The Death of the Music Industry

The music industry as a whole has been in desperately terrible shape for some time now. I think you could probably blame the 1980’s and that whole era of crapulence, but it might be impossible to pin down the exact moment that this lumbering giant started it’s slow decent in to the pit of image over function. Whatever started it, it would appear that the end of the “big label” is quickly coming to an end, and I’d like to think that I can explain to you why, and how truly thankful I really am that this industry is going to implode.

First of all, let’s talk about modern times. Let’s look at the very thing that the music industry is blaming for the decline in record sales; downloading music!! You do it, I do it, and I am going to guess that your dad does it too. Well, how else is he going to get his mitts on a copy of Golden Earring’s “greatest hits”? Anyway, the point is that downloading music has had ZERO effect on the music industry in a negative way*. The fact of the matter is that the labels are SCARED that people will hear the absolute TRIPE that they are demanding that their artists put out, and in return, no one will buy the disks. It’s a valid fear; I would challenge you to find ten CD’s that have been put out in the last year by the major labels that contain more than one or two decent songs. And at the end of the day, those people don’t want you to know that you are shitting SEVENTEEN dollars down your leg by purchasing a musical abortion. Their hope is that everyone buys the disk the MINUTE that it comes out so that no one has time to listen to it and tell their friends not to waste ONE LOWLY DOLLAR on an album that you wouldn’t break in half and slit your own wrists with.

Secondly, when was the last time that someone came out with a song that didn’t sound like it was written by a troop of two year old, autistic chimps? Can I quote some Nickelback lyrics for you? Thanks:

I like your pants around your feet
And I like the dirt that’s on your knees
And I like the way you still say please
While you’re looking up at me
You’re like my favourite damn disease*

I’m sorry? What? Is this what people are passing off as lyrics these days? Now, this shit might fly when played at the local school for the deaf and rhythmically challenged, but I HOPE that the average person is insulted when this garbage flows in to their speakers. I like to pretend that people are OUTRAGED when some redneck uses monosyllabic words to describe receiving fellatio from his dentally handicapped mother. I like to imagine a world where NO ONE buys this disk and then the guys from Nickelback go into some sort of weird early retirement as gladiators, forced to fight lions and tigers to the death, armed only with nerf baseball bats and their “ROCK n ROLL ‘tude”. But I guess my dreams are all I have for now.

Finally, I put some of the blame on the consumer. Yes, you. If there weren’t people outside record stores, waiting in the rain for the newest Shaggy release to come out, then I suppose the companies would stop writing them checks and allowing them to make “music”. Whether the average consumer puts together that the music industry is pure business or not is beyond me. Most people I talk to seem to think that success is marked by the pure numbers of disk that you can sell, not the quality of the art that is created. If it’s strictly a numbers game, then doesn’t that put the Backstreet Boys and *N’Sync up there as some of the “greatest artists of all time”? How many people threw twenty bucks in to the shitter by adding that “soundtrack to the end of the world” to their collection? 2.4 million in a week*. TWO POINT FOUR FUCKING MILLION PEOPLE IN A WEEK. You mean we have people STARVING TO DEATH in the streets, but 2.4 million people can shell out a crispy, new Andrew Jackson for a disk of songs performed by guys that can’t even tune a fucking guitar? You people have NO shame.

So what am I saying? Am I saying that music is dying? Am I saying that no one will release any more disks? No, I think you will find that the major labels are going to dry up and blow away like so much rancid dog shit, and the Indie labels are going to push through even harder now. I am saying that you should pay attention to labels like Trustkill, Solidstate, Rhymesayers, Def Jux and Victory records. The bands that deserve the attention will eventually find a way to get the attention. I keep hoping for a repeat of the early 1990’s. I keep hoping that some little band on a little label will come along and kick the music industry in it’s collective balls and give the music back to the artists; Not people named Ludakris, Nelly or Scott Stapp.

