Music is a Service. Not a Product.

okay.  been a while since i ranted….  here comes.

tami mentioned to me the other day about how prince was getting paid $4+ million to play at coachella the other weekend.

i said, “amen!”

now, some people may think that’s a little excessive to pay a musician that much.  i say, dammit, it just puts artist demand in perspective.  i’ve bickered with people before about how an artist’s recorded music is a promotional device and not a product to be sold.  i firmly believe that.

it’s only been in the last 60 years where the “music industry” has duped musicians into thinking that they’re all “rock stars!” and to start believing that they don’t have to play music to get paid.  and recording music is totally different than playing music, i might add.

for thousands of years, musicians actually had to do this horrendous thing called “performing” to get paid.  now, just because some powerful lobbyists have tricked everyone into thinking that just because someone spends a week in a studio once every few years, they deserve money — we need to pay them to listen to their music.

shit in one hand.  demand in the other.  see what you have at the end of the day.

there’s a reason that since the dawn of man, musicians have been performing music.  (doh!  there, i go again.  using the p-word!)  that’s because it’s a viable business model.  recording something, duping it infinitely for damn near free and then charging $18 for it?  i’m surprised there hasn’t been an riaa executive lynching yet!

does anyone out there know how much it costs to stamp out discs from a glass master?  pennies!  yes, pennies per disc!  even with packaging and sleeves and the whole nine yards, production for cds are < $1 per disc at scale.

so, the artist, gets pennies.  the discs cost pennies to make.  where does all that money go?

duh!  marketing and distribution!  you know, the stuff that is super-duper cheap on the internet. 

note to upcoming musicians:  there is such a hunger for new music, that if you’re good, you will succeed.  if you suck?  well.  just stick to doing it for fun because you’re not going — and don’t deserve — to make a living at it.

arg!  so.  now that i’ve gotten my take on the current state of the music industry out of my system, let’s talk about performance.

you know, my wife and i usually get season tickets every year to the philharmonic.  here it is, 100 some-odd people playing music for an audience and getting paid for it.  not whining about bittorrent.  not spending a few days in a studio and then resting on their laurels for the next year.

they’re working.  they’re playing music.  they’re getting paid.  not as much as prince, mind you.  or most of them even enough to live on. 

therein lies the trick.

just because you get paid to play music doesn’t mean you deserve to make a living doing it.

hell, i love painting.  i’ve even sold paintings to galleries before.  i’ve done work for hire before.  in short, i’ve gotten paid to paint.  do i do it for a living?  nope.  i’m not good enough.  do i whine when other people use images of my paintings somewhere else?  nope.  (dude!  free publicity for me!)  do i care?  nope.

i don’t think i deserve to be making a living painting.

not with how much i do it.  now, if i was scheduling several murals a week and taking payment for them, sure.  that’s called working for a living.  call me a sellout, but: you do work.  you get paid.  it’s called a service industry.

do i paint a wall and then demand money from everyone who looks at it?  no.  that’s the stupidest thing i’ve ever heard!

should someone record a song and then demand money from everyone who hears it?  no.  that’s the stupidest thing i’ve ever heard.

making a living through music is work for hire.  period.

  • if you’re a musician, you get paid to play.
  • if you’re a technician, you get paid by a musician to mix his music.
  • if you’re a promoter, you get paid by a musician to promote his music.

this whole “downloading music is theft!” crap has to end.  it’s stupid and flies in the face of thousands of years of human history.  not to mention, it’s not even theft!  plenty of people make plenty of money making music.  just ask prince.  or trent reznor.  or the guy who played on stage last weekend.  or the guy who was dj’ing at the club last night.

welcome to work by the hour, musicians.  you know, like it’s been throughout the entire length of recorded history.

m3mnoch.

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1 comment so far

  1. […] has a blog post about music being performance. He argues that music is and traditionally has been about performances. CDs and the like are and […]


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