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How the record industry got it so wrong (and how their mistakes point to your Glorious Musical Futur

And with rap, techno and indie going mainstream in the 80's and 90's, pretty much everywhere else. Thankfully the independence afforded by the internet as a distribution mechanism lowers the barriers to entry. Sadly these execs are moving into the gaming industry now, and we get the same one-size-fits-all filler from them where there was innovation and creativity before. And their rear-guard fight in music, movies and elsewhere will see a continuing increase in the scope of IP law, and the state's complicity in enforcing it.

Finally, while musicians might be doing it tougher, that's broadly the same for many industries in light of the increased competition arising from having more people, in a more global market. Great article, Mr Kohler. Of course the threshhold question is whether rock music is really a dead art form now.

Let's face it, what we get now are just endless rehashes of what has gone before. When the manner in which rock music is delivered to the buyers is so diffuse, there is no sense of a united youth culture or zeitgeist. This is a good thing, because it promotes diversity of thought.

WHo cares if a few musicians who once made large sums now do not? It should always be about live performance anyway. Music is one of the few things that can move me to tears of joy. I'm happy for thom yorke to be rich for having done what he's done so far - Hail to the Thief alone is worth that. But I can't help pointing out that he suddenly seems to up walking on his hind legs. I dunno, if you're still talking about Spotify and iTunes, it seems to me about as relevant as debating the merits of VHS and Beta. I don't bother with either.

Today I find nearly all my new music via sites like Bandcamp. Probably for the same reason that, back in the 80s, I used to scour tiny import shops rather than bother with the chart pap hawked by the big retailers. Plus, the artist gets a bigger cut: So, plus ca change, plust c'est la meme chose: The music industry no longer rich for self serving rants? No ongoing royalties for work they did ages ago to live in converted rock and roll castles in the rolling hills?

Comments (80)

Tosed my depressing self loathing radio head cd's years ago. Thanks Alan for demystifying what for many of us is unknown territory. Your ability to inform, in layman's terms, the workings and complexities of the financial world, is greatly appreciated.

Your enthusiasm for the world of finance knows no bounds. Who knew you could be so hip? It's very much not the same for music and books and film or games. DVD sales are still very strong or even stronger than ever. In music artists are often much better off self-publishing whether digitally or on CD. And live tours are a good option. With books the publisher adds a LOT of value in most cases. And with games there are now a lot of direct download services replacing normal retail for the most part.

One thing in common is that if you make consumers wait or jump through too many hoops they will often go for illegal options. The largest factor in reducing illegal downloads has been affordable and flexible legal alternatives. A lot of artists even make money just putting their music or product out as 'pay what you like' and still make money. There is still an ongoing battle between Publishers mostly owned by hollywood and Artists and Customers.

Hollywood wants lots of DRM and control over everything and essentially leasing content to users. Users want reasonable prices, to but in Australia at same time or soon after the rest of world and to actually own the things they buy. As the old dinosaurs give way to new solutions Customers and Artists are starting to get more of what they want but its still a long way to go. This article makes the usual mistake of conflating two separate things. The music industry is essentially unchanged: But there's no longer much role for the recording industry that used to be required to manufacture and distribute records or CDs.

Likewise books no longer require publishing houses and journalism no longer requires newspapers. All you're chronicling is the death of old mass production industries that are being superseded ironically by a return to something much more like the markets that preceded the Industrial Revolution. Zettabytes of music and movies? Musicians need to do what Spotify themselves are doing; streaming their own catalogue and taking charge.

The same "digital revolution" that has doomed the traditional music industry also has the power to take down streaming services such as Spotify. They key is advertising and getting their music known to the masses. Spotify can be helpful for that. Or perhaps even a new form of search engine that knows about Music, let's call him Watson..

As far as pop music goes, it is so awful now I wish all 'artists' since the mid 90's would go broke and give up. Now it is overproduced cynical catchy techno-garbage and rap. No grunt or depth. Little genuine creativity or talent, and its all really to support video clips of thugs and poptart clones, both who are obsessed with clubbing and wobbling bums.

Just stupid and gross. I can't culturally relate to it either. Its utterly disposable; there will be no classics from the last years - supermarket music supports this. Indie stuff is pretentious crap for the types who vote green. I like to pretend it is always Yep, we're officially old, anti. What happened to a band's typical sound? Two chords from The Edge's guitar and you know it's U2, no-one ever sang harmonies like Queen and you recognize an Angus Young riff with broccoli in your ears.

