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How Amateurs Destroyed the Professional Music Business

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the music-outlives-business dept.

Music 617

David Gerard writes "Here in the future, musicians and record companies complain they can't make a living any more. The problem isn't piracy — it's competition. There is too much music and too many musicians, and the amateurs are often good enough for the public. This is healthy for culture, not so much for aesthetics, and terrible for musicians. There are bands who would have trouble playing a police siren in tune, who download a cracked copy of Cubase — you know how much musicians pirate their software, VSTs and sample packs, right? — and tap in every note. There are people like me who do this. A two-hundred-quid laptop with LMMS and I suddenly have better studio equipment than I could have hired for $100/hour thirty years ago. You can do better with a proper engineer in a proper studio, but you don’t have to. And whenever quality competes with convenience, convenience wins every time. You can protest that your music is a finely-prepared steak cooked by sheer genius, and be quite correct in this, and you have trouble paying for your kitchen, your restaurant, your cow."

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How is this news? (5, Insightful)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about a year ago | (#44850985)

People prefer a $1 McDouble over a $15 premium burger. The public chose VHS over Betamax. "Good enough" is good enough.

Re:How is this news? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851007)

Beta took two tapes to hold a movie, while VHS took one, this was significant. The quality difference when hooked up to old TV sets via RF was negligible. If I recall, Beta machines were more expensive as well. At the time, VHS was a better choice for most people.

Re:How is this news? (2, Insightful)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about a year ago | (#44851091)

EXACTLY my point. Quality be damned

Re:How is this news? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851157)

I think his point was that VHS was practically better quality given the conditions. Betamax couldn't deliver on its strength due to TV sets not allowing it, meaning it could only expose its weaknesses.

Re:How is this news? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851199)

EXACTLY my point. Quality be damned

Not even remotely your point, which is wrong to boot. Betamax didn't deliver a better viewing experience: having to swap tapes during a movie destroys the immersion. A slightly better picture doesn't make up for this, and certainly can't justify the price.

Re:How is this news? (4, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about a year ago | (#44851227)

Forcing viewers to interrupt the experience of a movie because they have to get up and change a tape is not "quality".

Re:How is this news? (5, Insightful)

SerpentMage (13390) | about a year ago | (#44851443)

Well, sorry I don't think it is about quality.

Let me illustrate. So I have a burger, and I serve it to people. One costs 1 dollar and another costs 10 dollars. Does the 10 dollar burger have better quality?

It reminds me of the movie "The Devil Wears Prada". Remember the scene with the "blue" belt? What people are doing is splitting hairs. Google essentially killed my profession (being quite serious here), but I am not complaining because I use Google as well. What the Internet has done is forced musicians to say, "oh wait I am not worth 10 gazillion dollars?"

This is what the Internet is doing namely reassessing what you are actually worth. I don't think this is bad because this is what happens all the time. It is called free market economics, capitalism, the invisible hand, what have you. So if somebody complains I say, "suck it up daisy!" Move on and figure it out. Ask yourself the following. When cars began to overtake horses do you want to be a buggy whip manufacturer or car mechanic?

Re:How is this news? (4, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#44851177)

Likewise, the $100/hour studio's extra quality doesn't help when some moron will crank all the knobs to 11 and compress it to hell to produce the master. Then it will be played through cheap earbuds. Now that DIY recording is becoming practical, the old way isn't looking so good. It can produce better results but typically doesn't even though it always costs more.

Re:How is this news? (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44851349)

Likewise, the $100/hour studio's extra quality doesn't help when some moron will crank all the knobs to 11 and compress it to hell to produce the master. Then it will be played through cheap earbuds. Now that DIY recording is becoming practical, the old way isn't looking so good. It can produce better results but typically doesn't even though it always costs more.

The fact that you can produce mediocre quality in his bedroom using digital equipment does not mean the death of quality.

The cost of a quality piece of music, simply means that someone with a better understanding of the process, and slightly better tools, and a desire to produce a quality product, will take the time to do so. But that doesn't mean a full recording studio, 47 musicians, 5 bodies in the control room.

It means one or two dedicated people using slightly (and I do means SLIGHTLY) better computers with more skill will still find enough of a market for their recordings or appearances to pay their bills, and stay in business, long after the crap churning artists move on to day jobs. A few will find success in music, but most will take up farming (or whatever).

This is an age old story:
Just look at the crapbands you knew in high school, annoying the neighbors practicing in their garage every Saturday. If you are like most people you don't know a single one of these clowns that even bothers to pick up an instrument today. They were never good enough to bother listening to. Even the vocalists sucked.

Perhaps Artists will appear on stage with boat load of synthesizers and stacks of keyboards, and (hopefully) not a real instrument anywhere in sight. You won't be able to tell if you are hearing a recording or they are playing any of it live, and you probably won't care. Tangerine Dream made a lot of money in appearances with seldom a real instrument appearing on the stage.

