The implosion of the music industry, and what it means to the consumer
Our objective was to stick it to the man. Why pay the record labels when they take advantage of their artists? Advances that put them into debt immediately, no control over their own career path, lawyers that represent both sides of an argument. How would stealing music hurt the actual artists who didn't make any money off of the album sales anyway? The problem was that there was no plan in place to compensate the artists in a different way. Sure the big labels themselves could have done something right then and there and jumped into the digital fray. Instead of fighting Napster and Limewire, maybe they should have embraced it. Develop a way to make the songs available at a cost that everyone would be agreeable to. Those labels would have lost a lot of money, but the industry wouldn't be in the place it is today.
Look, I get it. The cat's already out of the bag. streaming music for free or "freeming" is not going to go away. As long as the technology exists, the general population is going to seek out a way to get things at a discount. But what about respect? How much does that cost? Are we as a society really willing to say "Screw good music. I want it free, no matter the quality." I speak with others in the industry constantly. I am always in amazement at how they are able to keep forging ahead in an art that is based solely on trust. Trusting your fans to purchase your music and come to your shows. Trusting that if you are signed to a label, that you are getting a fair deal. (Fair is all relative to the industry, keep that in mind. Nothing is going to be fair.) And ultimately trusting that if you do take a break to actually have a life outside of music, you will be welcomed back with open arms by your fans and the industry that you helped grow at some point.
Here's the part when I try to gain some credibility by mentioning names of artists and groups that you may or may not recognize. But seriously, I want you to know where I come from if you're going to take a ride with me. My musical memories start deep in the disco era. My parents raised me in an extremely diverse neighborhood. My friends and I would always either be outside playing or over each other's house. All of a sudden, I had aunts and uncles that opened me up to music I wouldn't have been exposed to. Back then, there was still some residual racism going on with some of the adults in the neighborhood. But kids don't even give it a second thought. So I was raised on a diet of John Lennon, K.C. and the Sunshine Band, and The Jackson 5. My taste buds for music were always looking for more. All the great artists in that era, they really pushed the boundaries. They tested new sounds and people started having music that defined a time, a place, even a person. You know what I mean when I say that R. Kelly's 12 Play album defined a night. And that's what is a little depressing. Where did that all go? Are the kids these days "freeming" Drake on youtube while hanging out? Do they remember the music that was playing in the background of a really special moment?
At this point in time, music is in need of a good nitro boost. There is no lack of talent out there, there is a lack of understanding of what talent really is. As a society we are told what is good and what is not. The reality singing television shows have both changed and diluted what our brains think is quality music. Think about that the next time "Lisa" makes it all the way to the end even though her voice was shrill and she forgot most of the words to the Star Spangled Banner. Just be comforted that she was voted through based entirely on the lead-in video of her struggles growing up being a normal kid, produced entirely by the network. There aren't enough musical geniuses in this country to fill one arena, let alone five a season for the last ten years. So we have to take what we can get on those shows. Or we can turn our attention back to the real artists. The ones that got us here.
The relationship between the artist and fan is the foundation for the rebirth of music. There needs to be a mutual respect from each side, and there needs to be a trust there. We need to find a place for musicians to present their music, and the fans to willingly compensate them for it. I have heard songs on the internet for free before. I realize I can go back anytime and listen again. But I go and buy the cd or purchase online because I respect the artist. Go see them when they are on the road. Show them that they are relevant. Still relevant in my heart are artists and groups like New Edition, Jodeci, Boyz II Men, Babyface, Teddy Riley, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. These are some of the artists and producers who were playing such a major role in what music was going to become, before we stopped paying for it. Now it is time for a new era. A welcome back to all the artists who had little control over what they put out there, and were not fairly compensated or recognized for their efforts. Let's fight the "freeming" before we get down to two good artists and a bunch of puppets that the industry can play with. And finally let's expect more out of our artists as far as talent. Make sure the real musicians are made aware that they are needed. Maybe a kickstarter-like website where you raise money for the artists, and once it hits a certain level, they then have to release music. Just a thought.
Musicians are not going to continue to present their art without compensation. Imagine yourself as a baseball player. You are paid based entirely on the sales of tickets to each game. But you don't get 100% of the sales since there are 25 men on the team and coaches and what not. When times are going well, you can make some pretty decent money. When it's rough, or you just wanna take a break, things are awful. Now imagine that things are going well and the stadium is completely packed, but you find out after the game was played that everybody got in for free. How would that feel? You have put your soul into something that you can make a living at, and people decided that it wasn't worthy of paying for it. Now I completely realize that there are some things that we overpay for, and music was one of those things for a very long time. But I think it is time that we think about saving the music industry from itself.