I’m tired of it, I really am.
I’m tired of millionaires complaining about the record industry not being profitable, while working class musicians just go about their business. I’m tired of people complaining that actual physical records don’t sell anymore when they’re the ones not buying enough of them. I’m tired of the music industry, which has been essentially an oligopoly for decades, with cheerleaders who are no less annoying than the lobbyists of any other corporate behemoth, preferring to moan and complain until they’re wiped out entirely rather than adapting to what is ultimately a free market for music.
Let’s take it one irritation at a time.
I adore vinyl records. I really do. I was a radio dj in college (whrw 90.5 fm Binghamton - free format radio forever!) (shameless plug to my alma-mater over) and NOTHING beats the feeling I got getting lost in “the stacks,” being totally surrounded by vinyl from floor to ceiling. Nothing beats the quality of the sound, nothing beats the warmth of the sound, nothing beats the sound of the scratch of the pin on the record, and nothing beats holding the larger-than-life album art in your hands.
But to Bon Jovi - who thinks that the music industry is dying, despite being number 2 in earnings last year due to touring and ticket sales - I say stay on your hill and keep your voice down. The rest of us are grappling with a difficult transition that is emotionally and technologically complicated to parse through.
I much prefer the Jack White model. He opened a freaking record store. He’s even rolling around a portable record store at SXSW, presumably as we speak. You want to support vinyl? By all means, go support it. Thank you Mr. White.
Personally, I like digital too. In fact, it’s cds and tapes I don’t get anymore. If I want sound quality, warmth, tone, and the true music fanatic’s experience, it’s vinyl all the way. If I want ease and instant gratification, it’s digital downloads or music streaming services.
My only point is this - if you love vinyl, buy an inexpensive record player and start a collection. If you think a-la carte music shopping is the wave of the future, it’s there for you to enjoy.
The ONLY thing I have no patience for is the complaining.
Now, what about the whole “music industry collapsing” thing?
Here’s my biggest beef: getting rich as a rockstar or music executive is not a right, it’s a privilege, and one that a huge number of people have enjoyed for a staggeringly long time You want to tell me teachers should make more money? The economics may or may not support that ever really happening, but I get it - teachers help mold the future. Was it really historically imperative that Bon Jovi become richer than God? Not particularly. I don’t fault him for his money, I’m truly honestly happy for him. He earned every last cent. What I honestly can not believe is that people don’t understand why a multi million dollar ENTERTAINMENT enterprise is suddenly not sustainable now that it’s becoming an open market with no barriers to entry.
Let’s pretend for a second that the music industry was the stationary industry. Once upon a time, there were four stationary stores. They owned most of the other stationary stores. If you wanted to make famous stationary, you had to go through them. A few stationary designers could be chosen to be wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, but everyone else was out of luck.
The music industry is currently becoming more like the real stationary industry: you want to open a stationary store? You’re more than welcome to! It will take talent, hard work, and a bit of luck. In this metaphor, in the brave new music world, your band is your small business. You can’t rely on winning the lotto by being chosen by the powers that be, you have to stand out of an enormous crowd of ANYONG who wants to try their hand at it. Go do what every other business does, froom Google to Ghost This (my band, another shameless plug) - try your best to build a successful and profitable model, and get on your grind.
The ONLY people in all of this I feel bad for are the hard working industry professionals who’s positions will get disolved as the industry becomes normalized. When typewriters were made extinct practically overnight by computers, thousands of working class professionals - from manufacturers to receptionists who couldn’t type on computers - lost their jobs. It’s a shame, it really is. But new markets develop, frictional unemployment tends to pass in time, and so shall this.
Am I making my point clearly enough? Unless you just lost your job because you actually took home a reasonable salary for your work, stop complaining. The music will live on, I promise. Music is older than all of us. It’s the old business model that won’t survive. And same goes for records - it can never be how it was, we all know that. But the music world changes all the time, often because of technology (hey, remember mix tapes? Me neither, I was born in 1987.)
But we all have a hand in creating the future. Personally, I’m going to go buy a record player and start my collection. And i’m going to start it by buying records made by smaller bands just starting out. Then i’m going to throw a party, and play only music my friends don’t know yet. You know, spread the musical love. Just like back when there were mix tapes.
That’s how I’m going to change the music world.
What have you done lately?