Who will eventually own all the dead stars of rock & roll?
This is an excellent read, thanks Ted. I appreciate the honesty which was constructive and didn’t seem negative to me.
One thing I sense is since the means of production have changed for music, as well as how it is delivered, the whole concept of a ‘recording industry’ is perhaps a questionable frame to view music. Selling recordings made sense in the previous technological era, where music was scarce, but now it is ubiquitous one has to think differently.
If I was working at a major label I’d be looking to the gaming industry to learn. I don’t mean that music should, or will, be gamified, but that is an industry that has learned to sell software. Vinyl’s cool, and I expect it will still be sold 60 years from now, but it’s a side salad, the real meal is software. I don’t think musicians have wrapped their heads around this for the most part, and I doubt the recording industry is really capable yet. Ninja Tune had a go at it, but were perhaps too early, and too far ahead.
Music may be created that is not a song, not a fixed composition, and evolves in a non-linear way. A bit like a lot of music before the recording industry. It will work like software, and therefore it’s essential representation will be the algorithm, not a fixed output, or recording. This, I expect, will be easier to sell and make a living from than fixed recordings, which possibly have had their golden era. I would have more faith in a upstart to create this than a lumbering giant from a bygone era. In fact, musically, this is exactly what I’m working on right now.
From Wikipedia, about this "vital and happening indie music business":
On August 4, 2017, the staff of Bandcamp Daily donated all of the day's sales proceeds to the Transgender Law Center, a civil rights organization for transgender people.
In response to the protests that took place following the murder of George Floyd and other African Americans who had died from police violence, Bandcamp announced that for 24 hours on June 19, 2020 they would donate 100% of profits to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Sounds like it was already firmly part of the same corporate ecosystem as everything else and not particularly independent.
So, “song investing” will go bellyup? Good riddance. There are capable and talented musicians and songwriters who currently perform live and sell their self-produced music (online or at concerts). Music industry probably should die a horrible death after killing off their own glorious vinyl formats (45 or 33). But turn-of-the century conductor and composer John Phillip Sousa really had the last word on this. He did not trust his band or songs to be recorded at all. He knew it diminished the live experience which made his band a world phenomenon. As result every little town in America had its own band to amuse themselves and community. Likewise any hillbilly had a fiddle or guitar with which they could sing and dance. The songs “invested” from one human to another. Heck, even Mozart and Beethoven had publishing issues.
I don't think Bowie Bonds ever made anyone any money, except for Bowie. His thinking always seemed light-years of everyone else.
Didn't some of those Sand Hill Road guys invest in FTX b/c they thought SBF playing video games while talking to them was a good sign? And keep their money in Silicon Valley Bank?
I'm not persuaded many of them are any smarter than anyone else.
I truly hope someone with the vision and the money buys Bandcamp from these "songtradr" goons, and then just lets the company get back to doing what it was doing before Epic decided to hoover them up for no good reason.
I still have no understanding of why Bandcamp's founder allowed the sale to Epic in the first place -- they were doing fine! They were sustainably growing year over year, getting better and better name-recognition and genuine credibility from the music community. If they'd just kept it up instead of selling out....well, one can only dream at this point.
Such a sad waste of opportunity and talent. Half their staff canned by vulture capitalists who have *absolutely no idea* what they've bought, why, or what to do with it besides ruin it like everything else they touch.
Got my fiddle, dancing while it burns. The music ain’t going nowhere. It’s in record stacks and on hard drives everywhere. We had an access glut for a while, and now maybe music can go back to being valued. Independent musicians will find a way to press records, dub tapes, play shows. The big boys can re-learn that too. Get the bankers out of this space. They ruin everything they touch.
Excellent, Ted. I know you get no points for being early in the “I told you so” line, but I said circa ‘91 the creative music revolution will be in billing. It was creative and musicians lost. Hard to squeeze positive out of this but now music is only loud money for the famous and we all know the fame business model. Overall, it’s been a bad financial bet. But there was a time, when the unions had some control, before the MP3 made passing tunes around like making a phone call and drummers had limited partnerships. It made for better music. Money attracts talent.
I know the Concord folks. I’d say they consider it an honorable mission keeping the past alive...and they don’t need the money...yeah, you covered that.
Old songs will be public domain after a certain point regardless of attempts to monetize them.
Yes, new music is the future…Unfortunately, in the everyday life of the average working musician, (playing cover tunes) in every town USA is a cat and mouse with the archaic ways PRO’s operate. They limit young musicians just starting out and older musicians keeping the craft up.
Musicians can’t promote the gigs without putting a bullseye on the venue.
Young musicians can’t get the mentorship that comes from the local gigs.
Artist-friendly live music platforms are a solid investment
That’s where new music is born.
Amen to that! Local or touring live music. And the best is trying to play a musical instrument, however pitifully. It sparks the brain neurons like no other activity. It is brain food and exercise.
This column goes somewhat opposite to Mr. Gioia's earlier premise that no one is listening to new songs, and that the old songs are out-pacing the new in popularity. If this were true, older music should be a sound [NPI] investment for the 75 years after Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney die
Gosh if only Taylor Swift would buy the music industry...
I know Ted's no fan of Spotify, but it's the only place I can find old recordings of music from the dreaded 50s-80s. I heard a few good tunes in the 90s when I was on the road traveling for site surveys of Sonic Drive In restaurants that were to be remodeled. Those tunes never interested me to the extent that I'd actually purchase the album. I haven't heard anything I like since; I like my old pop, rock, and jazz. So without Spotify I'm unable to find the vase majority of albums that I'd like to own. Some are simply unavailable, even with Discogs and Amazon. And even if they are, they're too expensive for my pocketbook. I hope Spotify can make a go of it for my personal satisfaction. As a side note, I've had a Pandora account since 2006, but getting deep cuts there is an iffy proposition, though if I'm in an FM radio mood, it's still good.
This is a sad read for music lovers. Before I give up all hope: I can definitely see the wisdom in your assumption that old music may become a vanity/ego asset class but old master paintings and professional sports teams also have high vanity appeal and have been very hot investments for decades. Does this give reason for hope or are they just trendy bubbles ready to pop?
Start up a new artist focused record label? Good luck. The loss of artist development in the music industry can be traced to the birth of MTV. When every record label sacrificed artist development (once a department at every label) dollars for music videos.
Once the mentality of spoon feeding the consumer with disposable music in the videos (the list of “artists” created by MTV is long. The list of those who created music that passed the test of time is short)
The only artists that can make it in today’s music marketplace are utilizing TikTok, YouTube, etc. (Taylor Swift the exception) And if successful, they don’t need a label unless they provide better distribution.
Having worked in the industry for 30 plus years in the “glory days “ (from ‘69-, I too get inquiries from individuals wanting advice on possibly starting a label. My advice is simple: pass.
Invest in real estate or elsewhere.