Artists Must Innovate (a response to David Byrne)

David Byrne posted an article today about his thoughts on the current state of music consumption and what that means for artists. In it, he talks about how music consumption is changing from a model where people buy music, either by way of physical media or downloads directly from the artist or via a third party, to a model where people use streaming services to listen to music. He’s mainly concerned with on-demand services, like Spotify or Rdio, rather than internet radio services, like Pandora. He discusses how little money artists/labels receive with each listen from these services, especially since they tend to offer a free, ad-supported option that does not require a subscription.

I can understand his frustration with this. However, his solution has nothing to do with the artists themselves, who continue to allow their music to be streamed via these services. His only solution is that these services must change their models. First, he says the services need to pay artists more. I’m not going to argue with that. He also says the services should drop their free, ad-supported option in favor of a Netflix-style monthly subscription. Heck, he even says they can offer a one-time fee for unlimited listening. I’m not going to argue with this, either. In fact, this would get consumers used to the fact that music is not free. It helps consumers understand that artists are trying to make a living off of it and not just give it away for free. I won’t argue that, either.

My argument is that Byrne ignores one important factor. Streaming services are here to stay, at least in the foreseeable future. They are businesses just like the artists who are trying to make a living off their art. Their goal is to make money, just like the artist’s goal is to make money. The streaming services make money off the service. The artists make it off the art. Byrne does artists a serious disservice by suggesting that the problem is the streaming services and the consumers rather than even hinting at the fact that an artist who wishes to make a living off their art is now a business. Unfortunately, many artists lack business and marketing skills. That’s the catch. That’s also why record labels exist. They provide those services to the artists, but it often comes with a major fee.

I fully understand and feel for artists trying to make a living off their art. The problem, however, is that Byrne should be encouraging artists to learn to market themselves. If you are trying to make a living with your art, you have become a business. You must adapt and come up with innovative methods to get your name out there and make money from your art. It is not up to the services you choose to allow to have access to your catalog to change their ways (as nice as it would be). In fact, I just read about this band who suggested all their fans play an album they “wrote” on Spotify on repeat while they sleep. The album is silent. They’re then using data retrieved from that to plan tour in the areas where they have the most listeners. They’re using the funds from Spotify to fund the tour of free concerts. Yes, you read that correctly. They are playing free concerts because of this. That’s pretty awesome. It’s also highly innovative.

If you’re going to sit there and whine and not innovate your business model, then you deserve whatever it is you get. As I said above, this is the reason major record labels exist – to handle the business and marketing stuff which artists tend not to know how to do themselves. If you want to remain independent, you gotta figure all that out on your own. It sucks, but that’s how any small business works.

We’re Back!

It’s been WAY WAY WAY too long since I last wrote something to put up here. After some malware infections and a really long hiatus, my site is back and you can expect some posts from me in the coming months. I’ve been keeping myself busy and a lot has changed since I last posted. Let’s see. Where should I start? Well, I’m divorced (or almost, there’s a waiting period before it becomes official). I’ve done quite a bit of traveling. In fact, you will likely see some posts about my 2013. Yes, that’s the entire year. It was quite the year for me. I went on a 3,000 mile road trip with my dog, Tela, down the Blue Ridge Parkway to Nashville and back by way of Durham, NC. I went on Phish summer and fall tours (21 shows total, 4 time zones, 9 states). I met an ex-girlfriend I hadn’t seen in 9 years, and she’s no longer an ex. I suffered a very serious back injury (that wasn’t caused by anything in particular other than a congenital issue that decided it was time to cause problems). I spent lots of time in physical therapy and possibly needing major back surgery… and now I don’t need surgery and I’m almost done with physical therapy. It was a good year for me. You can expect some posts on the year, including some excerpts from the journal I kept during the road trip.

Until then, feel free to peruse the site and check out some of the posts I’ve written.

Concerts, Original Setlists, and Phish…

There has been a lot of discussion recently about Phish and their recent performance at Bonnaroo. The complaint I’ve heard is that the music wasn’t very original, the guest performer sucked, and there were a lot of repeated songs from the previous 2 shows in Worcester.

I haven’t listened to their Bonnaroo sets. I attended the two shows in Worcester, but have yet to have time to listen to their sets from Tennessee. That said, Phish has traditionally taken on a different sort of vibe when playing at a music festival that is not their own. At their own festivals, the crowd is there to hear Phish. At a festival with many different acts, especially one as diverse as Bonnaroo, the crowd is there to hear all sorts of different acts. Phish has traditionally played a “festival set” at these types of festivals – that is, a set of “greatest hits” and standard songs. They keep it fun. They give people a little taste of what makes Phish who they are without overwhelming them.

