Monthly Archives: September 2008

Goodbye to the Biz (again)

About half a year ago, with the pending handover of ccMixter, it became a very real possibility that I might end up working for a commercial music company by the end of this year. I felt it would be prudent for me to re-educate myself in the comings and goings of the mainstream music industry. I’ve been ignoring the old music business for years while I worked for a non-profit and position myself as somewhat of an activist in the Open Music music. I subscribed to several blogs devoted to industry news and opinions and have been following them daily for the last six months.

Well, earlier today I unsubscribed from all of them. It may be prudent to know about what’s going with EMI, BestBuy, Napster, Sony, etc. but it now seems my psyche can’t afford that kind of prudence over extended periods of time. I’m not saying they are comparable but as far as my day-to-day routine goes, I finally felt like I might as well be subscribed to the tobacco lobby blogs or the Gambino family feeds. (A more accurate analogy would probably be tracking the inner-industry activities of US health insurance companies but it’s not as dramatic.) What is comparable is the level of denial and rationale (the impolite word is ‘spin’) going on in this world.

Look, of course there will always be money in celebrity, of course there will always be blockbuster hits and huge music memes that transcends music culture into the broader meme-pool. And I know that few human endeavors are as adaptive as corruption. I’m not so naive as to think that today’s version of corruption in the music industry will not seek out the deepest pool of money no matter what shape the product distribution chain takes and wherever the collection streams flow to and from. I just can’t read another word about what it will take to “save” the current four mega-labels from themselves which is really a nice of way of saying: flailing around looking for the new places to put the squeeze on customers, artists and any new suckers that feel like lining up for a beating like ISPs. Even when the right question is initially posed as here about fan-funded sites it quickly spirals into

The leading question though, is can traditional record labels compete with these types of revenue splits and copyright reverting back to the artist?

Really? Is that the “leading question?” Er, I guess. But that presupposes that you give a shit.

My leading question is “How can a musician make a living?” As the brilliant Danny O’Brien post “Window Taxes” pionts out, we aren’t even talking about it correctly yet. We are stuck in a 100 year old vernacular of the music racket as we have known it.

I’m not impressed with all the stats that make the current racketeers feel good about their future. It has taken 15 years for the Web and open source (along with a monopoly threat from Google) to finally take on Microsoft’s core Windows and Office assets. It might take another 10 years for the new shape of the music business to take hold and provide a real alternative to artists and fans but it is, shots at “Long Tail” notwithstanding: INEVITABLE. Sorry. It just is.

See you on the other side.