Has The Internet Ruined The Music Business For Musicians?

The Trichordist has posted a great essay by David Lowery that looks at whether the Internet music revolution has actually been good for musicians.

Lowery takes a look at how music now gets distributed via the Internet and argues that the tech industry has an extremely skewed view of music and musicians:

There is just something fundamentally wrong with how many in the tech industry look at the world. They are deluded somehow. Freaks.

Taking no risk and paying nothing to the content creators is built into the collective psyche of the Tech industry. They do not value content. They only see THEIR services as valuable. They are the Masters of the Universe. They bring all that is good. Content magically appears on their blessed networks.

Lowery’s bottom line can be summarized like this:

Old Boss: pays the artist too little.

New Boss: pays the artist nothing.

The popular take on this is that musicians should give their work away for free, but they’ll make it up with live performances. For many electronic musicians, though, whose focus is crafting compositions in the studio, that approach just doesn’t work.

What do you think? Has the Internet been good for musicians? Or have the shady workings of the music industry been replaced by even shadier workings of the tech industry?

via willkuhn

73 thoughts on “Has The Internet Ruined The Music Business For Musicians?

  1. >musicians should give their work away for free, but they’ll make it up with live performances

    It makes you laugh, but it’s a very sad laugh. Live performances? At the bars that have DJs playing tapes? Opening up for the Katy Perry tour? Well, that’s one act…

    It’s awful, and one weird part is the passionate, righteous big-eye volume of the people insisting that real art, real everything, should be given away and shared and must not be corrupted by business. Yeah. Right.

    But I think it is important to realize this is not just the music business. I had a editor at a very large publishing company many years ago explain to me how the corporate take-over (I mean the conglomerate take overs) of the publishing business would be the end of books and writing as we’ve always known it. And she was right. People blame the internet for the destruction of content, of meaningful, high-value content, but it started before the internet even existed and it all seems to go back to–not the business world, artists have always been business people of one kind or another–but the conglomerate-style of business, where accountants make the rules, all the rules.

    Stanley Kubrick used to tell craft people worrying about difficult times on his films that things are never as bad as they seem to be (even when they seem really bad) and often he was right. But right now the world for artists and entertainers seems really, REALLY bad. I hope things get better, but I don’t see how they can.

  2. It’s a little harsh to say that most people in the tech industry are freaks with such selfish motivations, especially when he seems to do little to support it. Perhaps he’s never heard of Hospital Records, or Ammunition Records, they both strive tirelessly to put out QUALITY tunes and promote there artists a ton. I mean he makes sound like it’s such an “us vs them” situation, and he puts ALL of the frickin blame on the tech guys. What about all the kiddy widdys pirating crap?

    And give away music for free are you kidding me? It’s already so hard to get noticed in the music industry without ABSOLUTELY HAVING to get a big name to get good money. I think all these articles focus too much on high ranking artists. I mean what about Band Camp? Tons and tons of chillstep, liquid dnb, and experimental artists release stuff on there for incredibly cheap. Artists who would otherwise never make good money live because you can’t produce the music they make live. Sure they could DJ it, but that require that they now have to both a producer AND a DJ.

    1. I’ve read the article in its entirety, I didn’t get the impression that by “tech industry” the author is referring to the labels, more likely to the technical infrastructure of music consumption and distribution, Apple store, Amazon, Youtube etc…

    2. The author pointed out that most legitimate sales get funneled to iTunes, then to a lesser extent to Amazon. Consumers can’t be bothered to get their credit card out for bandcamp or other artist friendly services.

      1. The original post is very good, though depressing.

        I’m not doing music to make money, but it really seems that the Internet and tech companies have done a lot to devalue music. If people aren’t stealing music, they’re viewing it on YouTube. And if they do buy music, they buy a track on iTunes, instead of the whole album. How many people are going to sell 50,000+ downloads in a year and be able to do that every year?

        I think trends in the music business have made it harder to discover new artists, too. I mostly listen to electronic music artists from the 70’s-90’s, and I don’t really know who the good new artists are. Our local radio stations have all turned into Clear Channel clones, and NPR has gone corporate, so I don’t discover much new music from radio anymore. Rhapsody is sort of cool, but it ends up playing music that I already now and doesn’t expose listeners to new music like a real dj would.

        iTunes makes it easy to download whatever I want, but I’d rather have the CDs and rip them. I find myself completing my collection of CDs by established artists rather than a bunch of new artists.

        I think the only way new artists can cut through this is by creating viral videos, like OK Go, did.

        1. Very true, I hadn’t considered the fact that a download on iTunes is 0.99 cents meaning an artists would have to sell 30,000 downloads to get a living off of music. For indy artists that’s ridiculous. I also prefer cd’s. But their are a small number of people like us, if only we could all convince our friends to STOP pirating and buy cd’s.

        2. Making music solely for money can be very much a hassle and poisonous to the soul.. Very much like putting up with a lover you no longer love. Just go to a 3 day trance festival anywhere in the world (would probably cost you the amount of money you haven’t spent on music since the dawn of mp3 – lol). is Guaranteed that by the end of the third day you’ll know whats what and whats good to your ears, heart and soul. (i just got back yesterday from indigo which was more than spectacular to say the least)

          Do what you like and like what you do.
          if you dont than just try something else and keep trying against any odds and be sure something good will pop up sooner or later, but just keep at it.

      2. The best response to that would be to consider how many dollars we spend a month on just plain CRAP, heh heh. I easily drop $10-15 on minor incidentals. A buck here or there for a song that really does make you tingle or laugh the first time you hear it seems eminently worthwhile. Just as with the great synth files I’ve bought from places like Puremagnetik, I’ve built up a nice playlist I can loop once in a while to revisit those high points. I know you are distracted and frazzed. Me, too. Still, if more of us will just do a small part, it’ll add up. If you stay too cynical, that’s when the bastards REALLY win.

    3. “Artists who would otherwise never make good money live because you can’t produce the music they make live. Sure they could DJ it, but that require that they now have to both a producer AND a DJ.”

