking a substantial part will do. It'd be awfully hard for him to make a defense.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

What a silly strategy. (4.00 / 1) (#30)
by Perianwyr on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:23:34 AM EST

That's like saying that the best way to make money at the lottery is to win it and then blow up the lottery offices. The problems with this strategy are twofold: 1) The two actions, getting a contract and screwing the company, are rather unrelated. 2) The success of screwing the company is directly predicated on the success of a previous condition (namely, having a contract and being a popular musician already) that "wanna be musicians" do not have.

[ Parent ]
Heh, no (4.00 / 1) (#75)
by marxmarv on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 09:28:19 PM EST

That's like saying that the best way to make money at the lottery is to win it and then blow up the lottery offices.
He's saying that the best way to make money is to win the lottery, pay off the IRS, and invest the money in something with guaranteed return. When you win the lottery, you don't owe the lottery anything.

The Mississippi sharecropper analogy applies quite well to the music industry.

[ Parent ]

WuTang (none / 0) (#137)
by fr2ty on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 10:25:45 AM EST

Ever wondered why the WuTang albums come out on so many different major labels?

They seem to pick the best offers.

Check it out in your CD shack.
Oh, you don't have the names on them?...
--
Please note that are neither capitals nor numbers in my mail adress.
[ Parent ]

Ani DiFranco (4.50 / 2) (#51)
by Bear Cub on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 03:50:35 PM EST

Funny that nobody's mentioned Ani DiFranco yet. Ani has built a huge and dedicated fanbase without major label contracts (she founded Rightous Babe Records to handle distribution of her CD's), and without major radio airplay. She has fought long and hard, and it has paid off: I read an article in Rolling Stone where she mentioned that she makes (IIRC) $4 per CD sold. That is huge. And she has started signing other artists to her label, and cutting them the same deal she has.

Ani is proof that is possible to be a success (both artistically and financially) without major label involvement.

------------------------------------- Bear Cub now posts as Christopher.
[ Parent ]

Time to take over the world (3.83 / 6) (#16)
by ovie on Sat Jun 29, 2002 at 07:58:39 PM EST

I like what you've said, but it all sounds distinctly like Courtney Love's justification for her own greed/stupidity. The resolutions are what I read this article for (see the title), and they're the most disapointing part. You seem to suggest mp3.com is a way to avoid the major labels, neglecting the fact that it is owned by vivendi/universal.

There are more ways than making mp3s of your music to reject the music industry. For potential artists out there:
- record and produce your music yourself, cut out studio/producer fees
- distribute your records to independent radio stations, television stations, local record stores. If you have fans, get them involved in this.
- most importantly, concentrate on your art more than making money. The best way to ruin a hobby is to make it your job.

I hope it catches on; the call could be better. (5.00 / 2) (#20)
by tbc on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 02:23:11 AM EST

I voted +1 FP, but I have a couple editorial comments:
  1. Edit ruthlessly. Cut the words in half. More readers will get to the end if you tighten up the piece.
  2. ovie's summary is succinct and articulate. I hope you'll consider incorporating it. I've been hoping for something like this to happen since the early nineties. The Internet has the potential to revolutionize the economics of content distribution. I'd also add a bullet:
  • Sell your music on your own Internet site. Give away some MP3s, sell other MP3 downloads cheap, and sell CDs less cheap. But cut out the middleman.


[ Parent ]
important to let them know (5.00 / 2) (#23)
by startled on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:28:59 AM EST

If you're hitting an indie market, it's important to get your message clear. I refuse to buy anything connected with an RIAA-member label, and I err on the side of caution. Since so many labels own so many smaller labels, sometimes it's hard to figure out what you're getting. Make sure you let people know you're completely indie; as a bonus, you get extra street cred. :)

[ Parent ]
Simple answer (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by maroberts on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 03:52:00 AM EST

Remove the need for radio to pay copyright fees for playing music - the record industry by its actions acknowledges its a form of advertising and its argument for copyright fees dies on the spot.

