Thoughts On The Music Industry

A conversation in Twitter got me thinking (thanks to Luis). It started with me making the statement that musicians shouldn’t be making millions of dollars a year. Teachers and social workers struggle to pay bills, yet some of the richest people in our country make millions by recording music. It ended with me being called a communist.

The idea of capitalism rests upon the assumption that the market is dependent on the consumer. If customers have options and information, the value of products will be adjusted to fit the consumers’ demand. When an industry is dominated by a few very influential players in a market with high barriers to entry, this concept goes to shit. Right now, you’ve got four major labels (Sony BMG, Universal, EMI, & Warner) deciding your options for you. Instead of having thousands of artists to choose from, the majority of the population is force fed 50-100 options in each segment. This means most artists never make it. Very few make it big. Some artists seen as marketable get huge pushes and end up making millions. Most end up broke.

It’s the same concept that fucks with our whole economy. Look at the stock market. The idea of investing in a company should be determined based on whether or not you think that company will be successful and profitable. This isn’t true. The value of a company’s stock can easily be manipulated by mutual fund managers and hedge funds based in Greenwich, CT (no shots CT). You have a very select group of people with a high level of information making millions of dollars off the stock market, while most people are sitting in the dark with no real idea of why the fuck a stock’s value is changing from day to day.

The concept is there. If music reaches people, the artist should be rewarded. But who is controlling what music reaches the people? Is Soulja Boy making millions because his music “touches the people”, or is he making millions because someone’s marketing plan panned out? And does this even matter?

I say that yes, it does matter. Demand should be controlled by the consumer, not the supplier. Hopefully, resources like the internet will allow the consumer to be more informed and less dependent on sources like radio and major label marketing that has a stronghold on what ends up hitting your eardrum. With more choices, I think it’s only fair that wealth will be spread out, and instead of having 100 artists making millions a year, you will have thousands of artists making a decent living and providing the average person with plenty of listening options.

What do you think? Is this wishful thinking? Am I a Communist/Socialist? Does Soulja Boy deserve to be a millionaire? Do you think labels have too much control over what music gets heard? Let me know. This is still a topic I’m struggling to figure out, and I’m definitely open to new opinions. I’m not trying to come across like I know it all, because I dont. These are just my thoughts.


23 Responses to “Thoughts On The Music Industry”

  1. 1 Santoro
    October 9, 2009 at 7:52 am

    I think you're right that the music most people hear is controlled by the label, but I wonder whether or not the people could handle more choices. With a few, well defined options, things are set up well for the labels to make money. This way they can develop a few superstars that can earn revenue from not only sales, but radio play and soundtracks and tv spots, appearances, concerts, and countless other sources.

  2. 2 LizzieHead
    October 9, 2009 at 7:53 am

    I almost totally agree with you (for sure 100% on the economy part!)..My only differing opinion is, I guess I have less faith in the American public not to love garbage like Soulja Boy. I think even with more diversity in labels & money spread around to more artists, there would still be popular junk- many people just dont wanna think (or maybe just are stupid in general?) when they listen to music, which I can understand– occasionally.FYI though, I sometimes refer to myself as a democratic socialist politically though, so you may be in trouble there. LOL.Look up House Representative Bernie Sanders, he is technically an independent but that what he says his values align to.Don't be fouled by the hype around the word 'socialism,' all industrialized nations have a great degree of it in their systems. Its why we have roads, public schools & hopefully healthcare sometime soon!

  3. 3 Confusion
    October 9, 2009 at 8:03 am

    Haha yeah I'm with you there. I lived in Sweden for a year, so Socialism isn't such a scary word to me, but I still have a very strong belief in the idea of Capitalism, as long as it's fair. I think industries sometimes end up with a small minority making decisions that aren't representative of the majority. (Applies to politics, business, music, whatever).And yeah, there will always be people who want Soulja Boy. But how about 30 different Soulja Boys instead of one guy getting filthy fucking rich?

  4. 4 Confusion
    October 9, 2009 at 8:15 am

    Also, I want to put out there that I'm one of those people that likes to argue, but never has answers. It's a problem. I like to throw a bunch of bullshit out there, and I'm liable to change my whole perspective the next day. So don't quote me on this shit. I wrote it at 3 in the morning after a Twitter argument with another blogger!

