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  • Don Henley on the state of "THe Biz"...

    TO BIG COMPANIES, IT'S JUST A COMMODITY

    By Don Henley


    When I started in the music business, music was important and vital to
    our culture. Artists connected with their fans. Record labels signed
    cutting-edge artists, and FM radio offered an incredible variety of
    music. Music touched fans in a unique and personal way. Our culture was
    enriched and the music business was healthy and strong.

    That's all changed.

    Today the music business is in crisis. Sales have decreased between 20
    and 30 percent over the past three years. Record labels are suing
    children for using unauthorized peer-to-peer file-sharing systems. Only a
    few artists ever hear their music on the radio, yet radio networks are
    battling Congress over ownership restrictions. Independent music stores
    are closing at an unprecedented pace. And the artists seem to be at odds
    with just about everyone -- even the fans.

    Contrary to conventional wisdom, the root problem is not the artists,
    the fans or even new Internet technology. The problem is the music
    industry itself. It's systemic. The industry, which was once composed of
    hundreds of big and small record labels, is now controlled by just a
    handful of unregulated, multinational corporations determined to continue
    their mad rush toward further consolidation and merger. Sony and BMG
    announced their agreement to merge in November, and EMI and Time Warner may
    not be far behind. The industry may soon be dominated by only three
    multinational corporations.

    The executives who run these corporations believe that music is solely
    a commodity. Unlike their predecessors, they fail to recognize that
    music is as much a vital art form and social barometer as it is a way to
    make a profit. At one time artists actually developed meaningful, even
    if strained, relationships with their record labels. This was possible
    because labels were relatively small and accessible, and they had an
    incentive to join with the artists in marketing their music. Today such a
    relationship is practically impossible.

    Labels no longer take risks by signing unique and important new
    artists, nor do they become partners with artists in the creation and
    promotion of the music. In the corporate world, music is generic. A major
    record label president confirmed this recently when he referred to artists
    as ``content providers.'' Would a major label sign Johnny Cash today? I
    doubt it.

    Radio stations used to be local and diverse. Deejays programmed their
    own shows and developed close relationships with artists. Today radio
    stations are centrally programmed by their corporate owners, and airplay
    is essentially bought rather than earned. The floodgates have opened
    for corporations to buy an almost unlimited number of radio stations, as
    well as concert venues and agencies. The delicate balance between
    artists and radio networks has been dramatically altered; networks can now,
    and often do, exert unprecedented pressure on artists. Whatever
    connection the artists had with their music on the airwaves is almost gone.

    Music stores used to be magical places offering wide variety. Today the
    three largest music retailers are Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Target. In
    those stores shelf space is limited, making it harder for new artists to
    emerge. Smaller, more personalized record stores are closing all over
    the country -- some because of rampant Internet piracy but many others
    because of competition from department stores that traditionally have no
    connection whatsoever with artists.

    Piracy is perhaps the most emotionally gut-wrenching problem facing
    artists. Artists like the idea of a new and better business model for the
    industry, but they cannot accept a business model that uses their music
    without authority or compensation. Suing kids is not what artists want,
    but many of them feel betrayed by fans who claim to love artists but
    still want their music free.

    The music industry must also take a large amount of blame for this
    piracy. Not only did the industry not address the issue sooner, it provided
    the Napster and Kazaa users with a convenient scapegoat. Many kids
    rationalize their ``free music'' habit by pointing out that only record
    labels are hurt -- that the labels don't pay the artists anyway. Though
    artists are at the bottom of the food chain, they are the ones hit
    hardest when sales take a nosedive and when the labels cut back on promotion,
    on signing new artists and on keeping artists with potential. Artists
    are clearly affected, yet because many listeners perceive the music
    business as being dominated by rich multinational corporations, the pain
    felt by the artist has no public face.

    Artists are finally realizing their predicament is no different from
    that of any other group with common economic and political interests.
    They can no longer just hope for change; they must fight for it.
    Washington is where artists must go to plead their case.