      This is one of the major killers of electronic music these days, since nearly 99% of it is created in and with computers many no linger even play an instrument really anymore! So there is nothing “LIVE” about it in the first place, and yes becoming a DJ is not desirable to everyone however this is one area where I see many electronic artists lacking vision.

      To me the instant gratification of the DJ movement that started to become popular in the 90’s also is to blame, that said there are many people who like that type of performance now as opposed to watching bands but for different reasons.

      However I do agree with the basic premise of the authors argument as he is talking in fairly broad terms what he is saying is generally true.

  3. I can’t stand to even hear commercial music and avoid it like the plague. Artists I like are typically found on small labels that produce tangible products – tapes & LPs –Sweating Tapes and Captured tracks are some recent purchases. Jack White, with his 3rd Man Records in Nashville, has gone even further to make collectible products, like limited pressings on multi-colored vinyl of each new release. The mass market of digitally-distributed music is a wasteland in terms of sonic quality, relationship with the artist and the warm tangibility of the product, which is more than a series of 0s &1s that sound like beats in your earpods. Remember the pleasure of spinning records and enjoying 144 sq inches of high-quality graphics on each face of an LP jacket? It’s up to the consumer to make choices to buy music which honors the relationship between artist and listener.

  4. Ethics are in increasingly short supply. Many people seem to have either no moral center, or a very dusty one. Congress and large corporations seem to have become our enemies as much as not, even unto threatening the Internet we DO have rolling. I respond by BUYING the software, music and movies I enjoy. I mean, c’mon, the stuff is so damned cheap overall, stealing it is especially trashy. I want people to be fed so they can keep doing what they do. A lot of it is so great, its downright humbling to see. People can be amazing. Besides, even when things bite, there are always working options like CDBaby, iTunes and Bandcamp. Its not perfect, but it works. One thing that keeps me going is Leonard Bernstein’s response when he was asked how he and his musicians responded to all of the horror in the world. He said “We respond by making more beautiful music.” Now THERE’S a living Oblique Strategies card for you.

    1. One thing I really like about the Internet is the ability to learn more about musicians I like, what they are working on and what they think about things.

      I’m much more likely to buy an album, buy merchandise or go to a concert when musicians do this – it makes me feel like I’m supporting a person rather than a corporation.

      More musicians should take advantage of the Internet to connect with fans.

  5. As an engineer/producer (of anything that pays) I work in the studio and I work as a live sound engineer, I work on a pretty large sliding scale for the very reason that I know what the term “starving musician” means and feels like. I have a wife and new baby to support but I only charge what people can afford (I do quite a few charity gigs) that being said I generally am payed before the final product is released or it’s a pre agreed upon amount. And not to be a dick but I don’t care where the music goes after I do my part (that’s kinda the beauty of it.) At the end of the day I do what I do because I love it, I get to enjoy new music everyday. My goal on stage is to make it so as a musician all you need to do is walk to the mic, not worry about anything but your music. My goal in the studio is to document the moment, you shouldn’t ever have to worry about anything (that’s why we do multipule takes, not to say your not a “one take jake” but it’s always good to have options.) I’m not trying to rob you, I’m not trying to be greedy but everything cost money and it’s gotta come from somewhere. I do provide a service but it’s only there to my your life better, you can always get a job at Starbucks buy a MacBook and PT and do it all your self at home (like I do for myself, because shit cost money and the studio isn’t always open when I am) Maybe the Internet did hurt our industry but no use crying over spilt milk, it’s happend now to try and figure out another way, maybe now you need to make the band a company package with employees that are always there i.e. your engineer is a part of the band and your tour crew are part of the band and so on… Then you all split the pie evenly (they work just as hard if not harder than you) market your self in the same fashion that independent restaurants do with cheap commercials and coupons to shows. All of these things are happening right now but if every one did it in a more independent business model, maybe or we could all just hitch-hike from gig to gig borrowing amps and racks

  6. Ugh. I’m tired of seeing this article posted everywhere. . So doing what you love can’t pay the bills. Before the advent of the recording industry, you would have been playing in a bar, getting vomited upon, and paid with scraps. The ability to survive off of one particular skill set is not a guarantee. You do not deserve to be better off than other unemployed people because you produce art that you find valuable. It is great that you do. I’m happy for you. Don’t b***** to me about how you aren’t getting paid, and the unethical pirates are “stealing your music”. There was a brief period when musicians could sell recordings of their music.. Play something once, and continue being rewarded for it for the foreseeable future. It allowed them to put more effort and resources into that individual performance. Perhaps that time has ended. Perhaps it is merely changing. You don’t deserve to have it stay the same. You weren’t rewarded much for that model, and that model has been replaced by a new one, within which much of the tangible artifact being sold is no longer holding inherent value as a identifiable physical object. Technology giveth, and Technology taketh away. Things change, for better and for worse. Perhaps your time has ended. Perhaps it hasn’t. But don’t walk around crying that you haven’t received the financial return you are entitled to, and blame a combination of technology, lax policing, and unethical consumers. You lived by the consumer. They give you meaning. Without the consumer, your art does not exist. You can go back to doing the things they were done prior to the technology you loathe if you want. No one is stopping you. Nobody has to pay you either.

    I understand one complaint, that the wrong people are making money. The blame has been cast in the wrong direction. This is not the fault of the consumer. This is your fault, for getting into bed with a jerk, because you desired the jerk’s money and expected the jerk’s massive strength to protect you from the commoners whose money you also feel entitled to, despite them not ever agreeing upon the value of your wares. But the jerk proved to be a lot of talk, got bored with you, and now he is tossing you back and forth from his other jerk friends, who give you less money and protection. Too bad. You took the gains, now you get the losses. If you don’t like it, find another way to do things. Don’t piss on the commoners for not playing into your scheme.

    I love art, and I wish that everyone could survive happily in society producing artifacts that make life better for everyone. But this is the real world, and as much as we should strive for people being adequately rewarded for hard work, sometimes it doesn’t happen. Make sure you blame the right people at least.

    1. +1 Well put, Anthony.

