My next two books are planned, and research has begun. I’ll be following up my first book, and reflecting on the musical legacy my father passed on to me. But a third book lingers, and it really intrigues me from time to time.
The book is about the business of music, specifically from the artist’s point of view. Things have changed a great deal since I bough my first LP in 1978, and I’d like to add to the discussion. I’m calling the book The Note’s True Value.
The idea of a man with a moderate math phobia writing a book on the economics of the music industry is quite ironic. That being said, this is something I want to study in depth, because, from where I sit, the modern day artist is being screwed.
But before I delve into the research material, the interviews, and everything that comes with this subject, I find myself asking one question:
Will anybody even care?
I broached this topic several months ago with a friend, who is a relatively well-known local musician. I explained my potential book’s approach, and he offered a kind smile. “It’s a fascinating topic,” he said. “You’d make friends of just about every musician out there. But here’s the problem: nobody else will give a damn.”
The modern music industry as we knew it has pretty much eaten itself. Musicians could once avail themselves to any number of major record labels. Now only a couple remain. Gone are the days of the legendary “record deal,” which allowed artists to develop over three or four albums without worrying too much about sales. Needless to say, few — if any — artists are enjoying advances toward future sales.
There was a time when a musician could make a living at his craft without worrying about needing a day job. I’m not talking about superstars traveling by private plane and staying in the best hotels while on the road. I’m talking about making a living: having a home, paying the bills, feeding the family, and saving a little. In other words, music as an occupation. These days, that’s nearly impossible to do.
It’s easy to point a finger at the Record Industry and blame them for musician’s woes. But truthfully, there’s plenty of blame to go around. The Bad Record Deal is one of the oldest stories in music, and musicians should not desperately sign their livelihoods away. Technology has evolved in such a way it makes copying music illegally much easier. Streaming services pay little to nothing to artists while distributing their music worldwide. Modern day music consumers think little of paying nothing for the songs they enjoy. There is a great deal of point/counterpoint behind each of these topics, and then some. My book would examine the problems from multiple angles. To be certain, there will be more than a couple of opinions. I’ve found myself in the middle of more than a couple of spirited debates on the subject.
The music industry has changed. Artists provide entertainment for millions, and yet seem to be reaping less and less for their efforts. I’d love to see this change. I think a book on the subject could help get the ball rolling. The least I can do is try.
I want to write this book.
Do you want to read it?
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Check out my book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears. It’s available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book outlets.
Lots of pros and cons in how the music industry has changed. The magic of the record deal has been lost, but the barriers of entry have been reduced as well. There are more people making more great music now, and many of them would have had no way in before.
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Incidentally, La Saboteuse is one of my favourite albums from the past couple of years. Superb.
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This avid listener, stuttering musician and music blogger would very much like to read that book.
I agree with you that the music business is broken but I haven’t seen any proposals that might fix it. If, after your research, you can just hint at a path to musicians’ nirvana you will have done us a great service. Actually getting there will be another thing altogether, though.
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yes, I´d read it. I even suggest you expand the subject to include all these faded acts (eagles, fleetwood mac etc.) skimming the market with their overblown ticket prices, thereby reducing the faithful listeners’ budget for buying music from those who are still no millionaires…
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I read your piece, and gave it a fair bit of thought while out on a lunchtime walk. To be honest, I think you’re on a hiding to nothing with this one. People do care about the artists and the music, but the points you made above are already well played out across social media on an hourly basis.
Every time I open up FB, there’s another impassioned debate between those arguing they’re supporting the artist’s profile by (legally) streaming their work, and those who despise streaming for the poor royalties the artists receive.
In such a crowded debating arena, you’d have to have something really special to share, to grab people’s attention, and even if you interviewed musicians, chances are they’ve already aired their grievances, so you’d simply be re-spinning old news.
Honestly? I think the book about your father’s legacy is much more promising – it brings a personal angle to the story, and while father-son legacies are nothing new in the book world, your relationship with your dad is unique to you – and that gives you a hook to grab people’s attention. As a reader, I’d be far more interested in your personal and unique reminiscences and the soundtrack to them.
Anyone can be a music writer, but threading the music views through your relationship with your Dad takes things in a direction that will draw you a wider readership than just music fans. We all have Dads and stories to tell, and can relate to your story.
Think of it along the lines of the successful musician who wants to focus on his solo experiments, but realises that he needs to play to wider commercial audience in order to raise his profile and raise the funds needed to indulge in the solo stuff.
I’ve been giving it a lot of thought as well, and I’m probably gonna write the book, albeit two or three years from now. I too have read the chatter back and forth on social media, but I’m finding through casual conversations that many people either do not have social media, or are completely oblivious to the way the industry works. My goal is to shed light on this issue to as many people as I can. Even if the book goes nowhere, I can go to sleep knowing I did my best to make a contribution to the effort. Thanks for your feedback.