Re:How is this news? (4, Insightful)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#44851401)

This already happens. Deadmau5 has confessed he basically shows up, presses "play" and dances a lot. (no cite readily to hand, sorry)

Re:How is this news? (2)

ClickOnThis (137803) | about a year ago | (#44851431)

Beta took two tapes to hold a movie, while VHS took one, this was significant.

What? I had a Betamax machine, and rented full-length movies for it all the time. And the movies were each on one cassette, except for extremely long ones (over 3 hours) that came on two tapes for both formats, to avoid compromises in quality from slower playback speed.

Both Beta and VHS cassettes were available in many lengths. The medium to longer ones in both formats were able to hold a 2- or 3-hour movie, even at the fastest playback speeds.

Re:How is this news? (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about a year ago | (#44851473)

Beta max was okay with movies. It failed on the 8 hour Mini Series. (truly a random event- we don't have 8 hour mini series any more and we didn't have them just a few years before video recording machines).

L-830 300 min (5 h)

For movies you could use L500 or L750 or lower the quality and use an L370 (and at lower quality, it was still very good compared to VHS.

And you are correct, VHS was cheaper per machine (due to the larger market providing economies of scale).
.

Re:How is this news? (2)

msobkow (48369) | about a year ago | (#44851089)

If "good enough" were the rule for music, local indie bands would have far bigger followings than they do.

The majority of people don't just want "good enough" music -- they want a "name brand." So they can "look cool" by listening to them.

Re:How is this news? (2)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about a year ago | (#44851107)

Local indie bands tend to suck. If they don't, they succeed like Tool has.

Re:How is this news? (5, Interesting)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#44851215)

Professional recording artists sell fuck-all these days. In the UK: in 1983, Red Guitars got to #8 in the indie charts with 60,000 sales of "Good Technology". In 2013, Rihanna has a mainstream number one album with under 10,000 sales [digitalspy.co.uk] .

The important thing to remember is that "pop music" is not actually all that popular. It's mostly a way to get publicity for your live shows and yourself as a celebrity - buy yourself onto the iTunes top 40. You've never heard of half these people because they are not actually popular.

Re:How is this news? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851371)

Professional recording artists sell fuck-all these days. In the UK: in 1983, Red Guitars got to #8 in the indie charts with 60,000 sales of "Good Technology". In 2013, Rihanna has a mainstream number one album with under 10,000 sales [digitalspy.co.uk].

Really? And yet Rihanna is at the same time breaking sales records [officialcharts.com] with the 10.4m from one single alone, making it the 10th biggest seller of all time, up there with Abba, Bowie, Queen and Paul McCartney. At the same time, I have no idea who Rihanna is. It would appear that exactly the opposite of your point is true, and that you've fallen for hollywood accounting of "conventional" sales.

Re:How is this news? (1)

msobkow (48369) | about a year ago | (#44851403)

198,000 copies in the first week alone in the US doesn't seem that bad to me.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk_That_Talk [wikipedia.org]

Just because the UK doesn't like to pay for music doesn't mean it's a failure.

Re:How is this news? (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44851419)

The majority of people don't just want "good enough" music -- they want a "name brand." So they can "look cool" by listening to them.

Really? How do you "look cool" listening to something on earbuds?

You can't possibly "look cool" by listening to something unless you are inflicting your tastes on others, because in the earbud world, nobody knows if your listening to a pod cast, or Beethoven, or some indie band, or just have the ear buds in so that you don't have to talk to the morons sitting beside you on the plane.

You might look cool leaving your vinyl collection or CD stack laying around, but nobody is going to browse your smartphone and cast judgement.
 

Re:How is this news? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851099)

People prefer a $1 McDouble over a $15 premium burger. The public chose VHS over Betamax. "Good enough" is good enough.

People that value their health don't eat at McDonald's or buy premium burgers. They eat among other thing steaks. Maybe a 10-15$ steak. But a steak trumps any kind of burger you can think about.
Seriously go eat at McDonald's/Burger Kings/etc/.. as some kind of last resort. Otherwise any other food option is better.

Re:How is this news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851139)

A steak is no more healthy than a hamburger. Actually, it can be argued that a hamburger is a smarter choice of beef because its contents are consistent and measured where the contents of a steak can vary greatly

Re:How is this news? (1)

Yoda's Mum (608299) | about a year ago | (#44851169)

Never heard of a steak burger?

Re:How is this news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851181)

Exactly my thoughts.
I have actually gone hungry when the only alternative was a McD.
I ate at one once and it was tastless cardboard so I vowed never to set foot in one again.

Re:How is this news? (5, Funny)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44851255)

"I ate at one once and it was tastless cardboard so I vowed never to set foot in one again."

Shit. What the hell is happening to people these days? Does McDonalds really need to sell their burgers with instructions? You are supposed to open the friggin box, remove the contents, and just eat the contents for christ sake!

Re:How is this news? (1)

Soluzar (1957050) | about a year ago | (#44851365)

I would entirely agree with you that McD/BK are to be considered a food of last resort. In the last ten years I myself have only eaten a single item (which was awful, did not finish) from a Burger King restaurant, and nothing else from any similar chain fast food restaurant.