      I’d like to add a couple thoughts of my own.
      There are more musicians than ever, aided at least in part to electronic music and recording technologies. This skews the public opinion because there are many more people who wish to make a living on their music.
      It’s best for musicians to take a lesson from the world of visual artists. Most of them have no delusions about the likelihood that they’ll make any living from their art, let alone a good one. The motivated ones get out there and hustle the best they can and ultimately, do it for their own reasons.

      Be happy. You’re living in a time where you can inexpensively broadcast your thoughts and your voice on a forum where nearly half of the world’s population can see it. Most artists from the prior generations would probably be very envious.

    2. I agree. People forget that this idea of selling recorded music has existed for a mere eyeblink’s amount of time in the grand scheme of things. Maybe its just over. Supply and demand. What happens when google starts writing music? “Based on your listening habits, I’ve composed this new song for you.”
      …and it’s AWESOME.

      1. omg, that thought just rocked me: Google tracking my behaviour, my emails, my artist choices and then “mashing” a custom music mix for me based on some algorhythm.

        omg, did I just see the word “rhythm” inside of algorhythm? I’m a drummer by trade. Isn’t our human life made up of patterns, and many of them are very beautiful and observable. If my life has a certain pattern to it that can be translated into sound, I think I might like that.

        It sounds like the machines are taking over, and the controllers of the machines are the evil ones. They’re only evil if they are hiding something from us. We are coming to a place where we will have to make conscious choices about just how much automation we can live with, and how much we will give up for it.

  7. I give my music away for free and support myself with a day job.

    No complaints here.

    It would be nice to make a living from music alone, but it’d also be nice to get a handjob from Jennifer Jason Leigh circa 1985

    1. Kernels of wisdom.

      It would be nice, though, if guys like Kim Dotcom weren’t getting filthy rich by making it easy to rip off musicians. And if ‘experts’ weren’t ridiculing musicians that have careers based on selling their music.

  8. I’m sooooo tired of reading this negative crap regarding the music industry… I have a different perspective…
    I have made a decent living over the years making music and I still have friends in the biz that literally make millions writing and producing for artists. Anyone with a laptop can produce and distribute their music and DJ/producers like Deadmau5 pull in 10 million a year. I think music as a whole is the best it has ever been. Please stop it with the negativity! You all sound like the calligraphers wining about the advent of the printing press. If you create something genuinely great you can make money from it….

  9. This is stark….is crazy how little people know about how responsible they are. The assholes whining that people couldn’t keep with the time, give it away, blah blah. In other words, people that were affected by the industry crash that have no idea what its like to be an engineer and then one day not be able to work anymore. How many people at Teac lost their careers over this? All because some kids decided to steal music they’re didn’t want to support then lie and say they’re would pay if its easier/cheaper….the internet generation is ignorant. the quality of music has suffered as much as the industry and people stick up for this shit????? Last I checked deadmau5 is irrelevant and its not about simply being rewarded….its about diluted art, JOBS losts over this, careers and lives changed for the worse…so what if a lucky few survived it, from my point of view I see not those who don’t care, but those who just do not know what they’re talking about. This crash happened a decade ago, many of you were like 6, 10 years old or whatever…sorry, you have no business weighing in…those of you who are old enough, how can you sit there and defend a bunch of thieves that dismantled a great industry??? I see much of the problem too, being the musicians themselves….wanting the convenience the listeners have. Guess what, the gorillas ipad album sounds flat and boring much like most bedroom producers music. I’m sick of posting music on the internet, it sounds like shit. You gys are comfortable and you don’t just sleep in the bed you made, you’re comfortable with pissing in it too.

    1. hey zombitron, “diluted art”? Some people like one thing, some people like another. Such is life. You are just giving an opinion and opinions are like buttholes – everybody’s got one. The people at Teac or wherever had their run and now it’s over. Should we bemoan the lack of jobs at BASF or Memorex because no one uses casette tapes anymore? Don’t be ridiculous. THINGS CHANGE. No one has a right to a job for life and no one ever did. As was said above, be glad you live in a time when so many can make music because there has never been a time before when so many could. Hey, it might not mean that people like you can have your privileged job but then why should I care about that? I’d much rather that so many can express themselves than that only the privileged few can. The worst thing that ever happened to music, and the thing that was actually the anomaly, was that a few music companies bought up the bands for a while and shoved them in our faces. Of course all the greedy pigs who made something out of that are now moaning. But I’d rather listen to 10 million kids in their bedrooms thanks. God bless the internet.

      1. Don’t feed the troll. To Gerald, agreed, for the most part. Since it seems we are all dancing around Niel Postman’s philosophy right now, it must be pointed out that there will always be gains and losses of technology, and we must be thoughtful in how we utilize it, but I will diverge from him and say that improvements in technology are equivalent to improving our awareness of the surrounding environment in which we dwell. This is ALWAYS, to me, a good thing. It may be with costs, costs that can be and in some cases should be diverted on a social/governmental level. In a perfect world, we could do that effectively. This is not a perfect world. There will be casualties, and those who fight them will not be wise individuals with the development of culture and well being of ALL individuals in mind, they will be the bourgeoisie who have brutally clawed their way to the top of the heap using the technology of previous generations who in their narrow-mindedness have fell behind the curve. New culture will grow, the old kings will fall, and new kings will rise, some of which will be better, and some worse. We cannot and should not halt our development of understanding and interconnectedness out of fear. There are reasons to be cautious. The loss of old industries should not be one. Postman spoke of the printing press as a source of great losses and gains, particularly community. I think he was rather narrow-minded in this presumption, and lost track of his own idea of gains and losses in his overly specific conception of community. Although we lost the medieval sense of a community, a community built around a vaster and vaster network of shared ideas grew, far larger and capable than the small communities previous. There were casualties, but there were also gains, which are so great the value is immeasurable. This has not changed. In the loss of the century old orchestral model, an integration and development of music that blends in many different schools of thought in music has developed and outgrown the rigid western conception of music, and now not only can more people participate in the enjoyment and creation of art, but new forms have been born for it.
        Electronic music was born from and enjoyed by common people, rather than being hoarded, controlled, and secluded to the wealthy upper class.

