I tend to mention this at the end of posts, and people don’t notice it. So, to begin:
ALL I WANT is that, when I speak to people making good money at their internet, marketing, advertising, or graphic-design jobs, they know that new, young, innovative artists are in a very, very tough spot.
Here’s one reason I think you could believe me: I have no complaints about the state of my sales, my audience, or my finances. I, PERSONALLY, MAKE REALLY GOOD MONEY PLAYING MUSIC.
This is because I already have an audience, developed on Slash/Warner Bros’ dime in the 90s. The record deal was harsh, exploitative, and I had no choice but to consent to my own exploitation. But because of it, today, I’m a working craftsperson.
If nothing changed, ESTABLISHED ARTISTS LIKE ME WOULD STILL BE DOING GREAT, AND PROSPERING, WITH ALL THE MODERN TOOLS AVAILABLE.
ARTISTS NEED TO TOUR TO DO THIS FOR A LIVING. Please believe me. There’s no other way. Ever noticed when a band does extremely well, then vanishes? Often it’s because they suddenly realize, “Oh, wait a minute—this profession means constant touring, not being in the studio? I think I’ll open an antiques store.” So many—so, so many—artists I know would drop touring in a heartbeat if there were another way.
I don’t have a dog in this fight! Fewer up-and-coming young artists means less competition for me! (look up the top touring acts. There’s not much 21st century on it. You don’t think that, on some level, U2’s, Springsteen’s, DMB’s managers aren’t stoked about the lack of competition?)
I LOATHE THE DANG OLD, BIG LABELS. Boy oh boy would I love a future without them.
Most importantly: I’VE GOT NO PROPOSAL HOW TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM. I truly, truly just want people to understand the spot that struggling artists in their 20s are in.
OK, so, you read the Oatmeal’s comic-strip summation of the state of the music business:
The big fat ugly music-biz monster is still big and fat. In the comic strip, he’s snivelingly begging for dough. Boy oh boy, is that big fat ugly monster not begging.
He’s less big, less fat, but your Biebers and Gagas and B.E. Peas are still profitable for him. He doesn’t have any money to fund the development of new, young, innovative artists. The deals he used to cut with new, young, innovative artists were severely exploitative. I’d love to see those fuckers burn. But their demise, really, seriously, means fewer bands and songwriters are professionals.
100% of zero is zero.
The big fat ugly music-biz monster will probably figure out a way to exploit them again, too. The new ideas for deals that I hear about—paying a la carte for publicists or radio song-pitchers, startup loans to fund early touring—are almost always so unfair that they make the labels seem loving by comparison. The next phase of the music industry MIGHT BE WORSE.
Let me summarize: the big labels (and most of the small labels!) were horrible. I’m pleased to see them plunge.
They were the only option. And, however horribly exploitative, they’re better for new, young artists than waiting tables. 100% of zero is zero.
The money-sucking middlepeople in the third panel—Apple, YouTube, Spotify, Amazon—magically disappear by the fourth panel. Dude. DUDE. They’re not going anywhere. And, ps, Optimum, Verizon, Time Warner are missing from that chain, and internet service providers are the ones who are DEFINITELY not going anywhere.
I would be really stoked if people tried to figure out a way to GO TO CONGRESS AND LEGALLY REQUIRE THEM TO COMPENSATE PEOPLE WHO WRITE SONGS AND SING THEM.
In the last panel, the happy banjo-player has eliminated the middlepeople and is being given $5 by the happy listener. That’s great! IF THE ARTIST HAS AN AUDIENCE ALREADY.
It also implies a folksy, new universe that’s pure wishful thinking. Yikes, do I have to be the guy who says that the nature of commerce isn’t going to change? You get a check, weekly, and have a 401(k). A genius young songwriter has to exist as a high-tech spare-change-seeking street musician?
Louis CK did his big explosive $5-a-pop bonanza on the heels of a VERY FAMOUS TELEVISION SHOW.
Amanda Palmer (who RT’d, and said favorable things about, my earlier postings about how new, young, innovative artists are in trouble, because they don’t get early startup money!) earned her audience through a label paying for a van, motel rooms, and money to eat while touring.
Like the above, the future is fantastic for me! I did a subscription club earlier in 2012, and it was immediately profitable.
But. My audience began with startup money to pay for a van and motel rooms, and a dude in an office paid to call up magazines and persuade them into reviewing me.
Here are some people I know who are in financial trouble:
Producers and engineers. They’ve gotta make triple the number of sessions they used to, to make the same dough. And the artist they’re recording is almost always like, “Hey! I’m doing this on my own dime, I can’t afford to pay you until a year from now, and that’s dicey, because what if this thing tanks—or I’m a clueless businessperson, and even if I make the money to pay you, it gets spent on other expenses, and you’re outta luck.”
(ps, home recording is groovy, I love it, but there really, really still is a need for people who are Jedis at the art of recording—though many fewer are needed these days)
People who make and sell musical instruments. Fewer people making a living as musicians means fewer people who can afford gear.
Drummers and bass players. I just made a record on which I programmed all the rhythm tracks. It broke my heart when I was chatting to my drummer about my upcoming recording, and it was awkwardly revealed that I wouldn’t be hiring him. “Nobody uses live drummers in recordings anymore,” he said. “If you need me, I’ll be working at McDonald’s.”