At the same time, outlaw any form of payment from a record company to a radio station.
~~~
The greatest trick the Devil pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist -- Verbil Kint, The Usual Suspects

Hmm. (none / 0) (#41)
by mindstrm on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 10:59:32 AM EST

Copyright fees?

The radio stations don't pay the RIAA to play music. THey pay someone else.. like ASCAP or something.

They pay performance royalties, not copying fees.

Remember, the record company owns the recording. They make money selling you the recording. THey can SAY you aren't supposed to play it publicly.. but it's not really their call; it's the artists (because you are performing their work)


[ Parent ]

Not anymore, I'm afraid (none / 0) (#115)
by egerlach on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 02:42:39 PM EST

That isn't true anymore. Modern recording cotracts have the music the artists make as a "work-for-hire". That means the artists don't own it, the recording company does.

"Free beer tends to lead to free speech"
[ Parent ]
How about no? (none / 0) (#44)
by kurtmweber on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 11:54:33 AM EST

Just because the record companies are getting "free advertising" doesn't mean that radio stations shouldn't have to pay copyright fees. The fact is, the record companies own the copyright and thus they get to set the terms under which the works are used. Also, why should payment from a record company to a radio station be outlawed? Both the record company and the radio station are private organizations, and free to enter into any agreement they wish (provided it doesn't affect anyone not party to the agreement).

Kurt Weber
Any field of study can be considered 'complex' when it starts using Hebrew letters for symbols.--me
[ Parent ]
Be a rugged individualist, just like everyone else (3.00 / 2) (#27)
by Demiurge on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:01:25 AM EST

Your article has some good points, one being how it's impossible to get airtime on a major commercial station without paying for it. Even if it's not a new release, you're going to have to pay. Record companies tend to pay stations to play X songs from their catalog X times per week. But other than that, it's just a screed without any real focus. More of the, "You're a brainless sheep if you don't listen to the(punk/grunge/emo/indy-rock of the week) genre".

Thanks for coming clean. (3.44 / 9) (#28)
by RobotSlave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:12:31 AM EST

I was a little bit baffled by this piece until I read your comment, in which you admit that this isn't really an analysis of the music industry at all, but rather an anti-corporate polemic.

In this light, it is clear that your address to musicians is a specificly targetted reworking of the old call to the workers of the world to unite and reclaim the means of production.

I find contemporary Marxism quite interesting, and you seem to be a very typical proponent. I would much rather discuss your political philosophy than address your characterization (for it is hardly an analysis) of the music industry, which, as is all too common with Marxist ideation, leaves out a vital component: the consumer.

silly characterization (2.50 / 4) (#39)
by mikelist on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 10:51:26 AM EST

It doesn't matter if his article is an"ant-corporate polemic", the guy knows what he's talking about.
Music isn't meant to be an oil well, and even if it were, not all oil well owners do all that well.
The difference is that few or none would care to operate an oil well as a hobby, and many excellent musicians have settled happily for semi-pro status, while working another job. The music industry(key word 'industry') has promoted an unrealistic model that is stacked against the musician(or artist if you prefer, but I've found that being a musician is easier, ;^)), and there are countless books aimed at getting a recording contract, as if that were a Holy Grail. Many of these books presume that under any circumstances, "you need a recording contract to be a professional" Not true or even mostly true. A musician's best chance at making a worthwhile living is playing, period. Hone your skills, find other musicians whose musical and material tastes match your own, and get out there. Bars, churches,  schools, restaurants, local festivals are good places to start, if you are just starting out.
Provided that you can work several times a week, you can plausibly make more than an average factory job, with about the same hours invested, including practice, set up and sound checks. This is based on my observation of the venues around Kalamazoo, your area may be more or less lucrative, find out. Like many other occupations, only the perceived best (for whatever reason) will continue to get bookings in significant numbers, so make yourself heard and appreciated. I don't want to suggest that getting a recording contract and dealing with the sharks is ALWAYS a stupid idea, just that musicians can make or supplement their income without wooing a label. If they really want you, they will approach you and even if you end up with poor terms, at least you will have avoided the angst and uncertainty that comes with trying to get that "highly prized" recording contract.

[ Parent ]
Whoa there, tiger. (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by RobotSlave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:12:48 PM EST

You didn't say anything to support your assertion that anything I wrote was "silly," but I thank you for the flattering borrowing of the word "characterization."

Now, slow down a bit. Oil well? Shark? I think you've got an entirely seperate axe to grind here. Perhaps a new top-level comment is in order, or a diary entry?

But I should be polite, and address your typing more directly.

Yes, the author knows what he is talking about, but what he is talking about is corruption at the major labels, not the industry as a whole. He is also calling upon musicians the world over to sieze the means of production and overthrow the darkly depicted Music Industry component of Global Capitalist Oppression.

You seem to be familiar with the microeconomics of independent musical acts. Surely you are aware, then, that it is almost invariably a better financial decision to sign a small deal with a small label, rather than indepenently persue non-local college radio and independent press exposure?

The article completely ignores the small end of the music industry. It also ignores the honest segment of the majors. More importantly, though, it ignores the role of the consumer.

[ Parent ]

maybe not silly, but... (2.00 / 1) (#64)
by mikelist on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:48:11 PM EST

Basically, what I see is a need to quit looking at a contract with a major label as an end in itself. The "oil well" reference is aimed at those who think they will get a contract, and never have to do unpleasant work ever again, just cash the checks. I had a close brush with the Nashville vanity press industry, and the upshot is that I would be somewhat standoffish if offered a contract by any label. If they think you will generate substantial income for them, they will do their best to offer you contract terms that at least appear fair. "Sharks" isn't a descriptive term coined by me, it's been in use for a while.
Professional musicians(I'm including semi pros here) who play mainly live gigs in clubs and similar venues generally make more money per hour than an attainable day job, while keeping the level of their music up, and flirting with celebrity, even if the pond is somewhat small.
you were insulted by 'silly', my intelligence was insulted by "anti-industrial polemic", or whatever. Neither of us is injured, and I'm pleased that you liked 'characterization'. I'm fully aware that my point will not be taken by most aspiring musicians, but if they would just open their eyes in the same way they would when negotiating a real estate contract, the labels wouldn't have the upper hand. As it is, they can dismiss nearly any artist, since there are other artists knocking down their doors and ringing their phones off the hook, just dying to get that piece of paper.  

[ Parent ]
Er, OK. (3.00 / 2) (#67)
by RobotSlave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 07:06:26 PM EST

Look, you really aren't responding at all to my point. You're off on your own crusade, and you really ought to do a new top-level comment or a diary.

I think my description of the article as a Marxist retread is interesting. And that's all I really wanted to discuss.

I didn't say I was insulted by your use of the word "silly"-- I instead said that you've done nothing to back it up. Your criticism of my idea in your most recent post, for example, consists entirely of the dismissive words "or whatever," and you offer no indication that you have understood my argument, let alone offered substantive criticism of it.

Incidentally, are you telling me you're basing your opinion of the industry on a single personal encounter with a vanity press? Good grief.

[ Parent ]

er, ok (1.00 / 1) (#68)
by mikelist on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 07:49:20 PM EST

Frankly I see your assessment of the article as obtuse, and not interesting at all. You seem to think that criticism of an industry's status quo is inherently Marxist. The fact is that the recording industry has no reason to play fair, whether or not they ever do is kinda beside the point. "Bringing down the industry" is a little over the top, but it is within the power of artists to level the playing field.Yeah, I guess crusader fits me, but Don Quixote thought he was one too. I don't care to get into writing an article when a little digression can make the same point.
And no, I've personally not ever held a recording contract, and yes, vanity press is my closest personal experience, but I was recruited by an investor whose terms were totally unacceptable, and he couldn't see why I didn't accept his "assistance".

[ Parent ]
You still don't understand. (3.00 / 2) (#69)
by RobotSlave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 08:02:19 PM EST

I do not think that criticism of the industry is "inherently Marxist." I do think that this particular article is Marxist, and I think so for very specific and fairly obvious reasons, which you either don't understand or are ignoring.

I am not engaging in mere name-calling; I have a good understanding of Marxism, and find it interesting, both for its good intentions, and its problematic contemporary expression. Your failure to address my comments on this level does not reflect well on your unrelated lecturing, which would better serve its purpose in a diary, or a new top-level comment.

[ Parent ]

still ok... (1.00 / 1) (#70)
by mikelist on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 08:13:54 PM EST

I would have to admit that I don't understand your point, now that I have mistaken it once again, do you mean to say that the idea of concerted personal efforts to bypass big record labels is Marxist? Socialist perhaps, but having little to do with society as a whole, it wouldn't directly relate to Marx or his theories. I find it to be more in the spirit of union organizing, which may or may not be considered socialist, but is not Marxist, per se.


[ Parent ]
Please tell me you're not really that thick... (3.00 / 2) (#72)
