Friday, February 4, 2011

Is being in a band really "Work"?

In the February issue of Hopecore Magazine there is an interview with the president and founder of AP Magazine; Mike Shea. The interview talks a lot about music labels and how the music industry looks today, and how it will look in the future. Below are two questions that caught my attention, I high-lited the parts that stood out to me:

What is your take on an organization like Come&Live! Which gives their artists’ music away for free and runs off of donations?

MS: The whole culture of free is exciting but it’s a scary world. It can blow up to everything before you know it. I was just thinking cynically the other night, if the culture of free really takes over and gets out of control, there will be no press outlets anymore or media outlets. Nobody will be able to make any money, there won’t be any Rolling Stone or New York Times or AP or Relevant, there won’t be anybody. All you’re going to have is a million music bloggers who have other day jobs. The culture of sampling, which was really what the music kiosks in chain stores were, were wildly successful then downloading hit and it became “Well, I want to hear the whole record first before I decide to buy it”. What happened was most people decided not to buy it and then the excuses started of “I don’t get paid enough, they’re on Interscope, the artists make so much money anyway etc”. The artists really got hurt and they’re really suffering now. We’re finding, as you guys probably hear of on your end, more and more musicians, not Britney Spears, not Lady Gaga, we’re talking bands who never made it on the cover of AP but sold 50-60 thousand units over a few records who are now needing to go get day jobs because the only way you make money is touring. When you have everyone touring because it’s the only way you can make money, it floods the market. There’s only so many nightclubs, only so much money everyone has every month to go see a band so if you really go talk to all the promoters they’ll tell you there are too many bands, to many shows. Everybody suffers.

The culture of free is actually destroying everything. The entertainment industry has been absolutely pathetic at how they addressed downloading. They should have pulled out Anthony Green, Aaron Gillespie, Stephen Christian and had them do PSAs online and in movie theater ads and commercials where they say “Look, we’re going to have to not tour. You’re not going to see us much anymore because every time your roommate goes and downloads are record and shares it everywhere, we don’t see any money and we can’t afford to tour anymore”. The label isn’t getting the money so there is no tour support. We’re seeing it with digital books now. The publishing companies are freaking out because there is now a black market for illegal downloaded books for Kindle. We already have problems where people scan cover stories or major features that show up in publications and put them up online so kids don’t have to buy anything anymore. Its one thing after another and soon there is going to be a massive collapse. What’s happening is all these websites are running around trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator and trying to gobble up everything and put these ad networks together and charge whatever amount of money so they can be one of the few websites left. Its very scary world and I don’t think that 95% of people who download music get it. I don’t think they understand that you have to support the artists.

Have you thought about that kind of thing for the future? It blows my mind that people waste their time scanning a magazine to put it online and share it with other people. How are you preparing for the future as things like this grow worse?

MS: I don’t think there is a way to fix it. When these things start up, you can try and stop it and go around to particular sites and tell them to take a record down but then another one pops right up. What you do is try and insulate yourself to it. The people that are pro-file sharing and downloading will sit there and say “Well, this is marketing and think about all the people who would’ve never known about your product or band”. Well, the bands could make money before and they can’t now. Your whole argument about branding doesn’t matter. You sit in your apartment b******* about how file sharing is okay when you have a day job somewhere else and you don’t have to worry about it. You go join a band, quit your job and join a band and talk to me in five months because you’ll be b******* too. That’s the problem is that a lot of the people running these file sharing websites don’t have to live off of the industry. Sooner or later we may end up like Europe where they’re coordinating with web providers and they’re shutting down ISPs. How else are musicians going to make their money? What are they going to do? I think it was one of the AFI guys who tweeted something about wanting to know the mindset of someone who watched us spend 11 months in the studio, working, writing music, putting it all together and they have no problem taking it within seconds and putting it up online for free. Who is that person? I don’t think the problem has been communicated correctly. It’s really sad to see the bands out there going under.

Now i'm not trying to take a side here, yet, but i'm wondering what people think about the music industry, or even the movie industry. Are they necessary? Do we need a million bands out there? When AFI talks about spending 11 months in the studio "working" do we really view that as "work"? Nobody is forcing these people to be in bands, there is no demand for bands and music, sure we all love music, but on a production level are they contributing to society? Sometimes it feels like a new bands starts up and demands to be paid, but just because you're in a band doesn't mean anyone owes you money right?