I do however believe that a better burger than you can get there exists, since I have eaten them on several occasions. Said burgers were not always beef, though they were red meat.

Re:How is this news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851385)

I'm quite confused by your implication that "professional" music is somehow automatically better than "amateur" or independent stuff. I've heard plenty of godawful music on FM radio.

Re:How is this news? (1)

the simurgh (1327825) | about a year ago | (#44851423)

would rather be executed than eat mcdonalds, now a hardee's spicy chicken sandwich is another story. refuse good enough and demand better

Music Industry (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44850995)

They have given us terrible artists for years, maybe they will finally go away...

Correct Answer (1)

turgid (580780) | about a year ago | (#44851129)

Thanks.

Good line (1)

H0p313ss (811249) | about a year ago | (#44851011)

whenever quality competes with convenience, convenience wins every time

And I shall steal it shamelessly .

Re:Good line (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851061)

Why steal when you can copy?

Re:Good line (5, Insightful)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44851133)

Shouldn't a quote at least be true to be good? Instances abound where people choose quality over convenience. If they didn't then there would be no option to by a quality burger. It would be "eat McDoubles or starve". Furthermore, the "professional" music business is full of incompetent hacks (as well as truly great musicians) and that is also true in the domain that he describes and implies is of lower quality. By his own admission you can get better quality of sound now with very inexpensive tools than you could get paying $1000.00 per hour in the 1970s. Yet, they made awesome music in the 70s. The difference is that in 1970 you only heard the music of a few, whereas now both high quality and lower quality music can proliferate with relative abandon. All you have to do is watch American Idiot to see that you can take a hack and add all the promotion and expensive tools in the world, and they are still a hack. Likewise, Stevie Ray Vaughn would blow your mind with a practice amp.

Re:Good line (1)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#44851225)

I stole it from Roughly Drafted [roughlydrafted.com] , but I don't orgasm at the sight of an Apple logo, so feel free to take it ;-)

RIP RIAA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851025)

and the amateurs are often good enough for the public.

The music industry has been making a fortune by using amateurs thanks to reality tv.

Besides, professional musicians are usually no better except their voice gets fed through some fancy equipment.

huh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851101)

A professional singer (you said musician, so I'm assuming singer since you are specifying voice) does not get their voice fed through some fancy equipment in the sense it's going to distort the whole signal into something it's not supposed to be. IE autotune or melodyne. That's why they call them professional singers - they are trained enough so that all they need is probably some compression an reverb - and that's it.

Yes, Amateur singers who one would assume are professional since they are in a major recording studio use the 'fancy equipment' , because they can't sing, voice sucks, have pitch problems, or other reasons.

However the article is citing music writing only I believe, not singing.

Re:huh? (1)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#44851249)

Yeah, LMMS doesn't come with an autotune plugin. It will in due course.

(I use LMMS as the example because it is not professional equipment - it is totally a toy. It literally doesn''t even have "undo". But I use and enjoy playing with it.)

Re:RIP RIAA (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851355)

professional musicians are usually no better...

No, professional musicians are almost always better. Unfortunately, they're rarely attractive enough to get record contracts. If you want to find professional musicians, look in symphonies, operas and musicals. Those guys can play/sing anything. Hell...look in the background of all those "talent" reality shows...they guys in the back playing the instruments for the talentless amateur that the judges fawn over are professional.

The music industry started its decline when they chose to promote attractive "artists" over talented artists. The advancement of technology in enabling amateurs is only the latest inevitable step in that decline.

"No, I don’t have a quick answer." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851031)

I have one - it's called playing live.

THAT will separate out the musicians from the hacks.

And it's been the trend for years - you make money on the performances; not the recordings.

THe Grateful Dead and Phish were Gods at this.

Re:"No, I don’t have a quick answer." (1)

reub2000 (705806) | about a year ago | (#44851211)

I guess you wouldn't like Bathory then, which is a shame.

Re:"No, I don’t have a quick answer." (2)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#44851261)

You might think that, but I mentioned the problem in the article for live musicians: in the '80s they were competing with boring television, now they're competing with an Internet full of ATTENTION GRABBING EVERYTHING. I wrote that bit from talking to musicians who can't even get decent pay for gigs any more and are wondering what the fuck happened.

sounds about right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851037)

except Payola, shit owned by major corporations is still constantly shoved down your throat and your WILLl hear it.

that's the difference - all these people in their mom and dad's basement will never have the likes of clearwater communications, the big 4, and many other things in the entertainment industry that "anoint" the next big star - even is their shit sucks

so what is the point of this article again? "professional" musicians create shitty music for shitty "artists" , and a "shitty musician" can create music for "shitty artists". So what? Someone, or some entity is still pulling the proverbial strings, and *THAT* is what should piss off "professional muscians"

Also... (5, Insightful)

joocemann (1273720) | about a year ago | (#44851055)

... one might note that the mainstream industry has very little appeal to people that are intellectual or at least deeply interested in the actual content of their music.

