U2 Manager Blames 'Free' And Anonymous Internet Bloggers For Industry Troubles

from the hey,-is-that-us? dept

Hypebot kindly alerts us to an unintentionally hilarious GQ column by U2 manager Paul McGuinness, supposedly on “how to save the music industry.” Of course, that’s not what it’s actually about — because the music industry doesn’t need saving. Last we checked, it’s doing great. As, by the way, are McGuinness and U2. McGuinness has been making similarly wrong arguments for quite some time, and we try to debunk them each time. It seems that we bloggers have finally gotten under McGuinness’ skin, as he lashes out at internet bloggers in this piece, specifically for the criticism they gave of his Midem speech in 2008 (criticism such as mine).

Then there is the backlash from the bloggers — those anonymous gremlins who wait to send off their next salvo of bilious four-letter abuse whenever a well-known artist sticks their head above the parapet.

Hi Paul. My name is Mike Masnick. Nice to meet you. I may be a blogger, but I’m not anonymous. Not only that, I’ve also attended the past few Midem’s, as well — and have even presented a few times off the same stage as you — and, oddly, it didn’t end in anonymous gremlins and backlash. Perhaps you’re doing something wrong.

When Lily Allen recently posted some thoughtful comments about how illegal file-sharing is hurting new developing acts, she was ravaged by the online mob and withdrew from the debate.

Well, since that story actually involves me, in part, I have to suggest that your version of it is a creative myth that has little to do with reality. While there were some childish attacks on Ms. Allen, that’s true of pretty much any online debate. Check the comments here. I’m regularly called all sorts of horrible names. But that’s not why Allen withdrew from the debate — and pretending that the only reason was that she was “ravaged by the online mob” for her “thoughtful comments” is really a work of fiction. First of all, not all that much attention was paid to Allen’s not-very-well-thought-out screed until after it was shown that she didn’t even live up to the virtues she preached. First, she blatantly copied an entire blog post of mine, without credit or a link. Now, I’m fine with that, but doing so on a blog about how copying is “bad” seemed amusing.


After that, it was discovered that Allen was distributing a ton of copyrighted music in an unauthorized manner off her own website in the form of “mix tapes,” that she had used to popularize her own works. That resulted in a lot more unwanted attention. Rather than attack Ms. Allen, we used it as a teachable moment, to suggest where she may have been overreacting. Right after that is when she “withdrew from the debate,” and shut down her blog. During that time, I was monitoring the comments on her blog as well, and the vast majority of them were quite polite, simply asking her to defend her actions. Yes, there were a few nasty retorts, but they were very much a minority, were hardly representative, and were no different than you’d find in any online forum.

So, to spin all of that into claiming she withdrew because of being “ravaged by the online mob” is a work of fiction, I’m afraid. Perhaps you should try copyrighting it.

Nevertheless, Bono has stepped into the argument. Quite unprompted by me, he wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times in January and he pulled no punches. “A decade’s worth of music file sharing and swiping has made clear the people it hurts are the creators… and the people this reverse Robin-Hooding benefits are rich service providers, whose swollen profits perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business.” Bono is a guy who, when he decides to support a cause, does so with enormous passion. But even he was amazed by the backlash when he was mauled by the online crowd.

Not quite fiction this time, but McGuinness conveniently leaves out some of the details — such as the fact that Bono suggested that China’s internet censorship methods are a good model for the record labels to fight file sharing online. That’s a statement that deserves backlash, because it’s encouraging censorship (while not realizing how ineffective China’s censorship really is). The backlash wasn’t just because Bono spoke out against file sharing — but because he said some things that many people pointed out were completely out of touch with reality.

You have to ask how these inchoate, abusive voices are helping shape the debate about the future of music. I rarely do news interviews but when I spoke to the influential technology news site CNET last autumn I was set on by a horde of bloggers. One of them was called “Anonymous Coward.” I’m not worried about criticism from Anonymous Coward. But I am worried about how many politicians may be influenced by his rantings. The level of abuse and sheer nastiness of it was extraordinary. Without Anonymous Coward and his blogosphere friends, I think many artists and musicians would be more upfront about the industry’s current predicament. They might tell the world what they really feel about people who steal their music. But it’s understandable why they don’t – and that is partly why I don’t mind filling the vacuum.

Once again, it appears that McGuinness is playing fast and loose with the facts, and is a bit confused. First of all, his interview with CNET was not last autumn, but in the spring of 2009. I know. The days blend together for me too, so this is certainly forgivable. Second, however, is the claim that this “horde of bloggers,” including one named “Anonymous Coward” “set on” McGuinness. I’ve gone through the comments on the CNET piece, and don’t see any by anyone named Anonymous Coward. Separately, it’s worth noting that while many people critique the factual mistakes in McGuinness’ claims, I don’t see many that really are so outrageous as to be referred to as being “set on by a horde.”