    So whether they are fighting against media and radio consolidation,
    fighting for fair recording contracts and corporate responsibility, or
    demanding that labels treat artists as partners and not as employees, the
    core message is the same: The artist must be allowed to join with the
    labels and must be treated in a fair and respectful manner. If the
    labels are not willing to voluntarily implement these changes, then the
    artists have no choice but to seek legislative and judicial solutions.
    Simply put, artists must regain control over their music.
    God(s) bless the rest of the world(s), too

  • #2
    Good read. I'd love to see the artists take control of music again because sadly, I'm not old enough to remember the "good old days". Unfortunately, I don't see it happening anytime soon. Greed is too powerful and big business runs Washington.

    Comment


    • #3
      Great article, and a good summary of the state of the industry . It makes me feel honored to be donating my time on college radio every week to offer the public REAL alternative, commercial-free programming. For perhaps the first time, it makes me feel happy that I have put together a studio out of my home which, through low rates and and my no-BS philosophy. offers independant working musicians an affordable place to record their art--to share their art with me and incorporate me as a part of it, so that I may assist in their desire to tell the corporate music world to GO **************** THEMSELVES

      Thanks for sharing, TAS!
      <div class="signaturecontainer">GuitarCenter sucks. <br />
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      • #4
        Thanks to The Powers That Be for public radio in general, and specifically for all the options I have here to listen to different public radio stations. If it wasn't for them, I would NEVER listen to radio at all.

        The music biz is in sad shape, indeed .

        Comment


        • #5
          Odd thing occurred to me while reading these posts,
          I'm not old enough to remember the good old days either !

          The music business is and always has been A BUSINESS !!!

          Managers ripping artists off, record companies always ripping artists off, a myriad of shady characters.

          It has always been had to get radio play and shelf space for new acts that no-one has ever heard of.

          So what is different today ?

          Nothing !!! The business cycle still works, companies and acts start small, get bigger and more profitable then become so big and entrenched that they are no longer able to change to different circumstances.
          So new companies and acts start up to fill the gaps that the big ones can't or won't fill, and so on ..... C'est la vie

          Don Henley- the times are a'changing but I don't think you want to

          Comment


          • #6
            This was posted in GJ last week. The ensuing argument was mostly based on the fact that Henley, although correct in his observations, has benefited greatly from the very thing he is now attacking and that others have pointed out the same problems already.
            I'm not really taking a stance here. But if anyone's interested in the debate it should be easy to find over in GJ. There were lots of good points made on both sides.
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            • #7
              I dunno about Henley, but IMO the problem isn't the change (I'd be worried if things weren't changing), the problem is that the changes taking place don't seem to be very prudent or pleasant...
              <div class="signaturecontainer">GuitarCenter sucks. <br />
              MusiciansFriend sucks. <br />
              This has been a public service message. </div>

              Comment


              • #8
                I think Henley points out a serious problem, and the potential for a worse one. Right now popular music is controlled by a very few huge corporations which are ill-equipped to sense new trends in what people want to hear, or to detect valid new music which may appeal to people even though it is different from their current model.

                What they are equipped to do is to dictate what people will be able to hear on the radio or tv, based on analysis of what has succeeded in the past (from a selection that was limited by similar thinking at that time).

                Right now, there are other ways for artists to succeed, outside the realm of the record companies. These involve sales of low-budget cds and self-marketing on the internet. When huge corporations, who are paying good money for "our" politicians in Washington, are being hurt by something (or think they are being hurt), that something had better duck and cover. Right now there is a whole lot of uncontrolled commerce going on over the internet, and a lot of things that don't meet "community standards". How long before the controls are voted in?

                Big corporations don't voluntarily give up market share - wouldn't be fair to the shareholders. So as the alternatives to big company control gain ground, if the mega-labels can't find a way to get their's, they will be out to thwart it one way or the other.

                What better target than that porn-flaunting, file-sharing, child-corrupting internet?
                No offense intended, but (see above) . . .

                Old is the new new.

                I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.
                -Dorothy Parker

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hmmm, I was the first to post to this thread and it has been removed. I wonder why?