The mainstream studios that are cracking out 'hit' after 'hit' (aka: highly advertised until people like it) are producing basic melodies in C Major with 'artists' that cannot honestly perform well on stage and likely can't do their music well in a true LIVE setting.

The mainstream studios are facing REAL ARTISTS and losing. What should they expect? They think they can churn out half-assed simpleton music and not be out-competed by bedroom producers with less than 5 years experience? Please... Mainstream music is awfully easy to make. 2 or 3 basic chords. Very little elaboration or demonstration of musical mastery. Major key. Generalized/Simplified/Non-confrontational/obvious/regurgitated lyrics. Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus. Except you call the 'chorus' a "HOOK" now because it's usually very simple and has a catchy jingle.

Yeah. Lame.

Full disclosure: I've been a bedroom producer for 18 years now. I have a successful conscious hip hop crew and produce more complex and better music than most mainstream labels - check my sig. My emcees are more skilled than most of the latest studio-emcess, and they have great stage presence, and we have actual artistic/intelligent lyrics that have value beyond simple entertainment. I've been making music since before it was easy. MS-DOS was the OS when I started.

Re:Also... (2)

ArchieBunker (132337) | about a year ago | (#44851179)

Back before I bought satellite radio for both my vehicles I used to listen to regular radio and it was awful. Every new band they played followed the exact same format. They had one or two singles and then a ballad or much lighter song would get played. Then another single that was not as successful as the first and then they'd disappear.

Re:Also... (2)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#44851289)

Radio ... that's the thing you listen to in your car, right? When the MP3s on your phone are too varied.

Re:Also... (0)

themassiah (80330) | about a year ago | (#44851207)

One might also note that the mainstream industry makes orders of magnitude more money (a measure of success) than the "bedroom produced" music and talent scene that you belong to.

Re:Also... (3, Insightful)

NeoMorphy (576507) | about a year ago | (#44851463)

One might also note that the mainstream industry makes orders of magnitude more money (a measure of success) than the "bedroom produced" music and talent scene that you belong to.

By that logic, Budweiser makes the best beer and Microsoft makes the best OS?

Re:Also... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851245)

... one might note that the mainstream industry has very little appeal to people that are intellectual or at least deeply interested in the actual content of their music.

As has been true for the entire history of the music industry absent a few short-lived innovative movements that were quickly and summarily dismembered, regurgitated, and run into the ground by the big labels.

And what you're saying is really the opposite of what TFA contends, which is that the industry isn't dying because people can churn out better music than the big labels produce, but rather that Joe Blow in his bedroom can now churn out the same mediocre crap that the labels have always spoon fed to us. And believe me, the VAST majority of "bedroom producers" are producing music just as terrible as what you hear on top 40 radio.

Since the advent of pop music, intelligent, challenging music has always been a niche product compared to the crap that most people listen too. And that crap just keeps getting worse, since the record labels know that people want to hear loud, repetitive music that they can dance to. Melody, songwriting, feeling, and dynamics have all turned out to be dispensable. Of course, now that the downward trending quality curve and upward trending ease of entry curve have intersected, there is very little point to listening to big label music.

Of course the one thing the labels still do have going for them (and the reason I fundamentally disagree with this article) is that most people can't be bothered to even seek out crap, which is why they will continue to pay the big labels to spoon feed them.

Re:Also... (1)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#44851459)

Yep. Note also how fan fiction actually competes with what was the midlist of books. Fan fiction is laughed at for the hideous shit, but lots of it is passable quality if you like the characters, and it turns out the precious commodity is reader time and attention. So it plays out just like with music, except you need even less equipment. It's also totally a folk culture - the writers are the readers.

Re:Also...deflationary internet (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851451)

Well, in the early days, my band paid off two home mortgages by giving away terrible quality mp3's and asking for 10 bucks for a high quality CD - and we got lots of sales. Yes, we were good live and in our (homebuilt) analog, then digital studio. We had a decent following, and got an offer from Warners. Being engineers, a couple of us read the contract - no frigging way we'd sign that stupid thing. We had product *already* but they wanted to "front" us millions to remake it in their overpriced studios, cut a deal where we got a tiny fraction of any profit after all costs (mostly imaginary) by them were paid and so forth. While she's otherwise "out there" Courtney Love's rant on this is dead on - hollywood accounting isn't worth being on the wrong side of. My own book sold over 50k copies and they haven't paid me a dime yet - I know because it came with code, and my email was in the code. The book co claimed I sold negative numbers some months!

The internet is the most deflationary creation of all time. Back in the day, if you wanted music, you made your own, or watched one of the rare "artistes" touring your little settler town. Or you lived in one of the bigger cities in a pile of manure on the streets.

The record company model only lasted as long as artificial scarcity could be created. With the fact that it's now easier to be good at music (better gear, some stuff helps you "cheat"), and that now there's little if any scarcity - they lose, just like buggy whip/carriage makers. Good riddance, they were cheating all the actual workers all along, as Frank Zappa correctly stated.

