If Your Options Are To Change With The Times Or To Just Complain About Them, Which Is More Likely To Work?
from the just-wondering dept
Specifically, when it comes to the wallet, everyone's suffering....of that there can be no doubt. And what of the financial prospects for musicians and recording artists in the years to come? Shaky, at best. Unless you're one of the grotesque 'Idol'-type pop disasters in the top 5, you're looking at getting a day job or finding other sources of income. Conventional wisdom amongst my peers has been remarkably short-sided over the last decade: "Yeah, CD sales are down, but all the money is in licensing." Not anymore. "Yeah, licensing money is down, but the video game industry is killing it." Less so these days, according to recent data. "Well, the real money is in touring." Really? When was the last time you saw a 'new,' post-record company artist headline a major music festival? At this rate, we'll be stuck with Coldplay for decades (no offense intended).Fair enough, though I think it misses the point entirely. First, it's true that anyone who thinks that there is one single silver bullet solution to the changing market is going to be disappointed. Rely too much on licensing? That's going to be a problem. Rely too much on video games? Ditto. Part of the point that we've been raising here is that you need multiple revenue streams that work well together -- and one thing that helps the most in making those revenue streams work is exposure and a larger audience. And I definitely disagree with the claim that "everyone" is suffering. That's certainly not true. We've highlighted plenty of artists who are making a career in music who never would have made a living (let alone any money at all) under the old system. And, finally, it's really odd to suggest that the only way touring can be shown as successful is if a new non-label artist headlines a major music festival. What sort of standard is that? Corey Smith netted over $2 million last year, mostly from touring. Is he not successful because he didn't headline a major music festival? And who cares whether they have a label or not. The new business models don't require you to go without a label, just like they don't require you to go with a label.
Time for a little straight talk, from one reasonably intelligent human being to YOU, the reasonably intelligent reader. As distasteful as it may sound, the fact is that so many of our heroes: Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, The Beatles, whoever you care to name; generated much of their best art in return for financial compensation. If you take away the compensation, guess what... the art stops.Except how many qualified musicians in the time of Hendrix, Coltrate and the Beatles didn't make it because they didn't win the golden lottery ticket from the labels? How many artists today have more control over charting their own course (again either on or off a label)? And, yes, plenty of them who are doing smart things, embracing multiple revenue streams, connecting with fans and offering them good scarce things to buy, are, in fact making money.
Every artist is entitled to their own price point, just as every consumer has a choice in what they purchase. Nobody puts a gun to someone's head and says, "Hey, buy this Picasso for 20 million." Likewise, if $9.99 is too much to spend for one of my albums, so be it, your choice. But if you're holding your breath, waiting for me to boost my cool-quotient by giving my music away for free, it's not going to happen. The fact is that I feel my music has value. You may disagree, and that's fine. But I know how much energy I put into what I do, and how long it takes me to make something I'm satisfied with. Giving that away just feels wrong to me. It's not about money per se; I can donate a large sum of money to charity and not think twice, but I won't give my art away. I'd rather sell it to 100 people who value it as I do than give it away to 1000 who could care less. That's MY choice.And this, I believe, is the crux of the argument -- and it's the argument many artists have made over the years, but it's flawed in a variety of ways. First, it confuses price with value. We all value the air we breathe very much, but we don't pay for it. Price and value are not the same. Second, no one is suggesting he release music for free because it would increase his "cool-quotient," but because, combined with other smart business models, it can help him make more money and reach a larger audience. In fact, as you read through the comments on his post, many of his fans point out that they first heard his music via file sharing. Third, he contradicts himself at the end of that paragraph. Above he talks about how we have to admit that making money really is the most important thing and that without it, people would make less music. But at the end of that paragraph above he says exactly the opposite: pointing out that he'd rather have a smaller audience and make less money if it meant people "valued" his music more. But, again, that's mixing up price and value.
Again, he is, of course free to express his opinion and do whatever he wants. But I think he is looking at the issue from the wrong angle and making some assumptions that aren't supported. There is a world of opportunity out there, and perhaps it's not as easy as it once was, and perhaps it requires things he doesn't like to do. And, yes, he can choose whatever business model he wants -- but it's the market who determines if it's successful. And if the market is saying one thing, and he's choosing to do something else, then he's going to suffer -- and that seems to go against the very point he was making at the beginning of the post about the importance of making money.