Now, I also responded to that interview, but once again, I am not named Anonymous Coward — but Mike Masnick (again, nice to meet you). Now, the commenters on Techdirt who choose not to include their names are automatically labeled Anonymous Coward, a convention that we copied (I guess McGuinness would say “stole”) from Slashdot when we first launched with Slashcode over a decade ago. So, some of our commenters (not the same as bloggers) did show up under that moniker. Reading through the comments from AC’s on our post also leaves me scratching my head. There really aren’t that many AC posts, and while some are critical of McGuinness, I still don’t see how you could turn that into “a horde of bloggers” who then “set on” McGuinness. Perhaps this AC was on another site? Entirely possible, but the McGuinness article is devoid of links, so unless he stops by to comment (not blog), we’ll never know.

Finally, despite this inability to find this crazed AC that McGuinness insists is out there, he seems to think that politicians will be influenced by his rantings. Tip: politicians generally are not influenced by the rantings of people who comment on websites under the “Anonymous Coward” banner. In fact, considering the vast number of detailed and fact-based responses to McGuinness’ fact-challenged comments on this topic, you would think that he should be a bit more concerned about those people having influence. But, of course, that’s silly. As we’ve seen time and time and time again, politicians have only adjusted copyright law in one direction: in favor of the recording industry after believing false statements from the likes of McGuinness.

What other factual errors does he make? Well, they’re all over the place:

It is two years on from my Cannes speech. Some things are better in the music world, but unfortunately the main problem is still just as bad as it ever was. Artists cannot get record deals. Revenues are plummeting. Efforts to provide legal and viable ways of making money from music are being stymied by piracy.

Except almost none of that is actually true. We’re seeing artists get record deals all the time — usually with smarter indie labels. Revenues are not plummeting. Recent reports show the opposite. Efforts to provide legal and viable ways of making money are not at all being stymied by “piracy.” In fact, time and time again we see that artists who are embracing these new ways of making money are also embracing “piracy.” It’s what my last two Midem talks were about. Perhaps you should have attended them, Paul. In fact, the only thing that we hear over and over and over again is stymying legal music business models is… the record labels themselves, combined with outdated copyright law. We see innovative new businesses in the music space all the time, but instead of embracing them, we see the record labels sue them and try to bankrupt their founders. One after another these businesses fail. It’s not because of piracy, but because the record labels demand all sorts of cash upfront, a huge equity stake, and then put ridiculous anti-consumer restrictions on the services like, “no streaming music unless people pay.”

So beyond anonymous bloggers like myself, what’s to blame? Not the record labels — despite all the evidence that it very much has been them. According to McGuinness, Occam’s Razor is broken:

It is facile to blame record companies. Whoever those old Canutes were, the executives who wanted to defend an old business model rather than embrace a new one, they left the business long ago. Last year, more than a quarter of all the music purchased globally was sold via the internet and mobile phones. The record companies know they have to monetise the internet or they will not survive.

Except they’re not “monetizing” the internet. They’re trying to monetize an infinitely available good, and that’s just a bad business proposition.

So, instead, let’s blame basic economics:

If you had to encapsulate the crisis of the music industry in the past decade, it would be in one momentous word: “free.” The digital revolution essentially made music free. It is now doing the same with films and books. For years we (and by “we” I mean the music business, musicians, creative industries, governments and regulators) have grappled with this new concept of “free.” One minute we have fought it like a monster, the next we have embraced it like a friend. As consumers, we have come to love “free” – but as creators, seeking reward for our work, it has become our worst nightmare. In recent years the music business has tried to “fight free with free,” seeking revenues from advertising, merchandising, sponsorship – anything, in fact, other than the consumer’s wallet. These efforts have achieved little success. Today, “free” is still the creative industries’ biggest problem.

Yes, and the makers of horse carriages and buggy whips’ biggest problem was the automobile. Time to adapt. I’d say that the $300 plus million that U2 makes touring in a year suggests that you already have, despite your worries.

In America there are no more Tower Records or Virgin records stores and many independent stores are just about hanging on. Consumers now buy CDs in a bookstore such as Barnes & Noble or Borders.

There are no more five-and-dimes or soda jerks either, but you know, times change, and the businesses that rely on outmoded products that people no longer want die out. That’s how it works.

Based on so many factually incorrect statements, it should come as no surprise at all that his conclusions and recommendations are also entirely wrong. It’s the same old “tax ISPs” and “tax ISP users” and simply hand all that money of to McGuinness and friends. This is an idea that won’t work for a whole variety of reasons we’ve discussed before. Thankfully, at least some in the press are calling McGuinness out on his factually wrong statements and bad suggestions. And these aren’t “hordes of anonymous bloggers,” out to attack him. These are people with legitimate points and legitimate concerns that McGuinness has totally failed to address for nearly three years now.

Paul, the people responding to your speeches and interviews and columns with these concerns are not some bogeymen from the dark with no name reaching out to “attack” you. We’re people who love music and worry about an industry that is making many misguided and dangerous decisions that do more to harm the music world than the new services and technologies you apparently haven’t taken the time to understand. We’re not attacking you. We’re pointing out the very big flaws in your ideas. Rather than repeating the same flawed plans — with gratuitous and incorrect claims of some anonymous mob that’s out to get you — perhaps you could respond to the actual points that we’ve raised? Or is asking for that just a form of an attack?

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Comments on “U2 Manager Blames 'Free' And Anonymous Internet Bloggers For Industry Troubles”

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70 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

U2 Who?

The world is more connected now through facebook and the twitscape, It’s easy to get different recommendations.