        Atomic Shadow: On having “(your) stuff for free”: You stuff? Nothing is born of a vacuum. Your “stuff” was was created using ideas and technology born of many, many people. Does that mean we should be able to take it from you so that you may not enjoy it? Of course not, that would be absurd. But it isn’t that simple, is it? You don’t lose anything. We get your intangible ideas. You took intangible ideas to create your “stuff”, and most likely, most of which were not paid for. I don’t begrudge you that. It is the same thing everyone else does. The fallacy is in assuming you should be rewarded ad infinitum for it. You have the right to use your ideas to gain something. It is up to you to find that way. The way it was done previously has been made obsolete by new technology. Technology gave you much, and it reserves the right to take it away. Society as a whole should attempt to maintain a fair exchange, because individuals are incapable of doing such, and the end goal should always be a better world for all. It should not do so at risk of stagnation, which in the long term will circumvent progress towards new ways of building a better world.

        In music, the mid 20th century model is stagnant. The current model is not the new model the moronic author supposes. The current model is the death cry of the old one, and the chaos that has erupted will hopefully set the stage for a more effective model. Things like soundcloud are hopefully foreshadowing this. Share the music files, which do not have the inherent value and production cost of physical media. Sell a more personal, one time experience. Or do not. If it doesn’t sell, find another way to procure funds. Art is never supposed to be a source of financial gains, art is expression. If you gain more from it, great. You don’t DESERVE more. Create to contribute. Survive as you can. That’s life. You aren’t alone in it. Ask anyone who works in any human service related field. We are some of the most extensively trained, overworked, caring people around, and most of us barely make above minimal wage. We care about making the human experience better, so we stick around.

        Additionally, it isn’t just about the reception of art. The very technological revolution that the dunce that wrote the original article decries is the reason we are all here in this blog. Not just in terms of the information sharing of the internet, but in how production now occurs. Production of art can now occur between people who could never meet physically to perform together. IT will only get better. We are lucky to live in an age where we can participate in such awe-inspiring change.

        On that topic, I really like the ideas proposed in this article in terms of the sharing of the production of music.


    2. It wasn’t thieves that devalued music, it was the fact that the internet and technology by nature completely eliminated physical manufacturing and distribution costs, and made obtaining and consumption of music by the consumer trivial. This lowered the actual and perceived value of many forms of media, and unfortunately had impacted these industries rather significantly. This is definitely unfortunate for those who may have lost jobs as an outcome, but don’t blame “thieves” for all of this, it’s rubbish.

      1. > … internet and technology by nature completely eliminated physical manufacturing and distribution costs, and made obtaining and consumption of music by the consumer trivial.

        Thanks for that comment, I guess that hits the nail on the head. But not only for music, but also for every other form of digitally-published art and software. If something gets easy to acquire, it loses value. As a trivial example, think about water in western culture – we’re so used to unlimited amounts of water out of the faucet that we don’t really value it (in contrast to other people who live in poorer countries).

        So, as you have already said, it is not the people who suddenly stopped to value music, but rather a inevitable result of modern technology and the culture and the mindset that it evokes.

    3. >I see not those who don’t care, but those who just do not know what they’re talking about

      To my eyes those are the most interesting words in the thread. And I think they mean a lot.

      We ALL constantly now all over the internet–and in wider culture too now–are constantly washed over by words (and images) that come from people who “just do not know what they’re talking about.”

      In the past, decent professional editors of all media tried to shape content by picking out people who DID know what they were talking about.

      But then some accountants realized that 1) the sales people could sell “what people wanted to hear” as easily, or more easily, than they could sell what informed people wanted to say; and 2) the sales people could sell random content from random sources as easily, or more easily, than they could sell what informed people wanted to say.

      Then the accountants realized there was no need for editors at all, really, in the traditional sense. And now we live in that world. It’s not just the internet. It’s the whole world now. But what comes next? I have no idea. I never would have believe THIS world would happen, although people told me they saw it coming. Does anyone have a good guess what comes next, what does this world lead to?

  10. So now that I just stuck up for the record industry let’s hear how many people call me a troll or an asshole….there’s a famous PSA I must qoute ‘Stop all the downloadin’. Infact, STOP ALL THE UPLOADING.

  11. I’m more concerned with how these media companies have gone out of their way to criminalize pretty much everybody, (for clicking the wrong button on their home browser), and are now whining that their still not making near enough. Apple and the industry just got in trouble because the artists’ found out that they were only getting paid for licenses and not actually sold products. Basically, they were getting ripped off by their own companies. The whole system is eating itself alive, and the sooner it chokes on it’s own ignorant venom couldn’t be soon enough.

    In the same vein, the US congress is now working on making it illegal to even comment, or do anything, anonymously, on the internet. This will include making anonymous comments on blogs ~ illegal. They are even hinting that it is those running the blogs will be held responsible! Guess who’s wonderful prodding is bringing about these changes? Hint: the same disease that wrecked youtube, is in the process of wrecking the internet, sues children, criminalized the entire population, and threw up on it’s own corporate model in doing so.

  12. The music industry of the 20th century was doomed with the advent of the internet. In my opinion this isn’t so much of a “problem” as it was an inevitability that comes along with the technology. I think the “freaks” as he put it didn’t create this environment with malicious intent, but rather were the first to recognize this inevitability and successfully bring to market a profitable, legitimate distribution model in the new landscape. Whether or not their profit margin is too high is debatable, but complaining about it will accomplish nothing, except maybe fan the flames of entertainment industry lobbyists trying to push through destructive laws like SOPA and PIPA.

  13. I think it’s sad when I hear musicians say, “All music should be free” . I personally think if you want to give it a way for free, do it. Just don’t tell everyone not to buy any music anymore, that’s crazy talk to me. But I still think if people like the product they will buy it. And also Youtube uses me and I use them. So far I don’t think Google is making much money off my videos. Maybe if I titled them all One Direction / Justin Bieber Colabo, haha.

