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Great Artists And The Music Industry Banana

Kurt Cobain blew his head off, even Martin Mills has a Maseratti and Amy Winehouse’s blood is not on Island Record’s hands.

The music industry is a strange thing. Full of a lot of mushy stuff that just loves being squished into its tight little cubicle alongside all the other mushy stuff.

James Blunt is the suburban front lawn of artists – there’s a song, there’s an album a cover, there’s a hit, there’s a car.

Most great artists are like the annoying neighbour that ignores your invite to the neighbourhood barbecue, the one that keeps letting his garden grow slightly wild, the one who ‘doesn’t care’ (but really does).

“Contempt for Ingratiation drives the greatest art.”
Simon Schama

The creative beast, burdened by a paradox of colossal proportions. Wanting so badly to fit in yet endlessly rejecting the bounds of conformity – striving to create something that sets them apart yet still includes them enough to acknowledge their individual impact upon the world.

At the heart of the music industry are the artists. These things do what those grey folks cannot. The machine is fueled by them. It needs them. The machine isn’t really a particular thing, more an object of the mind we like to kick and spit at in order to release the tension we feel for commercial enterprise, rich artists etc.

“People who are squeamish about the relationship between art and money argue that the essential purity of artistic endeavour is somehow compromised by financial motivation. A corollary is the idea that artists must suffer to be credible. That’s tosh. Rubens didn’t suffer. He got rich, like Picasso, Hirst and Koons.

Real artists have always gone where the money is. And, returning the compliment, money always goes where the art is. Art has a positive affinity for the rich. Art is what happens when money and ideas collide with ambition and opportunity. If it’s not worth a lot of money, it’s not worth anything else. There are exceptions to that rule, but not very many.”

The word ‘success’ means nothing to great artists and everything to marketers. Musicians are not marketers. Marketers study marketing, marketing is their life. Musicians write music, and music is their life. Great artists don’t do half. All or nothing. They survive the industry through the peaks and troughs in order that they do what they love for a living. Some, through sheer persistance, never back down from their vision, and seek the path and the people needed to fulfill that vision. Music is egoism, selfishness, self-loathing, self-deprecation, whatever an artists’ addictions, temperance and attitude – they have a desire to put human weaknesses into words and music.

The music industry hinges on these fragile human beings, and also hinges on money. There is a filtering process that exists in the industry to sift the powerful from the weak – determines the biggies from the smalls. Its public face is industry A&R.

“What many artists crave is to have access to mainstream media mechanisms in order to exploit and promote their music before a mass audience,”
Paul Rutter

Majors will be here for a long time. In the pursuit of money they will find a way to make money from the recorded music industry. As long as there is a desire for music, there will be an outlet with which to dispense music on a mass scale.

Any new methods to make money from recorded music do not change what it means to be an artist – that is a naive assumption. We are not in a new age where artists can ‘get big’ on their own. You can’t ‘get big’ without big money – and big money in the music industry still comes from the majors. Many Independent labels license their music through majors which gives the artist the backing needed to reach a wider audience but still retains the artistic integrity that Independents are associated with.

Integrity, cocaine, velvet handbags, blood diamonds, washing powder record label executives, artistic honesty, piracy, copyright protection, band re-union tours, pay to play, shit managers, dull men, strategists, Naomi Campbell – it’s still a riot amongst the smushy pulp.

And it’s also pretty bananas.


Marco writes about everything concerning the modern musician at (Follow me on Twitter @behyped).

Reader Comments (3)

Very well said. The sad truth about the industry is that we need the Majors to exist. As a recording engineer, the Majors spend a lot of money developing artists in studios and pay for songwriting and production. We do these gigs to pay the bills and sometimes because we enjoy them. This allows us to give cut rates or no rates at all to do projects of a more interesting nature. Thus, keeping an edge and pushing art to question itself.

August 30 | Unregistered CommenterJordan Rocha

I'm totaly confused! I didn't understand a single word in that article! What was the point of it? 1. To praise Majors? 2.To tell me money is more important than art? 3. Some silly banana reference? WTF are you talking about in this article???

August 30 | Unregistered Commenterdsherm

Well written article, but I do not agree with the premise of the article and it lacks a substantive argument. But I am glad that music think tank ran this article; it is a converse viewpoint to the '1000 true fans,' series. Presenting as many different view points as possible is great and I appreciate the objectivity because it brings us closer to the truth. Having said that, I have to say Behyped didn't even attempt to bring facts into his pronouncements here.

He also has a very limited scope of music if he thinks "Music is egoism, selfishness, self-loathing, self-deprecation, whatever an artists’ addictions, temperance and attitude – they have a desire to put human weaknesses into words and music." What about artists like Jason Mraz, Lupe Fiasco, Adele and others who express all sides of their complexity?

If the only viability in today's music industry is through the major labels, then the doomsayers are correct in saying the music is dead. Not to say the Major labels have no future they definitely do.
The most valid part of the post was this:
" As long as there is a desire for music, there will be an outlet
with which to dispense music on a mass scale."
I agree wholeheartedly. But the writer failed to acknowledge that many artists will not succeed using the major label model, in fact most fail read here and here .

And here are a few names of artists thriving and have succeeded in going the indie route without Major label assistance:

Zoe Keating, Aesop Rock, El-P, Atmosphere, Immortal Technique, Talib Kweli, Fiest, The Artic Monkeys, pharoah monche, tech n9ne, odd future, Girl Talk, Bus Driver, et al

September 7 | Unregistered Commenterapostate

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