Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Music Travesty (aka the Industry)

I must make clear my position concerning the Music Industry. Why? Well, because i just want to and that's what freakin blogs are for, eh?

I loathe the Music Industry.
Enough said.
No, it's actually not enough.
I could write pages and pages and still not say enough.
But i digress......maybe after a few paragraphs........

In my last post, the Skafish review, i pointed out that Mr. Skafish was a fringe artist, and hadn't had any commercial success after his two IRS Records releases. It was not meant as criticism. Actually, it's a fact i find admirable. Not the fact that he wasn't able to continue making lots of music, which i would have loved to continue buying and listening to, but the fact that he continued to be an artist despite the lack of commercial success. Check out the timeline on the Skafish website for a rundown of his career (

Many artists have been in the same boat as Skafish, being given artistic ultimatums by Major Labels. Ultimately you have to make choices. Do you dilute your vision to stay signed, or hold to it and risk being dropped. By now most musical artists should know what to expect because so much has been documented about getting the shaft from the Industry. But back in the 70's and early 80's it wasn't just a fantasy that you could make your music and the labels would help you find your audience and everybody would make money and you could have a career making records and touring.

Many artists did, and do, obviously. But if you just don't happen to be commercial enough, selling only a mere 30,000 copies of your release or less, then you are booted out past the labels' bottom lines. And i might add, sent the bill for all of the expenses you incurred as their signed artist; expenses that they swore to you were necessary to make it.

The band Poster Children knew what was up when they refused tour support and continued touring in their own Econoline van, cutting costs to maximize what they would bring home from a tour, knowing full well that their album wasn't going to go multi-platinum. They knew their market, knew their fan base, and also knew how labels operated. They "enjoyed" (perhaps) making four albums and an EP for a major label before being shown the door. They continue to be DIY-ers and are (i can only surmise) much better off for it. Check them out at

Suddenly Tammy has another tragic story. They were a fairly commercial band on the surface (where commerciality counts). They had some really real hooky songs, Beth Sorrentino's voice was soft and musical, they were all top notch musicians, and they even had that piano-instead-of-guitar thing going on in the 90's that made Ben Folds Five such a smash for a while. Sure they were also a bit Artsy and perhaps didn't have the "stage presence" of Coldplay (sic), but still they made two really great CDs and toured with some high profile bands. They were, by all accounts, getting somewhere. Then they made a third record and Warner brothers shelved it and dropped them. They broke up and the fans were left wondering for a long time. It was just the bottom line. They didn't sell enough records for a Major Label to keep them.

I don't understand why labels don't just give these bands less advance money, advise them to record their CDs a little more cost-effectively, advise them to tour in an econoline van, and then still put their records out for them and keep nurturing the talent that they signed in the first place. In other words, they could just scale back their finances to match the amount of records that they can sell. Instead they destroy them, financially ruin them, send them a final bill. It's just short sighted corporate greed. Major Labels are just no places for artists. They're the places for money lusting, vacuous, fame seekers.

Some people, perhaps most people, confuse the Art of Music with the recording, producing, marketing, and selling of it. It's two different things. There are multi-thousands of musical artists creating music that isn't getting heard by very many people, if any. Just because it never goes through the machinery of the Music Industry to become a product with a barcode in no way invalidates it. And by the reverse principle there are lots of songs that get released and become huge hits that i would hesitate to Art. But the creators/performers involved are still referred to as musical artists, even though i'd sooner call them pawns. Of course that's an opinion.....eye of the beholder, et al. I certainly will never suggest that musical value judgements are objective.

For me it all comes down to sincerity. When i like an artist, it's usually because i hear sincerity in their work. Bland corporate drivel vomitted and regurgitated for profit doesn't appeal to me for some reason. Go figure.

I'm so glad the internet exists now, because even fringe artists (and i consider myself one) can find an audience (i'm still working on this) without having to deal with money-grubbing corporations who only look after their bottom line, and who don't care about Music, but rather exploit it in a most crass way. I think the internet has the potential to be the great equalizer for giving musicians the independence to be the artists they want to be, and to express themselves honestly and sincerely. Let's hope that can continue.

This has been Part One (of many).

1 comment:

jupiterone said...

you should check out jac holzman's book: follow the music. it's about the music industry and gets into the souring of the industry and stuff.
modern rock with a touch of prog is where it's at, btw, and thank you for your comment. we're especially big elo fans.