I rarely listen to US-stylized music just because the US radio dial is uber-homogenized because it’s owned by only a few interests, whose goal is to get the lowest per-play rate to boost shareholder profits. Their goal is profit, and it isn’t about the music. This seems to have led to radio play homogenization and the same 40 songs being played across the country. I remain more interested in derivative works (remixes) from overseas or people like his guy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKdC2aHKWtU

Like the radio dial, creatives may like older U2, but perhaps they are afraid to remix because they’ll sue for making derivative works: McGuinness made it abundantly clear what U2’s goals are by lobbying Lord Mandelsen in the UK. From my perspective, that’s their problem plain and simple.

BearGriz72 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

OMFG! I Love It!

The major labels wanted to kill the single. Instead they killed the album. The association wanted to kill Napster. Instead it killed the compact disc. And today it’s not just record stores that are in trouble, but the labels themselves, now belatedly embracing the Internet revolution without having quite figured out how to make it pay.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

I posted this comment - let's see if it passes moderation

Expedite the future
If you want to let go of the past and usher in the future sooner, and so get the pain of transition over with in a short sharp shock, then abolish copyright. Otherwise you’re just postponing the inevitable and causing grief to everyone who cannot resist their natural instinct to engage in cultural exchange, their natural liberty to share and build upon their own culture.

John Alvarado says:

Re: I posted this comment - let's see if it passes moderation

Yes, ditch copyright and patent but keep trademark and require proper attribution. In other words you can copy creative works and inventions but you can’t say “I made this”–give credit!

The founding fathers were mistaken in thinking that creativity needed monetary incentive and therefore protection from copying. Creators/Inventors create/invent because that’s who they are and that’s what they enjoy. They deserve credit and rewards (voluntarily given or pre-contracted for) but government regulation of creative reward has unintended consequences (no surprise) that slows progress instead of accelerating it as intended.

Anonymous Coward says:

You left out the part where he literally asks Steve Jobs to save him. I mean, the content industries have for the past few years expected a third-party (Apple) to save them, but I have never seen it stated like this:
MUSIC
How to save the music industry
By Paul McGuinness
prevnext
0
comments
Add yours
***

It is facile to blame record companies. Whoever those old Canutes were, the executives who wanted to defend an old business model rather than embrace a new one, they left the business long ago. Last year, more than a quarter of all the music purchased globally was sold via the internet and mobile phones. The record companies know they have to monetise the internet or they will not survive.

If you had to encapsulate the crisis of the music industry in the past decade, it would be in one momentous word: “free.” The digital revolution essentially made music free. It is now doing the same with films and books. For years we (and by “we” I mean the music business, musicians, creative industries, governments and regulators) have grappled with this new concept of “free.” One minute we have fought it like a monster, the next we have embraced it like a friend. As consumers, we have come to love “free” – but as creators, seeking reward for our work, it has become our worst nightmare. In recent years the music business has tried to “fight free with free,” seeking revenues from advertising, merchandising, sponsorship – anything, in fact, other than the consumer’s wallet. These efforts have achieved little success. Today, “free” is still the creative industries’ biggest problem.

In America there are no more Tower Records or Virgin records stores and many independent stores are just about hanging on. Consumers now buy CDs in a bookstore such as Barnes & Noble or Borders.

The good news, I think, is that we have woken up to the issue. In the early years of the decade, it felt almost like heresy even to question the mantra of “free content” on the internet. But attitudes have changed. Today we take a far more sober view as we see what damage “free” has done to the creative industries, above all to music. Governments around the world today, led by Britain and France are now passing laws that, if effectively implemented, would dramatically limit the traffic of free music, films and TV programmes. This is progress even if it comes years late. We are, I hope, beginning to understand what “free” really means for the world of music and creative work.

Numerous commercial strategies have tried to deal with “free.” Today, many believe music subscription is the Holy Grail that will bring money flowing back into the business. I agree with them. A per-household monthly payment to Spotify for all the music you want seems to me a great deal. I like the idea of the subscription packages from Sky Songs too. These surely point the way to the future where music is bundled or streamed and paid for by usage rather than by units sold. Why should the price paid not correspond to the number of times the music is “consumed”?

Spotify is the service capturing the headlines. But it’s just as potent an example of the difficulties of fighting free as any other initiative of the last decade. Spotify came into being as a free-to-user service funded by advertisements. It can never survive that form in the long term and now has the tricky task of converting free users into paid subscribers. I wish it success. Clearly the revenues currently flowing through to artists are not sufficient.

There are clever minds working out how the business model of “music access” is going to work. Perhaps this year Steve Jobs, the genius behind Apple, will finally join us. Jobs is a man of decisiveness and surprises.

The guy is a moron who thinks he has a problem and his only solution is to call on someone else to provide a magical solution for his problems. He deserves what he thinks is happening to him.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The guy is a moron who thinks he has a problem and his only solution is to call on someone else to provide a magical solution for his problems

The copyright industry has no clue about how to compete in a free and open market. That’s because their business models exists solely because their based on a government granted monopoly.

When the music industry is faced with some sort of competition, e.g., the player piano. They’ll sue. If they lose, the have new laws passed and then sue again. If they can’t get new federal laws passed, they’ll have state laws passed instead. If that doesn’t work, they’ll have draconian treaties enacted, which will force all governments to enact draconian laws to keep up.

