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Come on Doug, the longtail theory/philosphy has been debunked so often I can hardly believe you’d be willing to still refer to it. You’re living in denial, even if it is pseudo-scientifically justfied denial. The numbers are out they’re plain to see for everybody that is willing to look.
If only 6.000 people out of a global audience of millions are interested in watching a live performance on a youtube live stream by a contemporay top act – and a mainstream one, not even some marginal indie act – then your longtail will end up between somebody’s legs. Pardon the pun.
Trying to reason it away is not gonna be of any use if you really want to get down to the bottom of what is really going on here… and obviously… it’s a worldwide phenomenon. Despite all the promotion and all the free advertising only 6000 people can be bothered to watch it. Even in the comfort of their own home.
And I’m talking about the audience at large, not the number of people who still choose to make music for whatever reason or with whatever ambition they may have.
The discussion here is about pop/riock music, at least that’s how I understood it. Comparing it with classical composers isn’t very helpful. Most people that are classically trained have several ‘career’ options available that the average pop/rock artist will never have. Your point is taken as far as those musicians are concerned.
I don’t think that the number of people being able to get their music for free is as important as the increasing lack of interest in popular music in general.
I’ve been watching some festival streams on youtube a couple of weeks ago, and during the performances of some of todays top acts I clicked through to see how many people were actually watching that stream at that moment. Some of the biggest top acts had less than 6.000 people watching at the time. I reloaded the page several times during the live performance (in another browser tab) and 6.000 was about the absolute maximum. That surely was a reality check for me. Less than 6000 viewers worldwide! Most of the acts actually were hovering around 1500 to 2000 viewers for their live performance. That’s on youtube with millions of visitors every day and those festival streams were advertised on every single youtube page in the header and they had been announced on just about every music blog or music site that I know of.
I was shocked to see how few people are really interested in music nowadays. The discussion about free music or piracy is obfuscating a truth that some people simply don’t want to own, and rather prefer to deny: the interest of the general population in music is far less than it has been in the past. Maybe some of us are simply too involved to be able to see it, leave alone be willing to accept it.
I won’t be drawn into to a piracy discussion anymore. I’ve said it before on numerous occasions: piracy is not the problem. It’s a symptom, yes, but not more than that. The real issues are much more profound and complicated. There has been a cultural shift in that music is a lot less important to a large majority of people. And that will logically also translate into lower sales overall. People have many more choices and obviously other priorities than they had 20 years ago. And that’s where their money goes.
The one thing that I see as missing from this discussion is context.
Maybe you should try and look up how many people in the US are on foodstamps or trying to survice in other ways in this day and age. Even today Nirvana would never have made the money they did at the time, because the economic and social context has changed dramatically. The comparison with Nirvana is pretty unrealistic. And we all know how happy all those millions did make Kurt Cobain. So better be careful with what you wish for.
Add to that all the gizmos that are now commonplace, from the internet to gaming consoles, to ipods, iphones and ipads… and don’t forget the simple fact that you can only spend your dollar once. There is simply not as much money available for music now as there was in the 80s or even the 90s, because a lot of the “available money” – I hate the term disposable income – is already spent elsewhere. Only my internet connection is costing the music industry 3 to 4 CDs per month so to speak.
When I grew up, music was the only thing I cared about and pretty much the only thing of interest available to me and even most of my generation. I pretty much spent all my money on buying music in those days. That has definitely changed. The consumer society has exploded over the last couple of decades and there are so many “need to have” options available, that as a logical consequence music no longer has the perceived value that it once had.
And let’s not forget that for every Nirvana there’s a couple of thousand bands we probably never even heard of.
As for the “I deserve to be paid for my work” point of view. I’m running a couple of music related sites, a blog and a music video site. Although I’m running ads on them I have untill now not made a single cent on them. I even end up paying for hosting out of my own pockets every month. I spend on average 4-5 hours per day every day of the week on updating them… don’t I deserve to get paid for my work too then? I hardly ever even get as much as a thank you, not from artists I help promote, not from labels and not even from most of our visitors. (Commenting every now and then is too much work I guess). So should I get grumpy and start complaining about this situation as well then? I learned to just live with it and accept it as it is. I can pull the plug on all of it on any given day if it really should become too much. But still… where’s my right to be paid for my work?
There are millions of volunteers out there working for charities and whatnot else, they have the right to be paid for their work as well. Still… they do what they do without ever getting any financial reward from it or even expecting any.
I have no problem with some people getting rich from what they’re doing. I don’t envy millionaires or even billiionaires. Whether they are Simon Cowell who got ridiculously rich with what is probably the worst TV show ever, or some big investing hot shot. But getting rich is not some sort of entitlement. It is not because you’re a musician, and even a succesful musician that you have the “right” to, or are entitled to become a millionaire. That’s taking the exception for the rule. Music should first and foremost be a hobby, and if you’re lucky – and maybe even you’re good enough – you might get the opportunity to make a career out of your hobby one day. To start out trying to make a career out of it is unrealistic and misguided. Disappointment and frustration are already preprogrammed in any such case.
If I had ever started my sites thinking they were gonna make me loads of money I would have been an idiot. I probably am anyway ;)
And in closing, a word about value: if nobody is willing to pay for a product, for whatever reason, and for any product, then the REAL value of that product is ZERO. Even Gold, Ferraris, Porsches and BMWs would be worthless if nobody would be willing to pay for them. It is NOT what you invested in your music that determines its REAL value. It is what people are willing to pay for it that does. Like it or not. All the rest are just intellectual abstractions and ultimately distractons.
I’ll stay out of the obnoxious discussions and just say thanks for the good read, even if it was on another site. ;)
Thank you T. Cole Rachel for such an outstanding interview, it’s the second one I read from you in a couple of days (Aimee Mann was the first). And thanks to Billy Corgan too of course, for being who he is.
Corporations and the politicians that serve them will get away with anything. Just look at this week’s passwords shambles at linked.in and all the lies and the systematic withholding of information going on in that case.
To paraphrase Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, they’re a giant squid sucking the life blood out of everything.
Their deep pockets will always win. And even if they lose and have to pay, they will still have won. It will probably end up being a bargain for them.