Lyrics are a lost art form. He's not exactly my cup of tea but Eminem is a poet compared to the usual chart pap. Instant success shows, like X factor, Idol and The Voice have a lot to answer for. They unearthed some real talent but the way the contestants are being turned into singing slaves after these shows is appalling. The other day my kids heard Springsteens "Dancing in the dark" on the radio. I told them that this song is almost 30 years old.

One Direction went to an audition and never came home, but in 30 years time they are not going to be ".. You guys need to get out more. Music today is better than it ever was.

There are literally thousands of really great bands recording and touring today. What gets airplay on most commercial radio stations today is utter rubbish, I agree with you there, but it's the stuff they don't play that's really great. In some ways the internet revolution has been a great thing for music fans, because now artists can pitch at us directly rather than the decisions about what we should be listening to being made by record company executives who are thinking only of their wallets.

Seriously, there its loads of great artists out there today, stop being so cynical and make an effort to find them. Want to know where? Look up and down these posts, you'll find lots of suggestions. Music is for the young, curious and adventurous.


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  • I think these guys are talking about 'classic rock', which is like the portraits and landscapes conservatives mourned back in the s when the impressionists came along. Every age has its whinging old farts. I recommend you start with OK Computer. PS Happy birthday Thom.

    July 28, 2010

    I believe fans are just trying to bleed the record companies dry as those parasites are no longer required as intermediaries - mainly as punishment for Justin Bieber and all that dross they inflict on poor unsuspecting tweenies. We can connect directly with the musicians now, and can use music bloggers who do it for love not money, which is how art should be.

    There is the potential for a much more successful business model to support artists, but not while the record companies hold the power. Buy your music at: The live music scene is changing so never think you're "too old". Having said that, I use the free version of Spotifly but only for music I already own or for music I? No one gets a cent after I purchase an album no matter if I play it once or 10, times so I? So your friends download more music than the entirety of internet traffic into Australia?

    I want to get onto their broadband plan. The artists are the real lifeblood of music: Making a living from live tours huh? Just like the old days, before recording technology was invented. One error I'd like to correct though is that there are actually quite a large number of 'illegal book downloads going on'. Since the invention of the scanner, books most commonly comics and graphic novels have been scanned, archived, and uploaded profusly.

    And with the recent invention of the E-book, this has been made even easier. One only has to rip the file out of it's source container, re-archive, and upload. Well substantially the artist only records on one CD. The effort in recording one CD should be rewarded thus. Strumming a few chords.. The singing is the money-spinner, a good natural voice will always be rewarded.

    Must be quite beautiful to be star quality. LIVE to keep earning??? That must be terrible I do feel a bit for the artists just a bit though! In many cases, owning the rights to records, and also owning the radio stations that them play them No-one in the work has "zettabytes of music and movies". Not even the world's largest data storage centres come close to that. Every movie and song ever published would fit into a zettabyte many thousands of times over. The music industry as we know it is a thing of the past. The most exciting change in my opinion is crowd-funding. Take an artist like Ginger Wildheart; for 20 years he built a loyal fan-base, at the same time battling indifferent record labels.

    The 13 Most Insidious, Pervasive Lies of the Music Industry

    He then decides to turn to pledgemusic. Anything I'm planning on listening to more than once I want a download. First because I use a cheap MP3 player for my music and second because if the stream fails, or the provider stops supporting it, or closes, or my internet connection falls over, I don't lose access to my music. People want movies, music and software. And no matter how cheap you make it, many will still prefer to steal it for free. Thom York can always stop being ripped off by Spotify. But that won't stop him being ripped off by those who can't even be bothered paying a dollar for his songs.

    If the industry wants to remain profitable, it needs to enforce it's property rights. Anything else is just noise. A song isn't property. The artist never owns the CD. IP is not property and we are unlikely to get fair and enforceable solutions while people persist in using inappropriate models to solve problems. Let's make kids today criminals for downloading for the equivalent of making a mixed tape 20 years ago.

    That'll engender a respect for the law. These media companies have only themselves to blame. And so musicians learn once again that if you want to make money, you need to perform. It has always been thus. The record industry was able to make some people money by letting them sell recordings.

    If they could sell enough. Next to go will be the publicity people as musicians start talking directly to their fans. After that, it's a race to the bottom to see who can place music on the web to maximise artist profits and minimise listener costs. It's a zero sum race. Just like all good capitalism.

    The culture of 'freeness' wasn't created by Napster. The publishers only have themselves to blame, and there's plenty of ways for artists to make more money independent of a major label. Indeed - I remember being a kid in the early 90s trading cassette tapes of songs taped off the radio and off Rage with my friends, many of us had those two-deck machines which could copy at high-speed and reasonable quality. You know I think the video rental stores were renting out CDs for people to take home and copy quite a long time agon.