The copyright industry will never simply roll up their sleeves and compete. They lack that ability.

So when I hear about someone who lived off the teet of copyright who’s unable to come with a business model that works in a free market, I’m not surprised at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Repost:
You left out the part where he literally asks Steve Jobs to save him. I mean, the content industries have for the past few years expected a third-party (Apple) to save them, but I have never seen it stated like this:

There are clever minds working out how the business model of “music access” is going to work. Perhaps this year Steve Jobs, the genius behind Apple, will finally join us. Jobs is a man of decisiveness and surprises.

The guy is a moron who thinks he has a problem and his only solution is to call on someone else to provide a magical solution for his problems. He deserves what he thinks is happening to him.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

An open letter to Paul McGuinness

Dear Paul McGuinness

You seem to want someone to come along and magically rescue you. It is not going to happen the cost of content is going to zero. Its basic economics. You state that “this isn’t crippling bands like U2 and it would be dishonest to claim it was.” You would think you would be happy about this since it means less competition and your next line is …

“I’ve always believed artists and musicians need to take their business as seriously as their music. U2 understood this.”

You do not seem to understand business all that well. If he did you would see this is a perfect opportunity to capitalize on the death of the record labels.

Here are some suggestions … U2 has a big name and brand recognition, use it.

Set up a mentorship program for younger artists, and new bands. Cut the record labels out of the supply chain.

Use either an american idol style format, where one person a week goes home. Or run the contest like a tennis tournament with winners being voted up through the levels.

Next in places that have collection societies for radio, use a modified CC that allows for radio broadcasting with no fee. Under price the collection agencies by allowing “free use” on the radio for promotional purposes.

Double the length of your stage show. Take all the bands and artists you discover and have them warm up for you. The ones with the most fame closest to the time you go on.

I hope that helps ….

David

Anonymous Coward says:

And he ends with:

If the engineers who built the iPhone, the geniuses who made Google reach every home in the world in less than a decade and the amazing talents behind Facebook were to apply themselves to our problems and help, what a wonderful world it would be. Great work being made, distributed efficiently and everyone in the value chain being fairly paid.

2 out of 3 of this business are based on “free”. He won’t like the solution those guys have for his “problem”. The third is good old Steve, saving the content industries.

Patrik (user link) says:

Please to Refrain from Using U2 as an Example

Is it just me, or does it seem petty to say “U2 made 300 million last year, so the industry must be fine!” Good lord, people, it’s U fucking 2, probably one of the biggest bands of the last 30 years. Don’t pretend that just because they can command enormous sums of money, that struggling musicians have anything resembling the same deal on the table. (“What do you mean starting a profitable restaurant is hard? McDonald’s does just fine!”)

There’s also something I’d like to address: there’s not a “Music Business”, and there never has been. There’s a recording industry, there’s a performance industry, there’s a publishing industry, there’s a gear industry, there’s a marketing/promoting industry, there’s a roadie industry, there’s a retail industry, etc. ALL of these are different industries that people shorthand with the term “music.” It’s disingenuous to say the music industry is fine. It’s a meaningless statement.

Some of these industries are suffering HARD. For god’s sake, Abbey Road is paying bills by having live performances broadcast from there. Interesting idea, but part of me is saddened when I think that even Abbey Road can’t succeed as a recording studio in the current climate. (And don’t pretend there’s not a demand for recorded music; iPod sales and the like are immense, people are listening to *something* on them (In particular: a lot of albums that were recorded at Abbey Road))

I’m a musician. I love live music. I love playing live. But that’s a skill. That’s just juggling. Recorded music is the art. It is the legacy we need to communicate with future generations of musicians (unless all musicians magically learn to read music again). No amount of live performance is going to produce another OK Computer, or The Wall, or Thriller, etc.

Live music is grand. Really, it is. But how many of you are checking out live bands at least 3 or 4 nights a week? That’s what it’s going to take to support the music you love. I go to shows this often, and let me tell you, attendance IS dropping at small scale venues. I’m talking about the kind of places that charge a $5-$10 cover but don’t pay the band… oh wait, that’s pretty much EVERY venue for an unsigned band. (You guys are aware that musicians rarely even receive free DRINKS from a venue, right?)

But it’s cool, just sell some merch. Of course, merch has to be *literally* protected at shows (how do you keep an eye on your gear, fraternize with fans, and watch your merch at the same time?), and merch people have to be paid, AND fed on the road, and accommodated… It’s really not so easy as “just play live; design a website; social network–and be good at it; buy a camera, learn to use it, learn to edit; buy the right mics and preamps; build an acoustically sound room; figure out the intricacies of recording; learn to mix; I guess you should go ahead and master it yourself, too; obtain an ISRC; secure your copyright; obtain a UPC (you’ll need those last 3 PLUS you MUST have a physical CD for sale on Amazon if you want to be streamed on Pandora. Woo! Freedom.); familiarize yourself with programming code; become an app developer; hire a freelance publicist (trust me); design clothes; develop tchotchkes; market, market!, MARKET!; and sell some shit. The money will roll right in!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Please to Refrain from Using U2 as an Example

There’s also something I’d like to address: there’s not a “Music Business”, and there never has been.