13 thoughts on “The Death of the Music Industry”

  1. Nice article Tommy. You bring up a lot of good points, but I don’t think the blame lies with major labels. While they are responsible for 90% of the crap on the radio/mtv, there are quite a few great bands who are on major labels. Thrice, Thursday, AFI, Poison the Well, and Avenged Sevenfold come to mind. Of course, they don’t get the airplay that a band like Nickelback does, and the main reason the majors scooped them up is because that’s what seems to be “in” right now. They don’t care that those bands have crazy amounts of talent.

    It brings to mind an interview with Nick 13 from Tiger Army that I recently read. He commented on the younger generation and the music they buy into…”it’s not their fault that they’re growing up in a time when they’re less likely to be exposed to anything cool.” I personally try to respect other peoples musical preferences, because I definitely have some of my own that I catch a lot of flack for. But in general, kids(or people in general) are going to buy into what is “cool” at the moment because that’s all they’re seeing and hearing. It’s plastered all over the radio and mtv and most of them are too lazy to seek out good music past those outlets. Either that or they just don’t care to and are content in listening to what MTV tells them is good. Honestly, without the internet, God knows what I would be listening to.

    In closing, I knew what I wanted to say when I started writing this. But I don’t know if I made much sense out of it.

  2. I agree with you Aaron, but to a point.

    Keep in mind that things like payola are supposed to be illegal. You aren’t supposed to be able to pay radio stations to play your stuff.

    So, as a way to get around this, the radio stations have started hiring people to go pay radio stations to play songs. Or, as was the case with Avril Lavigne’s last single, they paid the radio stations “commercial rates” to play the song as a commercial, though no advertisements were actually played.

    I read somewhere, and I will track it down here in a bit, that pink’s label paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in california alone to get the stations to play her song.

    And since Clear Channel owns pretty much every radio station in every single major market, plus the venues, THEY decide who gets the play based on who kicks them the most cash.

    OK, so maybe I didn’t disagree with you at all. Heh…thanks either way.

  3. I really enjoyed that, it’s an issue that is overlooked so often,

    The internet certainly isn’t to blame for any negativity in the music industry, i was a hardcore pop music fan (if there is such a thing) but when i got the internet (and more importantly Napster) i could sample different genres of music that i’d never pay good money for without knowing if it was good first, like rap and metal etc,

    I admit i download alot of MP3 music but i find a band i really like and own alot of MP3s from that abdn i always buy the albums, like HIM and Killswitch Engage and many more,

    At the end of the day you can only blame the consumer, if we didn’t buy it simply wouldn’t continue, simple as!

    Good article Tommy, look forward to your next outing!

  4. Nice article, Tommy…And while Thursday, Thrice, AFI are on majors (Ax7 are on Hopeless Recs. which I didn’t think was a major), they are low sellers compared to the mainstream artists. While you may think they are attempting to cash in on what’s “cool”, to me it is a desperate attempt to find the next big sound or the next “grunge”-type movement…Which, in turn, is kinda the same thing. I doubt we’ll see any huge sellers in the rock/hard rock/metal/alt. arena anymore…The grunge explosiong was a death knell to the spandex clad sounds of the 80’s, no doubt. But, in a sense, it, along with the technological advancements of time and the product driven nature of big business (pushing us musical crap, destroyed any hope of a mass audience collectively finding the next big thing together. Now, each true music lover finds the next big thing for themselves and tries to get their friends into it as well. You may see small insurgences, but they will be a far cry from what it used to be. I mean, really, what bands in the rock/metal genre is a household name these days? Surely not Thrice, Thursday, AFI or Avenged Sevenfold. Everyone knows Nirvana, Metallica, et al. I can only speak from a metal music perspective…But, what is being referred to as “The Next Wave of American Heavy Metal” is being spearheaded by bands selling in the 100-300K’s. While I’m not saying numbers equals “success” or “talent”..in the majors driven music biz it does signal new trends or what may become “the next big thing” and with those figures the next big thing won’t be found…All in all, the way I see it, it’s a lot better now, at least to those music fans who search out their desires. With the bands staying a bit smaller, the chance to develop a greater connection with the music is possible. Bands in smaller clubs where fans can interact, band members interacting on their websites to talk to fans and get their viewpoint, in store appearances, etc. It all makes the work the artists create much more heartfelt when the fan can connect on more than one level…which to me, is the best thing about presenting your art to people.

