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“What is going to happen to the music business?” Pt. 1

I got this question emailed to me by someone who never responded to me when I sent a reply.  He said he wanted to know because he wanted to be in the music business but never said what part of it he wanted to be in…

I never deter people who want to be in the music business although I’m constantly surprised that such people still exist.  I mean, really – there is now probably a statistically decent chance that kids being born today have grandparents who participated in a mosh pit or pass the dude or whatever the hell you want to call that kind of band appreciation behavior – and people still do that stuff…  I mean, I was a child of the 80s- we weren’t out there doing the twist.

Shouldn’t we be due for another musical revolution?  It seems to me that the musical revolution if there has been one at all has been more in the delivery and consumption of music than the music itself in the last decade.  Then again that is probably indicator #1,784 that I am really firmly entrenched in middle age.  Indicator #1,783 was recently listening to Hall & Oates without feeling like something about it was ironic, retro or kitschy.  I thought for sure Jazz or something way cooler that I’d never heard before would be all the rage among teenagers and it would make me cover my ears whilst telling whippersnappers to get off my lawn.

Several random rants later I’m back to saying I don’t deter people from being in the music business because I usually tell them it’s hard but I liken it to showing a kid where the diving board is and saying  “be careful kid, you might hit your head”.  Is it my fault if he swan dives into the concrete because I showed him where that diving board was?  I don’t know…

Actually, I figure it’s not my fault because I think people just have a very different expectation of what both being an artist and being a music executive is like.  No amount of talking can relay the realities of statements like “there is too much of a good thing” or “No, really – Ed McMahon is not going to show up at your house in a limo with a big check, girls in bikinis and record company executives who will make your famous after you write your 2nd song with your neighbor in your Mom’s basement”.  Unless you’ve lived in the music space for a while you just can’t be told certain things.  Until you realize first hand that Spinal Tap was for all intents and purposes the most real movie ever made, you aren’t going to get it.  I had different expectations on both sides of the fence before becoming entrenched.  Once you’re in, once you’ve got a taste for playing live or a fun executive gig… well you know how that goes.  I don’t want to convey that I’m unhappy…  I actually like what I do but once you are in music circles it can be tough to get out if that’s what you want.  I tend to tell people it is a difficult way to make a living but I usually don’t go so far as to describe how in my first year of self-employment I would be doing a victory lap around my studio apartment for having more than $9 left in my checking account after paying my bills at the end of the month – but that’s been some of my experience.

I forget sometimes that I am surrounded by people who know a great deal about music and about the music business and that some of the stuff I take for granted is news to people outside of my circle of goofy friends.  They are mostly people that I shared my second adolescence with as a young (and rather dumb) record company executive.  If you are reading this posted here –then chances are this is all stuff you know or have considered.  Still, just in case…  I’ll post my response to his email in a moment…


Reader Comments (1)

Hi Rick,

I think your assessment is spot on man, I have several friends here in Atlanta who are involved in various aspects of the music business, and it seems to me to be part of a natural cycle. When the dust settles from all of the 360 deals and the 'glamor' of the limelight fades away, we'll be left with those who as you say, create their music as a labor of love.

Musicians will still make music, and will still want to share it with others. They may no longer seek traditional recording contracts, and THAT will finally force the labels and distributors to change their business models.... We'll see what happens, but excellent article!

September 3 | Unregistered CommenterGerry Shaw

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