                  Ooops, I ahh, eeerrr, I posted on the Acoustic forum. That's the first time I had this problem. Geez. I will sneak back to the hot tub and get a beer.
                  <div class="signaturecontainer">Food feeds the body<br />
                  Music feeds the soul</div>

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I may be missing something obvious, but is seems to me a large part of the problem with the napsters and kazaa's out there can be laid right at the greedy feet of the recording industry itself. They were in large part, the driving force behind the push towards digitizing music: much lower reproduction costs than vinyl. Oops, didn't see that PC in every home thing coming, I guess. Gonna have to find some way to address the problem, cause like so much else in the tech world, once the genie is out of the bottle, you can't get him back in.(of course, the simple, albeit maybe simplistic, solution is to go back to vinyl; digital piracy whithers and dies. Until everyone can afford analog to digital converters, and then...
                    <div class="signaturecontainer">You're not the boss of me!<br />
                    <br />
                    <br />
                    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br />
                    Originally posted by RG450 <br />
                    <br />
                    <br />
                    <br />
                    <br />
                    It's like ordering a pizza at Pizza hut and getting a dingo thrown at you. </div>

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      You know what I think?

                      I think that this problem with the music industry will continue to be a problem with the music industry until it becomes a problem with the motion picture industry.
                      When a major industry shift to commecial digital delivery of major motion pictures happens (and it WILL happen) and piracy of movies with big-budgets and high-paid actors starts to impact their salaries and movie house sales (which are already tanking), we MIGHT see a change in the entertainment biz as a whole.

                      But it's going to require a change of thought-and-practice from the top down; i.e. less bucks for the bigwigs/stars.
                      Big chance of THAT happening...

                      Last year almost every major theater chain (AMC, Mann, etc) was involved in bankruptcy legalities in an effort to stay afloat. DVD piracy is on the rise and studios (Warner/Universal/etc) are all not performing well finacially.

                      The entertainment world is changing and I don't think it's for the better.

                      My next prediction: the fall of major sports franchises due to overpaid athletes, managers and owners.
                      My name is Dave and I play guitar.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The times, they are achangin' . . .

                        You're right, Dave. Because the studios have such a large up-front investment in movies compared to cds, they will take piracy that much more seriously.

                        There is a good way for this all to evolve, but when powerful organizations have a vested interest in the status quo, there is no limit to the pain they will put the rest of us to in order to maintain it.

                        That's why we are dependant on oil right now. The auto industry has dragged its feet on alternative fuels, and actively quashed attempts to introduce them in the past. The government has not pushed to get more homes on solar power, or other alternatives. The people in control now are best served by things staying the same (other than a few dead soldiers) as long as possible. Who knows if GM and Ford continue to be the big boys when solar powered cars are in vogue? And vested interests are going to press for continued use of gas and oil to heat homes, as well.

                        The problem is things can't stay the same. Oil is a limited resource. Communication and information exchange is constantly improving - and in a digital format, music and video is just information, and difficult to protect from copying. There are those who say that it is impractical or impossible to control digital content.

                        When demands change, companies have traditionally adapted or gone under, but when a company is large enough, as these multi-nationals are, it can affect the natural course of commerce by exerting political pressure to resist change, or to change the rules for their own benefit. Our political system in the United States is set up to accomodate them.

                        It's strange, we always hear of the Anti-trust laws being held over the heads of sport teams which try to limit salaries or restrict entry into the leagues. But huge corporations hundreds of times the size of these leagues seem to be unaffected.

                        Weren't antitrust laws put into place to to benefit the consumer by promoting competition? Why then are they only used, it seems, to allow a tiny group of sports entertainers to pry the maximum dollar out of the hands of the owners of sports teams who are really in no way separate entities, but survive as part of a league, and who compete with each other only within agreed upon rules in a game they agree to play? The result of this application of the laws is that the consumer gets screwed in order to protect the imagined "rights" of millionaire athletes.

                        Well, I'm going a little off-topic here . . .
                        No offense intended, but (see above) . . .

                        Old is the new new.

