Swizz Beatz: Technology Brings Freedom To Musicians; Those Not Embracing It Are Greedy

from the nicely-said dept

Swizz Beatz, one of the most well-known, well-respected music producers around — who was very briefly listed as the CEO of Megaupload right before it was shut down by the US government — was just interviewed on MTV about Megaupload, technology, file sharing and music and made a bunch of good points. When asked why the industry has been so slow to adopt what technology enables, and specifically about file sharing, which the interviewer notes is “so important in hip hop,” he sums it up simply: it’s all about greed by the labels.

I think the only reason why people wouldn’t embrace technology is because of greed. And because of the old way of doing business, which is also greed. And then you have people running the business — no disrespect — that’s 80 years plus. They don’t even know how to operate an iPad, and they’re making decisions on the younger generation’s future.

And my association with forward thinking technology is very deep. And it came up a little bit with Megaupload — which still, today, is a big misunderstanding of technology. And the day that you mix the old business with the new technology, we’ll have a better place. It’s actually going to be a time when artists can come out and do 10 million records their first week. Because the technology is going to be so locked in tight globally. You have billions of people, all over the world. Why can’t artists that everybody likes do 10 million a week? It’s just that the communication and the technology and the old way of doing business is off. But once that catches up, which is going to happen in the next three years, it’s going to be amazing.

And the cool thing is that technology equals freedom for the artist. And that’s the best thing that could ever happen for artists that work hard and that really want to get their career off the ground.

He’s then asked a bit about “piracy” and actually getting people to buy, and he notes that if you make good music, people will support you. He says the problem is that people have gotten away from making good music. But when there is good music, people want to support “great music.” He notes that people have no problem paying for those “timeless pieces,” because they know they’re supporting the artists. It’s just that when musicians today are “bluffing,” the public knows it, and isn’t so interested in supporting it.


It’s a good interview, and it’s good to see more people — especially in the hip hop world — speaking out about this, rather than merely accepting the lines from the 80 year old execs at the music labels.

Update: Apparently, Swizz is feeling talkative these days. He also did a nice longer interview on a radio show where he talks a bit more about all of this, again saying that the Megaupload situation was a misunderstanding — and talked about how he had figured out a way for musicians to make “wow money” but it won’t happen now because of the “miscommunication” that has the US government making it look like they were breaking the law.

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Comments on “Swizz Beatz: Technology Brings Freedom To Musicians; Those Not Embracing It Are Greedy”

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57 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Also, one of the videos seems to have redirected me to the MTV website after a while.
(I have been redirected from Techdirt to MTV and I assume it’s because one of the two videos I clicked).

What the hell? Is that the new advertising/money-making tactic for online videos? Making embedded videos redirect the viewer to a website they did not want to visit without their consent and knowledge?
I’m not blaming Techdirt on this, I’m sure Techdirt wasn’t aware of it. Another reason for me to dislike MTV.

TasMot (profile) says:

One Point I'm Missing

I believe it was in economics class that they taught that investments go to where there is money to be made. I wish I had enough to invest in an alternative label that could take advantage of the new distribution systems and cut out the old gatekeepers. I’m thinking that you don’t need the traditional system of distribution to ship the disks, just the internet to facilitate downloads. The Post Office, FedEx, UPS, DHL and others will ship the disks and other physical goods when needed. Finally, a tour promoter to handle that end of the business. Oh, and don’t forget a set of internet radio stations to broadcast the music (one for each genre – rock, country, etc). Does anyone know somebody that can bootstrap this operation and dump the major labels?

Anonymous Coward says:

Good music?

‘Good music’ is so subjective. Music swizz-beatz regards as good is music I likely can’t stand. The claim is so based on subjective opinion, it’s impossible to use it as an excuse for piracy.
A second major flaw in the article is this idea that musicians aren’t adopting new technology. Nothing could be honestly FURTHER from the truth. Musicians are extremely enthusiastic about new technology and are generally early adopters.
There is NO new technology musicians are afraid of. Piracy isn’t new technology, it is new social behavior.

