Billboard Tries to Save Old Platforms, While U.S. Music Needs Some Old-Fashioned Training

Spotify Streaming Revenue Music Industry Business
Leigh Guldig for Variety

Keep it simple stupid. That’s what nobody at Billboard seems to understand. Don’t give me formulas, give me reality.

The Billboard 200 albums chart in the magazine dated Dec. 13 was the first to include on-demand streaming and digital track sales. Billboard says the chart is based on “a new algorithm,” but the fact that it’s still mainly an album-sales chart makes it irrelevant.

The only thing that counts is “listens.” But the whole industry is based on albums, so they don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Instead, they come up with this inane hybrid chart and then trumpet it as the answer. But album sales are tanking.

People need to look to the destination, admit  that streaming has already won, and that as a result, the winners in the music derby might not be the same. They need to wrap their heads around the fact that the majority of streaming revenues go to rights-holders, and how they divvy it up with their partners is subject to contract.

Just round up all the streaming services and give us a ranking. Hell, we don’t even need to know how many listens there were. Just put them in order based purely on that one statistic, with no malarkey involved. None of this crap about track equivalent albums and X number of streams equaling a sale. Do you see Netflix telling us how many views equal one DVD?

Industries that satisfy themselves and not their consumers are headed for extinction. People haven’t listened to albums from start to finish since the advent of the CD. Macs don’t come with disk drives. Neither do Chromebooks, which are infiltrating educational institutions.

Music School 

And speaking of education, I’m sick and tired of reading about Max Martin and Adele, products of their countries’ respective music academies, and being subjected to the dash-for-cash lowest-common-denominator American dreck made by people who can neither sing nor play, never mind that they have nothing to say.

When are we gonna have an American music school?

Now I’m not talking about music business school. Ain’t that America. Where we focus on the money as opposed to the art. Rather, I’m referencing something closer to “Fame,” the movie about the New York City arts school featuring a soundtrack with music by Lesley Gore’s brother, Michael, that evidenced more honesty and pathos than anything emanating from a TV singing show like “The Voice.” If we want to reclaim America’s place atop the musical pyramid, we have to focus on education. We have to invest in our future. We need a place where people can learn how to create, can hone their chops.

Berklee’s not doing a bad job, but by the time you’ve graduated from high school, it’s too late; you are who you are. It’s great that there are jazzers and orchestra students in the music programs of universities, but they’re working within precepts, they’re playing by rote, they think they’re testing boundaries, but usually they’re operating in a hermetically sealed, self-congratulatory environment that the rest of us cannot relate to.

It starts with music in the public schools. We’ve eviscerated art from the curriculum.

The major labels should cough up some dough. The artists of today should invest in tomorrow. There should be a campaign to establish a high school in L.A. just for the arts, where everybody making coin on television drops in to tell young charges how to do it.

It’s time we refocused our bankrupt culture away from money and more on soul-fulfilling enterprises. The old adage is true, money won’t keep you warm at night. But a record will truly save your life.

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