How Can The Music Industry Be Dead When More Music Is Being Produced And More Money Is Being Made?
from the woe-is-me dept
Kyle sent over yet another musician, named Nathan Harden, pulling out the “woe is me” schtick in an article claiming that this generation “killed rock ‘n’ roll.” It hits on all the usual debunked points and only quotes industry sources on the major label side of the business, assumes that the only way to make money in the music business is by selling albums or songs, and doesn’t even realize what a huge contradiction it makes in the process. It starts out by quoting record sales stats, but ignoring all of the recent studies that show that money hasn’t gone away, it’s just shifted to other channels — and those channels are ones where the actual artists get more money. It’s true that the major record labels are making less — no one denies that. But it’s folly to claim that this means the death of rock ‘n’ roll or music at all. Another recent study showed more music being released today than ever before in history. That doesn’t sound like a dying industry at all. In fact, this guy effectively admits that when he complains:
On my own MySpace page, I can upload my own band’s music to the web in a matter of minutes, and sell it to anyone in the world with an internet connection. Theoretically, it has never been easier to be heard. Yet hundreds of thousands of other musicians are competing for attention online.
But wait… just before that you were claiming that rock ‘n’ roll was dead. And yet here you are admitting that there are so many other musicians putting up their music as well? The two things do not compute.
As far as I can tell, Harden’s real complaint isn’t that rock ‘n’ roll is dying, but that a major label won’t just turn him into a rockstar. Instead, he might have to actually do some work to build up a fan base, and that’s icky:
Without support from a record label, musicians must master the intricacies of search engine optimization, social networking, email blasts, and twittering — not to mention traditional tasks like booking shows. Not surprisingly, many musicians lack such skills.
This has been discussed at length, with musicians who do that stuff pointing out that it’s not that much work at all, and if it’s really a problem, you work with someone (the “5th Beatle”) who does it for you.
Can you, even for a moment, imagine Janis Joplin pouring over HTML manuals, or Jimi Hendrix spending hours each day spamming potential fans on MySpace? Not likely. Had those two tried to make it in today’s marketplace, we may never have even heard of them.
Can you, even for a moment, imagine Jonathan Coulton going the major label route or Matthew Ebel getting a six figure advance from a major label? Not likely. Had those two tried to make it in yesterday’s marketplace, we may never have even heard of them.
The fact that more musicians are making music today and being able to release it and make a living from it than ever before suggests that things are actually looking much better, and we’re far from “the death of rock ‘n’ roll,” but reaching an incredible age of creativity, where people who had no chance at all before are now able to make music and make a living.
And furthermore, it’s ridiculous to suggest that artists like Hendrix and Joplin didn’t work hard to build their fanbase with what tools were available at the time.
In other words, it may not hurt Beyonce or AC/DC if you download their music. They are, after all, astonishingly wealthy. But it does hurt the record labels, which, in turn, cannot afford to sign, develop and promote as many new artists. Consequently, our music is becoming less diverse. In the long run, music lovers themselves are deprived.
I’m not sure what music Harden’s been listening to lately, but I’ve actually found music to be a lot more diverse these days, because it’s possible for bands to experiment and try different styles, and reach a worldwide audience. I’ve been listening to a reggae band from Spain the past few days. A few years ago, I never would have known they existed.
Sorry, Nathan Harden, but you’ve been sold the myth that only record labels make the music industry and that only through selling records does the music industry work. That’s simply not true. Yes, the record labels are having trouble, but rock ‘n’ roll isn’t dying. It’s thriving by adapting to this new market.