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ARSCLIST  May 2014

ARSCLIST May 2014

Subject:

Re: Some Music Industry Problems ... Solved?

From:

David Lewis <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 13 May 2014 10:41:59 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (134 lines)

Tom,

I'd agree with you if I hadn't known people in that -$14k boat. Some were
artists who unwisely spent up their advances before their projects were
finished; others were
unseasoned newbies with no decent manager to strike out clauses in
contracts that would come back to bite them. It is possible that you view
such folks as atypical
as their projects never came about, or you otherwise never heard of them.

You reject new media and declare the current music scene as a vast
wasteland and uphold the old school industry that you know as incapable of
doing to people the
kinds of things Albini describes. But the example you cite is a very old
school industry. In the 1950s, demand far outstripped supply and just about
anyone could make
recordings in some aspect of the industry or another and not lose their
shirt. However with the 1980s, the rise of MTV and an overage of supply --
at least in the pop
market -- the music industry felt that it really could finally cultivate
its own artists, trends and score big, like they did with Madonna. They no
longer felt they needed to
extend scouts to find trends and bands that were the next big thing. New
contracts were devised with clauses to protect companies from over-generous
deals -- i.e. the
seven album contracts of the 1970s, that bands found ways to circumvent --
that placed more of the potential financial burden for a bad contract to
the band. Bands were
usually so happy to get a record deal that they didn't read the fine print.
They thought by virtue of signing that they had "made it" and didn't
realize that they were
entering into a serious business obligation.

I do not share Albini's hatred for music publishers, but he comes by such
hatred honestly. I think it is wrong now for anyone -- company, or talent
-- to expect big
revenues from recording. For risk-averse investors the music business is
kryptonite, and should be. Although it may be straining the fortunes of
major music concerns,
internet distribution DOES democratize the process. How anyone handles it
is up to them, and the idea that anyone can control public taste such as
was the case
when MTV or even American Idol was big is in rapid decline. What you are
hearing are the desperate, dying yawps of that marketing plan.

Yesterday I listened to a demo by a Cincinnati group in progress done by a
smart, very musical group that are friends of mine. It was excellent. I'm
not sure what they're
going to do with it. They might make a vinyl record of it and end up with
most of the run sitting in the hall closet. But it is their statement and
they have a right to be
justly proud of it. And I think that going forward that may well be the
very best we can expect from any music industry that we may have.

David N. Lewis
North Plainfield, NJ






On Tue, May 13, 2014 at 8:08 AM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>wrote:

> Hi David:
>
> I'm not sure what problems are "solved." The graph on the first page of
> this article tells the whole story. How does a new or niche artist thrive
> in a "stream" world? These "streams" are mostly robot-controlled or 100%
> user-preference, which means unless the user is specifically seeking an
> obscure, new or niche artist -- or has the time to fiddle with the robot
> settings at something like Pandora -- they will likely be mostly served
> very mainstream, likely older-catalog fare. I do think streams, the more
> randomized the better (although randomized is exactly NOT the goal of the
> robot playlist bots), may be good for back catalog materials.
>
> Given the collapse of download sales, I think the record business is about
> to lose another big chunk of profitability. Which means even less funding
> and infrastructure for young artists. The self-releasing thing is probably
> fine as a publicity tool, but it's rarely profitable for the artists,
> meaning the whole of profitability comes from live performances and other
> cobbled-together revenue streams. Bottom line, the pie is much, much
> smaller than in the heyday, except for a very small group of
> super-pop-stars.
>
> Almost all "new and exciting" music (as hyped by various would-be
> tastemaker websites and radio networks) that I come across sounds like
> stale and often lame re-combinations of long-established music forms,
> melodies, song structures and genres. I haven't heard anything
> ground-breaking in years. There are some who go deliberately un-tuneful or
> super-foulmouth or "I can play louder and faster than the old dudes", but
> that's not particularly interesting or new. It could well be that Western
> music forms have gone as far as they'll go, but I think it has more to do
> with the decline of music education, a lack of curiosity and boldness in
> the younger generation, and the breakdown of a system that helped along
> bright young artists as they mastered their craft. For instance, recording
> in a bedroom is a closed loop, whereas a young artist experiencing a
> professional recording environment, and daily exposure to those with more
> and different experiences, opens new vistas for creativity and knowledge.
> Putting a video on YouTube is a skewed "market test" (skewed to the
> demographic of YouTube users, fans of that particular artist or genre,
> etc), so it's likely to provide useless or near-useless feedback. Having a
> song played regionally or nationally on old-school radio, and interacting
> with old-school DJ's, was a way for artists to figure out their wider
> audience and hone their music for maximum impact (or not). Bottom line,
> there were many aspects of the old industry that were beneficial to
> artists, and I think the story of the band $14k in debt is not typical.
>
> -- Tom Fine
>
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "David Lewis" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 7:44 AM
> Subject: [ARSCLIST] Some Music Industry Problems ... Solved?
>
>
>
>  Steve Albini is a battle-scarred veteran of the underground and
>> alternative
>> rock industry who runs a studio in Chicago.
>> The 1994 article referred to in this piece was a well-circulated and
>> important one at the time; here, he revisits some of
>> his complaints from that time and offers the interesting perspective that
>> things may not be so bad now as they were
>> then:
>>
>> http://qz.com/202194/steve-albini-the-problem-with-music-
>> has-been-solved-by-the-internet/
>>
>> forwarded by David N. Lewis
>>
>>
>>

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