Okay, then there’s no such thing as a “musician” either, and never has been.

There’s a recording industry, there’s a performance industry, there’s a publishing industry, there’s a gear industry, there’s a marketing/promoting industry, there’s a roadie industry, there’s a retail industry, etc.

Then there are recorders, performers, manufacturers, marketers, roadies, retailers, etc.. But no such thing as a “musician”, if you say so.

I’m a musician.

No you aren’t!
There’s no such thing as a “musician”!
Remember?

It’s funny how IP supporters always seem to get caught in their own lies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Please to Refrain from Using U2 as an Example

“Is it just me, or does it seem petty to say “U2 made 300 million last year, so the industry must be fine!” “

It’s just you. RTA:

“Time to adapt. I’d say that the $300 plus million that U2 makes touring in a year suggests that you already have, despite your worries.”

“There’s also something I’d like to address: there’s not a “Music Business”, and there never has been. There’s a recording industry, there’s a performance industry, there’s a publishing industry, there’s a gear industry, there’s a marketing/promoting industry, there’s a roadie industry, there’s a retail industry, etc.”

Indeed. If you read Mike’s other posts, you’ll notice there’s no-one more anal about that point than him. Yes, the recording and publishing industries are failing — the market demands the price of recorded music to be zero. It cannot be sold. Cannot. Unless they adapt, they’ll disappear. They refuse to adapt, so they’ll disappear. Others will take their place — or do you think recorded music will disappear without the industry?

“Recorded music is the art. It is the legacy we need to communicate with future generations of musicians (unless all musicians magically learn to read music again).”

Huh? Buy a good mic for $60 and record away. You don’t need a $1m record deal to do that.

Legacy? Ha. Your legacy will be a bunch of copyrights that will last a good 200 years. The moment the future generations of musicians dare to use half a note from those, they’ll be sued to oblivion.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Please to Refrain from Using U2 as an Example

Is it just me, or does it seem petty to say “U2 made 300 million last year, so the industry must be fine!” Good lord, people, it’s U fucking 2, probably one of the biggest bands of the last 30 years. Don’t pretend that just because they can command enormous sums of money, that struggling musicians have anything resembling the same deal on the table. (“What do you mean starting a profitable restaurant is hard? McDonald’s does just fine!”)

I have never used U2 as an example to say that because they’ve done well, there are no problems in the industry. I mentioned it *solely* because McGuinness is their manager, and it appears that the band has actually done quite well for itself, despite the situation.

As for less well known bands thriving, I’ve spent tons of time on that as well:

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20091119/1634117011.shtml

So claiming that anyone here says that U2 proves that small bands can do it to would be a mistake. No one said such a thing.

There’s also something I’d like to address: there’s not a “Music Business”, and there never has been. There’s a recording industry, there’s a performance industry, there’s a publishing industry, there’s a gear industry, there’s a marketing/promoting industry, there’s a roadie industry, there’s a retail industry, etc. ALL of these are different industries that people shorthand with the term “music.” It’s disingenuous to say the music industry is fine. It’s a meaningless statement.

I’ve also made those distinctions in the past — but it is important to point out that they do, in fact, all roll up into “the music industry,” and all indications are that, yes, the music industry is fine. There is more revenue, more music, more people making music, more people making money from music, more people listening to music than ever before. So, yes, the music industry is fine.

No, this does not mean that everyone in that industry is doing fine. Many, many are struggling. But there are much greater opportunities for those in it to succeed today than in the past.

Some of these industries are suffering HARD. For god’s sake, Abbey Road is paying bills by having live performances broadcast from there. Interesting idea, but part of me is saddened when I think that even Abbey Road can’t succeed as a recording studio in the current climate.

Transformation is tough. No doubt about it. But don’t take individual actors in a market, and their failure to adapt, to mean that the wider industry is struggling.

I’m a musician. I love live music. I love playing live. But that’s a skill. That’s just juggling. Recorded music is the art. It is the legacy we need to communicate with future generations of musicians (unless all musicians magically learn to read music again). No amount of live performance is going to produce another OK Computer, or The Wall, or Thriller, etc.

No one has argued otherwise… so, not quite sure the point here?

Live music is grand. Really, it is. But how many of you are checking out live bands at least 3 or 4 nights a week?

Who said anyone needed to do so?

That’s what it’s going to take to support the music you love.

That’s a big claim. Why do you make that assumption? By the way, it’s important to note that we’ve never said that live is the only way to support bands.

I go to shows this often, and let me tell you, attendance IS dropping at small scale venues. I’m talking about the kind of places that charge a $5-$10 cover but don’t pay the band… oh wait, that’s pretty much EVERY venue for an unsigned band. (You guys are aware that musicians rarely even receive free DRINKS from a venue, right?)

Yay, anecdotal experience. Yes, if you just think that live alone is going to save you, you’re probably wrong. But that’s not what we’re saying, so this is a strawman.

But it’s cool, just sell some merch. Of course, merch has to be *literally* protected at shows (how do you keep an eye on your gear, fraternize with fans, and watch your merch at the same time?), and merch people have to be paid, AND fed on the road, and accommodated…

Again, no one said selling merch is the answer either. But ok.