Rock says:

@TasMot People have been trying to do that for over a decade now, in earnest. No one has nailed the formula yet. Tunecore does a great job. For literally $10 you can have them service your music to every major digital download site. Amazon, Itunes and any other site you can name. They’ll credit your money right to your paypal account. They’ll also get your music on Spotify and many other stations (Pandora is possible but you need a UPC and a physical CD for sale on Amazon).

So literally for a few dollars you can have your music available for sale all over the world, played on internet radio. You can promote yourself via myriad social network sites and many other avenues. The problem is, how do you separate yourself from the 15 billion other people putting music out now the same way?

The holy grail that major labels still have that indie artists can’t crack is getting on radio and big budget promo and their connections. They’re tied in with major radio that won’t play indie artists, they have connections or own the venues and tours and are able to break their artists via huge tours and festivals.

It’s not as simple as have the means to put your music out without a label – that exists. The hard part is promoting yourself and getting people to actually buy your music.

Anonymous Coward says:

Good music?

I was waiting for that.
It’s new behavior for teenage girls, soccer moms etc.
Unauthorized copying has always been around, but it’s become widespread, adopted by many on main street.
None of which goes against my point anyway. Musicians are absolutely NOT walking away from new technology and the freedom it brings. Musicians are enthusiastic adopters of new technology.
The problem is the way some people are using the internet, not the internet itself.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Serious Reporting?

How many 80 year old music execs are there? Seriously.
You want to appear to be a sensible commentator on the music business, but article after article you pepper your text with untruths like ’80 year old execs’ and smooth over your personal bias as ‘slightly paraphrased’.

You might want to learn how “quoting” works. We were quoting Swizz. Also, you might want to learn what hyperbole means, and when it’s used and why it’s useful.

Anyway, Doug Morris, former head of Universal, now head of Sony Music is 73. I’m guessing that’s who Swizzy was referring to. He’s not 80, but he looks 80.

Anonymous Coward says:

Good music?

I think he was saying the industry isn’t adopting new technology, not that the artists are against it. Some artists may be, but many more are adopting the technology only to find the labels that own them thwarting their efforts.

The artist is caught in the middle of all of this damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

Franklin G Ryzzo (profile) says:

Good music?

I’m going to have to disagree with you on that one…

When I was in middle and high school, the internet was in it’s earliest phases. Teenage girls and boys were still copying as much as they could from each other. The difference between then and now is not the amount of copying, but rather the expanded selection of what to copy. When I wanted to make a mix tape back in the day, I either had to find a friend that had the song or album I wanted (or a friend of a friend) or wait for it to be played on the radio. Now, any song out is available just about anywhere in the world. The behavior has not changed in the slightest, only the convenience and selection in which the content can be acquired.

Anonymous Coward says:

Good music?

I think he was saying the industry isn’t adopting new technology, not that the artists are against it. Some artists may be, but many more are adopting the technology only to find the labels that own them thwarting their efforts.

I honestly can’t think of ANY new technology that artists haven’t embraced. And I know mostly artists over 35 yrs old.
Unauthorized copying isn’t ‘new technology’, and most artists haven’t embraced unauthorized copying it’s true.
Artists HAVE embraced free auditioning of their music. Many artists have embraced giving away some music. So maybe you can enlighten me as to what specific new technology artists have rejected?

Anonymous Coward says:

Good music?

Are you kidding me? People have been recording radio songs in cassette tapes before the internet existed and etc. etc. etc. My mom used to do that, my girl cousins used to do that, everyone used to do that.

It’s not new social behavior, taking what is freely available for yourself or to share with people is old social behaviour, older than eletronic (or even eletric) powered media.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I think that the difference between your and my definition of greedy.

I don’t think a guy having a lot of money out of hardwork mean he is greedy by himself.