    1. But people are already quite legally getting all their music for free. I download hundreds of free and legal tracks a month from Soundcloud from home-based artists who are just giving music away for nothing. So I don’t need to pay for music anymore. And I can easily do without commercial alternatives. It’s all music.

  14. The approach the essayist took somewhat bothers me. The logic is all over the place, and the argument is void of any sort of personal responsibility. Lumping anything to do with the internet into a big pile of “they” is extremely lazy.

    Case in point:
    “I’ll make technologists a deal, I’ll give up my song copyrights if you give up your software patents. Software patents are even less unique than your typical song. So this should be easy right?”

    Uh…so what do the makers of, say, Quicken or Adobe or even f-ing farmville have to do with the selling of your music material? Nothing. Some software doesn’t even have anything to do with the damn internet in the first place. I can’t take this essay particularly seriously, and admittedly started to skim it once I got to the above line.

    Oh, and given the author’s propensity for lumping everything and everyone that has anything to do with the internet into one giantic pile, isn’t he the biggest hypocrite of all by publishing it ON THE INTERNET? I also fail to see how the internet is a boss. What? It’s a medium of communication. Another example of lazy cognitive reasoning skills. I think I’m beginning to see a pattern here.

    If the internet is so bad for the artist, how come other mediums are doing so well? It seems to me the industry was sick well before the internet came along and ruined it.

    You are an artist. You are responsible for you. Adapt or die.

    Growing up might help, too.

  15. the Internet is great for artists because it forces them to think outside the box when it comes to generating revenue. I love it and embrace all the diversity it illuminates..

    1. First they came for the musicians… .this is happening to programmers too now; when the education to be able to make this stuff is becoming unaffordable as well. It’s up to people creating stuff to decide what they charge for their services. If prices are too high, then nobody buys. This is about contracts not being enforced, due to the ease with which you can simply copy things without paying anybody for anything, ever. I am not suggesting $200000 judgements for uploading songs, but there ought to be some real shame in taking totally non-essential shit without paying. You aren’t going to die without it, and not having it is what is supposed to happen if you don’t pay. I think most of the business model and technical problem is making micropayments very very safe, and ultimately easier to buy than to just grab a copy.

  16. I’m stuck in the Late 60’s, 70’s, 80‘s and 90‘s. If i do BUY music it will be from those era’s. Anything above that I Hit up my resources. Sorry.

  17. Internet distribution and promotion is all one big fat GIMMIC! yeah for some out there, it might prove to be lucrative for some that are an exception or lucky, especially or those who are in the scene of the moment but generally its all a big fat gimmic and a good way to lose even more money. This 40% the reason i went into Engineering School, i love making music but there just isnt any money in it. I decided I would have to live with music being my hobby. maybe it is a decision i will regret one day, not going full swing, but it is what i thought made sense.

    The starving artist will always be a starving artist no matter what year it is.

  18. Without, yet, reading the article, I’ll address your questions from my perspective.

    Without the internet, the difficulty in getting my music distributed would be a prohibitive barrier to me sharing it with others. In fact, without the resources available via the internet (i.e. software), I probably never would have been able to get into producing electronic music. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do so at the age I did (~16 [am now 32]). I enjoy being able to post my work online so that others can give it a listen if they wish. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that I have even tried to sell any of it. For me, it’s a hobby.

    Would I feel the same way if I were trying to make a living off my music? I’m not sure. I think that depends on prior experience. Did you start making money on your music prior to the internet as we know it? Chances are, then, that you are less thrilled with things now than you were then. Are you just getting started? Then you don’t know any different. So how can you say it sucks worse than it did?

    I think the core issue is, why do you think you should be able to make a living solely off of your art? This is something Francis Ford Coppola addressed in an interview[1], and I really like his take on it:

    “You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.”

    Maybe it sucks that we (in general) have become accustomed to being paid for our art, of any sort, and the trend seems to be moving away from that, but it is sort of a luxury to begin with.

    [1] — http://the99percent.com/articles/6973/Francis-Ford-Coppola-On-Risk-Money-Craft-Collaboration

  19. bleh, I was ok paying for my music and having a physical copy, being able to read and hold artwork. I think I preferred the crazy amount of work you had to do to be able to make them yourself. There used to be a hell of a lot more pride in the music people made and I do find it depressing… Easy access tends to degrade quality and trivialize how people feel about it a lot of times. Today it’s like information overload. I stand by what I say, I could really do without things like in app purchases, “album covers” being more likened to “album avatar”, and the wealth of albums around where the music is great, but I’d love it recorded differently and put out on vinyl for example. Im not really speaking universally, but if you dont think it ruined it for you on a business stand point the fact that people are buying things from beat port if theyre not hitting up pirate bay rather than going to warehouse then I dont know what to tell you. On a personal level, business level, and potentially a creative level I just say yes, I think the internet did ruin music for musicians. However, I still love what I do and I hope you love what you do, but Im not into the digital model. I dont think its good for music. It’s like open source, you should have a choice whether your work is open source. Even before the digital model took over, I still gave away music as I do now. I just believe in the choice at all times, its your work…not demonoid’s. ps I f**kin hate dongles!

  20. I have mixed feelings abut the internet and music. It’s cool that I can download stems and remix major artists such as Mariah Carey, Peter Gabriel, and Usher (to name a few). It’s cool that I’ve had two remixes wind up on Internet-only releases. But, I miss being able to go to my local independent record store and go through the racks. It sadly closed a few years ago. I had more chances of stumbling upon something I didn’t know about then in the internet age. Now, I tend to stick to what I know, which is electronic artists on the Metropolis Records label out of Philadelphia.

  21. You only need two things to make it in the music biz, but they’re big things.
    Lots of talent and a unique appearance or performance.
    Have those and promotion will fight over you.
    People will want to work with you.
    They’ll want you on their resume like a trophy.

    The problem is not the internet or technology or the world’s population.
    The problem is that few artists can grab a person, make them feel a certain way, captivate their attention or make them want to emulate them.

