Music as Industry? Music as Art!
by Chris Quinlan f.dip.a 11th February 2014
There's something very tragic happening to the music industry, all the bands, even the relics I grew up with, have to reform or continue touring to recoup the disappearance of their royalty cheques, caused either through piracy or subscription royalty rates so low that musician Zoe Keating revealed in August that she earned $808 from 201,412 streams of her two albums on Spotify, a return of 0.4 cents per play, during the first six months of 2013. It is completely free to listen and watch on YouTube.
Also, check this article out which posts pictures of royalty cheques submitted by some famous artists;
As a comparison, there was a report in 1994 that said that if a band or artist had a song make number one for ONE week in America, the average gross was 4 million smackaroos.
Personally, over the last 30 days, 1919 people came to my gig, they listened to a collective 4058 minutes of totally original music and I personally earned $0.97c (source: YouTube analytics Jan11-Feb9 2014).
Therefore, these days, the tours that bands and artists embark on to recoup falling royalties are initially plentiful and wonderful, but now we are at that saturation point where the festivals are falling in on themselves with bands pulling out of Soundwave etc .. Big Day Out down on previous years (not even returning to Perth) open letters and dramas with JJJ that despair over bands not getting recognition or a crack on radio to promote said tours.
One could wonder whether the Music Industry is going the way of the Car Industry.
Yet, the technology to make music over the last decade has been a wonder, there will always be fabulous musicians, and it has become so much cheaper over the last decade.
I have read some newspaper articles that at least to me, confuse what is actually happening with Music, blurring the two main paradigms with Music.
Music as Industry
Music as Art
Music as ART is a lifeforce, I would be dead without music, literally.
Frank Zappa was once asked if he was so against drugs, why did he smoke?
He slipped out of the pertinent question by saying he saw cigarettes as food.
To most, Music is food, Music is an indispensable Art form, but it is the Industry of Music that sustains it.
Music as one of the arts, will always be with us in one form or another, it is part of our DNA, some more than others. I don’t even see it as an argument. To me, a human not having music is like saying a human doesn’t have arms or legs.
But there comes a time when you cannot rightly call an Industry, an Industry when the reason for having an Industry disappears ..Wages.
Community Radio and TV can only survive because of Volunteerism, in my hometown Melbourne, Community TV Channel 31, Community Radio 3PBS, 3RRR et.al. pretty much totally rely on people doing stuff for free. They are supportive and important.
However, there comes a time when the gloss wears off if you are continually paying rather than earning.
What happens when an artist faces the conundrum that the very community organization that they deliver original free stuff too, which the organization then uses to attract sponsorship revenue, continually demand equipment upgrades of you to keep your material on air?
What happens when the artist starts to feel that they are being bled dry for free stuff when the people working for that organization who are telling them to continually upgrade are the very ones earning a wage from that artists work?
There are two other types of Industry that use this business model.
Being a Pimp, and being a Drug Dealer.
I just heard you say OUCH! I did too whilst writing it ... especially after thinking about it for a long time, after reading many articles that seem to continually miss the mark, after deciding to write my own article and getting my thoughts about it together in a hopefully semi-articulate rant.
Let me take the OUCH (shock value) out of pimp and drug dealer and simply work on their meanings:
I googled Pimp ... this is what came up ....
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
(Redirected from Pimp)
Procuring or pandering is the facilitation or provision of a prostitute in the arrangement of a sex act with a customer. A procurer, colloquially called a pimp (if male) or a madam (if female), is an agent for prostitutes who collects part of their earnings. The procurer may receive this money in return for advertising services, physical protection, or for providing, and possibly monopolizing, a location where the prostitute may engage clients. Like prostitution, the legality of certain actions of a madam or a pimp vary from one region to the next.”
Take note of this sentence;
The procurer may receive this money in return for advertising services, physical protection, or for providing, and possibly monopolizing, a location”
There comes a time when doing it for free to get the exposure feels more and more like one is getting pimped rather than as any career boost or as a tax deductible advertising exercise.
Let us go to Drug Dealer ....
Illegal drug trade
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
(Redirected from Drug dealer)
The Illegal drug trade is a global black market that is dedicated to the cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and sale of drugs that are subject to drug prohibition laws.
The word to note here is: Cultivation
A drug dealer is also known as pusher, the typical business model is to cultivate push the market, business speak for getting someone hooked on the gear then having that person continually coming back to said pusher to stock up on the gear.
Eventually, things get out of hand, your customer is hooked and will do anything to keep getting the gear. From petty theft to the neighbours blu-ray to knocking over 7-Elevens, then dealing themselves.
The business model so good it just keeps on giving, especially if you’re not on the gear yourself. Congratulations, you have just created a mini-empire.
Watch any given TV episode of Sopranos, Breaking Bad or Underbelly for verification/celebration on both local and international levels.
The TV series Breaking Bad was hailed as a TV masterpiece. I can’t help thinking some people have used it as a defacto TAFE training course for becoming a successful lab cook/drug lord.
Apply all this to the state of the Music Industry as it stands today, then substitute the word DRUG, for MUSIC, substitute the word PROSTITUTE for Musician.
You cannot call an Industry, an INDUSTRY, if there is nobody being Industrious, meaning, getting a wage.
Industry was not created nor can it survive on FREE.
The only Industry that continues to survive today on FREE, is SLAVERY.
(so interconnected, they rhyme)
So this article has used three nasty buzzwords ... Pimp, Drug Dealer and Slavery.
Three nasty buzzwords, Yet there are three simple solutions:
1) Delete the term Industry, and replace it with the word ART, that way nobody is bullshitting anyone. The same way King Hit is now referred to as Coward Punch.
2)Have any musical organization that considers themselves a part of the Music Industry cut and paste current legal statutes concerning minimum basic wage into any terms of agreement. This is actually current law for any Australian Industry other than the Music one. This would abolish 1st world slavery amongst musicians and artists. They may even send you a consultation fee.
3) Restore royalty rates which worked for decades to a simple percentage of the net, (approximately 10-12%) not .006% as stated in this article about the music streaming service Spotify ... http://business.time.com/2013/12/03/heres-how-much-money-top-musicians-are-making-on-spotify/
The article also points out that the few people who have had success do not get all of this filthy lucre i.e. the gross. Like any grand empire, the money is an inverted triangle of cost, cost, cost. Managers, promoters, mixers, lighting, transport, food, clothes, equipment roadies, and the list goes on, some on a percentage of the percentage, most on a flat wage. The Net profit is sometimes break even at best. Paying to play is common. Frank Zappa, last tour before being diagnosed with cancer ended with a $250,000 loss.
Many music organizations have an expectation that you play for free with sponsors and endorsees picking up the tab. This happened with Bruno Mars at the recent US Superbowl. It nearly happened to me a few years ago at a major drum clinic.
The business model for this little pearler is succinctly explained in the classic Mel Brooks film The Producers.
You know it, let us all sing together;
Springtime for Hitler
Springtime for Hitler and the Music Industry
Soundwave is happy and gay
Bands cancelling to a faster pace
Look out, here comes the royalty race
Springtime for Hitler and the Music Industry
Winter for cars and tinned fruit
Springtime for Hitler and Music Industry
It is now all free, Apple, send us some of your loot
11th February 2014
Chris Quinlan f.dip.a is a musician, drum and guitar teacher, and producer of Melbourne Musos - The Drum TV Show and author of the MMDC Drumset examination syllabus used throughout Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia. He has written for Beat, Mixdown and Drummer Magazines. He was nominated for the Australian of the Year awards in 2013.