by RobotSlave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 08:24:05 PM EST

Look, the article criticises a Capitalist System, painting it in the darkest tones possible, and then exhorts the worker (the musician, in this case) to rise up and sieze the means of production.

I've only said that, what, three or four times already?

And you don't see how this is Marxist?

[ Parent ]

thick? perhaps... (1.00 / 1) (#74)
by mikelist on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 09:27:54 PM EST

If that would be thick, I'd have to plead guilty. Even those who try to sell you on the necessity of a  contract often characterize recording executives as ruthless. I don't see any alternative to "seizing the means of production" which in this case is more like self determination or a boycott, rather than physically controlling recording facilities, which is where perhaps one or the other of us ceased to be on the same page.
Unless you mean artists and musicians when you refer to means of production.

Actually there is another alternative, to petition the legislature to regulate the industry, but that is too horrible to consider.
We don't need more laws to make people behave well, we just have to get them to obey the ones that exist.
 

[ Parent ]

There you go wandering off again. (2.33 / 3) (#77)
by RobotSlave on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 09:55:31 PM EST

Good Lord, you really can't stay on topic, can you?

Look, do you understand now that the combined depiction and exhortation in the article is a classicly Marxist argument?

Just yes or no, for the love of God.

[ Parent ]

well... (1.00 / 1) (#79)
by mikelist on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 11:38:57 PM EST

I guess you can't get much clearer than that, I read your posts a little more superficially and took you as attacking the content, which you probably still are but that wasn't the point. Real point taken.

[ Parent ]
Thank you. (2.33 / 3) (#87)
by RobotSlave on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 05:28:33 AM EST

I am, in fact, "attacking" the "content," if you consider the observation that the article is, clearly, Marxist, to be an "attack."

I'm not sure what you think I might have been addressing, if not the "content" of the article, but so be it. I am pleased regardless that you seem to have finally understood the point that I've tried to make over and over again.

By all that you hold dear, please do not reply to this with rants about your personal perceptions of the microeconomics of the music business. All I want to discuss is the nature of the article at hand. If you have anything more to say about your visionary conception of the Music Business, then please, for the love of God, type it up as a reply if you must, but then cut and paste it into Diary entry.

[ Parent ]

Not Marxism. (3.66 / 3) (#89)
by mr strange on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 08:36:22 AM EST

You're trying to dismiss marktaw's views by falsely associating them with something else. It's one of the standard 'below the belt' debating tricks. Why not address the issues instead?

Why this is not a Marxism polemic:

Firstly, and most importantly the author is not calling upon musicians to 'seize the means of production'. Musicians already control the means of production, what they do not control are the means of distribution. New means of distribution could allow musicians much easier access to their markets. A call to bypass the middleman is hardly Marxist - Amazon have made a very nice business from it.

Secondly, there are many aspects of Marxism that are missing from this article. A Marxist would surely attack the concept of copyright ownership. A Marxist would assert that musicians should be paid according to their need, rather than their popularity, skill or artistry.

I could make a case for this article being a capitalist polemic: The author rails against corrupt monopolies who use their entrenched position to suppress a free market in music. He encourages consumers to go and educate themselves about alternatives. This would enable them to act as more efficient economic 'agents' who make purchasing decisions based solely on the relative merits of the competing products.

intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]

Marxism, definitely. (3.00 / 2) (#139)
by RobotSlave on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 11:23:37 PM EST

As I've already said, I'm not using Marxism as a label with which to discredit the author's views. I am using it as a very specific description of the argument being made.

The "means of production" in the Music Industry consists of much more than musical instruments and the ability to perform and compose. The article calls on musicians to do their own marketing, distribution, and promotion. That is currently the primary role of the Record Companies. You may continue to belligerently refuse to understand this if you like, but it will not change the fact that the article is, in fact, calling on musicians to sieze the means of production.

Have you read Marx? Do you understand why I describe the article as Marxist, rather than Communist or Socialist?

As to your "capitalist" argument, do you understand why the word "capital" is used in the word "Capitalism?" The system proposed in the article, in which there would be no division of labor, and each musician would effectively constitute an autonymous Record Label, is anti-capitalist at its very core.

Why do so many people on the left, with anti-corporate sympathies or socialist leanings, get so furious when their Marxist thinking is described as such? Marx was a very interesting writer, and his legacy is worthy of discussion.

Did Joseph McCarthy win, after all?

[ Parent ]

What about oldies stations? (4.00 / 2) (#33)
by Rasman on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:49:20 AM EST

Are the stations that play old songs (50's - 80's) getting paid to play each song?

Is nothing played just because it's good music??

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
I don't get it... (4.00 / 2) (#36)
by KaBewM on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:23:44 AM EST

This is what I know:

1) Broadcasters have to pay royalties on songs played

2) RIAA has to pay broadcasters for airtime

3) businesses that play radio for their customers have to pay for royalties

If the broadcasters pay royaltee fees on an average based on all their listeners, wouldn't businesses customers fall under that same fee? Why should anyone pay royalties for listening to music on the radio besides the broadcasters?

If the first situation is true, then broadcasters owe the RIAA money and make their money strictly on advertising?

If the RIAA pays broadcasters to play their songs, why on Earth would they demand a royalty fee on it.

How things got turned around... (none / 0) (#38)
by xWakawaka on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 10:28:26 AM EST

>>> If the RIAA pays broadcasters to play their songs, why on Earth would they demand a royalty fee on it.

Great question. When things were originally set up many decades ago- the idea went as you describe (that radio stations pay content creators for the priveledge of playing the material and attracting listeners, and radio recoups this expense plus profit by selling advertising time between content).

Then at some point in the 60s, with music radio firmly entrenched in the lives of americans, someone made a novel discovery: That radio airplay sells albums. Suddenly it was apparant that the record companies weren't doing the broadcasters a favor by letting them play their songs, but instead the broadcasters were doing the record companioes a favor by exposing the material to their vast and attentive audiences. And thus was born "Payola".

While broadcasters still pay record companies a certain small royaly (because it is still mandated by law), the record companies actually pay the radio stations far more (at least in cases of new artists) in "promotion" (payola) to get them to play the song in the first place.

As you point out the resulting situation is a weird one, with money flowing both ways, but the real money is in selling 10 million albums, and the way to sell 10 million albums is to have massive airplay, and the way to have massive airplay is to line the pockets of radio, and thus the flow of money between radio and record companies has been largely reversed.

[ Parent ]

Transition to the net (none / 0) (#84)
by KaBewM on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 04:04:39 AM EST

Ok, so what is the deal with the internet broadcasters. Why do they have to only pay royalties and not get anything back in payola? I mean shit, they pay royalties based on actual counted users. None of this estimates crap. Why do internet radio's have to go to a p2p model just to stay in bidness? Shouldn't the RIAA be paying the internet broadcasters same as in radio? What's the difference?

[ Parent ]
Evil IP (and angelic FM) (none / 0) (#102)
by xWakawaka on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 11:39:03 AM EST

Another good question.

The only answer I have is that the RIAA does not understand the internet and is terrified of it. They do not see internet broadcasters as beneficially promoting their music (which is how they see radio boradcasters). I think that they see internet broadcasters as pseudo-pirates and as a mysterious threat to their once stable world, and they'd like nothing more than to put them all out of business- and roll the clock back to 1970.

As you point out- this is silly. The RIAA should be as thrilled by TCP/IP based promotion of their wares as they are by RF/FM promotion of their wares, but they are, quite simply, scared of new things.

[ Parent ]

Hmm. (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by mindstrm on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 10:57:49 AM EST

Radio stations pay performance royalties to the artists. Not to the record companies.

Record companies get money for selling the recordings; that's their product.

They don't get money for radio stations playing their recordings. That goes to the artists/composers/whatever as a performance fee.. because radio play is 'performance', not copying.


[ Parent ]

Copyright Holders, not artists (none / 0) (#116)
by Golden Spray on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 02:49:54 PM EST

The royalty payments go to the Copyright holders. In many cases this is not the artist. I believe that most artists who sign with a "Major" record label do not get the Copyright on the music.



GS

[ Parent ]
Discipline Global Mobile (none / 0) (#126)
by slippytoad on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 08:59:14 PM EST

Is, something or other that Robert Fripp uses as his recording/marketing outlet for King Crimson releases. There is a huge disclaimer on each CD that talks about the indefensible practice of copyrights being turned over to recording companies, and how most of the profits go to the artists under DGM. Which explains why Crimson keeps touring and making money even though I bet less than 1% of all music listeners have the faintest idea of who they are. At any rate, it's kewl, and I am impressed by it and pleased for them.
If I were the al Qaeda people right now I would be planning a lot of attacks in the next few days and weeks -- John "Bring 'em On" McCain
[ Parent ]
Have they closed down? (none / 0) (#130)
by marktaw on Tue Jul 02, 2002 at 10:35:27 AM EST

