Continuing about the business of music

Continuing the discussion from How badly do streaming services rip off musicians? A chart, updated:

Not to speak for @clifyt but…

How do you think this is possible? Please tell me how you think your idea works here?

“You can lead a horse to water …”

And not to be rude but there you are outside the industry believing a lot of mythology that naiveté in musicians is something precious for musicians and that labels are mustache twirling bad guys. That mythology is popular and it sells, articles which push that draw ads to eyeballs.

Have you ever signed an employment contract of any kind or any contract for work for hire? Did you read it? Did you question any of the points or ask for any changes? What makes you think the situation were talking about is any different at all?

Two people with very different experience in different parts of the music business have been telling you their experience but its looking like you don’t believe either me or @clifyt at all.

I don’t mean any of the above as personal insults, I just don’t get your resistance to the experience of others on this.

Seems obvious really. The honor is going to the person/band not the label.

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BTW – I stealth edited my last post because I didn’t have time to finish it with the autoclosing!

In this case, if it can be a promo to sell the album…they are up to it. If they are already losing money…nope. There are prestige works that labels want simply to bring in other artists even if they aren’t actually profitable themselves. It is rare for a label to want to lose money unless it is a part of the long game.

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Why I had to spawn a new topic.

Same for most kinds of business, no?

In her defense, she’s just been subject to a kind of propaganda with an easy narrative. FFS, look how many people now believe the “musicians can earn only be touring and merch sales” narrative. Its two sides of the same dice, people outside the industry wanting to peddle stories about the industry without ever having any experience themselves, constructing a narrative around what they heard or misheard elsewhere.

Its kind of natural for people who’ve never been inside of something to enjoy robin hood sort of narratives like the Albini story after all.

Steve Albini – “If an album takes more than a week to make, someone’s fucking up”

Also Steve Albini – Give me $100,000 to record this album that will take a week. Take it or leave it but these are my terms because I don’t listen to corporate fascists.

More Steve Albini – What? I would have made at least $500k for that week if not many times over this amount??? Fuck the music industry for ripping me off. I DESERVE TO BE MAKING A HALF MILLION FOR 7 DAYS OF WORK!!! I guess I’m going to have to have a Big Black reunion.

The man has made millions of dollars and is not tied to any label. And he still finds ways to complain that he was ripped off. Go figure. Even the album he took $100k for lead to him being booked at these rated for several years straight and purposely turning down much bigger projects because of his ego. I get it. musicians have big egos. But he still nurses the wounds of being ripped off by forcing a label to his demands and nothing more.

He’s hardly the first prima donna to demand that he work on his terms and his terms alone.

Until I met my now-husband, I knew only a few things about being a working musician and the music industry:

  1. There was no difference between the two
  2. Only one in a million acts got a label deal
  3. They (the one in a million) got rich

Then I met this guy in the mid-90s who owned a recording studio in Cleveland and played drums in an art-rock band. Once I got over the shock of finding out there were lots of recording studio in Cleveland and that the owner of one wanted to date me, I got to learn a lot of weird truths by seeing the recording industry (different from the music industry, or from being a working musician) from the inside.
The music industry lives in New York City and Los Angeles, whereas the recording industry exists everywhere bands can afford it, even in these times of technology. Bands (or their loved ones) will go into debt to have a record made. Most of them will never even get a label A&R guy to listen to 30 seconds of their release. The major labels also live in NYC & LA, although dozens of independent labels live in places like Cleveland. They serve the same functions, on much smaller margins and corporate profits. Working musicians are not the same as the bands doing recordings, because the bands played out once every month or three, and the working musicians played out four nights a week, in bar bands and wedding bands, and taught music or repaired instruments during the day. They were not union members, because of the you’ve gotta play union gigs to be a union member catch-22.
The moral of the story for me was that my mother was right, only one in a million gets to be a star, but they didn’t always get (or stay) rich. She was wrong that musicians can’t make a living doing music, and it’s probably easier to do it in a place like Cleveland than NYC.

Now songwriting? That’s a whole 'nother thing, and where the money is, long-term.


No, but he has made a name for himself blaming others for his decision after they capitulated to his terms. I mean, he was a seasoned businessman and had been in the music industry for a decade. But he likes to pretend he has been taken advantage of…all the while pretending he is doing this for others.

Personally, I’d love to have someone rent my time for $100k a week. That is what? $5.3M a year at his hourly rate?

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You live in Cleveland. There are at least 60 full-time members of that symphony all making over $100k a year.

You also have a music school there…I’m certain that there is a large overlap there. And where ever an orchestra is, there are a number of luthiers that exist to keep these instruments up and running within the community. I know one guy that pretty much keeps busy just restringing bows. You’d never even know these people exist if you weren’t clued to the symphonic world.

People want to be stars. They forget that there are people just making a living. Cleveland has a lot of opportunities for music. Probably a lot more than people think it does.


For what it’s worth, I spent a good seven or eight years working in the industry, having helped build one of the largest music distribution sites and working as their designer; when iTunes was all about individual song and album sales, I knew a lot of indie artists who made quite a nice living off of digital distribution alone. When you could make about .65 per song sold, some cheap promotion via YouTube & Facebook (and, cripes, MySpace) could give you a serviceable career as a musician.

Streaming earns bands far, far less per song, but also greatly increases their potential reach. But many indie musicians have definitely found that making a living now requires more live shows, more merch sales, and most importantly, more licensing sales.


Wow. Okay. I guess I’m out.


I mean you aren’t too far off, but I don’t think being a purposeful idiot is a protected class.

If that’s what you think I’m arguing, than okay.

Hope you have a great rest of the day.


It is at least arguable that this is not intrinsically either bad or unfair. For a related example, I don’t think that Disney Corp should be able to continue indefinitely extending the terms of copyright, nor that family of significant authors should continue to reap a decent income (and control a slice of culture) years after death. It’s kind of an accident of history and technology that musicians were able - at least for a while in the mid-to-late 20th Century - to “make quite a nice living” by recording something once then endlessly reselling it.


Sure, to be totally clear, I’m not saying that the overall move to streaming is a bad thing for musicians, though they should absolutely be paid more per play. Making a living as a musician evolves and changes as technology does; I was in a band before iTunes was a thing, and peddling CDs at shows (usually playing for drinks) and hoping some record company rep would show up and magically sign you to a fat contract was the way the industry went. Frankly, @marence is correct in saying that if you can hack it, songwriting is the real way musicians can make a living, not being paid per stream.


I replied to @nungesser, @clifyt and @marence but it got eaten. Unfortunately due to serious insomnia lately (haven’t slept in over 24hrs) I can’t remember what I said so I’ll just say thanks!

This has always been the key. Songwriters are the ones that win in the recorded world. Musicians win in the performance world.

And if you are lucky, you can do both. As I had mentioned in the other thread, I personally only ever toured to be around other musicians, and to be able to collaborate in our time off because it was the most receptive time to write. Still paid far better than my day job where I have two grad degrees today and both are used intensively by requirement.

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