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Have Your Say: A Response To Audio Pro International’s ‘The Public Misconception Of The Music Industry’

Hit The Floor contributors respond to the great Music Industry Misconception debate published by Audio Pro International!

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Recently at Hit The Floor Magazine, we were made aware of a particular article that was published by Ben Hammond of Audio Pro International entitled ‘The Public Misconception Of The Music Industry‘.

The article expressed and voiced concerns and doubts over the current state of the music industry. Such topics in the article included criticisms over the digital distribution market and illegal downloading, the frustrating reality of making money as a live band, and everything else from management deals to PR companies.
Without giving too much away, it was a topic which seemed to have struck a nerve with a mass portion of music industry insiders such as Duff McKagen (ex-Guns ‘N’ Roses), and members or crew members of bands such as Deaf Havana, Dragonforce, Thin Lizzy, Saxon, and Killswitch Engage, in a follow up response article which you can read here.

So in turn, some members here at Hit The Floor Magazine were somewhat inspired to write our replies and follow up and chime in on the great white hot debate that was set the music industry on fire recently, as well as bring up any other public misconceptions that may not have been voiced.

JAMES PAUL MATTHEWS – HTF WRITER & COLUMNIST FOR PIPEBOMBS & TOMFOOLERY

Not in such a long time since the days of when I was still back in University doing my music business lessons (many a moon ago), have I read an article that pretty much hit the nail on the head. I can pretty much nod my head in agreement to every single detail that Ben Hammond wrote in regards to his brilliantly written article through Audio Pro International!

Myself being involved in many aspects of the music industry for the best part of 13 odd years now, I have had the opportunity to see for myself the many different vast avenues and areas of the industry in which how it works, what areas of the industry make the most money, and who to trust / not to trust. All in all, the industry as a whole is a very cut throat civilisation to which it seems to have taken a significant transition in operation, attitude, and direction over the past few decades.

Coming from an era which championed the usage of vinyls, cassettes, and CD’s, it was a lot easier for bands to actually make money and for their record labels to gain a significant amount of financial revenue through the medium of physical product distribution in terms of purchasing an artists music. Since the inception of the digital age of the music industry, everything changed forever.

For example, this article published from The Quietus back in 2011 was the last very interesting read I managed to have a look at in terms of how the music industry is becoming its own worst enemy, but blaming the fans. Whilst of course bands could argue that being in a band is in fact a ‘business’ (which it is), the fans are just as much to blame for their lack of financial income as anyone else. This can be true, but it was not the fans who necessarily created this digital monster in the first place. It was the music industry that created it, but they are now too afraid to kill it.

Whilst admittedly digital marketing is revolutionary, and it also gives the music fans a lot more control in what they purchase / illegally download, there are of course the obvious drawbacks which lead to mass uploading of copyrighted content, P2P networking (which in some people’s eyes is absolutely immoral, others a blessing), and of course with the Internet being the most advanced digital tool in the world, it is now easier than ever to make a name for yourself as an artist / musician. But inevitably, it is now harder than ever to actually achieve any sort of success. I personally remember a real interesting short documentary on MTV about how hip-hop artists pretty much live a lie in their image and lifestyle, and about how the industry incorporates their advances so that the artist is not making hardly any living at all. The only way an artist can truly be successful is by taking on entrepeneureal businesses and enterprises on top of their music.

What the public does not realise is that the industry itself is somewhat of a shapeshifting, creative and financial chameleon. An industry that adapts (and at times refuses) to the ever changing pop culture and social climate. However with the current global financial situation as well, it has inevitably taken its strain on the industry as a whole… and by the looks of it, there also seems to be a resurgence in physical product as well! Only recently was it reported that vinyl sales are now at their highest peak in 15 years, according to a recent report by BPI.

I think the overall way you can look at a situation like this depends on your outlook of the industry as a whole, and if you are more inclined to an old school way of thinking, or whether you are willing to adapt to the current methods of progress in order to make it in this industry. However as far as the public is concerned, musicians will inevitably see them as merely but a favourable niche market to which they graciously make their living. I do believe that some artists should in fact teach their audience more about how the industry works, and how it affects them as the consumer, to raise awareness on not just an artist / audience level, but to bring the audience in to their world slightly, in hope that they can actually create a better artistic and personal understanding.

AARON GOLDEN – HTF WRITER

X Factor, Samples and Covers :

Nearly every year without fail since the advent of the X Factor it seems to be grabbing the number one spot in the charts (apart from the year Rage Against The Machine won). Why is this? Surely if a band/singer is at the top of the charts that means they are the best right? Nope, this is sadly a big misconception of the music industry, that commercial success equates to skilfully crafted music, this should be the case but sadly is not.

I’m not saying all chart music is bad but there’s a hell of a lot of it that knows on name alone of an artist it can recycle ten year old samples and beats in a lazy and simplistic mix that most of its fans will not even realise where the bits and pieces were taken from like some kind of thief’s jigsaw puzzle. Do not get me wrong, when things are remixed or sampled well they can work but more often than not the entire song relies on a sample rather than just using it sparingly and more effectively to maintain some kind of originality- this leads to a subsequent misconception that there is ‘an awesome new track’ that is totally original. Examples of this are the Amen Beat from the song ‘Amen Brother’, which is arguably the most reused and under credited sample of all time. The Winstons died broke and penniless as their beat was used ubiquitously throughout hip hop songs such as NWA’s ‘Straight Outta Compton’, using early samplers. Check out the video link here.

