Brian Eno Explains How The Recording Industry Is Like Whale Blubber
from the then-gas-came-along dept
Just before I sat down to write this post, I was having a very interesting (and fun) conversation with someone about the recording industry (someone very deep in the industry, who’s been there for many years), who was arguing that selling recorded music needs to be a part of the business model. I was trying to suggest it was a bygone era, and that technology had made the idea that you need to sell music obsolete (though, if you can sell recorded music directly, more power to you — I just don’t think it becomes increasingly difficult). I made the point that technology always makes certain aspects of larger industries obsolete, pointing to the usual example of how automobiles made horse buggies obsolete, but certainly didn’t harm the transportation industry. We started thinking up other examples, of industries massively changed by technology, that wiped out segments of that industry, and while I came up with a few, I was definitely searching for better examples.
Then I go back to my computer, and see an anonymous submission of a wonderfully brilliant interview with music legend Brian Eno… and right there at the end, he has a beautiful description of what’s happening to the recording industry — comparing it to whale blubber:
“I think records were just a little bubble through time and those who made a living from them for a while were lucky. There is no reason why anyone should have made so much money from selling records except that everything was right for this period of time. I always knew it would run out sooner or later. It couldn’t last, and now it’s running out. I don’t particularly care that it is and like the way things are going. The record age was just a blip. It was a bit like if you had a source of whale blubber in the 1840s and it could be used as fuel. Before gas came along, if you traded in whale blubber, you were the richest man on Earth. Then gas came along and you’d be stuck with your whale blubber. Sorry mate — history’s moving along. Recorded music equals whale blubber. Eventually, something else will replace it.”
I think we’ve got ourselves a new analogy worth remembering.
The rest of the interview is definitely worth reading. I won’t spoil it, but I will say his thoughts on Bono are quite amusing. Separately, he had an interesting story about when he was producing both U2’s last album and Coldplay’s last album at the same time… and got scared that the same song would end up on both albums:
“It was fine. A few jokes. I felt like a ?philanderer who was with another woman and might make a slip and call her by the wrong name in bed. I had one computer that had all of the Coldplay stuff and all the U2 stuff. I had to very carefully label each folder because I was paranoid that I might end up with the same basic track for each group and I wouldn’t notice until it was too late. There was a chance the same track might have appeared on both albums.”
Given the somewhat ridiculous accusations last year about Coldplay copying music from
The Cranky Boards, no, Joe Satriani no, Cat Stevens, this seemed like a fascinating admission — but one that shows how different musicians might totally innocently end up with similar songs on their albums, not because of any vast copyright conspiracy, but through random other factors.