    The problem is too many plain biscuit makers and too few pastry chefs.
    Would an audience rather eat biscuits or fine pastry?
    As a promoter, what would you rather sell?
    Some people just can’t cook, should admit it and do something else instead.
    It’s not the sellers, it’s what’s being sold is plain and common.
    Ever seen a plain and common viral video?
    Know the names of any non-famous horses?
    You have to make a blip on the radar to be noticeable and you need to keep blipping for them to find you and keep their eyes on you.
    Doesn’t matter if you’re Depeche Mode, The Beatles, Madonna,
    JK Rowling, Einstein, Lassie, Sea Biscuit or Superman.
    Talent plus uniqueness will always get noticed and promoted.

  22. There’s more access to music publishing which means more competition which means lower prices. If you’re having problems making money maybe other musicians have better music and/or promotion than you. So now everyone can publish and album online, guess what that means? All the consumer money for music is now spread out over everyone. The internet made it possible for all you bedroom producers to publish your awful dubstep and ipad-music albums but then when you don’t become wealthy enough to quit your day job you become bitter at the very technology that even let you put out an album in the first place. You don’t like the internet? Go record it with analog equipment and put it out on vinyl, see how you like that process…

  23. I honestly dont understand why theres so much hardware hate on this site…no real synths, no physical copys, and you cant even have a differing opinion without being told ‘Everyone’s got an opinion’ or someone getting all serious, giving you a thumbs down, and start typing in caps. Its like the most liked posts are the stupidest ones that attack at the unpopular view the hardest. Bah bah bah Its a good the people like markLouis and Stretta post here or else there would never be a damn comment that makes any sense…

  24. First, remember that for 99.9% of the musicians out there, NOTHING has changed over the last century. They weren’t making a living on music, even if they desperately wanted to. Getting signed to a major label for a livable wage for everyone in the band was as likely as a lottery win. It’s like me bitching that cutting the size of an NBA team from 15 to 11 ruined my chances to play for the Spurs.

    I think there is *more* opportunity for someone to hustle a living out of music via the internet, if they’re talented, work hard and *connect with fans*.

    There was a brief window of time where Major Labels could get filthy rich off of moving plastic discs. Occasionally, some of that money would make it into the hands of a band — but rarely.

  25. This is not a terribly original sentiment, but when a similar post came up several months ago on a music board I participate in, my comment was along the lines of “Boy, I long for a return to those old days back when the typical musician made a good middle class income with job security, medical and dental benefits, and a generous pension plan. You know, back in the… oh… .wait… nevermind.”

    And it has always been thus.

    There is a temptation (usually among those who grew up in a time of comparative scarcity and consequent high cost of music, myself included – I recall paying an eye watering $24 for my first CD in 1987) to revert to the old model. That model is one of “I part with my cash and I get to take this disc/cylinder/tape home to enjoy”. That’s because recording was expensive. Distribution and retail space was expensive. Inventories had to be financed. All those costs had to be covered, with some small pittance left over for the artist. And that was the norm for about 8 or 9 decades in the 20th Century. But for tens of thousands of years before that you didn’t pay, or you paid for it to be live. So in a sense we’re not trying to find a new model, we’re just going back to a much older one, where you either paid to see a professional musician of great repute and stature or you go see one free who’s performing at a bar, coffee shop, church basement or some other public venue. Just like our great-great-grandparents did.

    Or to put it another way: 300 years ago there were actually mines with slaves – slaves! – to extract salt. Salt was ruinously expensive. Human beings were considered expendable in the efforts to extract it for the wealthy. In a world without refrigeration it was one of the few ways of preserving food from spoilage. But now salt (while not free) is essentially given away at restaurants. If you help yourself to 20 packets at McDonalds no one will bat an eye. Why? Because technology has made it so cheap and so ubiquitous that it isn’t worth measuring out or tracking in anything but massive industrial quantities. That which was a vastly expensive commodity is now a trifling afterthought. Remind you of anything?

  26. This is a ridiculous topic. The internet has done nothing but immense amounts of good for everyone, with the rare exception being the limited amount of people who made money back when we had a limited and controlled selection of what we had access to. Here are some truths:

    1 – You should make music because you love to. If you can also make some money along the way, good for you, but don’t expect it.
    2 – You don’t “deserve” to be paid, just because you make music. Everyday people do things they love and don’t get paid for. They ride bikes, cook food, dance, garden, play sports, paint, learn a new language, etc. They do these things because they love to, not because they get paid to.
    3 – Most of the people who get paid to make music really don’t deserve to based on their music quality. It’s not about their music, it’s about their “performance” and their marketing. This only works because people have shown over and over that they will pay for performances and marketing. They don’t always pay for “good music”. It’s how things work, so get used to it.
    4 – The internet has given anyone the opportunity to learn how to make music, get affordable and easy to use tools to make music, and publish their music. This leads to everyone also having a much wider selection of music to choose from. So the only people who aren’t benefitting in that scenario are the people who were making money due to being one of the lucky few who were included in the limited selection offered by record companies. They were the elite, and they will now complain about the internet because they are no longer special. Rather than celebrating artistic opportunities for all people, they selfishly lash out against the mechanism by which others can engage in their passions.
    5 – As a former full time gigging musician from the 90s I can accurately say that there are so many more ways to make money today with music and sound design than there were in the past that it’s a completely ignorant conversation to even indicate otherwise. There are entire industries and countless job titles today that didn’t even exist 20 years ago, and that’s all because of computers and the internet.

    Is is a bad thing that I no longer have to drive to a record store and pay $20 for either Bryan Adams or Madonna, and can instead instantly from anywhere get cheap-to-free music I love, ranging from electronic to ethnic to things like recordings of an annual yam festival in Africa? Hell no! That is nothing but awesome.

    1. A bit too long but I agree 100%. Also, in life you have to adapt or you die (literally and figuratively). If you want to make money off your music then that’s your problem, you have to figure out a way to do it in the time you live or else get a regular job. No one owes you anything, I’m so sick of people’s whining.

      Also, people have been writing and performing music long before the advent of recording technology and music as big business. I often wish all there was no money involved in art at all, it just ruins things.

