John Mellencamp: Back In The Good Old Days…
from the they-don't-exist-any-more dept
A bunch of folks have been sending in John Mellencamp’s essay on what happened to the music business. It’s a worthwhile read from someone who’s been through a lot — and you can even forgive the silly “you can’t comment on the industry unless you’ve recorded an album” rhetoric we were just laughing about. While some might quibble with the specifics, the point Mellencamp makes is that the industry “went Wall Street,” and focused on what it believed was the best way to generate profits — pushing a very top down approach. This generated some dollars in the short-term, but at the long-term expense of the music business.
Or, at least that’s how he views it. I know that we’re not supposed to comment on the business — never having recorded an album and all — but, from a fan perspective (which I think enables me to comment), I’m enjoying much more music than ever before (yes, legally obtained, thank you) — and much of it is significantly better than what I heard back in the “good old days.” The issue is that it’s not the super popular music that plays on the radio — but as a fan, I need to dig it out a bit. It’s really not that hard, though. I find a few folks who have similar tastes to me, and I trust them to make recommendations.
Sure, the top 40 business that made Mellencamp famous might no longer exist, but that’s not the music business. Mellencamp complains about the fact that new measurement systems got everyone focused on radio stations in big markets — but ignores the fact that these days radio doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to. There are all sorts of ways for fans to get new music. And, sure, he complains that he doesn’t want to be PT Barnum, but he doesn’t need to be. If he hooked up with a smart label or business partner who handled that side of it, he could just focus on the music. Finally, he talks up how wonderful it was that his success came from “the bottom up,” with songs starting to play on one radio station and then spreading across the country… though, he conveniently leaves out the payola that his record label likely put behind the record to get it onto different stations. Bottom up or greased palms?
While you can understand where Mellencamp is coming from, it seems like once again, it’s someone who’s complaining about “the way things used to be,” and refusing to recognize that there’s tons of opportunity in the new model and tons of wonderful music being created, listened to and shared every day. It may be a different business than it used to be, and that may make it more difficult for John Mellencamp to have hit songs like he used to, but for plenty of us fans, we’re living in an era of opportunity and wonderful music. It would be great if John Mellencamp stopped by and checked it out.