Feature

A brief history of why artists are no longer making a living making music

Today’s column from veteran Canadian singer-songwriter Ian Tamblyn is adapted from a speech he gave at a symposium at Trent University.  It’s a long read, but we decided to post it here all at once it its entirety because, well, it’s just that good. 

I would like to begin this talk on the future of “popular” music with a few cautionary notes about our ability to see into the future clearly. The fact is, it would appear we are not very good at it. Somewhere back in our Savannah DNA, we got very good at reacting to danger when it presented itself — say a lion or tiger. However, it seems we are less capable of looking ahead to avoid danger. In other words, we are a reactive rather than proactive animal. The contemporary analogy in relation to climate change is that we are similar to the frog in a pot of hot water who does not have the sensors to recognize the increasing temperature and the fact that he should get out of the boiling pot.

Yes, there have been a handful of futurists – H.G Wells, Aldous Huxley, and given the state of many current governments I would grudgingly include Ayn Rand. Probably the most successful futurists in our lifetime may have been Marshall McLuhan and Stanley Kubrick, but even so, all of these writers and film makers have been only partially successful gazing into the crystal ball. Given that the past is no more fixed than the future I begin this conversation with you.

What I hope to discuss in this time with you is the relationship between technology, the gift of music and the commodification of that gift and how that gift and the commodification of the gift has been eroded in the digital age, and as I see it, could continue to be eroded well into the 21st century.

The golden age of recorded music

I would like to start by going back to 1945, the end of the Second World War and the beginning of the baby boom generation. By the end of the war, there was a “golden age” of music, the big band era, the beginnings of bebop, the great songwriting partnerships, Broadway musicals, and even the early stirrings of rock n’ roll, as blues came up the Mississippi from the Delta to St Louis and Chicago. It was also the populist height of the music borne of the Depression, the music that came out of the hobo camps, the dust bowl farmers, Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Tennessee Valley Act and so on. It was the music of Woody Guthrie, Jimmy Rodgers, Bessie Smith, Leadbelly, and the Carter Family.

It was the time when audio technology served this renaissance that came of struggle and war, and this technology came as a result of the war itself. Quickly told, the Germans created great microphones so that their leader could be heard in the stadiums. The English built great speakers and listening consoles so they could hear what the Germans were saying. The Americans in turn created excellent platforms (tape recorders) to record what they heard. Though they developed this technology separately and quite secretly, the apex of these technologies would find themselves together in the recording studios around the world soon after the war. The British and Americans found out how good the German microphones were and how they could be used with British speakers and American tape decks. The Germans were quick to listen through British sound systems. To give you a quick example, the Neumann U-47 was first designed in that year and is still considered to be one of the best vocal microphones ever created. It is sought by collectors throughout the world. The microphones used by Ry Cooder and Buena Vista Social Club were U-47 s found in an old studio in Havana.

Time was on our side

It took the next ten years to tweak the technology, but by the mid 50s and the height of the bebop era, the engineers had become artists of this technology, and the results were some of the best recordings ever. With the addition of multi -track recording, invented by jazz guitarist Les Paul, another golden age of recording began. As a side note, it has been said that the best live recording of the bebop era was recorded at Massey Hall with Charlie Parker – on a plastic saxophone he borrowed for the gig – Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Mingus, Max Roach and Bud Powell. The album Quintet marked the only time these giants of the era played live together. It was also the period when Deutsche Grammophon began its run as the premier recorder of classical music. The long playing record appeared, and we entered the age of the album.

What is important to this look at the future through the past is the fact that the engineers had enough time to understand their technology, to begin to use it artfully, because later in the century, this essential process would be lost, and with it much more.

Time moves on and into the 60s, a period you all know well, and you can run through your own favourites. However, the essential point is that the platform of microphones, equalizers, limiters and compressors and magnetic tape decks remained basically the same. Multi-tracking and stereo came along, but the engineers were using the same transport systems. There were, of course, bumps in the road, but at the same time, there were great recordings like the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, The Beatles’ Revolver and Sergeant Pepper’s, Who’s Next – jazz recordings, particularly on the ECM label, emerged, and then in the 70s along with 48 track recorders, Supertramp’s Crime of the Century and one of my favourite recordings sonically: Roxy Music’s, Avalon. The producers and engineers were experts in the studio, and their names were almost as famous as the artists: George Martin, Phil Spector , Glyn Johns, and Phil Ramone to name a few. It is important to recognize that the engineers, producers and artists of this post-war generation had worked on the same platform for 35 years. They knew the process and were experts at it. It is amusing now to see assistant engineers at Abbey Road in lab coats now, but that is how they saw themselves.

The performance rights agencies and the musician’s union

The accommodation or payment for musicians, creators and works was also well-established in the post-war period through a series of royalties paid by the recording companies to the artists – as well as royalties paid to the artists for radio and television airplay that were monitored by BMI and ASCAP and in Canada by CAPAC and PROCAN, which later became SOCAN. The record companies were notorious for not paying these royalties, but there was a system, and there were lawyers who were there to both secure music contracts and ensure that royalties were paid to recording artists – at least in theory.

There was also a formidable force in the musician’s union, which held tight control over gigs and contracts. At times, the union could be intimidating and seemingly out of date. I remember having to swear I had never been a member of the Communist Party when I joined the union in 1971, but it did bring back memories of when some musicians were given a rough ride during the McCarthy period. I mention the musician’s union because if you wanted to play clubs or radio gigs, you had to belong, but you did get paid reasonably for your work. I mention this as well because by the mid 80s, the musician’s union would be a spent force and all guarantees for just compensation at gigs would be gone. I would contend that the union did not move with the times.

By the 70s, the music industry was a huge force in our lives. It was the number one entertainment industry in North America, making far more money than movies or television. However there were chinks in the system and changes in technology that indicated further bigger changes to come. In 1969, The Whole Earth Catalogue was published, and the subtitle was “Access to Tools.” In the book, it revealed the first home four-track recording deck put out by Tascam. It was a revolution in the making. No longer did one have to go through the check and balance system of the record companies and their artists and repertoire staff. You didn’t need to secure a record contract. You didn’t need to incur huge costs at a recording studio that would be then set against future royalties. You could do the album yourself without arbiters from the record company. You could do it yourself! This independent release movement was no threat to the mainstream industry, but as this technology progressed, more would be attracted to the indie movement, and it would seriously threaten the mainstream industry by the 1990s and the forthcoming digital age.

Was punk rock the beginning of the end?

By the late 70s, the industry was fat, corrupt and complacent. It was also very expensive to make a recording in the beautiful studios of the world. It was about to blow apart – in one case literally. It is dizzying what happened in a very short period of time. First the punks came along and called the bloat on the musicians and the industry. Groups like the Ramones, The Clash and The Cure ridiculed the fat boys of the business with rough, loud records reminiscent of the garage bands of early rock n’ roll. The local punk rockers opened and played at clubs that were not associated with the musician’s union; they said, “fuck the union” and basically broke the grip the union had on clubs. Though I enjoyed the new music and was invigorated by the punk and new wave movement, I would have to say they were misguided in their disregard for the musician’s union and undermined a support system that had worked to protect musicians. It would never be the same again.