  27. I have a hard time understanding the idea that musicians should not be paid for producing their music. If a guy is a mechanic and loves his job, no one expects him to do their brake job for free because he is doing what he loves. Yes, the Internet has brought a lot of good things in to our lives. However, the idea that musicians should somehow forego payment of royalties in favor of paid performances misses the fact that very act of making music has been devalued in this process.

    In addition to my abstract electronic stuff I also play in a band. Fifteen years ago gigging was a significant part of my household income. Paying gigs are painfully thin on the ground these days because nobody thinks they should have to pay for music at all. Plus there is always some DJ who will “play” a gig for free to “get his name out there.” as long as people show up, dance, buy drinks- the bar owner is happy.

    The simple fact is the ISPs and Torrent sites are making money hand over fist off of the labor of others. They should have to pay fees in the same way that a bar owner has to pay fees to BMI/ASCAP if they have music playing in their venue. Then the content creators can be fairly compensated and the Torrent site guy would not be living like a Rockstar on the money that should be paid to actual Rockstars.

    My label recently arranged to have a special download price of two of my albums in order to raise funds to donate to the Bob Moog Foundation. This started on Dr. Bob’s birthday, the 23. Initial sales were disappointing and then stopped totally by the end of the day. Even when is a totally worthy cause and neither myself or the label are going to pocket a penny, people will not pay to download music. Same for software.

    If I chose to charge for my music, no one should feel they are entitled to it for free. You my choose to not purchase it. That is fine. I never expected Atomic Shadow to be playing sold out gigs in Paris or anything. But don’t tell me that you you be able to have have my stuff for free. That should be my choice and not the decision of someone who takes it and puts it on a Torrent site. That is not complicated. It is stealing.

    1. Altough I basically like your comparison with a mechanic’s job, I have to disagree in the same moment.

      Fact is: if people had the option to get their mechanic issues solved for free, they would eventually make use of it! People will always choose the simplest path of least resistance.

      In my point of view, it is not the people’s fault for making use of a possibility that lies before them. New technology evokes new jobs as well as it destroys old establishments. The people who “steal” music are not evil but simply beneficiaries of a changed market.

      It’s not pretty but – as it was already stated in a former comment – absolutely nobody has a custom law or birthright to earn money with the same job for his/her entire life. Yeah, it would be nice. But change happens inevitably and you either adapt or you perish.

      I like to put it this way: if a company is not able to sell its products anymore it’s not the consumers who are evil. The company obviously has passed a chance to adapt to the ever-changing environment.

      1. That’s precisely it. Prior to 20th Century every town, village or hamlet of more than a few hundred people had a blacksmith. It was a skilled job and there were tens of thousands of them prior to the Industrial Revolution. They were absolutely necessary too; these men provided horseshoes, plows, candlesticks, nails, kitchen utensils, etc. They were intrinsic lynchpins of their communities by fabricating many of the tools of civilization.

        Now their skills are only needed for craft aspects; most things can be fabricated much cheaper, easier and of equal or higher quality in industrial settings. Few except the very well-heeled are willing to pay blacksmith labour rates for completely custom, hand-made fabrication of iron. We might mourn the loss of a skilled person exhibiting noticeable artistry, but that person can just as easily be employed now doing a skilled, creative job that didn’t exist 200 years ago: graphic designer, programmer, 3D Printing entrepreneur, etc.

    2. >If I chose to charge for my music, no one should feel they are entitled to it for free. You my choose to not
      >purchase it. That is fine. But don’t tell me that you you be able to have have my stuff for free.

      You missed the point. If you want to charge for your music, that’s fine, and totally your choice. But if you do charge, we are not then all obligated to pay you for it. There is no solid connection between “choosing to charge” and “getting paid”. None at all. That doesn’t mean we will steal it, or demand anything of you. It simply means that you need to be damn special, or have a gimmick, or a smart marketing team if you want to earn big money these days, because we have lots of options.

  28. The internet may have ruined the music business for musicians since they can no longer make a living selling recorded music without “freemium” goodies. This is unsurprising – in a zero-marginal-cost business, it’s hard to make money unless you work at massive scale (e.g. you’re Apple/iTunes, Amazon or Spotify.)

    However, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the restructuring/contraction of the recorded music business means that we will not have enough good music or good musicians in the future.

    1. >The internet may have ruined the music business for musicians since they can no longer make a living selling
      >recorded music without “freemium” goodies.

      Not entirely true. If you pay the over-inflated rates that typical record companies charge for eveyrthing, the numbers work as you indicate. But if you run the math on recording music in a home or small studio and then selling it “indie” through a service like e-junkie, or band camp or whatever, you see right away that as long as you have a decent collection of music you could reach profitability very rapidly. Bandwidth really doesn’t cost very much anymore. Then factor in the amazing resource for reaching people that the internet is, and plan for “the long tail” in your product line, and you can start to do some pretty great things economically.

      The key in all this is that we are now back to standing on the merit of our music itself. The channels are cheap and easy to use, and open to everyone, so you can’t just jangle out some shitty Bryan Adams-like song and expect to become a millionaire. You actually have to bring something to the table now thats worth talking about and buying.

  29. I think I spend less money on recorded music than I used to in the CD era – and much MORE money on concert tickets. So my personal contribution to the music “business” has only gotten larger in the internet era.

    Whether it’s going to Ticketmaster, the venues, the promoters, or the musicians, I cannot say, but I don’t really think the internet is to blame.

  30. A rebuttal by one of the guys Lowery regards as the enemy (Tim Bray was the chief architect of the XML spec). I pretty much agree with everything Tim says here:


    In his screed, Lowery ultimately comes off as a disgruntled Rodney Dangerfield-ish character, someone who “don’t get no respect” but who takes it to the next level and won’t hesitate to tell you he feels he is owed that respect.

