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Chris Hollander

student researcher ,

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Shall We Pity the Entertainment Industry?

It may be hard to say yes or no, but what the SOPA debate and others like it have come down to is this:

1. The current media distribution model is not working for some companies.
2. They perceive their model as failing because of illegal acts.
3. These so called illegal acts are so pervasive that everyone and their brother has taken part of them on occasion, if not often, for almost a decade.

So do we then:
A. Ask the government to step in and help these companies implement their ideal business model with more crackdowns and legislation?
B. Allow the market, or some other force, to make these companies accept the current reality and either adjust and create a new model that is profitable or simply parish the way of the horse buggy and cassette tape?


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    Mar 17 2012: I worked in the music industry (as a sideman and having my own bands) for 30 years. We didn't have to write commercial jingles to get a record deal, but that's the only way bands get deals now. Check out the new pop/rock bands being signed to any bigger labels now and you'll see that it's on the coat tails of a song that'll be introed in a TV commercial before it ever gets officially released. The corporations that make stuff for younger people to buy are in charge of what you get to listen to for free on radio (unless you're into classic hits and CW), and that's because the only way that any label makes money now is by shopping songs to advertising firms for licensing deals.

    The other revenue streams are gone, so any band that doesn't have a song that seems like it can be shoehorned into a car commercial, a Target store commercial, an i-pad commercial, a feminine freshness commercial, or whatever is being sold by way of TV ads, may as well pack it in and get the members on their way to careers as insurance underwriters. Hell, freecreditscore.com even got a lousy pop band to directly shill for them with 30 second jingles that they lip sync right on the commercials. I bet those idiots think they're stars.

    Yeah, free music is great, but why would anyone with any integrity ever bother with what's become of that industry anymore. And if that carrot (being able to make a living) is gone, then what stick exists to force anyone to share their music with you? There is no stick to force them, so in the end, you lose. Take the carrot away, and what have you got? Free crap from attention-starved self-promoters who never would've made it past the 1st cut within a healthy music environment where serious people felt that an actual profession was possible. That's all gone now. It's just about selling cheap crap to people who sell cheap crap to everyone else. And that's at the very top of the industry. It's much more pathetic at the street level than even that.
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      Mar 17 2012: Kevin,

      It's been like that for 20 years - give or take the media channels.
      The 70s and 80s were like a bubble economy for musos - we literally rocked.
      My dad was an accomplished cool jazz drummer during the 50s and 60s - getting 1 gig a week doing old-time dances and whinging and moaning about how rock'n'roll was screwing up the market with the obscene inflow of half-assed players who would be hard pressed to keep up with a marching band.

      The folk music scene is pretty robust now for really good players - but you have to be unplugged to get on stage. And really, if you don't like to get on a stage, you can't really call yourself a muso.

      It's all kinda collapsed into the street level - I presume close to where it was 100 years ago.

      I so agree with your take on the pap that's being touted as music these days in the mainstream media - all ghost-in-the-machine piano-roll rubbish. Back in the 80s I saw the danger of that emerging as I customized analog synthesisers for live work. hey ho.

      But you absolutely understand the difference between the front and the back of the proscenium huh?

      Out there in teh puntery, all they see is glitter and glamour, and from the stage, all you see is gaffa tape, cables, rats, stoned roadies, crime-bosses and spilled beer - and when you look up .. well, there's the meat market. And everyone with stars in their eyes believing what we showed them - lining up at the green room door for some tips on how to see the crap we saw.

      I'm kinda glad the entry fee has gotten so high - the standard of real musicianship has become excellence never seen before on planet Earth.

      Have you considered doing a trad-folk gig? It's not an "industry" it's music, and much of what gets played has been public domain for 200 years. And the punters could care less about the meat.
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        Mar 18 2012: I tried the solo acoustic thing for a little bit and ended up customizing a one-man 3-piece power trio act (with a DR-880, a Digitech VL4, a Vox ToneLab and the whole thing managed by a little mixer on a music stand) where I programmed my own live show again and fit it into acoustic size spaces. I just couldn't do the strum and sing thing for very long. I needed the open road that a rhythm section gives a guitarist. I'm retired now (focusing on writing and changing the way humanity understands itself) but I still have a soft spot for music writers, players, and performers.