Next came the introduction of the CD and the beginning of the digital age, introduced by the industry itself. The digital CD format was invented by James Russell in 1968 and was advanced by Sony and Phillips in the 1970s. By 1981, they were ready to change platforms – a platform that would completely replace records and imprinting on magnetic tape, a platform that had been in existence for more than fifty years. With the release in North America of Billy Joel’s 52nd Street, we welcomed in the digital age.

Technological change outpaced producers’ ability to adapt

What they didn’t tell us was that we were actually entering an age of missing information. What they told us was the CD was a compact unit with a clearer, cleaner sound. However, with a sampling rate of 44,000 samples per second, there were overtones of sound now missing. There were reverbs that collapsed as they tailed out because the sampling rate was not sufficient to hold them. The sound was cleaner because there was less of it. This new format also did not work with the microphones that had worked so well during the analog tape saturation age. The engineers were now scrambling to figure out how they could make this new cold sounding digital age warmer. However, this was made more complex because new technology was rushed onto the market every few months, and engineers might figure out one system only to be confronted with another. ADAT, mini disc, DAT VHS and Beta, as well as advances in digital sound boards and digital recorders marked the technological onslaught of the 80s and 90s. The engineers could not get ahead of the curve of the technological changes coming at them in order to serve the music. This was a far cry from the “golden age” of the 1950’s.

I have long since abandoned arguments about the quality of sound. The analog sound was better. It was fuller and warmer, and it held all the sonic information. I realize for the most part, people listen to music for cultural information, not the sonic quality of that information. I wasn’t listening to the quality of the Byrds with two pennies on my stylus, I was listening to the way they sounded and what they were singing about.

The technological changes of the 80s did not stop there. The home recording units that I used in the early 70s developed and blossomed, as musicians and studios realized that a $200,000 Studer tape deck or $100,000 Neve console could be replaced by a much cheaper series of ADATS and new, less expensive boards. The dinosaur that was the great studio and the great expense involved in it was now at the end of an age as audio companies realized they could make more money selling cheaper digital gear to thousands of punters rather than one expensive piece of equipment in a cathedral of recording.

CDs made it costly for indies to stay in the mainstream

However, the change was on, and we dutifully packed away or sold our records and bought our CD collections. Record companies made fortunes during this period reissuing everything that had been on vinyl. Elvis was king again. He had not left the building. For some of us who could not afford to go digital (CDs were much more expensive to manufacture), it was known as the golden age of cassettes! I released several cassettes during this period, and I mention this for one reason: in 1986, I released a cassette called Over My Head. It was difficult to get things placed in record stores at that time, so I sold it in book shops and health food stores. I sold 60,000 cassettes and then another 40,000 CDs by this method. It went platinum, as they say, but the thing was, because I released it, I received no royalties, and because it was a cassette, it was not played on radio. By being under the radar and independent, I also took myself out of the game and the project was never recognized by the mainstream industry. I have no regrets about this because I, in effect, made the record company’s profits on the recording! But I will admit now that I was undermining a system that had worked.

Along with the new digital age came the introduction of video games and home entertainment systems. Music was now not the only game in town. At first, this was compensated by the enormous back catalogue of records that were rendered to digital CD format, but by the 1990s, the technological revolution that they had brought forward was beginning to feel the effect of competing forces for the disposable dollar.

Music videos turned works of art into ‘recoupable’ promotional expenses

In 1982 MTV arrived, and in 1984 Much Music hit the airwaves, and another development took place that was to affect music and musicians to this day and beyond. MTV and Much Music are rightfully credited with promoting the careers of many musicians, most notably Madonna, Michael Jackson and Duran Duran, and they presented music in an exciting new way. But there was a difference in the presentation of this music that would affect musicians and begin to affect the paradigm of appropriate accommodation for their music. Music videos were seen as advertisements for the artists and record companies and, therefore, were non-royalty-bearing. In fact, the musicians had to pay for these videos, and these payments were set against the royalties owed to the artists by the record companies. It was an interesting dilemma because, while one could see the attraction of the music video, it set a precedent about the value of the music, how music might be perceived, and it potentially undermined royalty payments that radio and television had been paying to musicians. As music videos became more and more grandiose, it aided and entrenched an already hierarchical system that left some musicians in the dust and others, notably Tom Waits and Rickie Lee Jones, to avoid it all together.

The most fateful chapter in this story arrived with the introduction of the home computer, followed by the internet in around 1995. During this dizzying time, cyberspace opened up, and the world truly became the global village that Marshall McLuhan envisaged. Music was now available universally, and the world of music was at your fingertips. The age of downloading began, and with it, the notion that music was not only available, but most importantly, free. In quick succession came downloading networks like Napster, cementing this music-should-be-free notion for a generation. The royalty-collecting agencies were caught behind the times, and any litigation against illegal downloading would be years to come. To this day, free downloading is a way of life for many in this generation, who say, “Why should I pay for music when I can get everything I want for free?” Needless to say, this completely undermined the commodification of music even though the majority of musicians barely made a taxable income.

Now everybody can make a record – and maybe that’s not a good thing

It was not long after the home computer arrived that studio software like GarageBand was available, thus completing the story that anyone could make music at home. While this democratization of the process was laudable, it led to a glut of dubious releases on the market. This was ok in principle, but it made potential purchasers wary of independent product.

While this was going on, big studios were going bankrupt, the musicians union was growing impotent, and in the background, formats continued to change, baffling engineers trying to stay on top of their game. The top musicians continued to use analog studios, but they were getting harder and harder to find. At the same time, home video games and entertainment systems were improving and threatening to overtake the music industry. CDs continued to sell, though, and with the introduction of new microphones and warming buffers, digital recordings improved.

Even this tumultuous period was short-lived as the MP3 format was introduced in 1997 and popularized by Apple’s iPod in 2001. Once again, the platform completely changed and, for better or worse, it changed everything. The sample rate of an MP3 is 23,000 compressed samples per second, half the sample rate of a commercial CD and a quarter of the sample rate of a studio quality digital recording. I am not going to lament the loss of audio quality again because, as I have said earlier, most popular music is not listened to for its audio quality but for its cultural information. But I will say that, when the audio quality reduced to that of an MP3, music’s value is also reduced.

The introduction of the MP3 made CD and record collections obsolete. You could store your entire CD collection on your iPod and later iPad. Free downloading became the way to obtain music as music stores began to disappear across North America. Though musicians continued to release CDs, it became clear that the notion of a recording that had existed for 100 years was in serious trouble.