                        I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.
                        -Dorothy Parker

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Nah, buddy, not really off topic at all because as you point out, the problems the recorded music industry is experiencing can be referenced and correlated to other major business. Besides, we're not tryin to change the world, I think we're all just trying to get a better handle on what exactly the situation involves. I for one welcome such discussions, as I know to a certainty that I get more reasoned discourse and intelligent analysis than in any major media outlet, not to mention there's pretty much no incentive for any of us to lie to each other about the knowledge we accrue.(simple minded indeed )
                          At any rate, do you think that the present situation may possibly encourage more live performance as, not only a way to reach the fans, but also as a means to earning for the performers. Maybe artists need to stop viewing the recording industry per se as the holy grail, and concentrate on performance. I realize the shift in perspective involved, but I have known a number of musicians in my life who made a pretty good living and raised families without ever selling a single recorded piece of music. Just a few thoughts...
                          <div class="signaturecontainer">You're not the boss of me!<br />
                          <br />
                          <br />
                          --------------------------------------------------------------------------------<br />
                          Originally posted by RG450 <br />
                          <br />
                          <br />
                          <br />
                          <br />
                          It's like ordering a pizza at Pizza hut and getting a dingo thrown at you. </div>

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by gtrdave
                            You know what I think?

                            I think that this problem with the music industry will continue to be a problem with the music industry until it becomes a problem with the motion picture industry.
                            When a major industry shift to commecial digital delivery of major motion pictures happens (and it WILL happen) and piracy of movies with big-budgets and high-paid actors starts to impact their salaries and movie house sales (which are already tanking), we MIGHT see a change in the entertainment biz as a whole.
                            But it's going to require a change of thought-and-practice from the top down; i.e. less bucks for the bigwigs/stars.
                            Big chance of THAT happening...

                            The entertainment world is changing and I don't think it's for the better.

                            Since the same corporations basically control the film and music industries, the problem does intertwine, yet there are some distinct dis-similarities. The SAG and AFTRA leadership has been up in arms over CGI for a decade...more so now that some films have seen theatrical release with CGI casts...and the technology improves by leaps and bounds every year. Who will cast Tom Hanks, Mel GIbson, Jim Carrey, Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, etal for $20 million a picture when they can produce an acceptable cast, and computer generate the entire film for the same $20 million? The craft unions are also very concerned with this...no human actors means no costumes, sets, lights, carpentry, food service, etc. will go the way of the kinetoscope*. This will occur in the next few years, mark my words!
                            The new 'money' names will not be the actors, but will eventually be the Writer/director/producer and animators...not that they will ever command the same level of 'stardom' accorded to actors. But they will be filmdoms bankable commodity, and will have more 'lasting' power. And the term 'content provider' will become the norm.
                            Fortunately for us, attempts at computer generated composition have proven to be pretty much unlistenable. So songwriters, at least, will still have a place...as 'content providers'...but any one who has a synth knows that eventually musicians will be relatively unneccesary...one guy and a keyboard can score an entire film...or generate an entire album, and here too the term 'content provider' will eventually be applied.

                            Corporate reality dictates that recognition of artistic ability and individual merit must be subverted, de-emphasized or eliminated altogether in order to homogenize product and market it to the lowest common denominator. The goal is to strive for mediocrity...because that is where the money is! Welcome to the new millenium...soylent green, anyone?


                            *A history lesson for those of you who didn't know: in the early days of live TV, they would film the shows off the tv 'program' monitor with a 'pull-down' camera {to match the different frames per second rate between a TV monitor and film} so that West Coast broadcasts and re-runs were possible of live programs...and why the re-runs usually looked so bad...
                            yes, I was there...I am sooooo old ...
                            actually I hold multiple degrees in Radio/Television/Film production and management...and I run a rubber dick factory for a living ...the similarities are endless, really!!!
                            _"We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties due to reality fluctuations. The elves are working tirelessly to patch the correct version of reality. Activities here have been temporarily disabled since the fundamentals of mathematics, physics and reason may be incomprehensible during this indeterminant period of instability. Normal service will be restored once we are certain as to what 'normal' is."

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                            • #15
                              You know, DM, with your education and background, you're a natural for the porn industry!

                              Something to consider . . .
                              No offense intended, but (see above) . . .

                              Old is the new new.

                              I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.
                              -Dorothy Parker

                              Comment



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