It’s really not so easy as “just play live; design a website; social network–and be good at it; buy a camera, learn to use it, learn to edit; buy the right mics and preamps; build an acoustically sound room; figure out the intricacies of recording; learn to mix; I guess you should go ahead and master it yourself, too; obtain an ISRC; secure your copyright; obtain a UPC (you’ll need those last 3 PLUS you MUST have a physical CD for sale on Amazon if you want to be streamed on Pandora. Woo! Freedom.); familiarize yourself with programming code; become an app developer; hire a freelance publicist (trust me); design clothes; develop tchotchkes; market, market!, MARKET!; and sell some shit. The money will roll right in!”

Yes, and if anyone had actually said that, you’d have a point.

But no one has. So you don’t.

BillDivX says:

Re: Re: Please to Refrain from Using U2 as an Example

t’s really not so easy as “just play live; design a website; social network–and be good at it; buy a camera, learn to use it, learn to edit; buy the right mics and preamps; build an acoustically sound room; figure out the intricacies of recording; learn to mix; I guess you should go ahead and master it yourself, too; obtain an ISRC; secure your copyright; obtain a UPC (you’ll need those last 3 PLUS you MUST have a physical CD for sale on Amazon if you want to be streamed on Pandora. Woo! Freedom.); familiarize yourself with programming code; become an app developer; hire a freelance publicist (trust me); design clothes; develop tchotchkes; market, market!, MARKET!; and sell some shit. The money will roll right in!”

Yes, and if anyone had actually said that, you’d have a point.

No. he still wouldn’t have a point. It’s not hard. It’s fun. It’s called a lifetime of interest in something and the drive and passion to pursue it, with the hope that someday you will find yourself capable of creating something of value to the rest of the world, rather than just leeching money as a middleman, and then trying desperately to justify your existence as people recognize that you are not contributing any value, and try to cut you out of the loop. and then crying about it when they finally do manage to cut you out.

I play 5 instruments, sing, and compose. I am a certified audio engineer, and I built an acoustically treated room in my house. All of that, by night. By day I am a software engineer. I could easily do more than half of the things listed. Some things I just know I have no talent or interest for. Some times I know there is a good reason to let somebody else do it, even if I know how (mastering). But it should be up to me.

What is needed for others may not be for me. What makes others fans happy might not work for mine, and my goals are not theirs. A musician, or a group of musicians (aka a band) is being treated by major labels as if they are PRODUCTS, that can be cranked out assembly line style, and then tossed when they become irrelevant. And then people wonder why bands don’t last, and cant create anything of lasting value, and can’t maintain a viable market for themselves.

Bands and musicians are really little independent BUSINESSES themselves. And just like any business, they need the ability to think outside the box, use a different business model or marketing strategy because they have a different target audience, and every once and a while, do something completely outrageous to reinvent themselves or become relevant again. They are businesses, and they are being expected to function like businesses, and earn money like businesses, but they are not given any of the authority to do so. So they end up tossed in the irrelevance bin, because the label insisted on selling them as a $12.95 CD at tower records, and a produced-by-committee music video on MTV, even when the band knew that was not the product their particular fans wanted.

The point is, there should be OPTIONS for these musicians. Instead there is a FORMULA, and if you don’t plug in to one of the variables, you are either deemed useless, or crammed in anyway like a square peg in a round hole. Why does U2 and their manager care? They shouldn’t. Other bands should be able to do whatever they want, including giving the music away for free, and it should have no bearing on U2, other than maybe serving as an example of a new idea. But they DO care now. Because the major labels have held on to that formula for dear life, lacking any vision of their own, and by doing so, forced a very vibrant market for music onto the seedy underbelly of the internet. Now, rather than bands run as businesses who can decide for themselves how they want to interact with – and get money from – their fans, and adapting to changing times as slowly or quickly as they like, everybody is forced to the lowest common denominator: it’s an anarchist free-for-all, and nobody gets paid for any of it. It’s the record labels fault, they brought it on themselves, and now they want our sympathy because they don’t see that it’s their own doing. Sorry, but I won’t be playing my tiny violin for them. (although, a tiny violin would be a fun instrument to learn…does anybody know where I can buy a tiny violin?)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Please to Refrain from Using U2 as an Example

“Some of these industries are suffering HARD.”

There are people suffering in every industry and this has always been the case and always will be. You know what it’s called? Free market capitalism. Some people do well, some people don’t. What, you want a communist system where everyone can do well and no one ever suffers or struggles. A system where the government ensures that no industry ever struggles?

“It’s disingenuous to say the music industry is fine.”

It’s disingenuous to say that the music industry is doing poorly just because some people aren’t doing well.

“struggling musicians”

There are struggling scientists, struggling musicians, struggling doctors, struggling nurses, struggling historians, struggling actors, struggling pizza delivery people, struggling financial planners, struggling printers, struggling computer techs, struggling accountants, struggling engineers, there are people who struggle in every industry. and there are people who do well in many industries as well. It’s called free market capitalism. What you want sounds like communism, where the government ensures that no musician ever struggles and hence everyone should just become a musician so that no one ever struggles.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Please to Refrain from Using U2 as an Example

Dude,

I run events. And I have nowhere near the brand affinity that a band has. Yet I can get volunteers to attend my business summits and do a couple of hours of work, for the quid pro quo of free attendance and the ability to do professional networking.