The internet makes music ‘free’

With the introduction of the internet, music was, however, available from around the world and, on a positive note, it must be said that the world music movement was largely spawned by the new digital global village. One could download music from Bulgaria, South Africa, Angola and Nigeria, and certainly global village expressions like the universally sung song “Stand By Me” were wonderful new events. The problem was that there was no money for all this downloading, which entrenched the idea that music was free, or that music should be free. This trend was symbolically addressed when it was ruled that companies like Napster should be shut down – but really, the horses had been let out of the barn. Many of this generation have not purchased any music in years, although attendance at live concerts has burgeoned during this period.

Again on the internet front, YouTube arrived and, in the music world, this “digitized Much Music” further disseminated some wonderful music free to the world. However, You Tube was free and was, until recently royalty free.

In 2010, CD sales dropped 50 per cent and video games had replaced music in homes. In fact, music purchases had dropped to fifth place in the North American entertainment market. Record companies disappeared, compact disc stores disappeared, and by 2012, Starbucks had become the leading distributor of CDs in North America. In 2010, before his world tour, Prince released his new album free thought Britain’s Sunday Times stating that it was a loss leader for his upcoming world tour. Radiohead did the same, stating they would make up the difference in t-shirt sales. Music, they said in effect, was free. But only the musical two per cent could afford to say that.

Free albums as loss leaders

For lesser mortals like myself, this was shocking news, as I was in the middle of a four-CD project and had completed only two. Prince was giving his CD away?! Would the format and platform disappear before I had even completed the project? Would the CD join the boxes of unsold cassettes and albums in my basement? If music was to be free, why did I have so much expensive equipment? Why was I still renting studio time? Why was I still investing in Cds? Why had I invested in my craft for 45 years?

Fortunately, I still am able to play on tour, though the return, all things considered, is about the same as it was in 1980. For a younger generation, they are faced with some clubs where you pay to play.

Still, musicians released CDs they might sell in concert situations. Remember, we are reactive beings who cannot see the future, let alone the present! I sold my CDs through CD Baby, and between 2010 and 2014, the sale of digital downloads doubled sales of Cds. Still I made CDs, though the outlets I could sell them in dropped to one in the city I live in. I have a national distributor for my Cds, but they sell less across Canada than CDBaby sells downloads. The times have changed, as Robert Harris spoke of on his wonderful CBC radio series Twilight of the Gods about the hundred-year rise and fall of recorded music. And still musicians make CDs. In 2013, automobiles and laptops stopped having CD players in them. Though the writing was on the wall, the changes have happened so quickly that, in effect, no one told the musicians of the changes that were to come down on them. If we look back on this conversation, this is exactly the reverse of where I began: where the technology was serving the art form. It would appear at this moment that the art form is being dictated by the technology.

Young musicians no longer see music as a career choice

And so what of the future? Since the death of Steve Jobs, Apple has not released any new platforms in the last five years. Are technological changes slowing down after 30 years of whirling change? As one critic opined, “How many versions of the Beatles catalogue does one really need?”

There are signs that the royalty-collecting agencies are beginning to catch up to the myriad array of digital offspring ranging from the internet to satellite television and radio. Some would say that there is more music being produced now and available now than ever before, and this is probably true. And yet, when I surveyed my incoming students in the music faculty at Carleton University, not one of them thought they would make a living as a musician in the 21st century. Though the sample was small, the response was 100 per cent. When I asked them why they had such an outlook, their response centred around the notion that music has become free or should be free.

I recently received a letter from a filmmaker who sent me an advance for work I had not yet done on her film. Along with her cheque, she wrote, “as a fellow freelancer, I know the value of your work and what it is like to wait for payment.” I was pleasantly surprised and quickly deposited the cheque. The value of the work is the key phrase here. The process of democratization and ease of dissemination of music have both contributed to the questioned value of the work being done. It is so easy now to create and distribute one’s music, people believe it can’t be worth much, so it must be free. What is lost in this equation is the years of craft it might take to get to a professional level of musicianship and songwriting craft: years in the field, a lifetime spent in the trenches.

The future of music?  Sponsored artists, mix clubs, and granting bodies? 

I suspect that, in the future, musicians and songwriters will continue to ply their craft as they have in full face of the diminishing horizons before them. Perhaps some music will return to a form of digital kitchen party where musicians play for the enjoyment of it and do not expect a financial return for their gift of music – the gift of music without the expectation of return. I see this going on now. I expect for some, it will unfold as it did in the 19th century when painters were gobsmacked by the introduction of the camera. They thought their day was over but came back with a new and liberated approach to the canvas. I think some of the internet work done by the likes of Brian Eno and David Byrne could fall into this category, but they benefit from the comfort zone of considerable financial security. Similarly, in the 20th century, the theatre community suffered an extreme setback with the birth of the film industry. Many thought theatre was over, but theatre reemerged in the post-war period with the “angry young men”: Beckett, Osborne, Pinter, Arden and Ionesco. Yet, since theatre’s re-emergence, it has become a sponsored and often threatened art form, supported by public funds, similar to classical music orchestras and opera.

There is considerable evidence that live music will continue to be supported. If my sons are any example, they keep track of touring artists on the internet and will travel to Montreal or Toronto at a moment’s notice, gathering a crowd to join them through social networking. Local clubs featuring live music continue. Mix clubs are very popular, and indeed, this may be the new type of creative music emerging through digital downloads. This creativity may continue to grow with the DJs being the new musicians blending existing beats and pads. The musician’s union shows some kind of resurrection, but I suspect it will only be viable in the context of supporting orchestra contracts and may not see the street again. On a personal level, the establishment of viable house concerts has kept my date book relatively full.

The future continues to look supportive for music in film, theatre and television. Indeed, many musicians have focused their work on getting their music on television shows, where the economy of scale is huge, and royalties can be bountiful. I think at some point many so-called “non-commercial” musicians will leave the public marketplace and, given their value, elect or hope to be sponsored artists. This has already happened in the jazz world. It is also happening in some granting programs set forward by the Canadian Council or Ontario Arts Council. At the same time, all of you know how oppressed these agencies are by the current governments and how the arts are seen in contemporary North American society. Not necessary. It is ironic for example that in Norway, jazz is presented and taught in primary schools, while in North America , concerned parents fight to keep any sort of arts programming in the schools. We are definitely part of a debate now, and how it goes will affect our future. As times get meaner in this century, and as the water gets hotter in the pot, as resources thin and the world’s population strains the planet, I think the need for music will be greater and indeed may harken back to the visceral need for music that was evident in the hard times of the 20th century through war and depression. How that may be expressed may be in the global village of cyberspace. Whether one could make a living from it depends on where and how we understand the value of that gift.

The responsibility of community

I would like to conclude with an idea that occurred to me after reading Lewis Hyde’s wonderful book The Gift : Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property. I think music is a gift. I feel tremendously lucky to have had music in my life and to have made a living from it. But I have worked hard at it, and it would seem that you have seen value in it by according me a status in the community, one that brings me here today. Though the technology has changed, the value of the work should be unchanged, and yet because of the technological revolution that has overtaken the art form, the idea that music should be free has become dominant in popular culture .