People with low-level music business jobs. Receptionists, assistants, the person who has to go out and buy more office supplies.
Dozens of new, young, innovative songwriters and musicians that I know personally. Can we all please just acknowledge how hard their lives are, now? A decade ago, singer/songwriters weren’t obliged to tour by Greyhound bus, and not make a dime for the first two or three years of their attempts at a professional life. Likely with parents, or spouse, going, “This is madness! You’re broke! Go into advertising! I can’t afford to support you anymore!”
I put out a recording by a guy who lives in rural Indiana. I said, “I just want to put out a single, 5-song EP, digital-only. I don’t want a clause that gets me paid when [when! ha!] you get a bigger record deal next years. All I can offer you is a bunk in my bus, a six-week tour opening for me, and, since my drummer produced your record, he’ll play with you. As your career progresses, that EP will continue to generate sales for me.”
I appeared on a radio station in LA, gave his CD to a DJ, talked him into playing it. An advertising exec heard it in his car. Presto! He got a song in a commercial for a big huge electronics company.
Have you noticed that there’s more and more utterly unknown music in commercials? It’s partially because you can pay them less. And, these days, they don’t have a choice but to take it. I remember being on the phone with somebody from the ad agency, working for this huge corporation, negotiating, and saying, “Are you seriously lowballing this artist by pleading poverty?!”
Today, he’s not making a living playing music. He can’t afford to pay a bass player and drummer to do gigs regionally—Cincinnati, Indy, Louisville. He’s not gonna get a big commercial every year of his life.
Biggest iTunes check was about $200.
A Japanese band invited me over there for a tour. Boy, was it fun! My notoriety from the 90s was just enough to get club dates that paid enough to pay for plane tickets and cheap hotels.
I wanted to return the favor by putting out a recording of theirs, getting some modest press, renting them a car (just two people in the band), giving them a chance to tool around America, seeing the cities, playing shows, meeting people.
But the extremely small sales I’d need to fund such a lo-fi venture are impossible for a new artist, these days.
Artists who made a huge web splash are probably still amateurs. YouTube views don’t pay. Facebook likes don’t pay.
My hope is that a brilliant songwriter who suddenly explodes on the web will be a working professional in 5 years. Alas. It’s unlikely.
PS, who was the Frank Ocean of 2008? Anybody?
There are definitely young artists who capitalize on YouTube views, and go out there and tour. Their professional lives are far more grueling, and dispiriting, than mine was, when I was new, and struggling.
Conversations mostly go like this:
A: “My friend’s band is doing great because they got a crowd through YouTube views!”
Me: “Are they making 100% of their living as working craftspeople?”
“When this transitional phase is over…” begin many sentences from internet professionals. Here’s the thing. Saying that this is a transitional phase is like saying CDs were a brand-new technology in 1993.
(And: here’s something extremely messed-up: when I signed a record deal, in 1993, royalties for CDs—by then the majority of sales—were covered, glancingly, in a small paragraph titled “New Technologies.” Basically, “Hey, this brand-new thing called a compact disc was just invented yesterday, and, gee, we really don’t know if it’s gonna work, so we’re gonna pay you a lower royalty.” That was the industry standard in almost all record deals. Yes, really)
All I want is that people realize—just realize—that these are very tough times for new, young innovative artists.
When I meet somebody with a promising career running a website or a cable channel, just acknowledge it. Please, just know it.
I will continue to make good money at my craft. Meeting some genius singer in his 20s, as he discusses getting his MBA, will continue to be heartbreaking.
- lesbo-supremacy likes this
- stormcorrosion reblogged this from immutableinscrutable
- baronsandwich reblogged this from immutableinscrutable and added:
- wonkybonkers likes this
- maisquared reblogged this from immutableinscrutable and added:
- lowclasshifi likes this
- maureendarosa likes this
- countonlybluecars likes this
- redchuckproductions reblogged this from immutableinscrutable
- sarahmvasquez likes this
- tonedeafjesus likes this
- mishmash likes this
- meredithmo likes this
- themattsmith likes this
- michelle-said likes this
- shelleproductions reblogged this from immutableinscrutable
- fatmanatee reblogged this from bmichael
- mercurialme likes this
- robotfieldday likes this
- nonomeans reblogged this from immutableinscrutable
- coldbrain likes this
- fierceorfarce likes this
- ironstring likes this
- greetingsfromrabyville likes this
- macphoenix likes this
- energyface likes this
- rinscommentaries reblogged this from immutableinscrutable and added:
- amelodie likes this
- ekstasis likes this
- newtypelady reblogged this from immutableinscrutable
- eush likes this
- mootpoint likes this
- hartleymanages likes this
- linusinhats likes this
- legospaceship likes this
- treblezine likes this
- rawkblog likes this
- awful-bliss likes this
- erikonymous likes this
- nakedemogirlsandanimegifs reblogged this from immutableinscrutable
- defenderofyourface likes this
- hndrk likes this
- strictlyalright likes this
- fatmanatee likes this
- declandebarra reblogged this from immutableinscrutable
- kermix reblogged this from immutableinscrutable
- tompearson likes this
- akajudge likes this
- natepatrin likes this
- anthonyisright likes this