I was on their site a few months ago and they said they've discontinued DGM except as a tool of King Crimson. Apparently he was losing money through DGM not making money.

DGM was founded at a time where distribution was nearly impossible to get. They didn't do any promotion for you, they just got your record into stores. According to the website I saw (which may be different now), now that we have the Internet, there's no real need for DGM to exist.

I always liked the DGM philosophy too. The artists control the copyright, we just distribute it, which is 'the way it should be.'

[ Parent ]

Not Quite True... (none / 0) (#133)
by MadBrowser on Tue Jul 02, 2002 at 06:07:47 PM EST

That's not really true...

Unless your contract stinks and you give up your publishing, you should get paid for this...

There are certain types of music where the performer rarely writes their own stuff: Country, Pop, etc...

[ Parent ]

Not Quite False... (none / 0) (#136)
by Golden Spray on Tue Jul 02, 2002 at 09:53:35 PM EST

The royalty payments make it to the artist through the copyright holder. According to the article written by Courtney Love, ( who'd have guessed I'd ever be quoting her ) a royalty rate of 20% is unheard of for a new band with a 2 record deal. As for Copyrights the "work for hire" clause in the US Copyright Act ensures the that artists will never get ownership back.

As the artists get well less that 50% of the royalties I think its pretty misleading to say: ( from the post I orignally replied to)


Radio stations pay performance royalties to the artists. Not to the record companies.

GS


[ Parent ]
Royalties... (none / 0) (#138)
by MadBrowser on Wed Jul 03, 2002 at 02:41:06 PM EST

A lot of people don't know that there are several different kind of "royalties".

Songwriting (publishing) is administered by ASCAP/BMI to the person that wrote the song. This is a combined number of records sold, public performances, etc...

The record company pays royalties per album sold to those who recorded it, based on their contract.

Yes, 20% is a  high rate for a new band...

Read the Passman book. All you need to know.

[ Parent ]

another group who sued their label (4.50 / 2) (#37)
by mdouglas on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 10:16:52 AM EST

and won would be metallica. sometime in 94/95 metallica sued electra records successfully, they gained copyright ownership of their catalog. if you look at live shit and everything previous the copyright is listed as electra, everything load and after is copyrighted to e/m ventures. i couldn't find much online documentation of the lawsuit, i don't think most news outlets had websites in 94/95, best i could find was this guys band timeline:

http://spiffy-keen.com/finalfantasy/metallica.html

Most musicians are amateurs (5.00 / 4) (#43)
by bfields on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 11:25:43 AM EST

Extremely few bands get signed. I would put it at less than 1%. I've known enough bands, and can multiply the number of bands I know by different neighborhoods and scenes that I'm not involved in. Less than 5% of signed bands ever sell more than a million records, most of them flop. Die in obscurity.

Die in obscurity? O.K., perhaps so, depending on what you mean by "obscurity", but I think this shows a complete misunderstanding of the life of the average musician.

First of all, I doubt that any significant percentage of professional musicians have ever been signed to a major label, or have even had any interest in doing so. Most of them are playing weddings and small clubs, teaching school band classes and private piano lessons, etc., etc.

I also think that restricting attention to only professional musicians gives a very slanted view of the place of music in our culture. My guess would be that virtually all musicians (including even very skilled musicians) are amateurs, who make their livings quite happily in other ways.

This is one of the (many) reasons why I think the current intellectual property crackdown is so insane. We're taking useful tools out of the hands of the vast majority of musicians in order to give complete control to a system that "supports" only a miniscule (if heavily over-hyped) group of musicians.

--Bruce F.



are amateurs "amateurish"? (3.00 / 1) (#46)
by mikelist on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 12:01:19 PM EST

A musician has a very good ally in the WWW, anyone can put recordings(subject to applicable laws, or original material at will)for review or download. Samples of your material can be used as a a dynamic demo, with changing content on your site. If you are a local musician with no ties to a record label, you won't lose anything by posting your stuff, but you will gain a few new listeners, no matter how bad you really are. If these listeners are local they will likely try to see you when you play locally, and you never know what kind of a bug you might plant in someone's ear at a regional or national level.
My website(currently not up due to cable connection, which doesn't support servers, I'll be upgrading my service shortly)will have free downloads, higher sample rate mp3s for a price(nominal)which will include our full repertoire. We don't plan on making significant money from the site, but believe that the money spent on it will be a good source of independent promotion.

[ Parent ]
grrrrr (4.00 / 1) (#45)
by omegadan on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 11:55:03 AM EST

Few nitpicks:

What does the title have to do with the body of the article?

I am a pinkophile so I dug the article more then other people might, however, if I am not mistaken "You're Just Another Brick In The Wall" is misused horribly :)  "The Wall" is a metaphor for an emotional barrier created to shield the character from the world [I will admit I could be way off here].  A more appropriate section title might hvae been "You are not a beautyfull or unique slowfake." :D

Religion is a gateway psychosis. - Dave Foley

Another good treatise and a plug (4.50 / 2) (#47)
by hardcorejon on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 12:10:05 PM EST

Esteemed musician/producer Steve Albini (of Nirvana/Big Black/Shellac fame) wrote an interesting piece on how bands get screwed by record labels.

I've also got to plug one of my projects: OPENdj which could offer some hope for independent broadcasters in the current environment. OPENdj is a public-access, open source distributed Internet radio system, permitting anyone with a 56k modem to broadcast.

- jonathan.


Timber! (4.50 / 2) (#48)
by spacejack on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 01:30:19 PM EST

album sales are doing just fine despite the Internet and file swapping.

Not really.. they're hurting. At least they're really hurting in Canada. Basically, the reason is very simple: too many damn bands! That and the fact that it costs too damn much to launch a new act. (And of course the fact that just about everyone knows how to get their pop fix for free these days. Hmm, Canada the world's most wired nation, and the CD stores are empty? I get the feeling people feel like chumps walking into those places nowadays.)

Also, Warner and HMV got into a dispute over pricing here in Canada; Warner wanted to raise prices (yeah I know, 'you crazy?'), HMV wants to drop them. Now HMV is refusing to stock new Warner product. With Sams now out of the way, HMV has a monopoly on national retail outlets. Losing HMV is going to cripple Warner's distribution here.

IMHO, what's going to happen is this: CD prices are going to fall to the point where it's simply not worth it to spend the time downloading the music (i.e., between $10-14 -- this is what people are buying now: cheap mass-market CDs at Wal-Mart and other generic retailers, bargain-bin CDs, used CDs, cheap oldies comps). And the labels are going to be a lot more conservative when choosing new acts to launch. The indie labels will go broke, because there's no way they'll be able to afford selling CDs that cheaply. The internet will become the playground for the up & coming artist (if it isn't already), but like today, will provide little return until they sign with a major. The difference being, internet popularity will gradually carry more weight when it comes to signing. Also expect to see more and more corporate-sponsored acts whose revenues won't be tied to CD sales.

As for quality... if I were dictator of earth, my first order of business to save popular music would be to kill off the rock video. After 20 years it's finally taken its toll. Musicians now, in addition to being competent players and performers, need to have video smarts, have magazine cover model looks, marketing savvy, be able to set up sponsorship partnerships, start clothing and other product lines.. it's a wonder any music actually gets produced these days the way the focus has shifted away from the songs themselves. I think the industry today is full of business hacks in drag trying to play it by the numbers.

My second order of business would be to install a RIAA filter into all the P2P apps that would block all their songs. That would be the RIAA's greatest fear. It seems funny to me that people get all worried when they sue companies like AudioGalaxy into doing just that...

The indie labels will go broke... (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by blkros on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:42:52 PM EST

Not really, most of them already sell their stuff in this price range. Examples are Negativeland (Seeland), Henry Rollins, Dischord Records, Beer City, Ani DiFranco (Righteous Babe), Many others. The indies will do alright, they don't have all sorts of fat cats to pay.

[ Parent ]
Well (3.00 / 1) (#56)
by spacejack on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 05:34:40 PM EST

I'm not too sure about the labels you listed, but the only CDs I ever see at $20+ are indie label CDs. The reason I can buy Eminem's latest for less than the cost of a CD 15 years ago is because of the massive quantities involved.

[ Parent ]
You're probably looking at imports. (none / 0) (#63)
by haflinger on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:40:02 PM EST

Imports are insane, I know. I quite often buy World Serpent stuff in the $40+ (CDN) price range.

However, bands who sell their CDRs at shows? That's real indie production, and there $10 is the norm.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

yeah (3.00 / 1) (#76)
by spacejack on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 09:53:49 PM EST

That's true. Local acts might stand to gain. That could be a good thing... especially here :)

[ Parent ]
Costs of making your own CD (5.00 / 2) (#111)
by slippytoad on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 01:23:06 PM EST

16-track digital recorder: $1200 USD

Computer with acceptible sound card, mastering software, and digital inputs: $1200 USD

Microphones: $400 USD (rent for $10-20 a month)

CD's: $.50 USD per

Printing own labels in cheap printer: $3.00 USD per

Jewel case: $.50 USD per

If you're willing to eat the cost of the recorder, or rent one, the price can go down considerably. The computer doesn't seem to be something you can do without, or rent. Mastering software came free with my sound card. YMMV. I've only printed about 20 CD's, but I'm just getting started. I know for a fact I can get silk-screen labeled mass-produced CD duplication for around $2 per unit, as opposed to the $4.00 per I pay now. If I am willing to go in bulk. I can get replicated (glass-mastered) CD's for even less if I can pony up for units of 1000 or more. A CD like you buy in the store only costs about $1.00 to make in real life. Recording equipment is dirt cheap, and after having done it myself I am of the opinion that the difficulty of engineering and mastering is overrated, but that's not a surprise.