Go see your local bands, and buy their CD's out of the back of the car if you like them. Better model, we'll get better music as a result anyway.

Did you know that if I want to hear say, the Berlin Philharmonic play say from 1950 or so - it's illegal? Not in print - but still in copyright. Making a copy, if I find one, is against the law, but I can't find anyone to pay to make it legal either. So those assholes have stolen our musical heritage for all time. Don't support them.

Deja Moo (4, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#44851063)

You can protest that your music is a finely-prepared steak cooked by sheer genius, and be quite correct in this, and you have trouble paying for your kitchen, your restaurant, your cow."

Sacred cows make the best hamburgers.

Re:Deja Moo (5, Funny)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about a year ago | (#44851285)

"Sacred cows make the best hamburgers."

That's a ridiculous statement. The ones I've seen can't even hold a spatula.

Re:Deja Moo (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about a year ago | (#44851287)

What's so funny about the truth? Any animal raised with love and respect beats the pants off of stressed animals.

Re:Deja Moo (1)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#44851299)

I'm annoyed Slashdot didn't use the quote about how everyone else is giving away zero-marginal-cost digital steaks, even if they’re actually reconstituted tofu or maybe poop.

Old Codger Reveals All (5, Insightful)

Yergle143 (848772) | about a year ago | (#44851071)

You reap what you sow...and what the record companies sowed were generations of unsophisticated listeners that don't know the difference between the popular artists and their next door neighbor and his robot. Musicianship, composition, pshaw. Drum machines and stored samples.
I don't care at all, there's plenty of vibrant and new alternative music -- that being jazz and classical and what's out in the World. Just look.

No wonder we have no [music] legends anymore... (1)

bogaboga (793279) | about a year ago | (#44851079)

Put another way, we have musicians who don't have a clue on how to play a musical instrument at all! Trouble is, they are still famous - for their voice I guess.

Re:No wonder we have no [music] legends anymore... (1)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#44851327)

Yeah, that's 'cos there's not enough free autotune plugins.

Re:No wonder we have no [music] legends anymore... (3, Insightful)

johanw (1001493) | about a year ago | (#44851337)

Of course we have - go listen to a classical concert and you see a lot of good, well trained musicians.

Cubase hasn't been cracked in 4-5 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851085)

We pirates can still choose from a variety of others Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software like FL Studio, Ableton Live, Samplitude, not to mention trackers like Renoise.

It sucks that the scene is dying though; there hasn't been a big release in years after H2O/AiR withered away.

Re:Cubase hasn't been cracked in 4-5 years (2)

Insomnium (1415023) | about a year ago | (#44851241)

Some of those high end daw software are extremely expensive. most "serious" amateurs either get a licence or get a cheaper daw like reaper. The whole article is a dud.

Re:Cubase hasn't been cracked in 4-5 years (1)

Insomnium (1415023) | about a year ago | (#44851251)

Also I would like to see any 200$ laptop with asio. anyone know any?

Re:Cubase hasn't been cracked in 4-5 years (1)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#44851305)

There's very little worth doing that you can't do with the older cracked version. ... so I hear.

The "professionals"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851095)

I thought it had been said that the pro bands made most of their money through concerts, merchandise, etc. The amateurs will never compete with that.

In every other profession, you can't perform work for a few weeks/months a year and then expect the cash to roll in until you die. So, try working for a living--perform in front of people.

And yet we have Kate Perry, Taylor Swift, etc.. (1)

JoeyRox (2711699) | about a year ago | (#44851097)

Left to its own devices the music industry will revert to the lowest common denominator in search of profit, with no-talent acts like Kate Perry, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift receiving the most production and marketing investments. Perhaps it's time for a more egalitarian approach to mainstream music, where talent rise to the top instead of the performer with the biggest boobs or prettiest face.

Re:And yet we have Kate Perry, Taylor Swift, etc.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851183)

Left to its own devices the music industry will revert to the lowest common denominator in search of profit, with no-talent acts like Kate Perry, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift receiving the most production and marketing investments. Perhaps it's time for a more egalitarian approach to mainstream music, where talent rise to the top instead of the performer with the biggest boobs or prettiest face.

Mass market music is not compatible with quality. And even in the rare cases when you have famous singers perform, studios generally fuck up completely the record. Take for instance Madonna, ok she's a pop singer but has manged to make a handful of very good musical albums. Now listen to the CD of Ray of Light. The CD is mastered so badly that you can't even enjoy listening to the music. No dynamic range at all. Pure loudness. Pure shit. It takes away the joy of listening to music albums.

Re:And yet we have Kate Perry, Taylor Swift, etc.. (2)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#44851335)

What you're missing is that the mainstream has never been about seeking out aesthetic quality. The driving force has always been to market things they know how to market. Weird shit can spend its time in the indie leagues, and we can pick it up later.