However, I think that if that guy goes to great lenghts to destroy personal freedom and other business, abusing the law and law enforcement and having backdoor deals with goverment in order to maximize his profits, then it’s greed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Right after Chris Dodd gives back his salary for bribing elected officials and violating the law. And then the CEOs of the music and movie gatekeeping crowd give up their high salaries.

Dodd doesn’t represent me (a musician) and millions like me. A huge amount of music and film is created by artists not signed to a major record label, or movie studio, and not based in North America (Dodd/RIAA-world).
Everyone is pirated. That’s the headline.
So if only RIAA/MPAA supported artists were pirated, and NOT the self releasers, DIY’ers, independent movie makers and non-American citizen artists, your point might have a bit more weight, but as such it’s just hollow rhetoric from a mainstream, US-centric point of view.

TDR says:

Re:

AC 24, prove that infringing downloads cause any kind of monetary loss, with empirical non-industry data and a complete step-by-step chain of causality, or provide a complete retraction of everything you have ever said on this site. Now. Any other response, including silence or parodying/imitating this one, will count as such a retraction.

I’m waiting.

Anonymous Coward says:

Casting Doubt

Right, this is the climate change denier strategy I guess.
You need 100% documentable proof, that leaves absolutely no room for doubt whatsoever, or piracy doesn’t damage incomes.
You wont accept any industry data, or anything that smells of an industry connection. Plus you demand lengthy and detailed accounting, documenting personal financial data, bank balances, income in Excel format etc… And if those impossible to vault hurdles are not enough, you demand complete detraction of anything I/we’ve said in defense of pirated musicians.
Meanwhile, most of you resort to simplistic “you’re an a-hole” epithets as good enough evidence to prove you are right.

RadialSkid (profile) says:

Re:

Why, because you say so?

No. Because by your own admission, you can’t recoup selling copies.

Why is it any time you shill types whine about how you’re not making money, and someone actually provides you a suggestion on how to make money in the modern scene, you just plug your ears and go “LALALALALA BRING BACK THE ’90S!”

Guess what? It ain’t happening. You will either learn to adapt to the new paradigm or you will be replaced by someone more willing to operate in its parameters. I don’t see where you have any other choice.

You are buying the ‘music’ aren’t you.

No.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

>Dodd doesn’t represent me (a musician) and millions like me. A huge amount of music and film is created by artists not signed to a major record label, or movie studio, and not based in North America (Dodd/RIAA-world).

Really? I was under the impression from Techdirt’s opponents that everyone signs on with labels so clearly any criticism about labels from Techdirt must be wrong…

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Comment madness

It looks like the comments on this one just went in all different directions.

One moron has his knickers in a bunch about 80 year old record execs. It was stated that that was hyperbole in a quote. The argument was basically “but..but.. that’s not a fact.” Ok, no it’s not a fact, but the fact is that there are a lot of older record execs out there that do not understand technology or do not want to accept that it has changed the marketplace. Hope that clears it up.

Next up is the debate about new business models and piracy as a social behavior, which is essentially the same argument. Many of us are just stating the same thing in different ways. The facts are that file sharing music is down, digital sales are up, CD sales are relatively dismal, and social behavior is consistent.

The major labels still control the broadcast mediums for now and that is a HUGE advantage to them which they should continue to leverage and they even have a strong foothold on the web with VEVO (whether we like it or not). New tech is giving indies new opportunities, but it’s still tough and that’s just the market and it will shift toward the best perceived service/product. So the indies can stop whining about radio play and exposure and the majors can stop whining about everything else since they still have the most control of exposure.

Next up is the insane debate about losses. Does piracy cause losses? Yes, absolutely. Are those losses as horrific as the industry believes? In some aspects, yes. The CD market has been decimated, but is that due to piracy, no. The format of choice changed from CDs to mp3s and the industry spent far too long trying to hold on to physical sales instead of shifting with the tech. From the industry side, the expectation was that the consumer would continue to buy the CDs and convert them to mp3s. In other words, they simply had no experience with the nascent digital marketplace and just kinda hoped it would work like the old analog market. Bad bet.

