Is it only about getting paid?
That’s what the business people in the music industry want. They’re envious of their rich friends, they want to maintain their lifestyles, and the only entities that can give them this kind of money are corporations.
But corporations are antithetical to art. Hell, they’re antithetical to truth — which is what makes good art and good media. But while news is not a popularity contest, music ultimately is, assuming you want to make a living from it. The question becomes who bands are playing to, the audience or the brands?
Even radio, the most powerful gatekeeper and beholden to advertisers, knows that the listener comes first; it’s got to play what people want to hear. And acts pledge fealty to their fans. But the truth is, everybody in the music business is dying to get paid.
So where does the corporate money — the brand money — figure in? It would be one thing if it helped spread the word about an act or made it bigger. But brands want pretty much nothing to do with smaller acts who are trying to pay their bills. So what we’ve got are a few blockbuster acts lining their coffers, less interested in art than in getting rich.
Acts think that when they put the brand name of the whiskey in their song, they’ve got their hand in the pocket of the brand, but really it’s vice versa, and there’s a chilling quid pro quo. Brands are run by those who play it safe. They’re about spreadsheets and meeting expectations; art is about confounding expectations.
Music has become a second-class citizen because it’s got no self-respect. It used to be enough to be adored by millions every night — to make your own hours and live by charisma. Can you imagine a corporation tying up with John Lennon, who incited controversy seemingly every time he opened his mouth? We’ve got no more John Lennons because people are afraid to piss off the payers.
But the truth is, there’s not a soul in the music business who will not make a deal with an act that has a hit song. The enemy is not the techies, but those who make the music and promote it — who have no convictions and can’t say no to a payday. We judge everything by money, and however much we’ve got is never enough.
Musicians have more Twitter followers than almost anyone in any line of work. Musicians dominate YouTube. The rise in ticket prices has far outpaced inflation, and fans can’t get a good seat without paying a small fortune.
Enough with this hogwash about a financially challenged business. That’s just for wannabe and working-class acts, and those at the label who got caught in the middle of a paradigm shift, with most of the money now coming from live instead of from recordings. The truth is, there’s a ton of money in music if you’re a star. And just like in business, stars get all the money.
Acts need to have some self-respect, and be willing to leave some cash on the table. Power is not bought by money, but held in their voice.
Those who focus on that will find it delivers everything they need.