    A glaring omission in his screed is any kind of historical context. Before the advent of sound recording and reproduciton technology, musicians pretty much had to be content with gathering in the parlor and entertaining themselves, making music with acoustic instruments. No one got paid for this; it was basically a way to provide themselves with their own entertainment. Composers lived off of commissions and benefactors, and did not get outrageously wealthy doing so; Charles Ives had a day job as an insurance guy! By the mid to late 1800s, if you could write a good popular song, something simple for others to play and sing and that struck a responsive chord with a large number of people, you could make a living off of sheet music sales.

    Then the advent of sound recording and reproducing technology at the start of the 1900s incrementally changed the music business model. From the 1950s onward, these changes led to the kind of huge profits Lowery seems to think were a part of the music business model all along. With the internet having reduced audio to just another series of zeros and ones in a file, the playing field has been leveled to a great extent and while there are a few musicians able to make a viable living from music, most have to be content making music for their own entertainment – just like those players who gathered in the parlor before the 1900s. Full circle.

  31. I personally think, that these days technology allows designing and integrating all the tools so that electronic musician can craft their creations at home and play live as well. Look at Rheyne channel on youtube for example. Look at recent Orbital live performance on BBC! There are lot of such examples around. The greatest challenge of today is how to deliver the content to the correct ears/audience interested in it. Mass media is flooded with commercial bs** which is created only to make money out of it, but there are lots of interesting music, which is simply out of our reach – we just don’t know how to find it.

  32. I don’t think it’s the internet that’s the problem.
    It’s the “oversaturation ” that’s the problem.
    There are just way too many people “doing” music , because of the low cost of computing , combined with the ease of access to pirated software and the carrot-on-a-stick which is “dj superstar culture”
    Now everyone can have a go , and upload their creations ( no matter how unimaginative , tonedeaf , boring etc….) to the net , and it makes it hard for the artist to stand out due to the sheer amounts of the stuff clogging up the arteries of the Interwebs.
    I love music. Since I was 16 , I looked up to bands like depeche mode , analysed their music , studiously examined their album covers and longed for the day when I could do what they do , and get money for it , but now , it’s probably the only industry in the world where labour is “expected” to be given away for free. This probably started with big names giving away their albums FREE with the sunday newspaper , even though we never saw the big money they were making from the newspaper for providing it.
    My point : try getting a builder , electrician , baker , welder , salesman , shop assistant , white van man , HGV driver , deliveryman , etc….etc…. to work for free. Why then , are musicians expected to work for free , seeing as we have studied to learn a skill , a trade , a science ( accoustics ) that not everyone can do. I find the industry right now is a succubus , with more and more “helpers” popping up offering free accounts to musicians , and promising them airplay / promotion/ access to industry names , if they will upgrade . The truth of the matter still is , only those with money can afford to upgrade or promote themselves.
    Everyone applauded the demise of the big record companies , in much the same way as when the wall came down in Berlin , but instead of record companies , we now have itunes , believe digital etc….and extreme saturation.
    It’s not all bad though. I have the chance for people in countries i’d never be able to visit , to hear my music and comment on it. Unfortunately , comments won’t put food on the table and i have to hold down an uninspiring job to pay the bills while i wait , interminably , for the magic to happen.

  33. quit whining about this, i make electronic music cause i like it, thats what everybody that’s ever mattered to electronic music has ever done, so quit bitching about the problems, and move on.

  34. It isn’t just music. The Internet has destroyed the value of photography and writing as well. One of the most grating aspects is that the employees of the companies who publish this stuff online are all making real salaries, although their jobs are probably tenuous, and the man at the very top is making millions. Its high time an artist or musician killed a tech executive as a piece of art, but life in prison probably wouldn’t be what the artist is after. Quite a sacrifice for craft.

    Anyway, like I said, the attitude of these little tech jerks is abominable, although I love them for all the gadgetry they’ve brought me. It took me a couple years to figure out home mixing and recording, but it can sound pretty good, if you have good instruments, good players and a decent room.

    Honestly, though, I’d just as soon control my masters and copyright as hand them to some scum-sucking record company. Touring is always what separates men from boys and that hasn’t changed. If you do produce a popular song, chances are you will get a licensing deal in tv and movies, and then maybe still get ripped off.

    If anything, all this teaches artists is to make sure you have a backup plan, which they always should have had anyway. In the meantime, however, have enough sense NOT to sign your copyrights away. Besides, I’ve talked to some serious business lawyers, and they’ve told me in the bigboy world of law, these blanket contracts are not as watertight as they claim to be, What needs to happen is a class action suit of photogs and musicians against these conglomerates, or people need to continue to set up proper websites that treat content providers fairly, even to a smaller audience. Attacking the man has always been part of music, and attacking Apple and Amazon by name and through boycotts is going to be an essential part of any rebellion.

  35. The internet is pure Tunnel Vision.
    If you click around you will not see any of your works of music unless your already there.
    Oh , don’t type in your stage name because thats where the Tunnel Vision , get you your ego trip.
    If you can’t find your music without typing in your name , somewhere, then you are not really known and are not on the internet.
    Try see what I mean. look for your music without ever typing in your Stage Name , and if you can’t find a thing about your music its………….Tunnel Vision.
    You do not exist on the internet, until you can find your music without typing in your name.
    Getting paid for your music will only occur in a court room.
    Upload your music and you just lost it…….. Sorry.

    Thank You

  36. One thing. artists make a lot less money. in the 70’s and 80’s artists could make fortunes now people listen and watch for free. what i miss as a kid of the eighties is loving a band and going to our price to buy their latest album and the best bit was putting the tape in my walkman and before i got home i had fallen in love with a b side album track that i never ever heard on tele promos at all. I really miss that. it was like i went mainly to get certain songs on the album then fell madly in love with a bside the most. that never happens to kids today. also the walk to the shop was great. I also used to always love going to buy shoot magazine once a week a football mag. each and every week they’d interview a player and their best artist was always rod stewart ALWAYS Rod Stewart each week till stuart peirce who was young then said the pistols and the jam. i loved him ever since. every other player loved rod stewart always. but artists made so much money back then through sales and radio. but some people will always pay for music like me. i admit i pay far less and i’m more careful. but even in the eighties I knew a kid who’d cassette tape the charts each sunday and he never spend a penny on music.

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