I think in the future, we must return to valuing the art form. If we as artists attend to the work at a professional level, if we support the community in every way we can as artists, and you have invested in us, is it not incumbent on the community to support in kind? Or are you happy to download it, upload it, rip it , and dispense the art form for free? I think it is incumbent on the citizens of the community to understand its relationship to the musicians and creators if it is to be considered a community at all. If this conundrum cannot be addressed, I suspect music will be generated by computers programmed by robots in the future, and that will be a very shitty future. I think it is important to consider this so that the students in my classroom will be able to have a future in music.

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85 comments

  1. avatar
    Jane Eamon 14 March, 2019 at 16:56

    Absolutely wonderful. It’s everything I’ve been thinking and haven’t found words to articulate. We must find the grace notes in our art forms that bring it back into the public’s perception of valued resource. I wonder if the division as in the old days of the cream vs everyone else might make a comeback. Pondering. Jane Eamon.

  2. avatar
    Rich Knowles 14 March, 2019 at 19:26

    Hi!! Thanks for this terrific recounting of musical history. I’ve been involved in the technical and engineering end of broadcasting, recording and playing music since the early 60’s when I signed on with CBC in Toronto. I have told a similar story hundreds of times in bar conversations in the last few years and was so pleased to read your accounting which largely agrees with mine. I’ve taken the liberty of passing it on to a number of my musical friends here in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I know it will spark more interesting and voluble comments. Thanks again!!

  3. avatar
    Paul 14 March, 2019 at 20:55

    Thanks for this Ian, as a musician and songwriter I personally pay CdBaby to distribute my material to iTunes, Spotify etc and they then deliver my songs for ‘free’ and keep all of the $9.95/mth fee they charge listeners to hear millions of songs. So the mp3 download is now dead. Last time I looked the royalty stream for one play is like .0008 cents so my, my but those royalty cheques are soooo damn cute! Used to be SOCAN would pay $6 or $7 per tune you played live. Did a gig at a local pub with the lads, we were paid $100 each for 6 weeks of rehearsal time and a couple of hours playing live. I was making that much playing in a high school gymnasium in 1975! Musicians are quite seriously another bit of collateral damage of the digital age’s easy peazy sharing culture. I think the answer will come by getting robots to pay income tax on their earnings same as the rest of us, then maybe we can fund A Basic Income for all without increasing taxes on anyone. Then the golden age of un-compromised by commercialism, art and music will really flower and our culture will finally benefit from 50,000 years of nose to the grindstone!

  4. avatar
    Ron Gillmore 14 March, 2019 at 21:18

    Hi, I edit—for free—a monthly newsletter for the Victoria Folk Music Society.
    I noticed some typos: Havanna | Havana
    Deutch Grammophone | Deutsche Grammophon
    musican’s union | musician’s union
    Adat | ADAT
    Garageband | GarageBand
    deciminated | disseminated
    catologue | catalogue
    Unesco|Ionesco

    Thanks for the article!
    Ron Gillmore,
    Victoria, BC

  5. avatar
    Tark Hamilton 14 March, 2019 at 21:34

    Ian tells this in a way we can all embrace. It is very clearly researched and thoughtfully, as well as heartfully, presented. Share this if you love music and the musicians who create it for us all. Tark Hamilton, Artistic Director, Deep Cove Folk Music Society

  6. avatar
    Keith 15 March, 2019 at 06:01

    When people complain about the destruction of the music industry they often compare it to the golden age of the 20th century. I’m curious about the 18th and 19th century. Or even most of human history. Is it possible that the few decades when musicians could make a good living at it was an aberration? Is it possible that we have viewed music as “free” for most of our history?

    I am a musician that expects to make no money in this business. That said, I love this article.

  7. avatar
    Randy Clere 15 March, 2019 at 10:01

    wonderfully written piece… growing up in the 60’s, seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan… and getting my first guitar… I play electric bass and Chapman Stick here in Seattle. And let me say, It is REALLY sad, when club owners insist you play for free or people would rather hear a DJ than accomplished musicians who play an instrument. The music scene here in Seattle is dismal at best. At 65, I still practice every day and still have joy playing my instrument. Technology has played a huge roll in the degradation of music, musicians etc. Just because one can make a record does not mean they should. Most of the popular music being produced today pretty much all sounds the same… Same beats, same drone, same boring content… Where I hear really good music, is in the genre of jazz, blues and some progressive rock. Artists who come to mind are Robert Glasper, Bonnie Raitte, King Crimson, Steven WIlson, Rival Sons, Robert Plant…. ALso in the genre of World Music, there are some fantastic artists. I think where “we” are hurting is on a local level, where there are no clubs to play at, club owners don’t want to pay or promote… Not sure how this is going to change… It takes a community!

  8. avatar
    Andre Cholmondeley 15 March, 2019 at 10:02

    Exactly what Jude Swift said.

    This is a great article in many ways despite the abysmal typos (how do you get two album titles wrong?? SARGENT pepper?? 56th St/Joel??) and so many more spelling mistakes etc.

    anyway besides all of that really spot on when he talks about the change in having so many more options for your entertainment dollar

    when video games, cable and other things exploded

    that’s very important and Musicians complaining don’t acknowledge that we’ve had MASSIVE modern competition for people to spend their entertainment dollar

    back in the 50s 60s 70s for a certain wide demo it was either music or a comic book or a magazine or a movies

    so there’s that. The same demo today has hundreds of apps and games to play has several incredible high-quality video game platforms

    or can be using these cheap tools to be making their own movies documentaries albums you name it

    we’ve got to acknowledge: people simply have other options than going to a record store

    Baffled that people can’t get that through their heads.

    Lots correct about this article. Mentioning the iPod is crucial

    unfortunately it’s so incorrect to keep tagging the iPad as an “MP3 player”

    there’s about four or five different formats that most people put on an iPod (AAC, AIFF, Apple Lossless and Yes also MP3)

    But it’s speaks to how much detail this guy really looked into…

    but the true massive flaw is when he states that music became free when the Internet appeared

    and then based a lot of the argument on that

    it’s stunning how wrong that is

    look the fact of the matter is that’s an incredibly western and distorted view

    the fact is that most people on planet earth, in Indonesia Africa Asia South America eastern Europe Russia, rural america, Central America, …… you name it …..economically never participated in this positively western thing of collecting albums

    ( which mathematically probably predominates in the United States Canada and England and then A sharp drop off to a couple other western European countries

    the other folk?? Most of planet earth? They enjoyed music for free for decades and still do

    they streamed it, wireless. With ads

    Yep that’s called radio

    Anyway fascinating discussion

    he makes great points about when garageband and other technologies going back to the port a studio drastically changed the game

    but then he doesn’t follow that to its logical conclusion: if the means to making a product (and we are talking about product if we’re talking about getting paid & selling it) ….if the means to manufacture a product drops in cost to an almost immeasurable small amount ……why would the product command the same cost in the market?

