In the twenty first century music distribution and consumption has gone through changes that would have been unthinkable in the past. At the beginning of the last decade of the last century I remember saving money to be able to get my hands on a new record I had been waiting for months. There was no Spotify, there was no YouTube or Soundcloud, bands did not have websites where you could go and stream their music. Sure there were cassettes and we copied music from friends who had the original albums, but it was never quite the same for those of us who really were into music.
Recording industry has been an evolving thing as long as it has existed. It has also been a nasty business for a very long time. Artists in general have not been the most business oriented people in the past and there were people behind the scenes who injected the money in to new artists, but they made their investment back in bucket load. The ethical side of the business… well it did not exist. The music became profitable business as with sizeable injection of cash you could get a big profit in return. And guess what? the artist only saw a fraction of the profit.
Now many things have changed. In the late nineties and early parts of the last decade albums like Damien Rice’s O and David Gray’s White Ladder albums were a proof that studio quality albums could be done in a bedroom and could become successful. Then the physical packaging of our music went from a product into a device. For the general public music became something that we stored as a file in our computer, or a small portable mobile device. Something that would have been unheard of in the eighties when we were just introduced to walkman cassette players.
But that was not enough. The internet has almost taken over the music distribution completely. Yeah, people still buy CD’s and Vinyl, but that is only a fraction of the music consumed. Today in 2014 we consume more and more music from the streaming services. We have access to an endless amount of music, as long as we have access to the internet.
So I am asking you what is the value of music in our society today? It can make or break a movie or TV show, as much as the movie or TV show can make (or break) musician’s career. Music plays a very important part in advertising. But where does the artist stand?
The artist of today has to be a lot more business oriented, know the ins and outs of the industry. When Spotify came on the scene, I personally thought their pay model was never going to work. But now it seems that more and more independent artists are becoming successful with this platform.
Still without starting to moan about the hardship of an independent musician, I still ask what is the value of the music and what is the value of the artist? For the past 17 years live shows have been my bread and butter. Everything else is just an extra that goes directly into financing everything that enables me to be able to tour and perform live shows.
My problem here is not how the industry has changed, but how it has not! The musician is still the last person to get paid after everyone else in the industry. Most of the music I record these days, I don’t record because I think I can make money out of it, I record because I want to create music, I want to share it with the world and in many ways the new services in our industry, like Spotify, Soundcloud, YouTube and the likes allow me to do just that.
So for me as an artist, the value of the music for me is a lot more than the money and I don’t think the lack of money will ever stop me making music. So I will take care of the music, but will the music take care of me?
The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
To get three of his free songs go HERE and click Download