Monday, October 11, 2010

a few thoughts on the present

So, I've been doing a considerable amount of research lately on the business of music, and the immense amount of transition and upheaval the industry is undergoing, and has been undergoing, for at least a decade now. It has been incredibly informative, but it also leaves me with some serious quandaries as to where I go from here.

As I am just now getting my full fledged professional music career off the ground (in terms of creating songs I wish to use as a source of income, part of what it means to "make a living" as a music maker) I am both inspired and trepidatious of what the future may hold for me in that regard.

The inspiring part is that with the dawning of the internet, the field is getting more and more leveled. We are starting to see a gradual collapse of major record companies, which, in my opinion, only prove to exploit artists, (with perhaps a few exceptions.) This is in part due to the fact that musicians and artists have a lot more opportunity to get their music to the outside world, within pretty much every facet of the industry (i.e. promotion, distribution, etc.)

However, the frightening part is that the other reason the industry is crumbling is because of the ever increasing piracy that goes on all the time in practically every home across the country, and probably, the globe. People copy illegal files of every sort without much consideration because they know there really aren't any repercussions. There is talk of internet providers eventually cracking down on this, but I don't feel like it's especially realistic.

The other side of the coin (this coin apparently has more than two sides!) is that currently, pretty much every way in which we purchase music puts WAY too much money in the pockets of record companies, and FAR too little in the pockets of artists. This has probably been the case since the dawning of recorded music. But it still doesn't make it right.

In that regard, I am excited to see that internet services like CD Baby apparently give a large portion of the money back to the artists, while streaming services like and pandora open up a wonderful world of independent artists who actually get paid royalties. The fact that artists are starting to sell their songs on their own websites is also promising. But that doesn't change the fact that because this music is essentially made up of 1s and 0s, it is incredibly easy to copy and manipulate by advertisers and the powers that be.

It is just a very strange time to be an artist. I feel empowered and yet, also a bit helpless. As live music seems to be steadily declining in our culture, its evident that for artists to make money from their music, they need to know they can do so in the new mediums of today (i.e. digital downloads.) But while archaic copyright law systems are staying in place, and aren't changing fast enough, technological advances happen on an almost daily basis.

I do know that I plan to forge ahead and use to my advantage this new world that is unfolding before us. Ultimately I believe the evolution that is taking place will find artists far more empowered and rewarded than they were in the past, and able to get their voices heard without dealing with the bullshit of a "music industry." But as artists, we also need to remind ourselves, and those around us, that this trend of everything being free…. books, music, film, etc. is only helping to further the idea that they aren't really worth anything, and surely not worth financially supporting those who create the works.

Let us at least hope that with the dawning of this new age comes not only greater access to fantastic art, but greater awareness of how important it is to our culture, and the fact that we need support it in every way we can!

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

Great insights, Jamo! Something that crossed my mind as I was reading is that the record industry is still relatively new - less than 100 years old. By contrast, music has been around for 1000's of years AT LEAST! I'm not sure the history of specialized musicians, but I do know that there were many "career" musicians before the record industry came along to create the illusion that you need to sell records to survive. Of course, the live music scene is a whole other issue to take issue with, but I wonder if digging into how the troubadours and minstrels did it would give us some out-of-the-box ideas for what is possible for us. I definitely think that Stevie Wonder should be handsomely rewarded for making "Songs in the Key of Life", but I also think it should be available for everyone without exception. Totally idealistic, but maybe there's a way?