    Especially in a market where suddenly there are literally hundreds of millions more human beings creating said product ??

    leading to the law of supply and demand

    sure you have to whittle out quality there …

    but still there’s so much more quality music now on earth than there ever was

    how can it then command the same exact price that it did in some imaginary golden era in 1989??

    that’s not true anywhere else in economics or commercial reality. Ever.

    yet we keep banging our heads expecting one product in the history of humankind to not be subject to those basic realities??

  9. avatar
    Andre Cholmondeley 15 March, 2019 at 10:08

    “The movies”, not “a movie”. Good to not have any typos if you’re mentioning typos LOL

    that was a small one but someone will slaughter me on that

    also I’m not writing an official article for some website or paper so the bar is a lot lower

    anyway have a good day

  10. avatar
    Heather Kitching 15 March, 2019 at 10:43

    The Moose and I take full responsibility for typos, Andre. It was a late night of editing, and, I gotta admit, we’re not big Billy Joel fans.

  11. avatar
    Patrick Quine 15 March, 2019 at 11:27

    Interesting article but the part about digital recording is wildly inaccurate. For example, sample rate would have no effect on the length reverb tails. That’s not how sample rate works. And overtones exist with the sound wave, frequencies don’t form separate sound waves that mysteriously aren’t captured or something.. sound is one thing – air moving in 3 dimensions. It may be a tough pill to swallow but that sound many listeners miss from their old turntable had more to do with the nice tube amp and big old speakers you were listening to them through than it did with any magical benefits of vinyl. Vinyl is only capable of capturing about 12bits of dynamic range and has a limited frequency response meaning it doesn’t do a good job of reproducing frequencies above the range of human hearing.. Remember – when we’re recording sound it isn’t sound, it’s electrical signal traveling though cable.. we’re always converting the mechanical energy of sound into magnetic energy and then into electrical energy at which point we store information about that energy so that we can reverse the process and produce sound out of speakers. Believe me – digital recording is a much more accurate way of storing and reproducing information about that electrical signal. There really isn’t anything magically missing from digital recording – what sucks is what you’re listening to it on !

  12. avatar
    Michael 15 March, 2019 at 15:17

    Just something to consider. Sousa claimed that recording devices would be the downfall of music. His rationale: fewer people would learn to play instruments. In his day, and for centuries before, if you wanted music in your home, you had to create it. A recording and play back device, would remove the necessity to have a piano in your home, because you could just listen to a recording. He also claimed that fewer people would come to concerts, because they would be able to hear those groups on recordings in their homes.
    In my opinion, that may have been the “golden age” of music.
    Also, in my opinion, any technology that makes the music creation process more accessible, the better. We’re finally getting to a point where we can get people excited about creating, recording and distributing their own music. People who see themselves as budding musicians are much more capable of seeing through the commercialized crap music that saturates our culture.

  13. avatar
    Rick 15 March, 2019 at 15:36

    Some good observables there. I do however think live music is still burbling along in the background and eventually the kids will find it. It’s kids looking for their own identity that fuels the industry, and the kids who listen to hip hop and EDM are having their own kids. If the new generation finds out their parents hate big band music that’ll be the next big thing. I’m not sure about the genre, but I could easily see a backlash happening to anything digital or created with a mouse. Kids need to look down on their parents music as old fashioned uncool crap, and how better to express their contempt than with the computer created drivel their parents like. I think this is what drives musical evolution. Tech may have changed the business model, but not human nature.

  14. avatar
    Dan McGowan 15 March, 2019 at 16:38

    such a fantastic overview – thank you for taking the time to put these thoughts into a very easy-to-understand format. I remember my dad being a member of the US musician’s union – he got gigs. I am a songwriter who read this article with a bit of angst – but I am not going to give up the art and craft of creating songs – it’s in my blood and I simply HAVE to do it. Thanks again!

  15. avatar
    Frederick Harrison 16 March, 2019 at 00:24

    Regarding your Over My Head cassette… I was listening to the CBC one morning and they featured some of the music on the cassette. I was impressed enough to want to stock the tape and, figured that airplay on the CBC would result in many people seeking to purchase what they heard. As the buyer for Sam the Record Man’s flagship store, I knew of you through your North Track indie label and got in touch with you in order to arrange consignment of the cassette. Some time later you followed it up with Magnetic North and I stocked that as well. Along with your two cassette-only releases we also began stocking cassettes by Loreena McKennitt and then many other indie cassettes. One of those was the Cowboy Junkies The Trinity Sessions on their own Latent label – quickly snapped up by RCA for worldwide distribution. Indie cassettes became ubiquitous – but, as you noted, not all were of a high musical standard.
    I think it was True North that took over manufacturing Over My Head and Magnetic North and made them available on CD for the first time, with distribution through a major record company. Then Holborne took over the distribution and manufacture of the two titles, marketing them as “new age” music.

    Kudos for mentioning the Tascam 4 track recorder and it accompanying mixing board, which seemed to be the logical extension of quadraphonic sound systems. The Teac 3340S was the first affordable 4 track open reel deck with select synchronization, which meant that the average Joe could set up his own recording studio. Many did.

    And that was the problem. Everybody, it seemed, recorded an album. In my final months as buyer at Sam the Record Man I was faced with several dozen new releases from the major record labels EACH WEEK – and that did not include classical, folk, blues, or jazz releases which were handled by the respective department heads. The major labels also had import divisions which made titles from their branch distributors around the world available to Canada. Add to this more new releases from minor labels and releases distributed in Canada by an importer. And add to this page after page of new releases from import companies who brought in indie releases from the US, UK, and EUROPE. You could easily tie up a substantial amount of money in inventory if you bought one of each title – in LP, cassette, and CD formats, of course. And you would need to expand your retail space if you wanted to stock it all.

    At the very moment you could obtain the widest selection of titles and foreign releases with alternate or bonus tracks ever available through your local record store, Napster, Bearshare, and the other file sharing networks began offering the same music – albeit as mp3’s – for free. Somewhere in the afterlife, Abby Hoffman is laughing maniacally. (Steal This Book? More like Steal This Music.)

    The collapse of the record industry ended my career in music retail. Sam the Record Man closed its doors at the end of June 2007. I got work in a bookstore for two years, then worked at Sunrise for two years. Now I sell pens, pencils, and stationery supplies in another bookstore – at minimum wage.

