Several big-named artists have been in the headlines recently proclaiming that rock is dead. Most notably, of course, was Gene Simmons in his interview with Esquire back in September. Simmons was quick to point out that rock didn’t die of old age, “It was murdered,” blaming for the most part, file-sharing.
In response to this and other statements about the utter despair of the music industry, recording engineer Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies) recently delivered the keynote address at Melbourne’s Face the Music Conference and his main opinion was that the music industry is doing great, saying to even be thankful you weren’t in a band twenty years ago. He does have some interesting viewpoints, and being as seasoned as he is in the industry, one can’t help but reluctantly nod in agreement.
From all quarters we hear that, this is the platitude: “We need to figure out how to make internet distribution work for everyone.”…..
I disagree with this rather inoffensive platitude. It’s innocuous and vapid and fills the air after someone asks the question, “How is the music scene these days?” And it maintains hope that the current state of affairs as mentioned, presumed to be tragic, can be changed for the better. For “everyone”. That word everyone is important to the people using the sentence. In their mind the physical distribution model worked for everyone. But the new one does not. Not yet, not yet. Not until we “figure it out”…..
I disagree that the old way is better. And I do not believe this sentence to be true: “We need to figure out how to make this digital distribution work for everyone.” I disagree with it because within its mundane language are tacit assumptions: the framework of an exploitative system that I have been at odds with my whole creative life. Inside that trite sentence, “We need to figure out how to make this work for everyone,” hides the skeleton of a monster.
Count Eldridge is currently directing a documentary called Unsound about how musicians and creators survive in the age of free. Given his research on the topic, Count decided to write a rebuttal to Albini’s statements, and he has quite a solid argument.
Instead of perpetuating the myth that artists make money touring, those in the music industry who know better should be focussing hard to make the delivery and monetization of recorded music better for artists by making it more efficient. This means less middlemen (or no middlemen) taking a smaller cut, rather than allowing a few giant corporations and rogue pirates to profit enormously from our work.
Read the full articles and then decide for yourself. But more importantly than your position…what are you going to do about it?