    Who killed the music industry?

    Also I believe that the CD format itself may have designed itself to be a bit copy friendly. Not that that would make a difference. It were the illegal downloaders that did it. That is because downloader sounds like freeloader and it were therefore easier to get the crowds to throw The Stones at them. Also, when the industry did try to implement copy protection measures, they did such a bad job of it on every level including installing rootkits on people's PCs!

    We used to have a service called IUMA where you could download a couple of songs and if you liked it you could buy the rest, it worked well until it was bought out and squashed. Alan, A corpse is a dead person, so it can't die because it is dead. What about "the last burp from a dying tonsil" A bit more colour to the diet. I was under the impression that was how most musicians had always made their money - live shows and merchandise.

    There are exceptions certainly, especially in recent times with downloads from artists who almost never tour e. Some people I know have zettabytes of music and movies they have downloaded So you know people who have billions of terabytes in their music and movie collections do you? The music just has to do what every other industry has had to do, adapt! Artists have long been ripped off by record companies, but so have consumers.

    Artists are going to have to put more emphasis on touring and merchandise but they should also consider bypassing record companies where possible. I subscribe to Spotify and feel no pangs of guilt, I'm just relieved that I am no longer being held to ransom by record companies and that I can get music legally with the artist getting a share. Remember, it's not my role to ensure musicians can still become multi-millionaires and I have no problems if less musicians join the ranks of the uber-rich. I've often wondered how it was reasonable for a minute album music prices have shown no correlation to inflation at all: You'll watch your DVD once, maybe twice.

    You'll play your CD hundreds of times. Question is why are they so cheap?

    And that they cost less than they did 30 years ago is something to be marvelled at, not scorned. Whilst I agree that appropriate compensation for the artists themselves is something that consumers should be considering, I'm more concerned about the insidiously silent other dimension to this problem - that is corporate sensorship of content offered. I have freqquently searched iTunes for content I want to legitimately buy, but are unable to. Sometimes its for commercial reasons - they'll only list it once it reaches a level of popularity how then do new artists break in?

    Apple are not the gatekeepers of culture, no matter how hard they try. The recorded music industry has been in long term decline, as measured by sales for at least the last ten years. One of the few growth areas has been digital music. Musicians feared the rise of free radio in the s.

    The music industry has been around for millennia but it has regularly changed. There has never been more music talent than now to share the still considerable but declining sales. CD sales in Australia are declining fastest. Can we tell the digital market how to operate, it is as close to a perfect market as you can get? Vinyl is a growing market too, funnily enough.

    Back in the late 80s the record companies pushed us all into buying CDs because "they are indestructible" they aren't and "they have better sound quality" they don't. What that really was about was larger profits, as CDs cost less to produce and sold for a higher price at the time. The irony is that once CD copying technology became affordable and practical for everyone then CD copying was rife. Then came the MP3 and file sharing and that was that.

    It's kind of karmic when you think about it - the CD enabled record companies to rip us off blind, but then that very technology came back and bit them. If they'd stayed with vinyl records it would have been much more difficult and time consuming to copy them like the old days and probably there would be less internet pirating going on.

    And now vinyl sales are on the rise again, I think that's quite funny. We complain about musicians not making money from recordings, like it's their right to. Music isn't owned by anyone. The Internet has shown us this. It was purely a technology gap between when the technology was invented and when it became user controlled which lasted about years Much like photography. Back in the day, the only way to get a family photo was to go to a photographer and pay whatever it cost.

    Now you can do it all yourself at home, without setting foot at a studio or a developing lab. Nobody is shedding a tear for the photographer. As a life long musician, I get my satisfaction from people listening to my music, just as musicians have done for centuries, not how much money i made off them. How much money an artist makes is a crude measurement of their success.

    It worked in the past because that was the only system. But now it's not about how many sales, it's about how many plays. A couple of points: The selling price on iTunes is set by the record company or the artist. There are many price points on iTunes, even a free one!! The entity submitting the track, sets the price. Spotify pays a bit less than community radio, which is all most Australian artists are going to get.

    Record companies put time, effort, money into artists careers. Get it right and you are made for life. Get it wrong and in There are many musicians who are just as good ripping people off as record companies. It ain't a case of 2 legs good, 4 legs bad. Music has always been a performance art. In genres such as Jazz, Blues, Folk, Classical etc, the money has always been in live performance. It is a pity that you have to be good to earn that way. Allan the future is in vinyl.