  5. 5 LizzieHead
    October 9, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Agreed. I'm all for like I guess a regulated capitalism that implements elements of socialism I guess. Acting like one side has it all right is silly, it makes more sense to take the good from both.I hate to argue, but I love to be right & I hardly ever think I'm wrong, so I am always one to chime in on a discussion like this.. lol

  6. 6 Nikoo
    October 9, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Very good post. I agree to some extent, but it cannot really be resolved.It comes down to the fact that these record labels are investing in an artist, similar to how a Venture Capitalist would invest in a start up company. They will sign artists who will sell (obviously), even if they spit: "i eat you like a vegetable".Demand IS controlled by the consumer, thats why I off the radio as soon as Flo Rida comes on.

  7. 7 MO
    October 9, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Confusion, I only read the first paragraph and just skimmed the rest but i know what you mean. I feel you for sure on this topic, someone like Soulja Boy makes more than a teacher, who is actually helping construct a persons life for the future. Turn My Swag on may have made me happy one morning and made me put my clothes on faster and walk out the door with a little hop to my step, but teachers and other influential people making far far less money have helped me think outside the box. I believe that this concept is way more important. Music will always be around, education will always be around as well, this will most likely never change, but it should. -Anyone who justs out and calls someone a Communist is shallow minded. Whoever thinks that musicians should be some of the highest paid people is ridiculous.I'm with you on this one C. Spread the wealth, influence more people, and pay the people that make a daily impact, a positive one, on peoples lives.

  8. 8 Anonymous
    October 9, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    I think ur 100% wrong. Creative artists deserve 2 make way more money than these bitch ass teachers. Musics does something 4 the entire world, teachers today dont really give a fuck so i dont give a fuck how much they make

  9. 9 Sapphic Owl
    October 9, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Very interesting read. I very much abhor the fact that commercial music is so monopolized.I'm also with the commenter who said she's not sure the public could handle options. BUT-I do think we should have those options. If we had them, I think enough consumers would change the demand. Maybe this is where bloggers come in? Utilize the internet to advance musical discourse and give people more options. I know without the blogs, I would be miserable and listening to nothing but old music and NPR, unless I was drunk. Some artists take shots at the blogs for their criticisms, but frankly, the blogs have MADE and are continuing to make artists. Yes, Lady GaGa was on the performance art circuit and writing songs for years before she pushed 4 mil, but we'd be lying to ourselves if we didn't point out that having Perez Hilton cosign her helped. Same thing for all of the hype and success now coming to the likes of Kid Cudi, Wale, Mike Posner, Mr. Hudson, Gudda Gudda, Nicki Minaj…the list goes on.I guess what I'm saying is keep doing your thing to keep us apprised of our options. It's working.

  10. 10 Matt Conover
    October 9, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    I think that this is a good post, but i really think that saying people are force fed music is a bit much. Most people don't mind just listening to the shit that comes out of the radio most of the time, and that's why this system continues to exist. I think most of the blame falls to the end user here, not the system. The music labels didn't make Party in the USA the most downloaded song on iTunes for 5 weeks.Also your paragraph about the stock market was kind of unnecessary and weakened the post somewhat. Over the long run, the profitable companies will be the ones with successful stocks. No one knows why stocks go up and down. Even the hedge fund managers don't. They might know why it goes up when their fund pushes a huge order on a a midcap stock, but nobody can tell you why the market is up over 50% this year after the worst drop in its history. No one can tell you what the market will be at 4 months from now.

  11. 11 Sleaze
    October 9, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    i'll say this… dont put a salary cap on my dollars. If these clowns can rap and make millions, big ups to them. Nobody try to block these corporations. RAP ISN"T THE PROBLEM WITH THE ECONOMY IN AMERICA!nuff said.

  12. 12 JPre21
    October 9, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    This is why I love P&P. This is a post done purely for intellectual debate, transcending the social issues of the music industry to connect them to the broader social issues of the capitalism and social stratification. For fucks sake, what other music blog do you find that on? Keep this shit up Confusion. Even if people don't agree with your opinions 100%, it's awesome that you take the initiative to create a forum like this.Personally, I agree with Matt Conover, that "force fed music" is a bit much. Record labels don't brainwash consumers, but I can see where you get the sentiment. My idea is that consumers are basically like livestock, the majority of them ignorant and willing to be let in whichever direction. Record labels just take advantagre of this. The tools to find quality music are there, people just don't take advantage of them. Even expanded to the world outside of the music industry, I think that at the end of the day, consumer ignorance is capitalism's flaw.

  13. 13 XHankX
    October 9, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Can you really say were being force fed this stuff. I think that ppl like what they like. I have friends that love country music they listen to it night and day. I on the other hand hate it with a passion but I can sit there and lesson to a few songs and see it on tv and not have to go out and buy/download their songs. I come here everyday and read your comments about the songs and download them and then decide for myself if I like it or not.Also I think companies don't give us 1000s of options cuz there also trying to make money and can't give it to every person with a decent single. To labels these artist are just employees and if they can't cut it there dropped cuz its all about the business of making money. The label just feels if ppl aren't liking u whats the point of wasting money on you. Wouldn't you do the same?And if you really want to support these unsong artist that no one knows about support the underground scene. Go to some shitty bar or club and support them, buy there merch, and go tell others.