  16. avatar
    Eric 16 March, 2019 at 12:17

    For futurist, you singled out Kubrick. Kubrick was probably the best film director in the world (my favourite), but it was futurist Arthur C. Clarke who wrote the story (The Sentinel/2001). And what about the myriad of other futurist/science fiction writers (Asimov, Heinlein, Verne, etc.)? … A 44,000 sampling rate should be good enough to capture the tune. It is the software that converts the digital bits to analog waves that matters. The warmth that people attribute to always-analog sound was most likely caused by the hiss and wow and flutter of the tape recorder – noise accurately and properly eliminated by digitisation. … Apple didn’t invent the MP3 format but have a similar lossy format of their own. Also, MP3’s have a varied sampling rate. … Music has become free because technology has enabled it to be free. That, plus the spoiled raising of people with an instilled lack of responsibility, has resulted in a generation of people who believe that everything should be free. They will be disappointed. … Robots will only go as far as reproducing music, and not well as they will never have feeling. And they will never compose – never. … You had invested in your craft for 45 years because you loved making music. It is the drive of the pure, audible artist. The fact that the way in which you’re able to support yourself with it has changed is a different matter entirely. And yes, because music is such an important alternate universe to those of us who truly appreciate it, we should make you completely devoid of concern for making ends meet.

  17. avatar
    Stuart Studebaker 16 March, 2019 at 16:21

    Gads – this article. Just, no.

    1. Music is something people do – it is constant and continuous.
    2. Recordings of music are NOT music. They are recordings of music. They are ghosts.
    3. Musicians can’t make a living? Why should they have to make a living? The idea that if you don’t produce you *must* starve is capitalism’s goad to the working class.
    How about this: stop whining about how musicians are getting screwed and fight for automated socialism, so people don’t HAVE to work for a living. Where people can make their art and not worry about starving?
    So, if music is something we do and it is innate, and recordings of music are not music, then why is anyone surprised that under capitalism musicians can’t “make a living” from their work? It’s not rocket science. Just abandon capitalist ideology and forge a new world. Per Attali’s book “Noise – the political economy of music” music is a harbinger of the future. Right now, music is collapsing under its own nostalgia. This is enforced by property relations over compositions and the ghosts of recorded music, and the results are obvious – endless retro aesthetics, vaporwave, and an increasing irrelevance of popular music now under the domain of hip hop – music based in sampling – chopping and cutting up ghosts of music.
    If music is a harbinger – it is now harbingering (sp?) cultural exhaustion in a society so skewed by greed and shortsightedness that it is easier for its denizens to imagine the end of the world before the end of capitalism.
    And in a planet where the water is rising, that’s not very wise.

  18. avatar
    Lish Lash 16 March, 2019 at 16:41

    This is an insightful history of the music industry, but what he says about digital recording is mid-80’s superstition. It took a while to get used to digital’s hard limit at 0db, and for per-channel compressors and gates to become available. As for MP3, the data stored is severly compressed, but the sampling RATE is not cut in half as he claims. There is indeed a decrease in sound quality, but it’s more subtle than that.

  19. avatar
    Anonymous loser musician 16 March, 2019 at 18:24

    A good overview. I’m a musician, never made a living doing it, but I’ve recorded multiple albums, and toured all over the world. I’ve also always had a day job, so I’ve worked in nightclubs, for booking agents, record labels, for promoters, radio stations, and record stores. In doing so, I saw just about every side of the music business. In the 1990s when I was starting out, it was still possible to make a living as a journeyman musician. Not GET RICH, but to make a living as somebody playing stuff that wasn’t particularly mainstream or in style. It may have been a hardscrabble existence, and it wasn’t glamorous, but it was at least possible.

    For one of my many day jobs I worked at a booking agency that had a stable of musicians who were not household names, but who toured full time, put out records, and made a modest living doing it. I also worked at the kind of nightclub where these acts could play when they came through town. The musicians, the bars they played, and the agents who made a living booking them are all gone. Sad, but this whole circuit and the people who made a living within it was already starting to die in the 1990s, and is pretty much dead now.

    Sure, tastes change, but between the sales of recordings drying up and the closing of the venues they could perform in (and actually get paid to perform in!) the kind of working class musicians who once existed are few and far between now. It doesn’t help that the cost of living has skyrocketed, rent and everything else is through the roof. Decades ago, a musician could pick up a gig between tours at a record store or guitar shop to help pay the rent when they weren’t on the road. Today, those kind of easy come, easy go retail jobs either don’t exist, or don’t pay enough to live on even if you could find a place that would hire you back after you quit to go on tour. And paying for health insurance coverage in the U.S. as an “independent contractor” musician in 2019? Forget it! Canadian musicians don’t know how good they’ve got it!

    There are still bars, agents, and touring musicians, but it seems like the musicians who can afford to do it today all have trust funds. I swear, whenever I hear about some new act that has a “buzz” and has been touring a lot and getting some attention, reading up on them a bit I find that they either come from a privileged background, have a wealthy spouse who is bankrolling them, quit their old job as an investment banker or corporate lawyer to pursue music, or some combination of all of the above. If you don’t already have money these days it is really hard to be a musician. How can somebody afford to live in NYC nowadays as an unknown musician? How do you make enough money on tour to afford the overhead of paying rent in a major city? Music has become a vanity project for the already rich. Meanwhile, really talented artists can’t get any attention because they can’t afford to hire a publicist, can’t afford to quit their day job to go on a money-losing tour, can’t lose the health insurance. Sure, changing technology has played a big part, but I think the hard situation for musicians today is just a symptom of increasing inequality and the hollowing out of society due to neoliberalism.

  20. avatar
    Stephen Coulson 17 March, 2019 at 02:08

    The devaluation of music started with recording – now you only needed the musicians work once. Before recordings, the most popular musicians would make the most money. After recordings the most popular musicians could make almost all of the money and with less work (minus the industry’s cut, of course). But what drove the value of music to virtually zero was radio, where zero is precisely what consumers grew used to paying to listen. If you wanted a physical object you could own; a tape, an LP or 45, etc, then it would cost you, but if it was just sound coming from a box and left you nothing you could hold in your hand – it was free.
    Music over the internet and out of the computer is more like a million channel radio than a record store in terms of the user experience. Separated from the costly physical medium and it’s expensive supply chain, the copying costs were nil. The reason Apple managed to get people to pay for downloads was by making their system more convenient than trying to find a good quality files yourself.
    But before recordings, musicians made money playing to audiences, and during early radio days musicians would cut records to get radio stations to play them to promote themselves so they could make money playing to audiences. There were just a few decades when musicians were playing to audiences to make more money selling recordings – and most musicians never managed to make that much that way – so we are back to musicians making money by playing music before audiences even though the world is awash with free or nearly free recorded music.

  21. avatar
    Bill 17 March, 2019 at 11:50

    Good piece. I was surprised and delighted by the intro, especially the inclusion of H. G. Wells, whose “Shape of things to come” was very impressive.