  5. Actually, Avenged Sevenfold WERE on Hopeless. They signed to Warner Bros Records back in November.

  6. Haha…Thanks, I totally stand corrected…I was just looking at the CD case. Otherwise, I still stand by my comments, lol.

    Sorry for the mistake.

  7. Nice points of view with the music industry but for me it’s all about being able to understand what the song is saying and if the music is tight and well produced more than likely I”ll give it a chance?.And I think there was some pretty decent music in the 80’s.And the nickelback lyrics..he’s talking bout a hooker bro,probably a real life experience.lol Congrats on the job!

  8. Dan,

    I think you missed the point…it isn’t the subject matter that the problem with bands like Nickelback, it’s the delivery. The lyrics are anything but poetic…there’s no art in it. Bands like Nickelback write to the lowest common denominator, pushing this crap to the public. If you’re gonna write about hookers (or anything for that matter), at least TRY to make it somewhat lyrical and poetic. Nickelback has a history of crapass lyrics…But, it’s easy for the unwitting masses to soak up the stuff thats easy to understand and digest…lowest common denominator…who cares if it’s a true life story…it’s crappy lyrics. Which, in turn was a big problem in the 80’s and will continue to be so, as long as the public likes their music dumbd down…sad.

  9. wow, great article! I really like what you have to say and how you said it, very well written and put together peice!

    I think some of it comes off as a little over-dramatic and bitter… but then again I agree with you and I think you have a reason to feel that way and i know that you are definately not alone.

    I do think you place a lot of the blame on artists (some of whom definately suck) and not enought on the corporation. The sad truth is that for many years bands have been switching from indie’s to major labels because there is more money to be had and more oppertunity to get your music out there. Unfortunately that ususally means some sacrifices on the part of the band. Even non-indie bands sometimes get a bad wrap. Nickleback for example… at least they play their instruments and some of thier songs are halfway decent, but the record companies basically tell bands what they can and cannot do, if something wont sell well then they send it off to the writers and to production etc etc. Bands that have few options and many temptations virtually sign thier lives away to these corporations that know NOTHING about music but a hell of a lot about business.

    But I think your right, the labels are starting to falter, and I hope and pray that this means thier ultimate demise. But who knows, it seems that corruption and greed are the way of any industry in a capitalist country. We have yet to find a way around it. I could be that the only reason indie stays indie and prideful with a following is because there is something to unite against. I hope I am wrong, because god knows I would love to see that day.

    also, I know you mentioned singles in a way and the lack of quality of albums as a whole. but I really think it is important to talk about LIVE music as well, because that is a branch of the industry all to itself and that is where most of the money is made. Artist sing a few good hits and a bunch of crap covered up with fancy light cues and carefully choreographed dance moves and they make 40-100 bucks a seat. I think that is obscene. And what is even more obscene is the infrequency of big name artists touring. If you are a musician you should have to WORK YOUR ASS OFF for the insane amount of money you make. I firmly believe that music should be about the expereice as well as the at home, digital value.

    i would love to see a follow up peice on the live aspect of the music industry and your thoughts on its own little revolution!!

    sorry so long, I would just like to say in closing: in the words of NOFX: “Dinosaurs will surely die and I do believe no one will cry, I’m just glad I’m gonna be here to watch the fall”

  10. “Dinosaurs will surely die and I do believe no one will cry, I’m just FUCKING glad I’m gonna be here to watch the fall”

    Sorry, had to add that. That’s one of my favorite NOFX songs.

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