Another big misconception worth a mention is that big artists cannot possibly cover smaller artists songs, it MUST have been the other way around. This one comes to mind as I frequently have to prove to people that it was intact Johnny Cash who covered Nine Inch Nail’s ‘Hurt’ as his last song and not the other way around.

SKYE PORTMAN – HTF PHOTOGRAPHER & CONTRIBUTOR

Television hypes a nobody into a somebody, with channels that rely on audience voting and A&R executives (such as Simon Cowell) who are the puppet master’s that can give guidance and mass media attention though as sugar coated as it sounds, it’s damaging what use to be a thriving music scene with nothing but sheer talent with own lyrics and instrumental abilities.  Laziness has reached the generic pop scene to find a talent that can provide fast sales and all round positive image.

The pop act is dominant, with its history of The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Blondie, Gwen Stefani, Elton John (I don’t wish to carry on, it all goes downhill from here!)  Pop stars shelf life is limiting; constantly shaping to fit the needs of specific age groups with style and genre taken into consideration to fit the already pre-made mould.  As each year goes by more restrictions are placed with finances becoming finer each day to due illegal download and biased views of what listeners would rather ‘want’ than what they really ‘need’.  

For example, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus have similarities in terms of how they wear very little, sing about the same subjects with a standard tempo beat. They have the looks, voice and tendency to rely on others to write songs in order to sell their image and vocal talent.  Their success lies heavily on their image (and without sound too much like a feminist) a voyeurism to appeal to a broader audience.  Would they be as successful if they dressed like Dame Edna on a lazy Sunday in each pop video? I think not.  Even a solo artist after a break up from a band (Ronan Keating or Shane Filan, yes I went there!) have the ideology to sing about girls, have a music video where nothing happens, just lots of long legged models with their latest endorsement hanging off them.     

I’ve met my fair share of musicians who have the capability to be the next Adele, Bruce Springsteen or Cyndi Lauper but because the artist(s) are driven by their own beliefs and passion, their own life span consists of show’s in small venue’s with little or no money behind them to fund tours, merchandise, in many cases, the dream have to unfortunately die.  This is not their fault, the blame should be held heavily amongst the tycoons. 

Capitalists are only interested in the perception of what sells visually and with a narrow mind combined with their own dreams of materialism; moving away from conventions that the industry churns out for profit, it would seem inconsiderate for them to try something new as revenue would be lost.

Success stories are rare, I’ve been part of the industry photographing and reviewing musicians for over five years and the term ‘snakes’ is mentioned a lot.  The true meaning of music has lost its way not due to the talent, but the guys on the top who have the money and work for worldwide music groups. A musician can be the most talented person vocally and instrumentally but without a sellable image (or a brand new makeover – Susan Boyle) the industry won’t see a future because you cannot become a commodity.

The industry is a damned place and it seems with pop acts the less motivation a musician has the better.  It gives the puppeteers control and dominance over their ‘commodity’.  Take Jessie J, shaving her hair for charity, it’s noble to raise money for charity but wasn’t it a coincidence her album was soon to be released?  Even ‘Price Tag’ worked a treat at the Olympics being sung in a Rolls Royce.

Essentially, the music industry wants commodities and if you aren’t willing to conform, you best take the exit door!

NICK VAUGHAN – HTF WRITER

Having been a gigging and recording musician for a little over ten years now, Audio Pro International’s article on the state of today’s music industry resonated with me a great deal. This idea that the music industry provides artists with a lucrative career as they make mega bucks is a prevalent one. Artists can be seen in the media splashing the cash on extravagant nights out; expensive cars and giving guided tours of their enormous mansions on MTV cribs. As a result, the public remains blissfully unaware of the arduous process of creating art. 

The truth is of course that, for most bands, the task of creating a product that is fit for public consumption is a tricky one. People that know me as a musician often say to me that it must be wonderful to just turn up to a venue, play and get paid for it. I have to stop myself from laughing as of course they have not seen the time that I have spent loading, setting up and packing down. They also haven’t seen the hours of work and the thousands of pounds of investment that has gone on behind the scenes. If they knew all of this they would see that the after the amount of time spent and the money that I have earned through such gigs, I barely break even. 

What is most worrying though is that people steal games and films online every day, yet games and films still top the entertainments charts above music. This can only mean then that the public is stealing a much greater amount of music than anything else. Music has therefore become the most bizarre commodity; it’s consumed on a massive scale, permeating almost every aspect of our lives but yet it is completely worthless. 

I cannot provide an answer for the way out of this situation but it seems that the solution may begin with a shift in the public’s perception of music creation and this needs to happen soon. I totally agree with the comments of Audio Pro International’s Ben Hammond: The industry is in trouble and is being overtaken by giant novelty productions such as the X factor. However, we have seen the ‘power of the people’ as protest purchases of Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name Of robbed the X Factor of their usual Christmas number 1. It is clear that the public has the power in saving the industry and indeed in saving themselves from an increasingly bland output from an industry that may one day – if things continue in this way – become extinct.

So on that note, what do you guys think about the original article that this response was based on? Industry insider or not, leave your thoughts in the comment box below, or go check out our pals in Audio Pro International, and leave your thoughts in the article linked at the top of the page!

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