  22. avatar
    DanDan FitzGerald 17 March, 2019 at 18:38

    Where to start. Sheet Music was huge before the Phonograph. Germans invented the Tape Recorder. Old Recording technologies are not all ‘warmer’. Tape is but we can readily call it up using software such as the Phoenix. Much modern recording goes straight from Chinese knock off Mic to the Internet. Much of it is valued correctly IMO at 0. Conversely when hard copy was necessary, Artists and all around them made ridiculously large amounts of money. Wealth, in general, causes problems for people. I am not at all convinced by either version of Music’s place in Society. It is surely great for kids to learn to play and sing, but X-Factor?

  23. avatar
    Nick Krewen 18 March, 2019 at 09:13

    Deutsche Grammophon has actually been around as a label since 1897, and most of the other majors – in one form or another – established themselves near the turn of the 20th Century. By surviving such events as the two World Wars and the Great Depression, they’ve learned a few tricks and made enviable fortunes, usually on the backs and at the expense of the artists. And to nitpick a little, my 2016 model Toyota came with a CD player, so at least I still have that joy. But I admire Ian Tamblyn who has been on the front lines for a while, and he’s whole correct in stating that the Internet has been the great leveller of the playing field – and unless artists and writers can get a healthier slice of the streaming pie, music from the creation standpoint, with very few exceptions, will become a hobby.

  24. avatar
    Dylan Cooper 19 March, 2019 at 12:50

    Good, well written article. As a young musician, everywhere I go there is a hovering cloud of doom regarding our futures, music especially. It’s nice to know that these anxieties are not made up within our generation.

    There’s, I think, more depth to the issue of music business. One I have constant conversations about are grant agencies and their role in what gets popularized and who gets support, but that may be another article…

    I have one criticism though on this particular one. Hip-Hop was left out completely. That is an ever growing section of music that has, at least in my own community, an upmost supportive community. Sold out shows, large, small venue productions, and continuous and varied collaboration, partly attributed to the rise in home studios. It’s possible I am generalizing because I am sure the same situation can’t be applied to every community, but so often we hear of the changes in past decades are detrimental to our music futures, however there are areas that are thriving and it seems older generations aren’t always aware of that.

  25. avatar
    Preacher Boy 19 March, 2019 at 13:56

    While I appreciated the attempt to build argument into exhortation here, I think the thematic momentum derails almost fatally at an all-too-common stumbling point, that being this notion: “The internet makes music ‘free’.”

    If we’re ever to move beyond our current state of affairs, it is REALLY critical we do NOT accept this statement—the internet did NOT make music free. We did. All of us. Listeners and creators alike. The internet introduced a new way for free to be possible, but we didn’t have to use it. But we did, and we are accordingly the architects of the change we are now complaining about. Every artist who has ever made something available for free, and every listener who has ever consumed music for free—we are the culprits.

    I have this disagreement with fellow musicians all the time in the context of Spotify. Musicians are generally angry at—and about—Spotify. But if you need an enemy in that scenario, turn your sights away from Spotify, and train them on the 87 million users of Spotify. They’re who make Spotify possible.

    Revenue on the internet largely follows a very simple model when it comes to creative content. Think of it like a garage sale that never ends, and never charges anything.

    Let’s say I put a sign up in my neighborhood that says I’m giving everything in my house away for free. Guess what happens? LOTS of people come to my house! So then, I go to the local coffee shop, and I say, “Did you know there are 1000 people coming through my house, just today? You should really pay me $500 to put a sign for your coffee shop in my living room. Think of all the people who will see it!” Now, obviously this won’t work in real life, because after the first day, all my stuff will be gone, and I won’t have 1000 visitors anymore. But if I’m YouTube, people will keep coming, because I always have free stuff I’m giving away. So businesses keep paying me money to advertise on my site.

    That’s how monetization of creative content now works on the internet. The money doesn’t actually come from the content. The content is just the bait. The money actually comes from the traffic. Because not only are there visitors, those visitors are also generating data. So sites sell the traffic (you should advertise on my site, because I have SO many visitors!), and they sell the data (if you only knew which items in my house people most wanted to take, and which rooms they went to first, and which rooms they stayed in longest, think how much better at advertising you’d be!). This is the result of creators being willing to let their content be used as bait, and this is the result of consumers being willing to have their behavior sold in exchange for free content.

    How do we change this? It’s on us, and no one else. Listeners, and creators. Listeners have to stop allowing their data to be sold in exchange for free content, and creators have to stop allowing their content to be used as free bait.

    To put this more tangibly, all of us would have to remove ourselves completely from the current marketplace, and take our goods and our business elsewhere, to a marketplace where content itself has value.

    The good news is, this is already happening. Sites like Bandcamp allow creators to sell their music directly to consumers, and consumers can make their purchases there without fear of their behavior being re-sold in the form of data. (See Bandcamp’s terms of use for details). And, Bandcamp does not make money through advertising, they make it through revenue sharing with their artists. Full disclosure, I am a commercial musical artist, but I don’t currently use Bandcamp. I just happen to appreciate the value of the what they offer.

    So, that’s it. The internet didn’t do it. We did. We started it. But we can also end it. But not in the way that Ian Tamblyn honorably—but naively—suggests:

    “If we as artists attend to the work at a professional level, if we support the community in every way we can as artists, and you have invested in us, is it not incumbent on the community to support in kind?”

    While this may seem noble and right, it’s nonsense. It’s not upon the community to DO anything.

    In a content marketplace, value is determined by demand, not effort. You can work really hard to create your music, but if no one likes it or wants it, your effort doesn’t matter—your music still has no commercial value. And as musicians and creators, we’re not OWED anything, just because we created something.

    What ACTUALLY needs to happen, is creators need to set a realistic price, and consumers need to pay it if they want it, in a marketplace with no interference from advertising and data tracking. If no one pays, the creator can remove their product, change their product, or lower their price. At some point, ideally, a sweet spot emerges, and the creator and the consumer can, in effect, strike a deal. In this way, creators can create, and consumers can consume, and those that deliver value to those who value what they deliver, will make money.

  26. avatar
    Joseph 19 March, 2019 at 15:14

    “That’s what they said about recording devices for cassette tapes.” is denial at its worst!
    The fact remains that STEALING music via the internet and new applications to stream movies, music, television exists all around the world. Sonata Arctica from Finland mentions “Unauthorized use, not stealing?” in their song Black & White from their Unia album. Enaslaved, a Norwegian Black Metal band was reported as follows:
    “It seems Sponheim’s Liberal Party has been advocating the legalization of all illicit Internet downloading. They say the business is already freely accessible and downloading should be legalized. ENSLAVED think that argument is weak and decided to prove it via stealing his sheep. They counter that that bands are just small businesses and legalizing free downloading is against everything the party claims to stand for. So you guys wanna steal our music, we’ll steal your sheep. That’s fair, right?

    Turns out the stunt was staged as a part of the larger campaign against downloading called Piracy Kills Music that is being waged by Norwegian bands and other music industry members.”

    Or this tidbit from San Francisco:
    Exodus drummer Tom Hunting says the band are “basically travelling t-shirt salesmen” as record sales no longer pay the bills.

