×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

To Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters: Silicon Valley Isn’t Music’s Enemy

Just because you’re a rock star doesn’t make you right.

In case you missed it, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters railed against techies in the London Times behind a paywall, accusing Silicon Valley and the music industry of “stealing every f–king cent anybody ever made.” And now we’ve got to see his inane opinions trumpeted across all media because he was once a star, and you know stars — we’ve got to listen to them.

But the tech companies did not steal your business, did not steal your opportunity, did not make you broke.

The customer did. Which way do you want it — do you love your fans or hate them? Love those who wanted everything you ever released, or hate those who now have access to everything, and don’t want to listen to you.

Let’s state some rules.

1. It’s the best time to be an artist in the history of the world … especially if you make popular music, and you’re willing to do it yourself. There are no barriers to entry.

2. Major labels push what sells. They’re businesses, not museums. You can excoriate the Top 40 all you want, but if klezmer music was the new rage, the majors would pick it up.

3. When everything is available, there’s a race to the top. “The Long Tail” and other books perpetrated the fiction that we’d all get rich in the Internet economy. Tech helped grease the skids by providing access, but it’s the public that chooses what to listen to.

4. Change happens. Live went to wax cylinders went to shellac to 45s to 33s to cassettes and CDs, and then files and now streams. Embrace the new.

5. Radio is not forever. One day music radio is gonna crash, the same way AM has.

So Roger Waters blows hard, but railing against change is like complaining that you can now call across the country for free. Used to be expensive, with long-distance tolls. But I don’t see anyone taking up the cause of the telcos, who all saw the light and moved on to wireless, and when talk declined, moved on to data. Techies glommed on to music because it was desirable. They wanted to hear it; they wanted others to, as well.

The truth is that despite Waters’ going on that today’s music is as great as it was in the classic rock era, it’s not. Of course there are talented people working. Of course there’s money to be made. But once upon a time there was more experimentation, and music was front and center in the culture, moving it. Waters’ experience is about what happened in the ’70s. If he wants to tell us how he did it, we’re all ears. But if he just wants to complain that someone moved his cheese, tune him out. The truth is, he’s not on good terms with David Gilmour, and separately they’re not desirable.

We live in a wild, woolly time of cacophony, where the greats are at our fingertips for the same price as the dreck. And to be able to hear everything ever recorded is a boon to the listener, albeit overwhelming. As a result, there’s a shifting revenue picture. It used to be those who jumped through the hoops made money, and those who didn’t didn’t. But now that everybody can play, the revenue is tilting toward the winners.

And everybody can’t be a winner.

But tech is inert. Software and devices are tools. The audience is always ready, the techies have provided the pipe, and there’s plenty of money. That’s a good thing.

Popular on Variety

More Voices

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

  • Tom Hanks Mr Rogers A BEAUTIFUL

    Tom Hanks' Portrayal of Mister Rogers May Put Him Back in Oscar's 'Neighborhood'

    Sony recently hosted a SAG-AFTRA screening of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the Marielle Heller-directed drama starring Matthew Rhys as a magazine writer who befriends Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks. While the screening didn’t include a guild Q&A with cast or the film’s creative team, the audience was greeted with a video message from [...]

  • Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese,

    Martin Scorsese and 'The Irishman' Enter Oscar Race With World Premiere at NYFF

    Even with its three-hour run time and a short 28 days in theaters before it’s available on Netflix, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” is likely to be a major contender at the Oscars. The 57th New York Film Festival opened on Friday night with the world premiere of the epic real-life mob drama. Scorsese and his [...]

  • Brad Pitt Once Upon a Time

    How Much Does Hitting the Awards Season Circuit Really Matter to Stars Like Brad Pitt?

    “Do you want an Oscar?” That’s the first question one top awards consultant asks any potential contender when they first start talking. Everyone is wondering how Brad Pitt would answer that question these days. He recently raised eyebrows and made headlines when he proclaimed that he would not be campaigning this awards season. “Oh, man. I’m [...]

  • Renee Zellweger'Judy' film premiere, Arrivals, Samuel

    'Judy's' L.A. Premiere: Renée Zellweger Takes Another Ruby Step Toward the Oscars

    Renée Zellweger continues to follow the yellow brick road to the Oscars. The Los Angeles premiere of Judy on Thursday night in Beverly Hills kept the Academy Award winner on track for a possible second win come February. “We’re just so happy we’re able to share it with you tonight,” Zellweger said to the crowd [...]

  • Barry Bill Hader

    Emmys 2019: Clear Favorites and Top Challengers for This Year's Winners (Column)

    If this felt like the longest, most expensive Emmy campaign in history, you might be right. For one thing, the 2019 Primetime Emmys will be held Sept. 22, which is the latest the ceremony has taken place since 2013. That also happened to be the last year of TV’s quaint, pre-streaming era, before outlets like [...]

  • Fleabag Succession Emmys

    Could 'Fleabag' and 'Succession' Be Spoilers on Emmy Night? (Column)

    At the onset, this year’s Emmy Awards felt a bit anticlimactic, as the final seasons of “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” appeared to have this year’s drama and comedy categories locked up before campaigning even began. But that’s how upsets happen: Just when we’re pretty confident about how things might go, a couple of wild [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content