So instead of crying about how it’s expensive to travel with a crew of lackeys to sell the merch, get creative and sign up some volunteers. Of course big bands and big venues need an all-pro retail operation, but you seem to be lamenting the small-guy case. OK, so think small.

A web form with your concert dates and a “Click here if you are willing to help me with some logistics and tasks when I tour your town. I’ll give you a free ticket, and we can have some beers after.”

For the truly small acts, I always see the artist manning their own sales after the show. That makes sense if it’s just one guy touring bars. It’s not like the merch stand needs to be open 24/7 to serve the needs of 100 bar patrons.

“merch people have to be paid, AND fed on the road, and accommodated”….so, no they don’t.

Jordan says:

Give people a reason.

People need incentive to buy music. When you put something out physically, it needs to be something you just can’t get anywhere else. I’m not talking about pictures or extra songs, I’m talking real, honest-to-goodness merch. Why would anyone want to buy something they can get for free? You can steal music from a website, but you sure as hell can’t steal a t-shirt or guitar pick. Even though it costs a little more to produce, it’s worth it in the end. You wind up ACTUALLY making money on what you sell because the benefit simply isn’t available online.

Simon says:

Re: Paul McGuinness

He’s like those white, middle aged, talk-radio hosts that lament the past, even though they are doing OK. They remember things through rose-tinted lenses and are resistent to any kind of change – even when the evidence is obviously against them. They’re the ones that will pick up on every bad news story involving a shooting, saying “this never happened when I was a kid”, even while the crimes stats clearly show falling violent crime rates.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Paul McGuinness

A while back, I wrote something called Why Musicians And Labels Should Embrace Filesharing. In it, I wrote this:

Let’s not forget that copyright holders are the only ones legally allowed to charge for copies. In most cases, the label owns the copyright, not the artists. And record labels have a long and sordid history of freeloading on the backs of artists. I think that traditional musicians are so used to dealing with labels, they simply can’t wrap their heads around the notion that people getting their music without payment could be anything other than people screwing them over.

This seems particularly apropos of McGuinness. As a manager, part of his job is to make sure that labels and corporations don’t exploit U2 financially. This naturally leads to the mindset that anyone who doesn’t pay is your enemy.

Put more poetically: when you’ve been swimming in troubled waters, even a goldfish will look like a piranha.

SoniaLaStrega (profile) says:

IIRC, it may have been Slashdot where the charming and delicately scented Mr McGuinness was spanked so extensively by the ACs.

He may know plenty about the music business, but he knows almost nothing about the internet. If he did, his biggest client might not have a fugly disaster of a website and an internet presence that doesn’t look like an afterthought.

crade (profile) says:

I think it is always going to be hard to be a musician. That is just the way it is when you are trying to make a living doing what most people do for fun. There are hundreds of others lined up behind you for the chance to make a living playing music instead of working crap ass, soul crushing jobs. We have already seen a few examples of how the select few can make it without the major labels, it’s not impossible, it’s just hard like it always has been so that some people will still have to work at crappy regular jobs. I don’t know how anyone thinks this is going to be any different going forward.

Will it be harder than before going forward? Maybe. Will there be an end to professional musicians, or a shortage of quality musicians trying to make a living as musicians? No. I am sure there will not be.

Bruce Ediger (profile) says:

Re: Hard to be a musician - Yes!

Mr/Ms Crade hits the nail exactly on the head. “There are hundreds of others lined up behind you for the chance to make a living playing music …”

And why is that? “… you are trying to make a living doing what most people do for fun”.

If it was fun, they wouldn’t call it a job. They’d call it a hobby, and charge you to do it.

There’s an almost infinite supply of people willing to do music. Therefore the price of music comes down to the marginal cost of production, nearly zero dollars per unit (MP3 file). Anything about copyrights & etc is just distorting the market.

Ambrose (profile) says:

I just read the very first paragraph in which his hero, a composer, walks out of a restaurant without paying his bill because he hears an orchestra playing his tune.

This, hilariously, actually IS stealing. The ingredients, the power used to cook the meal, the waiter’s and the cook’s time spent on the meal are all things which the restaurant has to pay for, and which they can’t get back.

This guy thinks file sharing is theft, and so he justifies ACTUAL theft in the article.

Anonymous Coward says:

“I’m regularly called all sorts of horrible names.”

Part of the reason I lost respect for IP maximists is because of how they deal with MM and anyone that criticizes IP in the comments on Techdirt or elsewhere. Lately they haven’t been as bad as they used to be, partly because being impolite doesn’t help their cause and partly because I don’t see them even comment as much anymore or attempt to respond to criticisms as much, but I remember they used to be horrible and are hardly even interested in trying to participate in a meaningful debate but instead are only interested disrupting the conversation. To the extent that they are willing to honestly participate in a meaningful debate, and not just troll, I and others on techdirt have always been more than willing to debate them in a civil manner.

Anonymous Coward says:

“But I am worried about how many politicians may be influenced by his rantings.”

