I talk to Derek Thompson of The Atlantic about why old stars are so big in music, movies, and popular culture.
I listened to about 3/4 of the podcast.
Collapsing the price umbrella? The price umbrella had already collapsed. After file sharing became a thing in 1999, the party was over. The record companies spent the 90s not-releasing singles and forcing music consumers to buy $18 CDs full of filler. Then the industry thought suing kids and grandma was a brilliant PR move.
It was another 15 years, in 2014, before Spotify had even 15 million paying subscribers worldwide.
The "profitability eroded" over those 15 years. Paid download files were a stopgap that put a hole in the industry's greed scheme, but it was an unreliable revenue source similar to the changing physical media of yore.
The streaming services turned music consumption into a utility. Today, streaming provides a reliable revenue stream for artists, publishers, songwriters, record labels, and the rest of the industry. How is this solution a bad thing? I just came off my best month ever for royalties.
New artists don't need labels anymore. We use distributors. Publishing music has become completely democratized around the world. Gone are the contracts where we have to give up 85% of the profit, our master rights, submit to indentured servitude, or sign everything over to The Mob. Is there something wrong with that?
New artists can market on their own. That is, if you know how to market your music, your catalog, and yourself. But a lot of musicians out there don't know what to do, or they get extremely bad advice, and then they end up blaming Daniel Ek for the rest of their lives.
High earning musicians diversifying their investments and business opportunities is nothing new.
Did anybody really care that Michael Jackson was shilling for Pepsi? Or Jay Leno with that Doritos commercial that Bill Hicks made fun of? Nobody cares! Pepsi is sugar water. What did Steve Jobs say to John Sculley when he hired him at Apple? "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me to change the world?" Ha!
Meanwhile, today you have every news outlet and "music reviewer" obsequiously pushing the latest Beyonce creation and clickbait fake controversy because they've been paid to do it.
And you wonder why kids these days want to listen to Kate Bush, early Metallica, or fall down the rabbit hole of lost oldies that radio never played or long ago gave up on.
I listened to the entire show. Fascinating topic, the disruption of how any art gets onto the screens we stare at and the speakers we listen to, every day.
Another interesting facet will be how blockchain technology, specifically NFTs, will empower artists to plug their art into a distribution channel that is exclusive, yet widely available to integrate, and which shepherds the art through the distribution value chain, even unto the point of resale.
Yes, NFTs are suffering through the end stage of the early age of piracy and negative environmental impacts, but once this age has passed into an age of regulation, commercialization, and de-carbonization, the future might be very bright indeed for these musicians to retain more control and profit from their art.
Excellent conversation, Ted. I finally cleared up some budget to subscribe to this Substack.
I enjoyed the podcast and have many thoughts, but only one for now. I was in radio programming in the 60s and 70s and it was that industry that led the record business into the data-driven world. Initially, many top 40 stations just played whatever Billboard or Cash Box threw at them. Later, some started surveying local record sales in order to make their playlists a better reflection of reality (which in theory would lead to higher ratings and more advertising). Then in the early 70s stations began plugging their request lines and tabulating the most-requested songs, which often diverged from what the retail sales numbers were showing.
Finally, in the late 70s, stations began random telephone surveys in which snippets of songs were played down the line for respondents, who were asked to rate them. When PCs came along in the 80s, software was developed to schedule music, taking any choice out of the hands of the air talent. All of this, naturally, was accompanied by complaints about the homogenization of playlists, avoidance of new music, etc. The point is that the record labels were forced to develop real data because the radio programmers grew to demand it.
One of the great discoveries during this period was something mentioned in the podcast, that listeners kept liking songs long long after the DJs were sick of them. There was even a name for former #1s that were kept in moderate rotation for months and months: recurrents.
Hopefully more new music reviews.
Off topic, I just re-read "The Good Soldier Schweik" and kept thinking 'this is a book the Honest Broker would probably like.
Ted, "Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse" is a treasure.
Ted, I loved this podcast - both of you had much to offer. Lots not so new here (I agree with much of what Mark says in the comment below) but a ton of insights I had not appreciated or even thought about. I'm currently writing a book (and substack series) on rock and roll mainly from the 60s. I love art and history and great stories of all kinds, I hate nostalgia and people clinging to the good ol' days. And I'm not yet sure if this discussion and its many facets are making me feel better or worse about my prospects. But thanks anyway!