Music festivals with many acts also allow the bands to collaborate. When Phish first played Bonnaroo in 2009, they had Bruce Springsteen join them on stage. By all accounts, it was a good time. This year, they were joined by Kenny Rogers. Also, by all accounts, a good time. While these sit ins may not produce the most spectacular music, mainly due to the little time available to practice together, they can produce a fun once in a lifetime experience for those in attendance. They can also fulfill dreams of those on stage by allowing the artist performing to invite their friends and influences to join them. This happened when Trey invited Bruce on stage in 2009.

When a band plays a concert, they play it for the people at the concert. Phish was playing for the crowd at Bonnaroo, which occurred 2 days after they played in Worcester on the last night of the four day festival. The vast majority of Phish fans in attendance at Bonnaroo were not at Worcester. Having repeated a lot of songs played at Worcester, those in attendance had not already heard them at the previous show. Phish is known for playing a completely different show each night. The Grateful Dead were also known for the same thing. However, the Grateful Dead also commonly played the same songs on multiple consecutive nights, sometimes at the same venue.

I think it’s time that Phish fans lose the chip on their shoulder and learn to just have a good time. If it’s fun, isn’t that really all you could ask for?


Super Ball IX

So as I mentioned in my last post, I attended Super Ball IX last weekend. It was Phish’s ninth festival and held at Watkins Glen International, the famous auto race track in Watkins Glen, NY that last held a music festival in 1973. The most amusing part of the whole thing is that the people from the area seemed worried that this festival would end up like that one, which saw 600,000 people show up to see the Grateful Dead, The Band, and The Allman Brothers play for a single day. There are plenty of in depth reviews of the music. I’ll just write about my experiences and some brief thoughts about the three shows Phish played over the weekend. Continue reading

I’ve been a bad blogger…

So I know I just posted my thoughts on Bethel. Most of it was already written, I just had to finish it up. Really, I should add some pics, but you can check my Flickr stream for the pics.

Anyway… next weekend, I’ll be headed to Watkins Glen, NY for Super Ball IX (that’s nine, not super ballix). It’s Phish’s 9th festival. I will definitely be reporting back from there… but probably not until after I return. And I hope (no promises here) that it won’t take me a month to post about it like it did my trip to Bethel.

Journey to the Holy Land

and by “Holy Land”, I mean Bethel, NY.

This past Memorial Day weekend, I traveled to Bethel, NY to see Phish play three nights at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Bethel Woods is located on the property that was once part of Max Yasgur’s farm, the piece of property where the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held in 1969. Visiting Bethel was like a pilgrimage for me, having been quite interested in Woodstock and the 60′s hippie culture since I was about 10 or 11. This post is mainly about my visit to the area, along with some pictures, and what it was like being there, and my thoughts on the venue. I will cover the three Phish shows in another post that will follow. Continue reading

Woodstock 2011?

OK, not really. But I am going to be spending this Memorial Day weekend at the site of the original 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Phish is playing 3 nights at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. It’s on the site of Woodstock. I, personally, am pretty pumped for it. I have been obsessed with Woodstock since I was a kid. I remember one of the first cassette tapes I bought was the Woodstock soundtrack. I think I was 10 or 11 at the time. I plan on visiting the museum there as well. Expect some reports of both the shows and the experience of visiting a place with such rich musical history.

Sugar Shack Porter

It’s been 2 weeks since I brewed my Sugar Shack Porter, my 8th batch of homebrew. It’s a maple porter, if you didn’t get the reference. I used a quart of Vermont Grade B syrup in the boil for this one. I just racked it to the secondary. After brewing, my original gravity came out 10 points high at 1.076. When I checked my gravity today, it was exactly what it was supposed to be at 1.019. Instead of being just over 6% ABV, it’s going to be about 7.5% ABV. I don’t have a problem with that. Continue reading

Waco or Wacko? You decide…

Came across this article about Bill Nye (remember him? The Science Guy) giving a presentation in Waco, TX about… you guessed it… science. I’m gonna start off by saying that, while I am not religious in any way (I consider myself a bitĀ atheistĀ and a bit agnostic), I have absolutely no problem with people who practice religion and actually believe what they practice… so long as they have some common sense about it. Heck, even the Catholic Church admitted that the story of the world being created in seven days wasn’t completely accurate, that the story is just a story to make a point and to explain something that couldn’t previously be explained. Continue reading