At any rate, all real analyses of how much it actually costs to make quality music has been blown violently out of proportion by the labels. Their idea of profit margin is incredible compared to any other line of business that does not involve illegal drugs or slaves, and it is that idea that is causing so much pain to musicians and their livlihood.
If I were the al Qaeda people right now I would be planning a lot of attacks in the next few days and weeks -- John "Bring 'em On" McCain
[ Parent ]

And that's if you use the 16-track. (none / 0) (#121)
by haflinger on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 04:15:48 PM EST

If you don't mind doing overdubbing, not getting to play live... Lots of bands will just record directly to the computer with the decent sound card, and mix on that. Or mix on a 4-track; you can get most drummers reasonably well onto a 4-track.

And if you get out of the proprietary Windoze/Apple world, the computer can be even cheaper, too. Use an open source digital editor... that costs nothing.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

Quality (3.50 / 2) (#125)
by slippytoad on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 08:53:22 PM EST

Yeah, I used a 4-track analog for years. The 16-track pretty much rules, though, if you want to be able to record out of sync, use effects, and do it on your spare time. My 3-piece band hardly ever actually has time to sit down for a six-hour session, so I track the drummer, then my bass and a scratch vocal, then the guitar player, then myself singing . . . The point is, the technology to make a recording that, IMHO, sounds very close to the quality of what's available on the radio, is right in the hands of someone who's willing to bank a couple months' pay and invest in the skills necessary to run the machinery. The RIAA knows this, and with the addition of the internet as a free distribution mechanism, they are terrified. That's my take on it, anyway.
If I were the al Qaeda people right now I would be planning a lot of attacks in the next few days and weeks -- John "Bring 'em On" McCain
[ Parent ]
Mail Order (none / 0) (#132)
by MadBrowser on Tue Jul 02, 2002 at 06:03:03 PM EST

Most of those indies also do mail order... Fat Wreck sells CDs via mailorder for like $10... Almost all of those labels sell CDs to the distribs for between $5 and $7.75...

[ Parent ]
I agree (4.00 / 1) (#82)
by andrewhy on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 01:15:27 AM EST

There are tons more indie labels than there are majors. The collective output by the many thousands of indie labels dwarfs the yearly output of the Big 4.

Because indie labels generally don't give artists such huge advances, even a small run of a release can make a profit. The artists see a profit too; an indie artist that sells a modest number of albums (10,000+) will make more money on an indie than they would if they sold many times that amount on a major.

If "Noise" means uncomfortable sound, then pop music is noise to me -- Masami Akita, aka "Merzbow"
[ Parent ]

Down 5% (3.00 / 1) (#110)
by marktaw on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 12:41:39 PM EST

Record sales were up, but now in this depressed economy they're down 5%, which is normal. I would cite sources, but I don't recall where I read that. Try checking out annual reports form one of the big 6 record companies, they should be available on their websites.

[ Parent ]
This type of article... (3.00 / 1) (#52)
by Smirks on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 04:38:09 PM EST

...would be perfect for InTune.

[ Music Rules ]
Thanks for the heads up (none / 0) (#109)
by marktaw on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 12:40:18 PM EST

I'll check it out.

[ Parent ]
True Story (4.50 / 2) (#59)
by bloodnok on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:05:43 PM EST

A couple of weeks ago, I downloaded some MP3s from The Gathering 2001 CD, a NZ music festival held at new years in Nelson. I really liked one of the songs, but had never heard of the artist (Max Maxwell) or the label he's with (Golden Bay Records). A quick google search pointed me at amplifier.co.nz where I subsequently bought $100 of music. I had no idea of the variety of local music out there for the simple reason that almost every radio station in the country plays the same homogenised vanilla drivel imported from the US.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is before you go out and buy the latest Britney's Tits Lip Sync masterpiece, check out what your little local labels have to offer. Plus you dont often get a handwritten thank-you note from the label when you buy from the big ones :)

Import band from MP3.com (4.00 / 2) (#91)
by Phelan on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 09:08:16 AM EST

I did this same thing when mp3.com was fairly new, with a band called Civil Defiance. It's funny..they didn't even have a distribution channel in the US. They mailed the CD's to a guy they knew, who mailed them to me after I sent him a check.

[ Parent ]
Personal touch (3.00 / 1) (#122)
by bloodnok on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 05:24:53 PM EST

yeah, it's the personal touch that I like.

[ Parent ]
Nothing will change (4.50 / 2) (#66)
by svampa on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 06:54:48 PM EST

If she wins, there are a number of things that should change.

Companies will add a clausule that grants them the right to sell the contract. and musicians will sign it



It is still better (none / 0) (#95)
by samjam on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 10:41:34 AM EST

It's still better, cause all the musicians whose labels were bought can opt out and be independant setting a powerfull and visible trend for new musicians to follow.


[ Parent ]
Free the slaves! (2.00 / 1) (#71)
by Thinkit on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 08:19:16 PM EST

Oh wait, we already have the thierteenth amendment. Guess what? The slaves were freed, and so will information be freed. IP laws make even less sense than slavery--this won't stand around much longer. Trying to protect IP is just like owning slaves before. Just give your music away and charge for live shows--while this ridiculous concept of money still exists.

Recordings != Information (2.00 / 2) (#80)
by ovie on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 12:19:13 AM EST

I think you confuse information with creative work. When I write and record a song, not only does it take a significant amount of my own time (which in any other job I would be paid for), but it costs a significant amount in terms of equipment and production fees (printing, media, distribution). Yes, even online distribution costs, either in terms of money for bandwidth, or giving up of rights when distributing via a 3rd party. When I sell a record, i'm not selling you my intellectual property, i'm selling you the recording for a fraction of the price it cost me to produce.

Now, if you want to know the chords or the lyrics or be able to cover my song, get in touch, maybe we can come to an agreement, THAT is my intellectual property and I don't think i'd have a problem with letting you use it free of charge, provided you do the same (just like the GPL).

I'll also charge a small sum for live shows, because thats once again taking up my time and costing me money, so it's my right to recoup that.

I hope you understand that a recording of a song is not information and an artist rightfully should have the right to decide who gets access to it and at what price.

[ Parent ]

1 != 1 (none / 0) (#120)
by Thinkit on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 03:38:28 PM EST

Do I even need to say anything?

[ Parent ]
A word about payola (5.00 / 2) (#78)
by HypoLuxa on Sun Jun 30, 2002 at 10:29:03 PM EST

The interesting thing is, this independent promotion process started innocently. I can't be everywhere, so I pay someone to promote my song to radio stations.

Payola became a scandal with Alan Freed, American Bandstand, and pretty much every popular radio DJ in the US in the 50s/60s. Contrary to your statement, "independent promotion" did not start innocently to alleviate the workload on record labels. After the payola scandal broke, the US Congress (or possibly just the FCC, it escapes me right now) made it illegal to pay to have a song played unless there is a clear announcement that it has been paid for. "Indies" rose up to act as the middleman between the record label and the radio station to sanitize the act of pay for play, neatly sidestepping the regulations.

While usually useless, Salon, has written several articles about payola that give a good history and current picture of how it is affecting radio airplay.

--
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons.
- Leonard Cohen

eh.. cheese. (2.33 / 9) (#83)
by nathan1029 on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 02:37:06 AM EST

Fuck all you music should be free, hippy fuckers, go get a job and pay for a fucking cd.

I hate the record industry, and I love .MP3s.

How contridicting is this statement? Very.

The recording industry is not place for anything remotely artistic, that's obvious, it's a business, a big business.

I hate/love the business.

More contridicting bile; why?!

I love music, but hate business, HOW CAN THIS BE?

Simple: Music shouldn't be free, and the music industry should be responsible for this pathetic, vomit-inducing shit the it force-feeds the public.

Ever been to Japan? Holy shit, I love Japan. In Japan, someone like Britney Spears is called an ''idol.'' What a shitty translation; do you know what most Japanese people think of an "idol?"
They're talentless people for our amusement, they're not musicians, they're entertainers. Quirky, huh?

American's love music, we ''feel'' for music, it's not just entertainment, it's a feeling, an emotion that we identify ourselves with. People identify themselves as jazzers, ravers, metal-heads, punks, et cetera. All forms of MUSIC.
We are emotionally attached to what we listen to beyond this pathetic debate over the idea of paying for music. If it something we hold dear, care about, and form an emotional bond too, we are very cynical and upset about having to pay for it, we don't pay for love do we--whoah, back up there, sicko, i didn't say sex.

We didn't pay our parents to love us, did we? Probably not, Did we pay our dogs to form a bond with us? Nope, probably not, but we paid for the fuckers, that's for sure.

This whole debacle on the music industry debate is exactly what the music industry NEEDS.

Any publicity is good publicity, right?

I hate the gut-wretching, vomit-inducing, brain-freezing SHIT that is produced in massive quantities today, it's putrid shit.

But people love it!

The American public eats up backstreet boys, nsync, green day, nirvana, all of those bands. They struck an emotional chord, THEY DID SOMETHING.

So we copy them--not mp3s, but bands come out who are inspired by them, who look up to them, and we have a wave of bands who sound like them, and the same thing happens, it's a perpetual cycle of bullshit, and the music industry loves it.

