Why Musicians are Killing The Music Industry
So I’ve been reading a number of articles posted over the past week addressing the demise of the music industry as we know it, with much of the blame being placed on unethical young people who steal music regularly, and are totally ok with it. See A Letter To Emily White At NPR, among many. And while I agree that this is, indeed, a very concerning issue – would the majority of these young people walk into a music store and brazenly start sticking CD’s down their pants? Probably not! – I want to address a point that has, at least from what I can tell, gone unnoticed until now.
The most deeply disturbing part of this ongoing debate about how to fix the music industry – Streaming? Good or bad? Giving away songs for free? Good or bad? – is the responses by the musicians themselves, namely the “independent” musicians who keep saying things like (Disclaimer: all of the statements below are paraphrased in order to not call anyone out specifically)
“Those musicians who are worried about getting paid are just in it for the money. A REAL musician does it because they love it, not because of the money”.
“I make music for me, because I love it. If I need to do it to make money, that trivializes and cheapens the thing that I love.”
My response: Oh, so we should only get paid for doing things we hate? That’s a crummy life! Also, that implies that things done from love have no intrinsic value. That’s a crummy world!
“People can listen to my music for free all they want. I mean, I can’t stop them! Guess I’ll just have to go on tour or something.”
My response: Given that logic, you should also play your shows for free. Also, you should give away any CD’s that you press for free as well!
I don’t think that musicians’ unwillingness to stand up for the value of what they have produced is cool, noble, or indie; I think it is sad. I feel bad for those who don’t value their own efforts, the skills they have built, the beautiful art that they have to bring to the world. I think that collectively, if all musicians were to demand that they be fairly compensated for what they have been produced, the music industry could turn around. It would HAVE TO. Unfortunately, we have too many musicians with this perspective, and not enough people really clamoring for change.
I just spent quite a bit of money recording my first album; I am really proud of it and I want to share it with the world. But I DON’T want to give it to the world for free. Why? The world doesn’t own my music, any more than the world owns all of the clothing in Banana Republic. Banana Republic owns the clothing in its stores; I own the music I have made. It is my property; I created it, I sang it, I paid for the production. It is mine. Plus, I invested in myself! I want to get back my investment! Is that bad? Should I be judged for this?
Those musicians who just want to give it away – what are you seeking to prove? That you love music more than I do, just because you’re willing to give it away? I don’t think that proves anything other than you are not a good business man/woman, or perhaps that, underneath it all, you’re too afraid to see what your music is worth. What if no one WANTS to pay for it? What if no one else finds it valuable?
I’m afraid of that too, frankly, but at least I’m willing to ask the question – does anyone think my music is worth it? Guess I’ll find out. The musicians who give it all away never will.