The elephant in the room is the convergence of the communications platform with the distribution network. Copyright law may be draconian, but no one really complained much before, because it was designed to work with physical copies, since that was all we had when the laws we initially written. So now we have a set of laws that is being used by companies to attack the technological evolution of the marketplace. Sorry, but there is no middle ground that will be acceptable to those who want their monopoly to be protected.

The content industry really needs to learn it’s place. You are not owed our money. How do you recoup your losses? Guess what? We don’t care because we are not running your buisness, that’s your issue. Instead of asking the government for more laws, ask for a bailout.

If the major record labels and movie studios and publishing houses all ceased to exist tomorrow, musicians would keep making music, movies would keep being made, and authors would keep writing books and CUSTOMERS would keep BUYING what they like, oh and piracy would keep happening. So the loss of culture argument is false. As for the money, it would be redistributed in a crazy way, since there would be no gatekeeper to skim off the gross, but still no loss the the economy. No loss to the economy???? How dare I say that??? We are talking about entertainment!!!! That money is DISPOSABLE income, it’s money that isn’t being saved and is circulating in the economy. If it’s not spent on entertainment it goes somewhere else in the economy and other businesses thrive and hire.

Troll that!

Anonymous Coward says:

Good music?

What I think is funny is how you are honing in on one thing I said as if you had some wiggle room, when my statement “Some artists may be” simply meant that I don’t personally know every single artist on the planet to know what they are or they are not doing or utilizing so I cannot say with 100% certainty that my statement covers every artist on the planet. Neither can you.

The majority of artists are embracing technology only to get shut down and get undermined by the record label that owns them. Keep reaching.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Serious Reporting?

There are few, if any 80 year olds running the music industry, whether swizz-beatz says so, or you repeat it.

Again you might want to learn how “quoting” works.

But, more to the point, I like how you focus on something totally meaningless, rather than the reality of his point: the leadership is totally out of touch and technologically illiterate.

Morris, for example, once bragged about the fact that he didn’t even know how to hire someone who understood technology, so he didn’t even bother.

But you’re going to say that Swizz is wrong to say the guy’s out of touch, because he didn’t first check his birth certificate?

Anonymous Coward says:

Comment madness

” The argument was basically “but..but.. that’s not a fact.” Ok, no it’s not a fact,”

No, the argument (that Mike often makes) is that if they cannot get the simple stuff right, how do you think they are doing on the complicated stuff?

This guy was going to be the front for Kim’s bullshit attempt to kill the recording industry, by basically nuclear attack. You honestly think he has anything good to say about the intended victims of that blast?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re:

What about if you’re trying to just recoup your expenses and you’re not able to do so because everyone is downloading without paying?

That’s not greedy.

Continually extending copyright so that it is, in practice, permanent? Working as hard as possible to eliminate fair use? Trying to shove the expense and hassle of copyright enforcement onto third parties? Trampling on the fundamental rights of innocent others for copyright enforcement purposes?

All of those are very, very greedy.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re:

A huge amount of music and film is created by artists not signed to a major record label, or movie studio, and not based in North America (Dodd/RIAA-world).

That’s true. And if you’re in those ranks, then what are you angry about? The vast majority of the people you seem to think oppose you here are actually opposing the tactics and behavior of the major labels. Not you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

let’s see, greedy labels = bad, but greedy tech sites like the pirate bay = good? seriously.

labels suck, but pirates suck more. at least labels pay and offer contracts. pirates pay nothing.

I don’t know why anyone would support the pirate bay ripping off artists and keeping 100% of the artists money, while paying the artist 0% of the money.

how is it the solution to one injustice (greed labels) is a greater injustice (greedy tech companies)?

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