I mean fucking shit, who would've guessed BOY BANDS WOULD BE BACK?! I THOUGHT NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK WERE DEAD, FOREVER.

Fuck no, they're back.

WHY?#@!. WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE?

We are: We're pathetic, uneducated, grabasstic pieces of amphibian shit. We do this to ourselves; we promote stupidity, we accept ignorance and the mundane.

I once went to Japan, and there was a worker who was doing a very bad job, he couldn't take a single order correctly, it was embarassing to everyone else who worked there; they fired his ass, IN PUBLIC, WHERE EVERYONE COULD SEE. They didn't do it harshly, or mean, his boss said: "you're not cut out for this type of work, I think you need to find elsewhere to work" he apologized to the boy, the boy apologized to everyone in the fucking restruant, and left.

IN WAS HIS FIRST DAY, HOW COME. WE. AREN'T. FIRING. FUCKERS. LIKE. THIS. AND. GETTING. RID. OF. THESE. PROBLEMS?

Because then 50% of our great melting pot of a country would be on welfare..

What does this mean?

SHUT UP.

The RIAA Will NEVER, EVER, EVER Stop music from being traded, a new way, a new form, a new idea, it will ALWAYS be traded, because music isn't just what's recorded.

I have perfect pitch, I can remember a song, and write the notes down after one listen, does that mean I'm a walking copyright infringement? You bet it does.

The RIAA needs to take me to court with the DMCA, baby.

So what does this rant mean, DUDE?!

It means nothing, it means everything.

Don't boycott anything, don't try and magically change the way our culture works, it won't happen, it takes time, it takes TIME. The whole debacle, the whole idea, it's new..

Whoaaah, son, but isn't everyone afraid of something they don't understand or something that's new and ''unusual.''

You bet your sweet ass, they are.

The RIAA is scared, I'm scared, everyone is scared about something.

RIAA is scared they're gonna lose money.

I'm scared I won't get new music.

Look at it this way; the RIAA is a business, and their goal is to make money, MASSIVE, TONS, COPIUS AMOUNTS OF GANJA, er, money.

Do you honestly think they will do anything to jeopardize their monoply?! NO.

They will raise CD Prices, Jack up prices, sue people, until people just can't afford to pay for it any more, then when that happens..

WHOAH, WAIT, YOU MEAN I CAN COPY MY OWN CD TO MY OWN MP3 DEVICE, AND I'M NOT REALLY A THEIF ANYMORE BIG MUSIC COMPANY?!

Time is a great teacher, but it kills all of it's pupils--I forgot where I heard this, but it's true.

The RIAA needs time, time to understand, absorb, and realize, that like with VHS, and EVERY OTHER FUCKING FORMAT that's ever been created, you have to find the niche, the market, and do it right.

I'm not saying sit on your ass and do nothing, but I'm also saying, don't act stupid; this isn't the civil rights movement with Martin Luther, this isn't the civil war, or anything remotely as important..

This is us wanting to be lazy people and get things for free, and we're trying to find a way..

and i'm all for it..

make the industry liable for the bile inducing shit it put's out..

it blames US for the records and such that so and so band doesn't sale because we're all trading .mp3s

Hey man--fuck you, I've heard enough of this.. It sounds just like.. this.. and this.. and this..

stop it all..

Don't boycott the industry.. they give is what millions of people love.. music..

MUSIC.. Whoah, hippy fucker.

Yeah, I know.

music.

Well what the fuck am I supposed to do, jagoff?

shrug.

tell courtney love to get off the drugs, she's an idiot, and I don't want her to be the representitive of ''music-should-be-free.''

yeah, that's what we need.. a drug-addict turbo-slut hording the lost nirvana music waiting for a better deal and telling us music should be free!!!

fuck off.

You know what would be cool?

Some cheese, with holes.

I think that's mozerlla.. Yeah..

I'm gonna go eat some now..

and listen to my cds.. that the evil record industry made..

then i'm gonna listen to some .mp3s...

that some evil computer nerds made..

and i'm just gonna be evil..

yeah, baby.. yeah..

Wow (none / 0) (#85)
by Herring on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 04:17:53 AM EST

When you sober up and read that, you're going to feel really strange.


Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
[ Parent ]
fight club (none / 0) (#128)
by anotherbadassmf on Tue Jul 02, 2002 at 01:12:05 AM EST

That sounded like a passage outta fight club ...

.. a completely schizo rant that made some good points.

[ Parent ]

The thing about "open letters" (3.50 / 4) (#88)
by Rogerborg on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 06:10:06 AM EST

Is that they're usually written by people with a little cachet. Courtney Love has already covered all of your points, and she's got first hand experience. You're some guy relaying third party anecdotes.

Want to explain why you think your repitition of these same old points is going to be the cataclyst that sparks the revolution?


"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs

I'm not trying to start a revolution (none / 0) (#108)
by marktaw on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 12:37:38 PM EST

Just rattle a few cages. I'm not interested in changing the system, I don't think that it can be changed - big business has a lot more money, lawyers, time, etc. on their hands than I do, and people aren't going to stop dreaming just because I tell them to.

I write this because the musicians who read this and area ready for it will see, and begin to seek out the truth of their situation, rather than some rosy colored version fed to them by the corporat world.

Just a small dose of reality.

[ Parent ]

Are you a musician, marktaw? (4.00 / 3) (#90)
by lb008d on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 09:07:59 AM EST

It will change your life. Think about it. This is exactly how musicians view a record contract. It's a one in a million chance, and it will change your life.

Exactly how many professional musicians do you know - people who make some amount of money playing music? Have you asked them this very question?

I am a professional who plays in the orchestra in Spokane, WA. Over the past 12 years of my career, I've met a lot of professional instrumental musicians at school, festivals and auditions. None of the professionals I met had that view. Perhaps you ought to do a little more reasearch before putting words into our mouths.

This post has it right on - I doubt that any significant percentage of professional musicians have ever been signed to a major label, or have even had any interest in doing so. Most of them are playing weddings and small clubs, teaching school band classes and private piano lessons, etc. That is how the vast majority of musicians make a living - gigging and teaching.

just a moment. (4.00 / 1) (#92)
by ph0rk on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 10:29:38 AM EST

gig by gig musicians, a jazz bassist for example, can subsist just fine without a 'contract'.

rock bands can't.  I believe many of the comments in the article are mainly pertianing to rock musicians, and i think you know that.

(the comment about art should have been your first clue).
[ f o r k . s c h i z o i d . c o m ]
[ Parent ]

Yeah but (4.00 / 1) (#97)
by lb008d on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 10:51:08 AM EST

"Rock musicians" are a small portion of those who are professionals in this country.

Instead of using the all-encompassing "musicians" perhaps people ought to use "pop musicians who make a living soley through touring and recording" or simply "mass-market musicians".

And as for rock bands - there are more bands out gigging each weekend then are recording for large studios. Have you never been to a bar?

[ Parent ]

Maybe in urban area's (none / 0) (#99)
by yohahn on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 11:13:00 AM EST

But how many artists are successfully working in rural area's? How many of those artists have a "day job" How many are really making it?

Other than subsisting on wedding gigs, not many bands can make it full time.

There was a time, where HIGH SCHOOL KIDS could make money singing in bars on the weekends. Choir was a place that you learned a skill that could easily provide you with a part time job.

Enter the record. All that goes away, and the star system takes steps forward to kill even more potential musicians.

[ Parent ]

Is it the recording industry's fault? (none / 0) (#101)
by lb008d on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 11:24:34 AM EST

There was a time, where HIGH SCHOOL KIDS could make money singing in bars on the weekends. Choir was a place that you learned a skill that could easily provide you with a part time job.

Compare this with music education today, which is virtually nonexistent. Kids aren't required to have any knowledge of music performance.

Combine this with the masses' lack of appreciation for live music and you've seriously limited the earning potential for reasonably skilled musicians.

[ Parent ]

But how did it get this way? (none / 0) (#104)
by yohahn on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 12:03:31 PM EST

Compare this with music education today, which is virtually nonexistent. Kids aren't required to have any knowledge of music performance.

Where I grew up, this wasn't a problem in the grade schools, it was only in high school where it was a problem. This seems to happen with respect to ballroom dancing as well. I think people need a good dose of that.

I also note you make one of the mistakes that alot of music education people do. You forget completely about writing. Imagine what english classes would be like if people would only read, and never write. Writing music is even MORE ignored that just preformance. If your not doing both, you're missing half the art. (this said as a person who is pissed he didn't get taught more about composition when he was young).

And don't get me goign on the quality of music texts aimed at adults... BORING and quite condecending/Aristocratic.

Combine this with the masses' lack of appreciation for live music and you've seriously limited the earning potential for reasonably skilled musicians.

While teaching people 22 and under (students) is good, you are completely ignoring the majority of people. There is a whole nation of potential fans and artists.

Overall, I do blame the recording industry for this. They took while not giving back. They needed to keep people doing music even if the small jobs were going away to record players. More donations to school programs and perhaps a more distributed system where there would be more likelyhood of "area stars" would have been helpful.

Much like the "star system" they have made their money without making sure to keep their fields fertile. The irony is that if they had, it just would have made them look better! Greed is detramental.

The recording industry has reaped (raped?) the fields too many times without replenishing the nutrients and our culture is like dust because of it.

[ Parent ]

Ochestra's are already on a differant system (4.00 / 1) (#94)
by yohahn on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 10:39:23 AM EST

Most orchestra's are on a differant system anyway. They are no longer profitable by themselves and have become non-profit orgs, subsisting on public grants (read tax dollars), private grants, and anything they can think of.