Auto tune works wonders (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851109)

Everybody uses auto tune these days, amateur and professional. It is not escaping live performances either. Add in lipsyncing and nobody can tell who has talent. And the public eats it up.

Middle Management not Musicians (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | about a year ago | (#44851113)

Its middle management that has always "Destroyed"(sic) the music business, at a casual glance at the charts, irrespective of your personal favourite decade and personal music snobbery. We have been selling groups on looks over talent since forever. This has not changed. I find it kind of insulting that the article lumps both musician and record companies together. With the record companies weakened it puts talent on equal par with whatever twerking child karaoke star of this week, and that is a good thing if they "work". There is no shortage of good live talent...the answer is always go see them, and can be pretty cheap, and will make for a better memory.

NONSENSE !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851117)

Can you shake your fat and make money ?? BeYawnSay can !! Can you get in a shoot out and get taken down by the man and make money ?? Name-A-Rapper (Icahnt) can !! You think that is easy ?? NONSENSE !! And no one pirates nothing !! It is just an assemblage of electrons in a particular pattern !! And electrons are FREE !! FREE as in shit at a Chinese yard sale !! Those Chinese have a LOT of shit !! And to throw it all against the wall // Rock and Roll can DIE, and has DIED // Neil !! Get over it !!

Studio 13.37 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851131)

That's why people buy Studio 13.37.

Studio 13.37 rules.

Re:Studio 13.37 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851149)

PS - the mainstream music industry is shit. And I can't wait for the entire thing to collapse.

Good riddance to the pros (5, Insightful)

John3 (85454) | about a year ago | (#44851143)

Professional musicians with record contracts use auto-tune tools all the time, so why can't amateur musicians have access to the same tools? I have no sympathy for the recorded music industry, they have been crooked since day one and reaped plenty of profits off the hard work of underpaid performers and songwriters. Live performance is even changing as performers can have their vocals corrected "on the fly" instead of trying to lip sync as marginally talented musicians did in the past. So the recorded music industry will go the way of the travel agency, which is just economic reality. The record industry was created to get music recorded and out to the people, and they are no longer needed. People will still find music they like, and performers will find ways to make money in local clubs until they build up a larger audience. Quality of the musical performance is not a requirement...look at The Sex Pistols or The Ramones. Interesting that as some industries (retail, banking) become more and more concentrated in the hands of fewer companies (Walmart, JP Morgan Chase) the music business is becoming more eclectic and wide open. Sure, the media companies have consolidated, but any kid with a PC and an internet connection can get his/her music to the world. Seems like progress to me.

Re:Good riddance to the pros (2)

CRCulver (715279) | about a year ago | (#44851267)

People will still find music they like, and performers will find ways to make money in local clubs until they build up a larger audience.

The problem with that model is that local clubs may be fewer and fewer. When many prefer to do all their art consumption in the privacy of their own home with an internet connection (and it's free), it's hard for live venues to compete. It is well-documented how the jazz club scene has been decimated in the last few years, and the same may apply for a significant slice of the popular music world. Of course the biggest acts will still fill large venues, but we'll lose a lot of the smaller venues for those musicians just starting out.

Free Market at Work (4, Insightful)

DanielRavenNest (107550) | about a year ago | (#44851145)

Being unable to make a living at something is the free market's way of telling you to find something else to do. Horse dung sweepers used to be a necessary job in cities before automobiles, now not so much. They either became machine street sweeper operators, or found a new job. If the same happens to mediocre musicians, so be it. The very good ones will still find work.

I notice that new artists like Lady Gaga have adopted the popular "freemium" business model. She has given away literally billions of views of her music videos, and collects the ad revenue that YouTube pays, but it's free to the audience. Then she sells a limited commodity - seats at live shows - at a premium. I do that too, give away basic content, charge for premium service.

Re:Free Market at Work (1)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#44851377)

I blame neoliberalism. Day jobs are fucking horrible these days too.

Terrible for musicians? (1)

misterpontificator (3085227) | about a year ago | (#44851151)

Terrible for musicians? Comparatively? There has never been a better time to make one's vocation music for the very reasons you have suggested (albeit it is as hard as it has ever been to get "big"). In the olden days many moons ago musicians (often) suffered in poverty until they caught a record deal - now they can develop from their bathroom, garage, (etc) and connect their music to any audience that is willing to listen to their music (or garbage).

Re:Terrible for musicians? (3, Informative)

bmo (77928) | about a year ago | (#44851449)

There has never been a better time to make one's vocation music for the very reasons you have suggested

To wit, click through to the end of this video (the video is pretty good too - it's one thing to cover a song, but it's completely another to make it yours). Nataly Dawn initially asked for $20K of donations for studio time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6Z7xceSLy4 [youtube.com]

Pomplamoose (Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn) being interviewed on the BIRN about how to make a living and other things.