  14. 14 Confusion
    October 9, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Good points guys. Force fed is pushing it. I just mean that the most popular artists are popular as a result of have a lot of money put behind them to market them as a product. So yeah, the consumer has a choice of what they listen to, but it's very limited for the average person.And I only brought up the stock market to say that a system is flawed if not everyone has equal information and influence. I'm not talking about predicting the market as a whole, I'm talking about making bank off of one particular stock or fund by pushing it to a lot of people who don't know what they're doing.Glad I could get people's opinions. Still trying to work it out.@Sleaze – Hope you make millions.@Sapphic Owl – I'm gonna keep blogging the shit out of music. Just wait for P&P the label in 2011.@XHankX – I'm not blaming the labels, just saying the system is a little fucked.@anonymous – Bitch ass teachers? Maybe the teachers youre talking about are bitch asses because they can't make a decent living by teaching. Maybe if teaching was as attractive of a job as singing songs on stages there would be better teachers.

  15. 15 Anonymous
    October 9, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    PART 1I believe that most of the time major labels tend to sign artists like Soulja Boy because nowadays the people at those labels who's jobs are to find 'new talent' find artists like him because they think this guy is what a large group of kids will like. They don't build him up like the 6 million dollar man but this kid who's is barely 18 or 19 was able to make a dance as catchy as the Macarana (not sure how to spell it) and the labels thought holy shit this kid can make us rich and we can make him a star! Oh and yeah he's gonna make money too. I think Kanye typed on his blog a few months ago that Soulja Boy is smart when it comes to catching the attention of consumers and the industry itself. Dude is making millions off this and shit if I could do the same I be happy making music like him too. I don't enjoy his music but if something as basic, catchy, and stupid as his songs is getting him all that cash and attention then yeah I'd give him props just because of that. Other labels try finding artists like him and yeah they end up with disappointment at the end.Nowadays artists sometimes independently or with the help of their label release a single. Those independent artist get signed by some label (Drake and Soulja Boy for example mostly got popular on their own and thats where the hype starts) and then they help the artist get recognized even more, the hype level goes higher, then they release an album and only the singles or one hit (chosen with the approval of the label) are one or a few of the only good songs on the album. I must emphasize that I hate that so bad. In Drakes case he hasn't released an actual LP yet just the EP So Far Gone to the public. Drake gets so much hype because of the artists who support him (maybe from the same label maybe not), the label because they help him pay for many stuff, and his talent. Many people make it seem like he's the Hip Hop messiah (no hate btw) and then I hear the EP and then there are a few memorable song and mostly forgettable songs (The EP was ok but it will take me a while to actually take the opportunity to hear the actual album). You buy or download an album from a hyped artist and then that happens.

  16. 16 Anonymous
    October 9, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    PART 2In these situations you either have the android (Britney Spears) who most of the time just does the singing and the rest is done by the producer and label and then they release something (in the last few years of career not a new sound) and people go crazy because its Britney Spears(depending on what type of group of fans the label is aiming to at the moment). In this situation you would be mad at the label and artist if the music mostly sucks. Say a group like Black Eye Peas (Will.I.AM hung with Steve Aoki and copied some of his ideas and electronic sounds) or Lady Gaga (a combination of a bunch of things and some suprisingly new stuff) who mostly do their own thing with some help release something and it mostly sucks. In this situation I would blame the artist for thinking they are bringing something new yet it becomes forgettable and sometimes annoying. Yeah I dislike the labels for bringing more attention to Drake than a dude like Kid Cudi but I see them just like the government, you can bitch all you want about something you want changed but at the end of the day they run shit and they approve of what goes down. Sometimes someone like Kanye does something that changes the game and yeah despite his actions at award shows and controversial things that come out of his mouth he can be considered a genius and yeah people need to get past the fact that he can sometimes be a jackass and need to realize this dude is actually helping the industry. Obviously he can sometimes be the typical rapper but yeah most of the time the guy is bringing some shit to the table that is helping this industry. From his music to sadly the gossip, he is changing the game (one of the few rap artists this decade to sell over a million albums) and I see this guy in the future being the head of a company or continuing to help the game despite his controversy (most great artist have controversial moments). Also give props to bands like Radiohead and Thom Yorke for still bringing great music. Bands like U2 used to be good but now suck and help contribute to the disappointing music industry of this decade.Rick Rubin as we all know deserves respect for what he has contributed to the music world. Dude is the co-head of Columbia Records (A part of SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT). I say he is one of the few people at the top of the game who people should watch or go to for change because he seems to have great ideas and he was the person who I got the concept of the artists releasing one good song and the rest of the album sucking. Jimmy Iovine (sometimes) and most people at other labels are not really helping and do seem like they are just stealing money but yeah I just rather blame peoples taste and ignorance than the labels (they just help add more disappointment). Honestly, despite the hipster movement going on right now you got to give props to indie music, Jay-Z and Beyonce for going to a Grizzly Bear concert, and Kanye for recognizing the genre. Yeah, I kind of went off subject on some stuff but yeah what you think Confusion? Or anyone else?Oh and everybody else read these if you have time -http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/goingson/2009/03/pop-musics-brai.htmlhttp://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/02/magazine/02rubin.t.html

