schlep wrote:Byrne did allow that he's not going to starve (and Fripp's doing OK I would guess, just persnickety), being lucky enough to be able to draw a crowd for his concerts, etc - but pointed out the difficulty for someone like his pal St Vincent, one or two semi-popular albums under her belt but no steady patronage system.
Byrne and Fripp certainly aren't going to starve, but let me tell you, Allan Holdsworth has come pretty close to it, especially after he lost his home and studio after a nasty divorce. He was never on a major label save for his abortive experience with WB that led to one classic EP (Road Games)
and shout fests with Ted Tempelman. And considering the level of acclaim Holdsworth has achieved (including a Grammy nomination for that record) from critics and musicians as one of a handful of world-class premier guitar virtuosos, that's beyond tragic.
St. Vincent may not be screamingly popular, but she's certainly in the mainstream enough (she's been on Jay Leno) to have been a duly label-supported and economically comfortable act if she had come up during Byrne's heyday, which he is absolutely right to lament on her behalf. But back when Byrne came up ... "The Talking Heads and their brand of New Wave replaced progrock!"
You could legitimately talk about scenes "replacing" each other (instead of coexisting side-by-side with their own fan bases) because that's what happened in an era with a more-or-less unified national music press and flagship radio stations that did the promotion. To this day, most people who don't remember the era think that punk "killed" progrock, when what happened is that the economy tanked, the prime interest rate spiked to 21% and labels could no longer afford to take chances on legacy acts that weren't guaranteed blockbusters.
What Byrne doesn't seem to quite get, though, with his blunderbuss indictment of the internet as the instrument of ultimate creative doom, is that with the rise of micro-market niching and the indie labels and now satellite radio stations and podcasts which service these ecologies, the loss of a national music scene has been an enormous boon for styles of music that never would have had a chance even back when the labels were flush with money. Thanks to the net, affinity groups for very specific music can form, network and show support without regard to geography, which is veritably revolutionary. And if these artists can't get proper label contracts which can guarantee them at least an existence based on how much of their music will be actually bought by consumers in the era of Spotify and legal free downloads, they're at least on YouTube with the stuff they have
managed to realize, produce and record regardless.
Has this been a terrible thing for artists? It's a more complicated question than it looks. Certainly Byrne made a good point, contra my initial post to you, that there just aren't enough cushy academic gigs out there for every struggling artist (restaurant wait staff, though is probably permanently available), and ryan is surely right also that working at some mind-numbing day gig isn't necessarily the best thing for creative juice flow. For those aiming to be the next superstar in whatever compromised pop Big Genre (hip-hop, soul, country, rock, adult contemporary, etc.), it's probably about the same as it was since Elvis Presley created the model. It was a crapshoot then, and it remains so today, though fabulous riches are guaranteed if you make it. For the guys and gals doing the stuff I'm into: RIO, avant-prog, breakcore, academically informed ethnic jazz, young avant-garde tour monkeys like The 'Pus and Blotted Science, it's probably better now, with more exposure and opportunities to play, than it has ever been. This is especially true for the RIO old guard who've managed to hang in long enough to establish a reputation and can reasonably rely now on national arts grants.
But for the folks trying to split the difference between intentionally unpopular and obscenely popular, the difficult-to-categorize ones trying to carry on in the spirit of mainstream, non-avant-garde progrock, Kate Bush or Cardiacs, people like MoeTar, St. Vincent and probably the majority of those who'd fit in the corporate created catch-all category of "alternative music," it's probably worse now than it was even 10 years ago. There's no mileage anymore in having your music be "widely appealing," because without the label support that used to be more-or-less a given, you can't cross the threshold and move beyond your little exquisitely-niched genre ghetto. And it wouldn't do much good anyway if enough fans simply don't purchase your music directly at least through your label. This breaks Byrne's heart.
I'm sympathetic to this, of course, but where I draw the line is at having any sympathy at all
for the major labels, and I am interested in no "rescue program" to reverse these trends that would involve re-animating that hideously undead zombie corpse. Let the majors rot unto receivership let and all musical artists sign onto indies who at least guarantee them a 50% cut, and then I'll be quite happy to join any social engineering campaign to scourge downloaders.
I see David Lowery around town sometimes, I've never spoken to him but might have to try dropping your name the next time he hoves into view.
Heave, hove! Sheesh, where did you get that word? The MickeySoft spellchecker flags it. Anyway, if you manage to do the "Can I have your autograph, Mr. Lowery?" thang with ol' Dave at the Piggly Wiggly or whatever serves as a supermarket for you folks below the Mason Dixon line, tell him you're talking to the guy who gave him his KUOR air name Genghis Khan (I was The Egghead), the dude who tried to teach him Bhongwater
on guitar, and if he'd like to hear a spiffed up version of the tune which I tortured the campus with on any public piano I could find, he can check out McClintic Sphere (he'll know that for a Pynchon reference) on YouTube, and that the tune is now called Three Cubed.
He can leave me a private message there.
ps - I thought Spotify was free? Maybe that was the original business model.
I think it was when Trouserpress told me about them back in '11. A SoundCloud with banner ads, basically, an old-school dot-com model that collapsed once everybody began using popup blockers, so a year later when somebody tossed me a free trial membership, it changed. Byrne specifically cites it as a nominal-monthly-charge subscription model in the article, and of course the majors would have no interest in it if it didn't generate a revenue stream.
What makes the majors so comic-book evil in this new seduction of Spotify is that they're only trying to get their grubby meathooks back into the revenue they lost with the collapse of CD sales, and if they have to do this at the expense of the artist, leaving them with ten or fifteen cents on the dollar, then that's what they'll damn well do. As Zappa sez, Phooey On Them.
Never touch the stuff - though I DO free downloads, according to my own slippery standard of moral accountability...
What makes the problem so perversely intractable is that if you successfully manage to delegitimize Spotify in the eyes of music consumers, they'll just go back to using the file sharing services, and then the artist gets zip squat. That's the gun that the majors are holding to everybody's heads. Well, maybe zip squat is the kind of figure that starts a revolution.
Here's hoping ...