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How to save the music business?!?

2010-09-21 15:59:46.227226+00 by ebradway 6 comments

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, U2 Manager Paul McGuinness, attempts to make the world feel bad because of his "great artists" not being compensated for their efforts. (Note: the link is to GQ Magazine's UK site where the article is free, Rolling Stone has it stuck behind a pay wall - great example of the internet routing around such things).

McGuiness' thesis has several significant faults:

  1. Music, as an art form, is dependent on the "music business" for it's survival
  2. "Great" artists deserve great compensation
  3. There is no conspiracy by the telecoms to undermine the "music business" (yeah, WTF?)

The fundamental flaw is that art and business can co-exist. Sure, the music business has allowed a few voices (artists?) to enjoy world-wide exposure. But business is business, which means the measure of "greatness" is inherently the return on investment.

Music existed before there was a "music business". Music will continue to exist long after the "music business" as we know it today is long gone. And for 99.99% of musicians, their compensation will be largely unchanged. Will this prevent great music from being made? I don't even think I need to address than question. Great art is made for art's sake.

As for the telecom conspiracy? McGuinness is seriously mistaking correlation for causation. Yes, the telecom (and internet) companies' income and profits are rising proportional to the music business' losses. But that's because telecom/internet is a new, growing industry that happens to be disruptive to the basic model underpinning the music business (distribution of information on physical media). It's not like General Motors buying the street car systems and tearing up the tracks. Google isn't funding BitTorrent and the Pirate's bay.

McGuinness needs to realize that he has a distorted view of reality. Like Bono, he's got his rose colored glasses on too much of the time. Yes, U2 makes some pretty good pop music. Some of it may approach what one could call "good art". I'd even go so far as to say that U2 and Bono have done a really good job creating a kind of "pop performance art" of the stylized do-gooder rock star that will likely be remembered for decades. But I surely don't feel sorry for him now that the stage upon which this performance has been played is being torn down.

[ related topics: Music Art & Culture Net Culture Conspiracy Economics Public Transportation Government ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2010-09-21 17:47:10.367226+00 by: Dan Lyke

One of the two concepts which tore down my general belief in Objectivism was exposed by Ayn Rand's article defending patents in which she described patents not merely as a protection of intellectual property, but as a creation of an artificial scarcity that allowed the first filer the monopoly. Had she described this as a bug instead of a feature I'd have been okay with it, but...

Anyway, it seems that there's a cost to protect a transaction. Some of that cost is born by the parties involved (anti-shoplifting tags, receipt checkers verifying cashiers, safes and locks), and some is born by the government (police, the penal system). There's a pragmatic balance in there somewhere, but when you have businesses that exist solely because most of that cost is born by the government, you have people making money off of externalities in a way that I rebel against.

Most of the music industry is in that class.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-09-22 08:16:41.587226+00 by: meuon

Talent. Hard way to make a living...

I hang with a lot of musicians that have "other jobs" that pay the bills. As I recently pulled a trombone out (Nancy's never heard me play, it's been a few years), and have tried to get my lips back in shape so I can wail some with the Marching Band at Alchemy. It's reminded me of those decisions I made in 198? when I met the trombonist for Maynard Ferguson's band at a clinic. He was also a CPA (I think, that's how I remember it anyway). Hard to make a living as a musician, even a good one. But playing music is something you just have to do.. if it's inside of you.

And sometimes, talent, hard work and luck converge and you can make a living at it for a while.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-09-22 20:55:06.071226+00 by: Dan Lyke

Just pointing out, that's the same Bono and U2 that moved tax entities from Ireland to the Netherlands to avoid a 12.5% tax on proceeds greater than 250,000 Euros per year complaining about not getting fully compensated due to piracy.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-09-22 22:39:51.531226+00 by: ebradway

meuon: What do you call a musician who just got dumped by his girlfriend? homeless

#Comment Re: made: 2010-09-23 22:57:20.555226+00 by: topspin

Didya hear about the drummer who looked his keys in the car?

The band had to break a window to get the bass player out.

#Comment Re: made: 2010-09-24 16:28:02.579226+00 by: markd

Difference between a pizza and a drummer? At least the pizza can feed a family of four.