Part one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fa3-SA9SvZ0 [youtube.com]
Part two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6a2jQ5zY94 [youtube.com]
Part three: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKLf3Bjn3v0 [youtube.com]

--
BMO

Paying for your cow? (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#44851187)

You can protest that your music is a finely-prepared steak cooked by sheer genius, and be quite correct in this, and you have trouble paying for your kitchen, your restaurant, your cow.

Well there's your problem. Stop calling your chef a cow.

Autotune (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851189)

Can make even the worst singers sound good. For proof, listen to Michael Jackson's Thriller.

The amateurs' job isn't done . . . until . . . (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#44851195)

. . . they have destroyed The Bieber.

Then the amateurs can roll out the "Mission Accomplished" banner on their aircraft carrier.

I propose an alternate title for this submission. (1)

TheBeardIsRed (695409) | about a year ago | (#44851197)

After reading through this gentleman's site, I think the post over here on /. should be renamed "Guy on internet who complains a lot complains about one more thing." Seriously, with gems like "I’m quite glad that radios in the workplace have largely been replaced by headphones." and subject's like "Talk to your children about their shitty taste in music." merely posting this over here is troll feeding. If we were to replace the summary as well I would do it with the classic "Old man yells at cloud" image.

Re:I propose an alternate title for this submissio (1)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#44851475)

I used to be a music journalist, so "Old man yells at cloud" describes my life pretty accurately.

This is the story for all kinds of art (4, Insightful)

bradley13 (1118935) | about a year ago | (#44851201)

Art makes a great hobby - zillions of people play music, write short stories, act in amateur theater groups, whatever. This is wonderful for culture. Frankly I often prefer a heartfelt amateur performance to an overly-polished professional group going through the motions of the same damn thing for the thousandth time.

My heart does not bleed for professional artists. Most of them need to get a real job to support their hobby, the same as the rest of us...

Re:This is the story for all kinds of art (5, Interesting)

MrBigInThePants (624986) | about a year ago | (#44851393)

Totally agree.

And add to that a previous article by a professional producer talking about how new bands get financially screwed by the industry and routinely make less than at a 711 on their first few tours...

What exactly are we supposed to be protecting here??

Exploitation? Slavery? Cult of personality? The needs of the few super stars to be filthy rich at the expense of the rest?

Please...

This is AWESOME and I have personally been wishing for it to happen for over a decade now.

Let the revolution begin. Only good will come of this.

Next step: KILL ITUNES!!

Right. (2)

Insomnium (1415023) | about a year ago | (#44851203)

This whole article is a troll/flamebait/clueless.

Cry me a river (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851231)

Fart apps vs quality apps. Software which crashes vs software which doesn't crash. Efficient web pages with minimal javascript vs bloated mess which needs a multicore machine to render an animation. Cheap cars vs expensive cars. Etc, etc. This is news?

no surprise (2)

kirthn (64001) | about a year ago | (#44851247)

same thing is happening with photography, websites building, graphic design, and so on...

Musicians are nobodies. Deal with it. (4, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | about a year ago | (#44851297)

For most of history, musicians were nobodies, ranking below, say, bartenders. For a brief period in history, from the early 1960s to the late 1980s, being a musician was a Big Deal. That's over. At peak, there were over 8 million bands on Myspace. Some of which didn't suck.

On top of that, music became automated. Between synthesizers and AutoTune, who needs musicianship? All those years of practice, and your job can be done by a box that costs a few hundred dollars.

Utter Nonsense! (2, Insightful)

unixfan (571579) | about a year ago | (#44851309)

The reason the music industry is in any kind of trouble is because of how the companies that control this industry are not, in effect, effectively growing the industry, mostly because of incompetence, not being artists themselves.

There are not enough artists in society.

Artists are the ones who dream the dreams that become tomorrows reality. Art is what lifts up your day and get you out of your troubles, etc.

When art degrades so does society.

The companies that run this industry are like vampires making money on artist's creations. (Part of it are our own fault since there is this popular consideration that if you are an artist you should suffer as that gives you more to "draw" from. Also nonsense, but so true to most of us that most makes sure they suffer. As a result they think that cannot properly and effectively handle themselves and that they let these companies control their output.)

The same companies are not only incompetent in many things, but helping artists grow strong is not on their agenda. Strong artists are a threat to them, rightly so given their criminal level of exchange.

If you wonder why any art form is suffering don't even think it's because of too much competition as that will never lead to a solution. Now if you don't want a solution then you should promote this idea that there is too much competition.

BTW, "just good enough", comes from the same companies. They are the ones releasing it.

As a note, which is known to established musicians, the only way to make money is to tour since the labels keep 90% of the profits.

Re:Utter Nonsense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851445)

Artists are the ones who dream the dreams that become tomorrows reality.

The 60s generation, full of artists and creative minds, went on to create reagonomics, the consumerist society, neoliberalism, financial bubbles, and so on. Their dreams have become a nightmare for their children to live in. Art does not always equal good.

misunderstanding (1)

Xicor (2738029) | about a year ago | (#44851323)

the problem is that older musicians signed all their money away to a record label in an age where distributing by yourself is free. because of this, those musicians are losing out to the musicians offering their songs for a dollar on itunes, because the record labels charge 15$ per album. eventually musicians will get with the times and realize they should just cut out the middle man.