        I wish there was a way to help out, but the devaluation of their craft has become too ingrained within the American psyche for anything to be done about it. It's spread to the craft of writing too. I wrote articles for Helium.com for a few months until I saw one of my articles appear on Yahoo.com's news feed and realized that Helium had taken it and sold it to Yahoo without even letting me know they'd done it. We writers were competing with each other for stars on the Helium site, while Helium was shopping our articles to news feeds. Hell, they didn't even edit my piece, and it matched up word for word with my original submission. Sloppy of them, that's for sure.

        If music is free (worthless) now, then we'll all eventually get what we pay for in the end. I enjoy playing my newer music, and have no desire to share it with the public. I give song recordings to my friends and my daughter for special occasions. I don't bother making the recordings public anymore. I know a lot of songwriters who have stopped making public music, and who are okay with keeping their songs for people they care about only. It's becoming a trend from what I understand, and a way to show someone that they're special to the artist. Let the civilians have the corporate drivel running through their heads. They can take away our careers, but they can't have our music. I don't care if it matters or not to anyone at all.
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          Mar 18 2012: You're a great man Kevin!

          It's funny how us old musos turn to "changing the way humanity understands itself" ..
          I salute you!
          I suspect that, being musicians, we've been making that gift to humanity all along.

          Here's where I might be able to assist:
          There is a massive difference between social capital and money.
          A tribe can exist without money - but it is defined by its social capital.
          I have observed this in the folk festivals - they come together fueled by voluntary contribution - this makes them economic. AS teh "tribe" forms up on teh energy of voluntary contribution, it gains an "entity" - that entity can then turn to "interface" with the non-community environment - and money is the only interface there, but becasue the entity is NOT fueled by money, it has advantage, the money can be generated by ticket sales - and there is no requirement for profit beyond that needed to "seed" the next festival.
          Having a basis on social capital, the behaviours within these festivals is palpably different to the money-driven community .. you really aught to try - it, it is mind-altering to see it in action .. and participate.
          How do you convert social capital into food/shelter etc? Well, in the land of "Mamon", it starts with superior efficiency - and a place to participate in that very result of our efforts to "change the way humanity sees itself" - because it is all around us to see - with our own eyes - and once you see it, you will not be ashamed to say "with our own hearts".
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          Mar 19 2012: Kevin,
          Thank you for sharing your valuable experience here in this forum. I think given all that has happened in the industry and your attempts to maintain a level of professionalism in it you are due a level of appreciation.

          I would like to propose to you a historical analogy and delve deeper into your comment, "If music is free (worthless) now, then we'll all eventually get what we pay for in the end."

          Music has played so many different roles in human society for as long as we could communicate. Flutes and string instruments go back thousands of years and have many different and often elaborate variations. In ancient Greece, some cults believed that notes and tonal distributions maintained divine purpose. In fact they nearly worshiped the idea of sound and music! Many stories and myths we know today originated as songs and only much later were transcribed as books or poems. Later in the European renaissance, some astronomers believed that the planets themselves had different tones and if witnessed at the right time would create a symphony that was downright godly. Today, oral tradition, as anthropologists call it, is the practice of passing down one cultures to the next generation through story and song. It happens to be one of the most important but least documented sources of history around.

          I mention these things because, during all these periods (most of human history), the only way anyone ever made money from music was playing it live as a jester or actor and yet, so much importance was put on music that it was societies textbook, source of philosophy, scientific motivators, entertainment, advertisements ect. Music was hugely important and there were people who were famous for being brilliant at it.

          Given all of this, what is the point of music today? A place for famous people to dance around? I hope we do get what you say, "what we pay for" because I want music that values things that we cannot buy - Knowledge, culture, history and respect 4 people!

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