The Nitty Gritty

But more than all of those I am an entertainer. I carry around a ukulele with me for the same reason a gangster carries a gun; better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Stage or sidewalk, Your Pal Pete shows are just where they happen.
Currently, I'm working on a musical, RagnaPOP(or she's got the bomb), set to premiere at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. I'm also working on music, comedy, and musical comedy; for kids and/or adults.
The fruit of these projects will be available on this site, so check back regularly!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Madonna-Indie Rocker?:How The Music Industry Screwed Itself

It was big news (to me)that Madonna recently dropped her record company in favor of a promotion company following similar moves by Nine Inch Nails and Oasis. I admit that all three have past their commercial peak long ago, but Radiohead still has a sizable loyal following and has gone around their record company to offer their record online for a price of the downloaders choosing. It's a interesting experiment, and it's likely to have one result: they'll make more money doing it like this than if they released it through their record company. In fact, if someone pays more than $1.50 for it, Radiohead makes more than if you paid full price at your local retailer. Maybe.

I realize that calling Madonna an indie rocker is similar to calling George Lucas an indie filmmaker; true in definition, if not in spirit.

In a system first developed to take advantage of musicians eager for stardom at the dawn of the rock and roll era, artists are responsible for paying back all costs involved with the recording and promotion of an album to their record company before they make a cent, everything down to the gold records. Some of the most biggest artists make make all their money from touring and merchandise, those expensive videos take their toll.

With all of the old school major labels getting stuck together into unwieldy monsters, highlighting to problems that occur when art meets the bottom line. Old school majors certainly had their problems, but it was more a game of blackjack; you win some, you lose some, but overall hopefully you'll come out ahead. Now it's more like playing slots; they throw money that they made from the last flash-in-the-pan to find the next one. Even if -as an artist- you get some glimmer of success, the slightest downturn in your popularity will leave you persona non grata at your label, and damaged goods to any other label.
It's telling that major labels are requiring new artists to give them a piece of their touring and merchandise money too.
Then came the internet and downloading;it takes away one of the biggest advantages being on a major label, distribution. Downloading democratizes distribution so that even someone who records music in his bedroom (me, for example) can use the same channels as the biggest multi-national conglomerate to get their music out into the world.

What else could the majors offer, promotion? Tons of indie artists, like Arcade Fire, The Shins or The New Pornographers make appearances on TV shows that used to be the domain of major label artists.

Someone once said, "The future belongs to those who see it coming" and clearly the major labels didn't. They tried to stop an unstoppable technology;regardless of what ever copy protection they use, someone could just plug their CD player in to the audio jack of their computer to create mp3s. It's what I refer to as "the Pandora effect": when something as revolutionary as downloading pops out of the box, it does no use trying to fight it directly, you adjust or die.

I remember something that was printed on a lot of records and tapes in the Eighties, "Home Taping is killing music" that wasn't true then, and the whining about downloading killing it is wrong too. Music can't die but poorly run companies drunk on their own ego can.

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