A Message For Musicians Who Live In The Real World. [Music Business Advice]
In 2014, fifteen years after the first warning signs heralding the now legendary decline of the recorded music industry, the blame throwing and endless infighting that centres around that most black hole-like of music industry topics – online file sharing – continues.
What cannot be argued, however, is the simple fact that what happened over the last decade and a half definitely happened. Now, it is time to either find a solution to the problem of making a living as a musician in the twenty first century, or continue looking backwards, missing new opportunities, and eventually succumbing to the musty bargain bins of cultural irrelevance.
A complete solution that is universally embraced and applied by the whole music business has yet to appear. And before we can hope to reach that point, we have to ask: Where do we start?
I would suggest that we begin by reminding ourselves of the following.
1) In a capitalist system (which, like it or not, is the system we live in), everybody needs money to survive. The more money one has, the less one is required to work endlessly at some detested task just to scrape by.
2) With more money comes more free time; for truly creative people (artists) that free time is, as mandated by unquestionable and unassailable internal laws, assigned to the creation of new works. The truly creative are limited primarily by the availability of two resources: Time, and money. A deep-rooted passion is all the motivation they need. Songs are written, albums recorded, books authored, and paintings painted during the free time made available by the availability of sufficient funds.
3) If an artist is able to make enough money from their work, they become the beneficiaries of a massively powerful feedback loop; they become able to dedicate their lives to their art. When this happens, the rest of us benefit too. More time means more books, more music, more art – and more art that fulfils its creators’ wildest ambitions. An artist needs time to dig deep, to search their soul, to dredge up things that will not be found floating on the surface.
4) When we experience the work of a great artist, we respond to that. Think of your favourite album, song, book, painting, or film. How do you feel?
Debates about the events of the past fifteen years continue to rage on, and they are unlikely to spontaneously self-extinguish any time soon. We can also safely bet that these debates will continue to become still more abstract, full of beard-stroking and migraine-inducingly overcomplicated philosophising, and ignore basic realities such as those stated above. But, happily, there are many musicians and other creatives who are more than willing to forge a fresh path through a new, modern reality.
These bands and artists are capable of communicating effectively with their own audiences, informing the world of the unglamorous nature of much creative work and reminding their fans of a much-ignored and forgotten truth: That musicians need money to live, just like everybody else, and by paying a band’s cause more than lip service we can all help fill the world of more of the music we love.
This communication is a great first step toward a better world for artists of all kinds, and by extension the rest of us – as fans and as human beings.
Since starting The Musical Melting Pot a year ago, few things have made me happier than discovering bands and artists who speak openly about the realities of forging a career in the modern music business. Such straightforward communication is a heartwarming sight – and yet, for the most part, it continues to go unnoticed and unappreciated.
So, if you are such a musician, or an industry insider who is working to make things better, kudos to you.
Don’t stop, and keep going.