Check out the book Who Killed Classical Music to understand how classical music is already a bust, and how we got here.

For all of the problems the rock industry has, at least they make money. Most classical music sadly exists on welfare.

[ Parent ]

Wrong (4.00 / 1) (#96)
by lb008d on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 10:47:55 AM EST

They are no longer profitable by themselves and have become non-profit orgs, subsisting on public grants (read tax dollars), private grants, and anything they can think of.

My orchestra gets 2% of its income from what you would consider "welfare" (the government). 47% is from ticket sales, and the rest comes from individual and business support. Orchestras have never been a big profit maker anyway.

After skimming that book's overview it doesn't appear that it addresses the biggest problem facing "art" music today - that of an uneducated populace. People aren't educated in music - how to read and perform it, and the recording companies capitalize on this by providing the musical equivalent of a TV dinner.

[ Parent ]

READ MORE THAN THE OVERVIEW (none / 0) (#98)
by yohahn on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 11:07:58 AM EST

Your orchestra may be profitable, but this is not representative of the industry (I site the book to support my supposition).

As for the un-educated masses, how did this occur?

Mostly it has to do with a pushing of "modern" music and a lack of acknoledgement of a younger generation.

Ticket prices are too high for people to become educated and orchestras have been providing too few oppertunities to change that (this is changing fortunately). To educate people requires a certain amout of cheap tickets (to get them listening) and a certain amount of classes and seminars to "culture the people". Look what it's done for wine and micro-breweries.

Why are the ticket prices to high? It's because of the star system. With the advent of "stars" getting high pay by singing at the intermission of soccer games and the like, they discovered that they could take much more than they were getting.

It used to be that a "star" preforming with an orchestra would get perhaps 10% higher that the higest paid member of the orchestra. Now, stars are paid amounts more on par with the salary of the entire orchestra, together.

Now orchestras are in a bind. How do we pay for the "stars" we need to get audiences to come and still pay for the "players" that make our orchestra run? Orchestras have "gone out of business" because they haven't been able to solve this problem, and it is the result of the "greed" of the stars

Strangely enough, these same artists tend to be dismayed at the dwindling number of orchestras they can preform with. They are having to take more "non-artists" like gigs back at those sporting event intermissions and the like (thank you, three tenors).

As a teaser to get you interested in the book (I recommend it), the problem somewhat goes all the way back to P.T. Barnum, believe it or not (to make it more interesting, it has to do with opera).

Thanks be to artists like Yo-Yo Ma who see the value of small orchestras and have been working to change this cycle.

Your orchestra may be profitable, but it is not the trend.

[ Parent ]

Education (1.00 / 1) (#100)
by lb008d on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 11:21:36 AM EST

My orchestra breaks even every season. Not profitable, but not going under either.

As for the un-educated masses, how did this occur?

Mostly it has to do with a pushing of "modern" music

Look at any orchestra's schedule and see how many pieces they perform are written post 1920. Very very few.

I'd say the biggest factor is lack of music education in public schools. Where in other parts of the ("western") world students must have a basic proficiency in music, there is no analogue here in America. This combined with mass-marketing has made it difficult for people to discern and appreciate well-performed and well-written music. Note that I'm not saying (music != "classical music") == bad.

Ticket prices are too high for people to become educated and orchestras have been providing too few oppertunities to change that

Oh really? The lowest adult priced seats for my orchestra are $15 each, and there are "student rush" tickets available for students that cost $6.50 - less than a movie here.

You are correct that "high profile" artists are part of the problem, and that some are trying to correct it by performing for wages that small orchestras can afford, however it's a small part compared to the dismal state of music education and marketing in this country.

[ Parent ]

Finding middle Ground (none / 0) (#103)
by yohahn on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 11:47:24 AM EST

My orchestra breaks even every season. Not profitable, but not going under either.

...and with the 10% from government you mentioned in an earlier post, what you are saying is that you are actually losing money without tax dollars.

At least the rock industry easily makes money, if only for big artists.

Look at any orchestra's schedule and see how many pieces they perform are written post 1920. Very very few.

Not true, based on my experience with the Chicago symphonie. In an attempt to "educate" people about modern music they always slip in something pretty dissonant(sp?). I've seen this pattern in smaller orchestras as well. Get the people on to Older more harmonious music first, and MAYBE you'll get them into atonal music later.

I'd say the biggest factor is lack of music education in public schools. Where in other parts of the ("western") world students must have a basic proficiency in music, there is no analogue here in America. This combined with mass-marketing has made it difficult for people to discern and appreciate well-performed and well-written music. Note that I'm not saying (music != "classical music") == bad.

This is the middle ground that I'm refering to in the subject. I completly agree that music eduation is at a sad state. Where schools require students to try art,industrial arts,math, and english, very few require students to "try" music.

Even where music programs exists, orchestras frequently get the boot. Since bands do "pep band" and "marching bands" which help out sporting events, they get left in. I remember in high school having the orchestra playing at a music educators conference and being introduced as the "string band".

Yes, traditional music education is a part of the problem.

Ticket prices are too high for people to become educated and orchestras have been providing too few oppertunities to change that Oh really? The lowest adult priced seats for my orchestra are $15 each, and there are "student rush" tickets available for students that cost $6.50 - less than a movie here.

First off, students frequently don't know about "rush" tickets. Secondly $15 is too much to intruduce people to music, compare to a 5$ cover at your local bar, for one of the "better" local acts. Thirdly, students are a minority, you need to have appealing rates for the MASSES, regular people.

You are correct that "high profile" artists are part of the problem, and that some are trying to correct it by performing for wages that small orchestras can afford, however it's a small part compared to the dismal state of music education and marketing in this country.

We do agree on some things. You obviously grew up in an area with very bad music eduation programs. Mine wasn't so bad, but I also had a music teacher as a mom.

I think that education is only part of the problem, exposure for the "regular joe" is the other problem (which means changing some things that I'm not sure that classical musicians are ready to take on).

I think that the culture of classical music also is a large part of the problem, but I imagine you don't agree with that concept.

[ Parent ]

Did you read my previous post? (none / 0) (#105)
by lb008d on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 12:11:57 PM EST

with the 10% from government you mentioned in an earlier post, what you are saying is that you are actually losing money without tax dollars

It was 2%, a figure easily made up with donors should the need arise. We have kept from becoming dependent on government sources due to the fact that they won't be around forever.

As for your criticism of the Chicago Symphony's season, I count about 10 pieces out of many that could be "dissonant" or "modern" from their 2002-2003 season.

[ Parent ]

Read it but remembed wrong... 10% is not 2% but (none / 0) (#106)
by yohahn on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 12:28:20 PM EST

It was 2%, a figure easily made up with donors should the need arise.

My apologies.. I remembered the number wrong (if i hadn't read the post I wouldn't have known you had quoted a number).

And how long could the doners keep it up. That's just it. Once upon a time orchestras didn't require "doners". If your follwing shinks further, how much fundraising could you do?

On the speculative side.. what's your concert hall like? Is it a privately held building? Publicly funded? I think in many cases, it is.

Rock concert halls are frequently government funded, but also get more use by profitable entertainment (read sports). Wanna have your concerts in a stadium?

We have kept from becoming dependent on government sources due to the fact that they won't be around forever.

That explains why, but dosen't explain how, and dosen't explain how all orchestras can do this.

As for your criticism of the Chicago Symphony's season, I count about 10 pieces out of many that could be "dissonant" or "modern" from their 2002-2003 season.

I don't have time to go look. Perhaps our definitions differ.

My experience is based on practical experience. Every time I've taken somebody new to the orchestra to get them some exposure, it's usually just go when we can (it's a bit of a trip from out in the western burbs..). Every time, the second half of the concert has some piece that I can hardly defend afterwards to a new listener.

This is not just my experience with young people. My future father in law just dosen't appreciate this kind of sound, and I cannot sway him. (his experience is at the Elgin Symphonie Orchestra, where he has a subscription.)

[ Parent ]

Blame Sonny Bono (none / 0) (#124)
by pin0cchio on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 08:18:55 PM EST

Look at any orchestra's schedule and see how many pieces they perform are written post 1920. Very very few.

That's because the copyright cutoff date in the United States of America is January 1, 1923. A musical work published before that date is in the public domain. On or after that date, and it's under a perpetual copyright because of repeated term extensions. Some composers' estates even restrict who may perform a piece at all; a number of George Gershwin's pieces are available only to performers of pure African descent.


lj65
[ Parent ]
Yes I Am (4.50 / 2) (#107)
by marktaw on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 12:34:14 PM EST

I don't disagree with anything you say. Professional musicians, however, are not the norm.

I am a musician, and I have a lot of respect for people who view their skills as skills rather than as talent. Who make money using their skills rather than whine about the world not giving them a living simply because they exist.