    Hunting says that like most bands, Exodus don’t sell enough physical records to make a decent living and that they will always have to tour extensively.

    Hunting tells From Hero To Zero: “A lot of bands, aside from Metallica or Beyonce or people who come out of the gate selling 800,000 copies the first day, we have to tour.

    “We’re kind of, basically, travelling t-shirt salesmen. And it’s okay, because it takes us to amazing places in the world and we love seeing other cultures and having other foods and seeing how the rest of the world lives.

    Although many streaming sites claim Metal music lovers still buy CD’s I have met many who proudly assert that they pirate anything they can get their hands on rather than purchase it because it is easy to do and because they can.
    Sure the musicians get to tour and sell merchandise; so what happens when the merchandise stops selling and/or they can no longer afford to tour extensively and/or book studio time and/or they just can’t get the time off from their day job to finish that album of songs they have ready but not recorded?
    Streaming sites haven’t paid struggling musicians and less established musicians anything stating they are getting exposure. Exposure is nice but ask any Landlord if they accept exposure in lieu of money for monthly rental.
    The fact is, you can hear what plays on the radio because that is what the industry wants you to hear and those artists will have some success because of it but those passionate young musicians and bands starting out or still dreaming are at the mercy of it takes money and support to tour and be successful to a degree that they can focus on making music as a career and not a pastime.
    In my opinion, illegal downloading and free-streaming is ruining music as a viable career choice for gifted musicians and that is a sad state of affairs for every music lover.

  27. avatar
    Fran smith 19 March, 2019 at 15:17

    Very good. I was able to make a living playing clubs 1970 into 1990s. The showrooms in Vegas went to tapes after the union musicians left us lounge players out on strike. They got what they deserved. Then, i saw the pay to play start in LA. Its still exists. There are no more 4 to 6 night a week gigs in restaurants and hotels. I do know some still making it playing casuals in local 47, although they were informed recently that their paid into pensions will run out. Both unions in vegas and la sold their original buildings.

  28. avatar
    Tokyo Rosenthal 19 March, 2019 at 16:24

    This article nailed it. While I grew up in the “Classic Rock” era, I’ve recorded and toured in the digital era for the past 14 years. It’s been quite a challenge to use my marketing tools of the past to create demand for my music in the present. Being older, and somewhat wiser”, than the other players and writers who surround me, I’ve had the advantage to have saved up to pursue my musical passion and develop new skills to advance my creations and combine the new skills with the old ones. But I share the facts with my “mates” that if they want to buy a home, or a car, or put kids through college, with musical earnings, they are “plum out of luck”. Start saving now, keep playing, and segue back into music as a career when you can afford it. But keep playing! I still earn quite a bit teaching guitar to pupils over 50 who played when they were younger but quit and want to get it back. That’s a tough road to hoe and a challenge for me to get them there. Had they kept playing, even a little bit, they’d be a lot better off.

  29. avatar
    Fsonicsmith 20 March, 2019 at 13:55

    Isn’t the slight but encouraging popularity of vinyl worth discussion? Isn’t it a way for musicians to make more money off of sales of the recorded medium?
    On a different topic-things look bleak because Gens X and Y don’t care much about music-live or recorded-compared to past generations. As someone else pointed out, hip-hop is the music of choice among a broad swath of the youth who do appreciate music but where does that leave the other artists?
    Without a doubt, it is a dark time for musicians and all artists. Who goes to museums, who watches plays (unless it’s Hamilton) who reads books, who pays for art anymore? People go to movies still, but much prefer to wait and watch in their homes.

  30. avatar
    Rainer Wiechmann 20 March, 2019 at 14:09

    I have been involved in the music “industry” for over 40 years and have been fortunate enough to be able to make a living in many music-related fields….as a musician, engineer, producer, retail sales, instrument service and repair and lots of spin-off jobs that all revolve around music. i have had to adapt tremendously to changing technology, industry trends etc, and have never been privy to any SERIOUS royalty revenues from any of my recorded works even when releasing material on a major label. as a primarily independent artist I was painfully aware of the downside of downloading revenue or lack thereof, BUT my biggest disappointment and something that REALLY PISSED ME OFF was something I had not really considered until it happened to me…several years ago now my independent band NAIL released 2 CD’s knowing they were primarily decorative…but also viable promotional tools with availability through multiple media distributors ie, CD Baby, Amazon etc. we did enjoy a stream of actual sales through these avenues and then we realized that several of these unit “sales” had been to third party “on Demand” black market manufactures in Asia and Eastern Europe, Russia etc…..where suddenly our product was being bootlegged and sold in quantities that we had no control over or were even aware of! just by chance, while googling or band and album title, we stumbled across DOZENS of sites where suddenly our product was available for order from these underground manufacturers who were earning money on these sales but were outright stealing the product and distributing unauthorized forgeries! so not only do we have to contend with “free” consumption of our music, but even when there exists a small miniscule paycheck from legitimate sorces, these sources sell to individuals in countries where there is no recourse to protect anyones’ creation from being ripped off and sold for profit illegaly with NO payment once again to the artist!. so we are literally losing a couple of grand a year (not a great fortune, but it would actually pay a few bills) to REAL piracy of the physical product, never mind never making any money on the thousands of streams from spotify etc for .0008 per play. so I guess nowadays your effort is simply to benefit thieves and perhaps a little to bolster your own precious ego as an artist knowing that someone has heard your creation….as you sit at your mundane “real job” dayjob dreaming about how cool it would be to record what’s in your head but you haven’t the time or the money to do so because you have to keep food on the table and a roof over your head. so the only real musicians making a go of it are the buskers on the streetcorner or the subway coming home with a couple of hundred $ in coins at the end of the day….

  31. avatar
    Sam C 21 March, 2019 at 20:26

    “The contemporary analogy in relation to climate change is that we are similar to the frog in a pot of hot water who does not have the sensors to recognize the increasing temperature and the fact that he should get out of the boiling pot.”

    I recognize the colloquial value of this analogy, to be clear though frogs don’t actually behave this way in nature.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog

  32. avatar
    Roxy 23 March, 2019 at 14:06

    You know the thing that saddens me the most are people who’s comment is pointing out a typo…

  33. avatar
    Joel Glaser 24 March, 2019 at 16:37

    Excellent article, Ian. Thank you!

    I had my musical career, such as it was and have been working in audio and lighting production for local theater groups, schools, festivals and bands. Not a full time career, but profitable and I’m having a blast!

    I was recently asked to help manage and guide a young band. The things you discuss here have long been a concern, but as I neared the end of my road days, I became OK with it. Now it’s fresh in my face again. How can I help these young people build a successful career in the music world? I’m doing my research (which is where I found your article) and trying to formulate a plan that will include every possible angle. It won’t be easy and they may never be able to give up their day jobs, but they may still reach an acceptable level of success.

    Again, thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts.

    Best,

    Joel
    Glaser Audio Productions, LLC

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