Reflections on the Music Industry with Raymond E. Lee

Responding to Mr. Lee’s review of Belle and Sebastian in No Depression:

Submitted by Fans of Johnny Dowd on February 17, 2015 – 7:50 pm

Im not going to critique B&S yay or nay,but i would love to see some discussion among fans and reviewers about how musicians ARE supposed to make a living. .70 a pop on iTunes? free downloads? $5 bucks at the door? good f’ing luck looking for radio play. guess my bias is obvious, but i am sure struggling to figure out how this is all going to play in the long run.

Submitted by Raymond E. Lee on February 17, 2015 – 8:53 pm

This has been on mind much lately, too. In fact you look around the webs you’ll find it’s been a very heated discussion for some time now. David Lowery of Cracker has become a champion of the artist’s right to earn a living, and the recent decision by Taylor Swift to pull her music from one of the popular free-stream platforms indicates a shift towards the individual taking control over their work.

That being said, musicians are still a very long way off from having any real security.

Now a lotta people piss and moan about this very fact, but I think the subjugation of the musician has been a pretty consistent phenomenon since the days of patronage. I just ran an article for another publication that explores these themes concerning a pay for play site called Daytrotter.

There’s a lot of issues surrounding this. It’s also a very technical conversation which I’m not qualified in the least (or frankly smart enough) or experienced enough to really get into. Aside from all the conversations of royalties via various mediums, contracts, long/short term strategies, there are other factors fools like me can understand.

1: The whole world is Nashville when it comes to saturation of musicians. Everybody plays that damn guitar today, everyone’s in a band and want’s you to listen to their latest project. With such stiff competition it no longer becomes about the band so much as the brand. If a complicit demographic is going to buy whatever’s put before them regardless of authenticity, why not saturate every possible outlet in the hopes of earning recognition?

2: (Cause I love hitting hornet’s nests) I don’t think most people actually give a damn about music. You meet someone in a bar and between all that getting to know you stuff the topic of music comes up. What do you hear most times? For young people it’s a spout off of all the stuff clear channel’s (iheart) pissing down our throats. I don’t think most people engage music so much as hum along to whatever the radio assaults them with at the moment. People crave the familiar and that’s why heavy rotation songs become popular, not because they’re any better than most of what’s out there, but because people recognize it. So if that person was you why pay to hear anything?

Personally, and this is my own personal two cents… I love hearing a musician talk about being broke in an interview. I f’ng love it. The younger they are the funnier it is to me. I’ll drive 800 miles overnight to see someone play or a festival in the vain hope of a backstage/media tent snack spread. I’ll sleep in my car, take off or else get fired from whatever slavewage job I’m working just to try to help them out with publicity, be part of something larger and enjoy the music I love. So when they (and it usually is the younger cats) start talking about money in a derogatory fashion I tell them if they wanna know poverty they should take up writing.

I really like what the subject in Cara Gibney‘s recent interview with Ed Hammell had to say about it: “Suck it up. Learn to make a living.”

We must never forget we’re talking about artistry and not industry. I want all the musicians I love to be comfortable, but I think we’ve all seen the negative effect commercial success has had on many artist’s output. It’s fine if you want to be rich, become a banker. But if you wanna make music don’t plan on ever paying off those dues in full.

This the best song I’ve heard on the topic in a while. Old 97’s, Longer Than You’ve Been Alive

Submitted by Fans of Johnny Dowd on February 18, 2015 – 10:23 am

Thanks for the swift and thoughtful response (and I thought no one was out there!). I am looking forward to exploring the topic via your links. I’m sure I’ll be edified and perhaps provoked, but that’s your job, ain’t it? Speaking of which, I purposely did not mention writers or visual artists in my previous comment, but I certainly could have. The future of the fourth estate in particular is a critical issue, but for another forum, I think.

Yep, everybody wants to make music, and in fact, I think everyone should. Just don’t try to get us all to listen to it. True, most don’t give a damn about the quality of what we’re listening to, but then, we don’t give a damn about a lot of more important things-again, for another forum!

The   “business” part of music it is so tenuously connected to most artists, it barely qualifies as a business at all. But to the extent it is, let’s sit down at the table and experience all the courses every once in a while, not just eat up all the free samples and call it a meal.

Submitted by Raymond E. Lee on February 18, 2015 – 8:51 pm

Oh, I totally agree with you on that last bit. And as much as I love to take jabs at the hipster crowd I can’t think anything but ‘Right on,’ at the revivalism of vinyl. At the root of everything they’re actually PAYING for music. And if you’re going to choose a physical medium and pay record store prices you might as well go for the Vinyl. There’s even a casette tape movement going on now, (hint hint writers) which would make a great article.

By all means, if you want to be a part of the music industry, or you actively as opposed to passively enjoy music. Buy the record, go to the shows, be apart of that history. That’s what you’re really doing. Explore music all you can through soundcloud or youtube, but if a song/album means something to you, captures you in that immediate sense, buy the damn record.

Submitted by Fans of Johnny Dowd on March 6, 2015 – 8:27 pm

Well said. And good timing-Johnny has a vinyl coming out on Record Store Day.

-Original conversation

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