I caught this documentary the other day on IFC, “Before The Music Dies.” A doc about the current state of the music industry. As a musician and hard core music fan myself, it hit all the points I’ve been complaining about for many, many years, and specifically, the corporate takeover of all the major record labels, and radio stations.
I’m old enough to remember free form FM radio, that allowed the DJ’s to play just about anything they wanted to. Requests were taken and played. It was really pretty great. That would never happen today. The playlists on radio are now computer programmed, the DJ’s only role is to provide some local flavor so you know what town your in, because the music is exactly the same music, in exactly the same order, by exactly the same ten “artists” as in every single other city or town in the entire U.S. Thanks Clear Channel.
Same with record labels. All the majors are owned by 2 or 3 mega corporations. This is why you can’t go to a record store anymore. Downloading music didn’t kill Tower Records, the insatiable greed of Seagrams Corp did. (they own most of the major labels)
Why are we paying 16-20 dollars for a Cd in 2008? When they were first introduced in the early 80’s, they were $25, and at that time, it probably cost 5 or 6 bucks to make one. It costs a label pennies to produce one today, artwork, jewelcase, distribution and all. Artists get about 7-10% of physical sales. Recording costs today are nothing, I know, I’ve made three albums myself. The only realistically high cost is promotion, and the label recoups that money from the artists. $16-20 for a cd today is outright gouging, and everybody knows it, hence, goodbye Tower Records, hello downloading. The irony is, if someone downloads a song they like, they’ll be happy to go buy the cd, they just don’t want to pay $20 for it.
No more developing artists, it cuts into profit. If your first song is not a hit, your career is over. With todays major label attitude, we never would have gotten “Dark Side Of The Moon,” because Pink Floyd had a shitload of albums that tanked before it. Same with Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” or “Frampton Comes Alive” or anything by Springsteen, or Aerosmith, or Aretha Franklin or Marvin Gaye, Black Sabbath or Kiss. Well, we could have done without Kiss. But all these artists had albums that flopped before they found their voice and became huge sellers. How many Marvin Gayes are out there that we’ll never get to hear because they got dropped?
The music industry as we knew it is over, major labels are the Walmart of music now. Just the hits. In fact, practically the only place you can find cd’s now is Walmart. Radio is worthless.
In a way, it’s good, because the internet has made it possible to find new and interesting music again, but I feel like we’ve lost something. It’s insular now. I miss going into record stores and trying to figure out what I might like, hearing something cool being played in there, seeing stuff I never would have looked for and getting it before my friends. You had to put a little effort into it, as opposed to just typing in “Metal” or “Acid House.”
Anyway, here’s the trailer, but the trailer kind of sucks, the movie is way better than it looks in this. It’s probably available on Netflix.
Oh, and this movie features a guy that I had kind of forgotten about but used to love, Doyle Bramhall, so I immediately went and downloaded his stuff. He’s great, check him out if you like soulful, bluesy stuff with a hint of country and some kick ass guitar playing.