The problem is that you only want politicians to be influenced by your opinion and not the opinion of anyone else. You think that your opinion is somehow more important than the opinion of others. Sounds rather condescending if you ask me.

and, of course, your opinion is that politicians should pass laws that unfairly benefit you at the expense of everyone else.

“Without Anonymous Coward and his blogosphere friends, I think many artists and musicians would be more upfront about the industry’s current predicament. “

Translation: Without criticism you think more people will be more upfront about arguing your indefensible position. But since your position is indefensible you must resort to blaming the ability for people to openly criticize your indefensible position because without that ability those who hold your position won’t be as afraid of looking foolish for arguing for an indefensible position.

Free speech sucks, I understand. People like you have managed to coerce the legal system and the MSM in a way that keeps people like MM and other similar IP critics outside the MSM. So for years you can argue an indefensible position with little to no criticism. Now that criticism is introduced everyone quickly discusses how your position is nothing more than a house of cards and they start bulldozing it with facts and logic and you simply can not tolerate such criticism. Your world of freeloading off of bought politicians and broken laws is falling apart and your ability to unfairly influence our legal system to your benefit is diminishing and you simply can not tolerate it.

zitherglow (profile) says:

For what its worth, McGuinness is also becoming reviled amongst hardcore U2 fans who have begun to refer to him as McGuine$$ on various msgboards because of recent business dealings at fans’ expense (primarily and ironically the sub-standard way that U2.com is run for paid-subscribers).

I find his cherry-picked Bono quote somewhat disingenuous as well, given Bono wrote this in the NME in 08:

I wanted to set the record straight on behalf of the members of U2 on comments made to the BBC by our much-loved and valued manager, Paul McGuinness, regarding Radiohead’s decision to make the music of ‘In Rainbows’ available as a download, using the ‘honesty box’ idea for payment.

We agree with our manager that this is a head-scratching and worrisome time for many musicians who, unlike ourselves, are depending on royalty or publishing cheques to pay the rent (particularly songwriters). We also agree that it is disturbing to see internet service providers and technology companies profit from the so-called ‘disintermediation’ of the music business when so many music lovers are losing their jobs. And while there is no doubt that it’s extremely difficult for a new artist to get the kind of investment on which U2 depended in the first few wobbly years of recording, we disagree with Paul’s assessment of Radiohead’s release as “having backfired to a certain extent.” We think they were courageous and imaginative in trying to figure out some new relationship with their audience. Such imagination and courage are in short supply right now…they’re a sacred talent and we feel blessed to be around at the same time.

With respect, Bono

© NME, 2008.

herodotus (profile) says:

“Yes, and if anyone had actually said that, you’d have a point.

But no one has. So you don’t.”

He actually does sort of have a point.

For all of the power that the internet puts into the hands of creative people, I really don’t think that ‘making a living off of your art’ is all that much easier than it was in 1985.

Granted, it is probably slightly easier, and it definitely is open to more people than ever before. But in the end, trying to make a living being a musician is as bad a business decision today as it ever was. And for some kinds of musicians (e.g. studio musicians put out of work by sample libraries, analog audio engineers put out of work by the affordable ease of audio software suites like ProTools and Cubase) things are worse than ever.

The power of the internet has less to do with making a living and more to do with creating lines of communication, and developing communities of people with common interests.

The resultant pooling of resources and sharing of information allows smaller, geographically scattered cultural communities to thrive in a way that was impossible before the web.

The cute-young-people-posing-and-emoting-for-their-devoted-fans business, whether thriving or dying in it’s new, social-media-driven form, seems like one big yawn by comparison.

mike allen (profile) says:

Artists dont need labels revord companies or distribution of material from third parties any more the sooner that is realised by the above the better What this guy wants is for tho old business modle to stay shame it wont. get over it copyright is dead most people ignore it some artists dont want it and prefer the freedom they have without it and contracts from lables.

Joe McMahon (profile) says:

The music industry's been broken for a long time

I finally gave completely up on the possibility that the music industry (specifically ASCAP) actually attempted to do anything for anyone other than the labels when I specifically informed them that my entire CD (independently released, but ASCAP-registered) would be getting airplay on a station. The next month they politely informed me I had had no plays.

When I pointed out that I had informed them three weeks prior that the album would be played in its entirety, and that it indeed had been played and submitted to them, they essentially said, “oh, that doesn’t count”. Mostly, apparently, because I was not under contract to a record company would would get the vast majority of the money while I got a 20-cent check.

So now I give my music away, and to hell with them. I happen to like U2’s music – but the idea that they’ll somehow go broke unless the Internet is spayed is laughable in the extreme.

NOT APPLICABLE says:

Boohoohoo

Leaving aside for the moment that McGuinness and ‘Bonio’ are a pair of tossers and that U2 are generally a shit band, I haven’t noticed any articles in the press telling how the likes of McGuinness and ‘Bonio’or other financialy well off Rock Stars are homeless starving or otherwise ‘suffering through all these naught naughty pirates and buccaneers and thieves. I have seen numerous articles telling of how many ‘artist’ are not receiving moneys owed to them by the music companies. SO FUCK the likes of McGuinness and ‘Bonio UP THE ARSE WITH A RED HOT SCREWDRIVER UP THE ARSE pardon my French.

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