Monday, July 3, 2017

How Much Do You Love Music?

If you are a music lover, I encourage you to give this article a thoughtful read: Donald Fagen of Steely Dan -- a band that never liked touring to begin with -- says that since album sales have plummeted in recent years, the only way for him to make a living is by touring. Now you can pick apart the motives of a man whose net worth is reportedly $30 million, and say he’s just being greedy, and he should pull back on (what you assume to be) his extravagant lifestyle ... whatever. But please don’t get distracted from what I am trying to tell you. IF YOU LOVE MUSIC, PLEASE THINK ABOUT HOW YOU SUPPORT THE MUSICIANS WHO MAKE MUSIC. I can’t say it any plainer than that. We all have our reasons for not purchasing music any more. The old wax cylinders of yore gave way to 78s, which gave way to LPs, which gave way to CDs. And on the “tape” side, the bulky reel-to-reel gave way to 8-tracks, which gave way to cassettes, and now “nobody” listens to taped music any more. All those cylinders and tapes and records and CDs amount to clutter. And we have so much clutter in our lives. Believe me, I get it. So here we are, in the digital age, where we can purchase downloads and store them right on our computers/tablets/phones/iPods. No clutter! But wait! There’s an even better option: streaming services like Spotify. Spotify works great for you. For $9.99 you can access a music library that is much more vast than anything you could possibly afford to amass on your own. I get it. Believe me, I understand. I just want to make sure that you understand how this affects the people who make the music you love. Let’s say a “paid listen” pays a penny. (That’s about what I see on my own music, and my company gets all that a paid listen yields; an artist who’s under contract to a label therefore makes even less.) To offset $10,000 in recording costs, an artist needs a million paid listens of that recording. One million. That’s a lotta listens. If, on the other hand, a digital download of the album costs $9.99 (which is pretty standard), the artist needs “only” to sell a thousand digital albums to recoup $10,000 in recording costs. And we’re only talking about recouping costs, not actually earning any money. So you can see how the day may come when you don’t get as much new music any more, because musicians -- especially “indie” musicians -- simply can’t afford to deliver that new music to you. I am definitely NOT whining or asking for sympathy. I am not asking you to take on the burden of supporting a bunch of musicians by buying CDs that clutter up your house, or by buying digital downloads of music that you fear you’ll listen to only occasionally. I just want to make sure you understand what’s happening. Rest assured, people who have a gift and a passion for making music will always find a way ... though right now I don’t have a clue what that way is. But you definitely want to think about this the next time you borrow a CD from a friend and download the music to your own computer. You definitely want to think about this when you freely share MP3s on the internet. You may want to think about this when you keep scouring the internet looking for that perfect streaming service that has a million-song library and is completely free to listen to. I understand that you’re doing it because you love music. I just want you to understand that you may be killing the very thing that you love.