I'm not justifying downloading pirated music, or movies, i'm simply asking why people in the music industry have an expectation of being paid. I know plenty of musicians, and most of them work a "real" job because they know there's no money in music. Think about it, you don't make up a job and work it with an expectation to be paid - you go where there is work to be done, where there is a demand. Where there is a demand people pay for what they're demanding. It's hard for me to think that every single band in the industry today has exceptional talent, that they have enough talent to be paid for it. I know a lot of talented people (musicians, aspiring movie producers, book writers, athletes...) and they use their talents as a hobby, a passion, something to do for the love of the passion. they play on their own time, and don't expect to make a living from it.

If you can't afford to tour, then don't tour. If you're expecting to live easy off making an album, you're wrong. My opinion is that kids should stop throwing everything away to start a rock band only to find themselves in-debt at 30 yrs old and mad that they didn't make any money being in a band. Unless your goal is something besides making money (like spreading a message, ministry, off-season fun...) then no one is forcing you to be in a band, don't do it. if you do, don't complain about the lack of money you're not making.

is art important? yes! Is everyone and their mother an artist worthy of making $30,000+ a year? no!

When bands start quitting because they don't make money, maybe "fans" will be more impacted. For now though, when one band quits, five more pop up. Think about it, would you still work your job if there was no guarantee for income? There comes a time when you have to make a choice between pursuing something you love to do, and making a living. Most of us are working regular jobs for a living, stuff we don't love or have a passion for, but we understand responsibility, we understand that working a job is going to part of most of our life and most of us are thankful for our jobs (and if we're not we have the option of looking for a different job).

the dollar speaks. Basketball players make ridiculous money because fans are paying for tickets, cable-tv, merchandise, there's money there. MLS (US Soccer) players don't make much unless they are known talents, some kids who are graduating college get drafted by MLS teams but turn down the offer for a "regular" job that pays more. Rookie MLS players minimum salary is around $20,000/year. No one is forcing them to be soccer players, so they realize that they could make more doing something else. Maybe high school kids need to make the same decision before they start a hardcore band.


Jeff said...

yeah i agree with you. i think capitalism/free-market economy/supply&demand will work it out. where there is value it will be rewarded.

art can be difficult. i'm not sure it's 100% justly rewarded (lady gaga gets the big bucks over a smaller, talented, singer song writer?).

kinda like being a teacher. i'm not sure they are justly rewarded (but that's another blog post).

and then there was METAL said...

i agree with this


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Patton said...

My issue with the industry is they always talk about the lack of CD sale. Yes, physical album sales are down but they never give numbers on digital downloads. I'd like to see the numbers on itunes, amazon, or whatever legal downloading sites labels and artist are collecting money from.

As a music fan, it's hard to buy cd's without going online to get it. I like having physical cds but there are no stores that sell them. I spent a week and a half going to every Best Buy, FYE, Family Christian Bookstore within a reasonable driving distance trying to find the lastest Overcome album and couldn't find a copy. I fianlly just ordered it from Facedown online and downloaded a pirated copy to tide me over until my cd arrived.

As someone who loves owning cds, if I'm not buying them online, I can't get them. Best Buy and Family CHristian Bookstores have almost no music section and there are no more specialty shops.

I don't like paying for digital music. Anyway, that was a seperate rant.

Is making music a job... Not a well paying one and to be finally stable as a musician you have to tour and bust your hump to promote yourself. I hate seeing my favorite bands breakup or stop making music or stop touring (MxPx, Starflyer 59, Zao). I'd prefer new music over touring but I still love going to see live music.

There are a lot of bands and technology has made it easy for bands to make themselves known. But being a band doesn't give you a right to be rich.

Anonymous said...

There are no more specialty shops because everyone shares their music with strangers all over the world! If you don't like music, then keep stealing from bands. If you don't care to see your favorite band play in your town, then make sure you keep it up so they can't afford to tour.

Being a musician is a lot harder than working a job at a single location all day. Just because it's more rewarding doesen't make it easy. It's not all fun either. You try driving for hours on end away from home with smelly people in one vehicle and tell me just how easy and undeserving it is to get paid!

Anonymous said...

Unless you are super talented and can write what a mass audience wants, you will never make money. Focus on melody, hook, simple good grooves, and outstanding vocals. Lady Gaga does deserve her fame. Her songs are loaded with hook after hook just like Beatles' songs were. Indie bands and underground nonsense that doesn't focus on the fundamentals doesn't deserve to make a lot of money. Talent is in catchy melody, solid grooves, relevant(to the audience and times) lyrics and great vocals. Pop just means what is popular. If you take the time to know what people want, maybe you'll make money. It's about time bad bands learn to throw away their ego and overplaying ability and get back to the fundamentals of music! Come on drummers. Do you really need that many cymbal crashes, fills, and all the flashy crap. Lay down a solid groove. Just have fun doing it too.