  17. 17 Debonair59
    October 9, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Lil Wayne pushed Young Money onto the world. Of that whole group, who's successful? Drake, Nicki Minaj, and kinda Tyga.Just b/c things are pushed onto people doesn't mean they'll accept it. Wack is wack. Soulja Boy may not hold up to all the criteria to be the greatest rapper, but who said hes trying to be. Maybe the people who listen to his music don't care. I don't think it makes them dumb when i say this, but they don't wanna think. Life is stressful enough as it is, some people want to rock out to something simple and fun on their way home from work. Some people don't value music in the same way fanatics like us do. Soulja Boy's music isn't all that inspiring, but its fun and care free and provides a break from a stressful life to some.If you sat someone down who only listens to radio, and you gave them Common, or Wale, or MF Doom, they wouldn't dig it most likely. Noones getting brainwashed here, people listen to it cuz they genuinely like it and some music is too complicated and they don't want a leisure activity such as listening to music be complicated.

  18. 18 Confusion
    October 9, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    @Anonymous wow you touched on a lot of shit.And @Debonair yeah, not saying that DOOM should be popular, but why is there only 1 Soulja Boy? Maybe he's just one of a kind, but I suspect that with the right kind of push and marketing, almost anyone can be made into a star. I think having a choice between 30 Soulja Boys would be a good thing. And each one will make money, but they shouldnt expect to drive lambos.I know this is all idealistic, and labels are just trying to make as much money as they can. Just saying, its pretty fucked up how things turned out.

  19. 19 Anonymous
    October 9, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Yeah its fucked up but with this strategy some labels and/or it's employees will usually fall like one of the ancient empires and somebody else will fix it or start something new. Sooner or later people will realize what the labels are doing and also more people will start download music illegally contributing to the end of that era of people going to stores and buying music. Now I can just download a mediocre artists work and if it sucks than I just move on with my life without regret. Yeah I believe a lot of people would like our society to improve and become more diverse, smart, and better. Soulja Boy isn't helping. I would rather be using my brain to make good decisions and improve my life than to dumb it down, turn off my brain, and just enjoy something because it's so simple and silly. If I was under 13 than things would be different and I wouldn't give a damn. It's kind of sad that an average person today can't listen to artists like Common or MF DOOM because they don' want to have to use their head when hearing music and they just prefer hearing the beat. If my life was stressful I would be trying to make my life better. The instrumental should be the only reason for somebody to not have to fully use their head. If someone is singing or rhyming on a song then I prefer using my brain and thinking about the lyrics.I believe people are always thinking of new ideas to change the industry. All we can do now is hope there will be change happening in the industry and more so-called artists will step up their game and start making great shit and the industry will be less of a disappointment."@Anonymous wow you touched on a lot of shit." Can you explain more?

  20. 20 Rivas
    October 9, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Gucci Mane Republican candidate 2012

  21. 21 David
    October 10, 2009 at 1:00 am

    It would be great if artists who are outside of the big labels could be more in the public consciousness.At the same time, I think those who really know what they are doing can still not only make millions but end up keeping most of it. Aside from the occasional Soulja Boy style artist, most people who make a lot of money do so because they have earned it. I salute and support those who have earned my dollars and encourage them to continue.

  22. 22 Johnny The Anomaly™
    October 10, 2009 at 3:41 am

    @ confusion & whoever else- peep this documentary on hulu called "before the music dies" interesting to say the least & relevant – http://www.hulu.com/watch/62945/before-the-music-dies

  23. 23 Confusion
    October 10, 2009 at 6:05 am

    That video is crazy. Big thanks to Johnny and definitely check it out next ASAP. Skip work, skip school, whatever. This is some really interesting stuff!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: