The Business Of Making Music

Gang of Four performs “To Hell With Poverty” on UK TV in 1981:

Dave Allen of Gang of Four believes that the set of challenges today’s musicians face is the “same as it ever was except for the Internet part”:

At music conferences over the years, I have heard the refrain that musicians should be able to make a middle-class income and should be provided with health insurance. But really? I mean, so should migrant workers toiling in Oregon’s fruit farms. When one starts out, as did I with Gang of Four, the last thing on your mind is getting a decent salary or enough to pay the rent. That comes later, when you enter the “business of making music for sale.” I feel like music has come full circle—it was always hard to make a dime, income very rarely came from record sales, and touring was the holy grail. So now, with the level playing field called the Internet, there is an added dimension to the possibility of making a buck, by using the platforms to extend awareness of your music, to sell directly to fans, to make fans aware of your gigs, etc, etc.

In short: own your own copyrights. Work hard. Play shows. Engage your fans via the Internet. Same as it ever was except for the Internet part.

Now, Rick Moody has called me a closet libertarian because of my attitude as outlined above, but I don’t see any other way. The positive viable future … is now upon us and it looks like the atomization through music-streaming services, a cultural shift by young people to renting, not owning, their music, and demanding access to it easily and cheaply, if not free. Yet, still, there are plenty of people out there who fully support music and musicians and who will happily pay to see them perform, buy their T-shirts, their downloads. But I sense that this is the “tactile generation” that doesn’t see the Internet as a replacement for books or vinyl records. As Sol Lewitt put it: “Every generation renews itself in its own way; there’s always a reaction against whatever is standard.” And Rishad Tobaccowala said: “The future does not fit in the containers of the past.”

Recent Dish on the music industry here, here, and here.