    Even the newer kHz systems are nowhere near good analogue. Good analogue at comparable frequencies has levels less than 0. To anyone who has heard good vinyl recorded all the way in analogue no digital delay in the cutting! It's back to the future with vinyl! Why would you bother to listen to anything else? Couldn't agree with you more GRF! When it comes to the total music experience vinyl is king. Always has been, always will be. Even a fairly modest turntable setup will smash your CDs to pieces when it comes to sound quality, and as you say, on a good system digital reproduction isn't even close.

    One of the reasons the artists get little money is because the royalties aren't paid directly to them. Plus there's the idea that streaming should be more compared to radio, and if you aggregate payments per thousand listens like radio does, spotify pays more out in royalties than radio stations. It had to happen, didn't it? I was first supplanted by technology in , when desktop publishing swept the world. I managed to get a part-time job 18 months later, and was "retrenched" for the second time in I've been on the proverbial scrapheap ever since. While working, I bought stuff: But a society and economy that seeks to steadily replace human workers with machines cannot grow, cannot prosper, and cannot survive.

    Welcome to the Brave New World. To be honest, I really don't understand the argument against it I mean, it might not net as much money for an artist as a CD, but that's not an option anymore, and the only other real option is pirating. Sometimes you gotta just be glad for what you do have, and I don't feel like this war led by Thom Yorke does musicians any good in the end. I used to download everything for free. Now I listen through Pandora and torch music.

    It might not give artists that much money, but it's sure more than when I was pirating. I feel like this is way too often overlooked. Economists will never do music properly. A lot of performers make a decent living doing what they do well. There are some legendary performers who are not on the majors.

    When vinyl sold for 5. A major artist got more. What I like is the independents who make more interesting stuff can get a start and then get the sign up, or we can access their music. It does not cost a vast amount to make a decent album, so the majors are little more than parasites and indeed they seem to only have a very narrow view of music. Composers sit at home writing music The music industry has had a long, long history of getting rich while musicians perform for peanuts.

    Bring on the tours. Nice article but a moot point really these days. As a lot of the economics of a thing is tied to distribution this is to do with that. Huge started taking his own compositions seriously in the mids and joined Celtic folk band Bun' Ber E in while studying journalism. During 5 years editing the acclaimed political journal On Line Opinion, he got interested in self-publishing music on the Internet.

    This led him to form The Genre Benders in for the purposes of a PhD study into Independent music business models. As a result, he founded the Musowiki project to bring Musos all over the planet together and help them achieve their dreams. With experience straddling the creative, business and academic worlds, Dr Huge is passionate about helping Independent musicians develop their craft to its full potential.

    Are you an author? Help us improve our Author Pages by updating your bibliography and submitting a new or current image and biography. Learn more at Author Central. I must thank so many people: Caitlin and Emily, a wonderful organisation team and a very smooth event. Karyn and Jan, writing and performance coaches, this would have been an incoherent ramble Week 9 update - getting places at last. Got to spend lots of time on music this week - but not enough, still Most of this was reworking "Forever Mine" for the Tetrafasi demo, but a little was on writing another idea that came to me.

    Forever Mine - vox and strings Mon, Wed, Thurs. Got nothing done on the weekend due to family and other commitments. This is a good thing, because I have a bad habit of over-working and disappearing up my own butt about these things. Down time is essential! Recording Forever Mine and arranging strings - Friday. Just finished the third version of the string arrangement, based around a reasonable guitar take and a placeholder vocal. Thought I'd better document the entire process from a technical and musical point of view: Week 8 update - ready for action.

    This week marked the end of my commitment to work at the office on Wednesday and Thursday. My load there has now reduced to something I can manage from home by checking in each day. That will change back again Forever Mine - Three's Company version for Tetrafasi. I have decided to direct my creative efforts towards making a demo of the Tetrafasi concept focusing on making four versions of just one song: I do this in the hope that the concept and its practical reality Forever Mine - Vital Signs rewrite.

    I almost never play these songs now as they are reported on this site. So, since it's the most I decided to continue seeking feedback from the Nashville Songwriters Association International about my songs. After the last two I thought perhaps I'd go back to the drawing board on all of them before wasting my precious feedback opportunities on Week 7 update - sigh At least the pattern is becoming increasingly clear - what I'm planning to do its largely getting lost behind day jobs and distractions there's a song in that! Feels like I have barely done a musical thing since this began One of the greatest voices ever and an artist of class and integrity.

    The 13 Most Insidious, Pervasive Lies of the Modern Music Industry…

    You will be missed but never forgotten, Queen of Soul. And your contributions to the Blues Brothers were awesome and made the movies even more You might have noticed that a fair bit of my time has been taken up with an "other" activity. It's not actually part of my musical or day job roles, but it's very important to me and will hopefully gain Week 5 update - not happy, Jan!