The Great Filter (1)

jovius (974690) | about a year ago | (#44851347)

99% of music produced at any given time doesn't live to see the next decade or century. In the end the masters remain and their works become classics. There's been thousands of troubadours and composers, who never produced anything else than huge mass of light background music or cheap copies of the current major hits. All but few forgotten...

Because of the horizontalization (democratization?) of the field and the mass availability of music I'd argue that skills become increasingly appreciated. The open view to what everybody else is doing also acts as a catalyst of self improvement. Invention of computer graphics has not killed the field of visual artists and producers either.

What really skews the perceived reality of what's good and what's not is the marketing. Majority of population will always go with the easiest solution anyway. It's somewhat futile to wish that all of a sudden everybody becomes a connoisseur, because the genetics and biology can't be changed.

There's a documentary (free to download actually :)) which explores the subject: PressPausePlay [presspauseplay.com]

Musicians used to be right above Jesters (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#44851353)

Bravely bold Sir Robin
Rode forth from Camelot.
He was not afraid to die,
Oh brave Sir Robin.
He was not at all afraid
To be killed in nasty ways.
Brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin.

He was not in the least bit scared
To be mashed into a pulp.
Or to have his eyes gouged out,
And his elbows broken.
To have his kneecaps split
And his body burned away,
And his limbs all hacked and mangled
Brave Sir Robin.

His head smashed in
And his heart cut out
And his liver removed
And his bowls unplugged
And his nostrils raped
And his bottom burnt off
And his pen--

"That's... that's enough music for now lads,
*** there's dirty work afoot*** ???."

Brave Sir Robin ran away.
("No!")
Bravely ran away away.
("I didn't!")
When danger reared it's ugly head,
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
("no!")
Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
("I didn't!")
And gallantly he chickened out.

****Bravely**** taking ("I never did!") to his feet,
He beat a very brave retreat.
("all lies!")
Bravest of the braaaave, Sir Robin!
("I never!")

The Beauty of the Original Idea (5, Interesting)

MarkvW (1037596) | about a year ago | (#44851357)

A beautiful and raw original idea kicks the ass of a flawlessly executed banality.

Who cares if the music industry deflates? The "Rock Stars" are a study in decadence and greed and the "Music Industry" is a study in ruthlessness and greed.

Cubase, ProTools, Ableton . . .. The kids of today are going to lead us away from "computer music" into very new territory. Just imagine what Mozart could create if he had a decent music workstation!

The music industry (as it has been) would have us listening to stuff that was fresh forty years ago.

Sooner or later the kids are going to learn how to market themselves, just like they're mastering the new music creation tools.

I'll give up production values for originality any day.

And Nothing Of Value Was Lost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851375)

Don't let the door slam you in the ass on the way out, movie execs!

Re:And Nothing Of Value Was Lost (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851405)

Errrr ... music execs!

Bad for producers, great for music. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44851383)

I, for one, welcome these new developments. The more widely programs like these are made available to Joe Public, the more impressed they will be by real musicians with talent.

Truth (2)

HangingChad (677530) | about a year ago | (#44851417)

And whenever quality competes with convenience, convenience wins every time.

That's true in photography as well and, perhaps to a lesser extent, video. There is a certain quality that is "good enough" for human perception.

I can listen to MP3s from nearly ten years ago and they sound just fine to me. I can still use the same loops I was using in 2004 and they still work in songs today in the same mixing software.

The very reason amateurs can catch up to a big studio technologically is that there isn't as much obsolescence in audio. And why variations of the iPhone occupy the top three slots of the most popular cameras on Flickr.

It will be interesting to see if the video industry can push 4K. 2K and HD look just great projected on the big screen and 4K seems like the first upgrade for the sake of upgrading.

You don't even need a laptop.... (2)

lord_mike (567148) | about a year ago | (#44851429)

Garage Band on an iPad (or even an iPhone) is as good as $100/hr trip at the local recording studio. Heck, it's better than what you could get even 20 years ago, back when the only real home recording option was multitrack cassette tape. Technology improved enough in the 90's to allow home computers to do good multitrack recordings, and suddenly everything changed. Nowadays, you can whip up a quick demo on your iPhone without the need of any musical instruments, and it would be just as good as that $500 demo tape you had produced in the 1980's. A 10 year old can do it in no time at all and without any help. It's really amazing!

Isn't this exactly the history of musicians? (4, Insightful)

retroworks (652802) | about a year ago | (#44851457)

Except for a recent few decades, musicians have always struggled to make a living for precisely this reason. This "millionaire musician" has been a historical outlier, a quirk of physical media bottlenecks and copyright law. Music was not scaleable until the victrola came along, and then it became a business where 99% of the wealth was in the hands of 1% of the musicians, and now the pendulum is swinging back towards normal.
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