The truly professional musician, the type I mentioned who has some business acument, is rare. Much rarer than you imply, though since you tend to run in those circles, your world has a different composition from mine.

For every orchestral musician and session musician there are dozens of kids running around trying to land a recording contract. On any given night how many musicians are playing in a wedding band, or orchestra, or session, or late night tv show vs. kids at clubs like CBGB's making noise and hoping to get signed.

For those of you who have your head screwed on straight, I applaud you. For the rest of you, I write articles like this to help you see the reality of your situation.

[ Parent ]

This is true (5.00 / 1) (#113)
by Fon2d2 on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 02:04:00 PM EST

Sometimes I wonder about my friends and relatives that join bands. My cousin has started his own band and has been able to get some decent venues here in the cities. But it's all so much work and so much bullshit. He's already had to drop two guys who were basically stoners that wouldn't practice if their lives depended on it. It's hard to find good band members. It's harder still to get good gigs. Often times you're not getting paid, and you're not on until 11:00 or midnight. And my cousin has to work at 7:00. It's very demanding, on your time, on your wallet, and on your psyche. This is how the record industry works. It is like this for everybody. And as long as it's like this there will always be plenty of people looking for the escapist dream of the record contract.

[ Parent ]
I hate the radio (4.00 / 1) (#112)
by Fon2d2 on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 01:54:54 PM EST

Every time I get into my car I go through the daunting to task of what to listen to. I've got approximately 10 or 11 stations to choose from, covering everything from Classical to Rock to Hip Hop. There's more, sure, if you want to diddle around with more presets and knob jocking while you drive, but that's not the main problem. The main problem is I'm never satisfied. When the Eagles come on all I think is "oh God, not again." When Moby comes on I can't get over the lameness of his latest single. When a new artist comes I almost always think it sucks and change the channel. And so it goes throughout the radio dial, all the way to work, every day. But that's as good as it's going to get, and your "solution" isn't going to do a damn thing. Why? Because radio is the only way bands get known. Buy a guitar? Are you for real? Who doesn't already own a guitar? Who hasn't already started a band or know somebody who has? There are way too many bands already and it only takes a miniscule fraction to glut the record industries needs. But regardless of all that, I still don't want to spend my time digging around on the internet for unsigned bands or pay some cover charge to hear Local Band #2483 strum through the same tired old routines. Thing is, I've found something better. You see, I play piano. So I get daily doses of Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, and Bach. And its all under my control and to my discretion. Furthermore, it is much more satisfying than recorded music, and oddly enough, despite all the practising, feels less repetitive. None of that, however, is going to make a difference for Rock Star Wannabe Escapists who roll out of bed at noon to skip class and spend the day with their stoner buddies. And neither is it going to make a difference for all the non-musicians who pretty much rely on the radio to introduce them to new music. Kawai, or possibly Boston, is about to make more money off of me than all the major record labels ever have or ever will.

I don't listen to radio but... (none / 0) (#142)
by adamrice on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 01:56:07 PM EST

I still get exposed to new music. - Recommendations from friends. - Recommendations from amazon.com (yes, I am a tool) - Internet radio (while it lasts). OK, just because *I* find out about new music this way doesn't mean enough people will for a band to succeed, but I think the whole point of the article was that success in the music business is illusory.

[ Parent ]
Paid in Fame (5.00 / 1) (#114)
by valency on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 02:09:49 PM EST

Look, this is very simple. The artist gives the record company music, the record company gives the artist fame.

How many bands have become a household name without having been on VH-1 or MTV, without having been a beneficiary of payola or mass marketing?

The simple fact is that most artists desperately crave fame on that level, and only a highly-centralized, mass-marketed music industry can produce that sort of fame. As long as artists demand superfame, an industry will arise to give it to them, and will succeed in stealing talent from any other label that is incapable of producing superfame.

Money actually has very little to do with any of this.

---
If you disagree, and somebody has already posted the exact rebuttal that you would use: moderate, don't post.

Exactly! (none / 0) (#117)
by marktaw on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 03:06:25 PM EST

I agree with every word you said.

[ Parent ]
perhaps for now... (none / 0) (#147)
by tbc on Sat Aug 24, 2002 at 01:52:22 AM EST

But in our lifetime I expect an artist to emerge who becomes a household name without a contract. Janis Ian will be credited with paving the way for him or her.

The music industry may always dominate over the Janis Ians in the world, just like Microflaccid may always dominate Linux. But it's a big world and markets are growing. Two billion people live in China and India. Imagine a future day when they all have 'net access. (Not in the next ten years, though. :-)

There's room for more than one business model.


[ Parent ]

nofx (4.00 / 1) (#119)
by miguel on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 03:23:54 PM EST

you don't have to sell your soul to have fun being a band. Like these guys.

I want you to be free

Yes! (none / 0) (#131)
by MadBrowser on Tue Jul 02, 2002 at 05:58:54 PM EST

NOFX have done a great job not whoring themselves out too much... And they sell tons of records... I might be a little biased. We did that Web site... Still, they are rad!

[ Parent ]
No more LPFM application filing windows (5.00 / 2) (#123)
by pin0cchio on Mon Jul 01, 2002 at 07:38:13 PM EST

Another way to fight back is to start low powered radio stations.

*LPFM is dying. In the United States, you need a license from the Federal Communications Commission (USA counterpart to Canada's CRTC) to run a low-power FM radio station. According to the FCC's low-power FM page, "No new application filing window periods or dates have been established" in over a year. The language "We cannot advise as to when the next application filing window might be" smells suspiciously like "We cannot guarantee that there will ever be a next application filing window."

The FCC recently changed it's ruling on this allowing more low powered stations.

No, the courts did. The courts ruled that the FCC could not refuse an LPFM license just because an applicant had once operated a pirate station in the distant past.

Within a month you can learn a handful of chords and play some of your favorite songs.

And then watch an ASCAP/BMI spy pop up: "Oops, I accidentally heard your performance, and because I'm not part of your family, I guess that was a public performance of a copyrighted work, go directly to jail, do not pass go, we collect $150,000 in statutory damages even though we weren't actually damaged." Heck, it's a Federal crime to sing "Happy Birthday to You" (first published in 1925) in public because the Warner-Chappell division of AOL owns the song, and the copyright term keeps getting extended every 20 years.


lj65
MP3.com, who you are really supporting? (4.00 / 1) (#129)
by edAqa on Tue Jul 02, 2002 at 03:09:52 AM EST

MP3.com is owned by Vivendi Universal.  You will find this outlet, as well as many other distributors, side-labels, and organizations are owned or closely affiliated with major labels.

You are right to try and find new avenues to make more money as an artist, but given how much influence the major labels have, you'll end up dealing with them one way or another.
-- edA-qa

Overgeneralization (5.00 / 1) (#134)
by chris mahan on Tue Jul 02, 2002 at 07:06:52 PM EST

It's a very complex problem.

It has no simple solution.

It may not have a solution at all.

Let's not overgeneralize. Please.

I would say that to dissert on the state of the music industry and its impact on society in the 20th century, we're looking at at least one thousand pages of well-written, well-researched, and well-organized material. At a minimum.

Just as it is impossible to capture the complexities of WWII or the vietnam war in a single or even a few books, it is impossible to "fit" music in a post on any online forum.

I would only add my favorite quote when I suddenly "need"  something: "I am a victim of marketing."

[read Chapterhouse Dune by Frank Herbert]


Methinks you missed the point... (3.00 / 1) (#135)
by marktaw on Tue Jul 02, 2002 at 09:06:50 PM EST

... I'm not trying to change the world. Just plant seeds in a few people.

[ Parent ]
Wrong footing, I guess... (3.00 / 1) (#141)
by vyruss on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 08:35:20 AM EST

This article does explain what's wrong with the music industry, but not how to "take it down".

  • PRINT CHR$(147)

Janis Ian said this better, and with experience (5.00 / 1) (#143)
by epeus on Thu Jul 04, 2002 at 05:53:08 PM EST

http://www.janisian.com/article-internet_debacle.html

The Next RIAA Target : Joe Blow (4.00 / 1) (#144)
by marktaw on Fri Jul 05, 2002 at 12:40:36 PM EST

It seems the RIAA wants to pursue a new target: The 10% of the people who provide 90% of the content for P2P networks. The full story is here.

How to Take Down the Music Industry < er .. why (3.00 / 1) (#146)
by dvchaos on Sat Jul 27, 2002 at 08:19:07 AM EST

Why sir would you want to "Take down the music industry" ? I am confused. if you managed that successfully, their would be no more music left for you to pirate. if you keep pirating music, their is no money for the record labels. no money for the record labels = no more music. it's that simple.

--
RAR.to - anonymous proxy server!
I have seen the future and you don't get it.... (none / 0) (#148)
by jester69 on Thu Sep 26, 2002 at 09:12:54 AM EST

Phish, Grateful dead, & other Jam Bands...

Love the music or hate it, their business model is genius 100%

Play many concerts, that is your main income, no payola no radio play, allow your fans to tape the concerts & freely trade those tapes.

There is PLENY of money to be made by touring, its just work, you have to be a talented enough musician to play live and you cant sit on the porch eating bonbons while the checks roll in.

Dont think it will work? phish have only had 1 semi hit, their music is never on the radio becasue they dont pay "promoters" and yet they had the biggest 2k NYE party in the us, 50k+ people all drove to a swamp in florida to see them play for 3 days.

So, I would love to "take down the music industry" if what we are left with are bands that allow you to bring a tape recorder to the concert and still get rich themselves.

Peas,

Jester
Its a lemming thing, Jeep owners would understand.
[ Parent ]

How to Take Down the Music Industry | 148 comments (139 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
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