The Internet Has Solved The Problem With Music.



Glyph is worse than some and better than others. He believes that life is just one damned thing after another, that only pop music can save us now, and that mercy is the mark of a great man (but he's just all right). Nothing he writes here should be taken as an indication that he knows anything about anything.

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79 Responses

  1. Avatar krogerfoot says:

    Steve Albini is an interesting guy, not afraid to be wrong. If the 1993 link I’m too lazy to click is the one entitled “Your Friends May Already Be This Fucked,” he was right then, and he’s mostly right this time too.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to krogerfoot says:

      Yep, that’s the essay.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to krogerfoot says:

      You know, I *do* have certain concerns in the brave new world, but they are not related so much to the “how do we get music-makers paid, so that we get more music” (which we are positively drowning in), but rather to the loss of the scarcity underpinning the older system.

      While I agree that it’s great that music can be made and heard more easily/cheaply/with fewer intermediaries/gatekeepers than before, the side-effects of scarcity did serve a couple functions that both listeners, and musicians, are going to need to consciously cultivate on their own now.

      From the listener side, it’s easy to give into the temptation to sample everything, but dig deep into nothing. There’s so much out there to be heard, and who has the time?

      Whereas you used to buy a record, and that was your allotment for the week/month and there were no other sources of new music anyway, so you DAMN well better listen to that thing all the way through. More than once.

      This is more difficult to do now, without conscious effort. I realize that’s on me, but I am also a person with poor self-control in this regard (I sometimes worry I will break the ‘skip’ button on my iPod, I hit that thing so hard and often).

      If music is like a drug – and it has been for me for much of my life – we are swimming in drugs now. ‘Using’ them responsibly, in a way that respects both the makers and benefits yourself, may be harder than it once was (which is not to say we need to go back to Prohibition, which often produced overpriced sh*tty ‘drugs’, to torture this analogy to death).

      From the musician side, having access to everything all the time (and you yourself being accessible to everyone all the time) may not as easily foster the kind of deeply-weird evolutionary output you used to get from geographically- and culturally-isolated scenes. Platypuses happened in Australia only, ‘cos Australia is way the hell away from everywhere else.

      But now nowhere is away from anywhere else. I think that risks leading us down a path of homogeneity.

      Keeping your music weird is going to take some work now; it won’t just happen because you are the only Pink Floyd-loving punks in Oklahoma and nobody understands you anyway, so you might as well follow your muse to its logical conclusion without distraction.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Glyph says:

        As a music dilettante I can only very mildly be sympathetic to your concerns but even granting that they have merit they sound like an individual issue and not even remotely a systemic one.

        The referred article hit the nail on the head for me. The music industry is understandably caterwauling at these changes but the basic fact is that an enormous amount of fat and insulation that used to separate music producers and music consumers is being wrung away by the new paradigm and I just can’t muster much sympathy for the beleaguered coke encrusted Hollywood exec. One era you’re in the next era you’re out- that’s show business baby!Report

      • Avatar gingergene in reply to Glyph says:

        I think there’s a market for music curators. Someone like Steve Albini, who lives and breathes music, might find it hard to understand, but as a “layperson”, I find myself overwhelmed by the massive amout of what’s available, and I don’t have the time trying to separate the wheat from the chaff. (Well, I have some time, but that’s not how I *want* to spend it.)Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        @north they sound like an individual issue and not even remotely a systemic one.

        No doubt, and I tried to frame them as such. I am generally on Albini’s side in all this, and see the technological tidal changes as a net great benefit. But if there are downsides, these are the ones I see.

        @gingergene – I may just be a weirdo to find it fun, but I spent about two hours the other night ‘YouTube diving’; just following links from one video to one that was recommended at its right, and found some cool stuff, some of which I was familiar with and some of which I wasn’t.

        (I really hope now that Google/YT is offering a paid music service they don’t put a lot of this stuff behind a paywall).

        But it is time-consuming, and I can’t say that my search wasn’t aided by my osmosis of prior information (maybe choosing a particular video because the bandname or the thumbnail’s visual aesthetic naggingly reminds me of something I already liked in the past, or had been meaning to check out…)

        That said, I’m not really on social media, but I imagine if you follow a musician you like, they may curate for you there?

        Spotify also does curated playlists, but I have never used them. There are also mixes on Soundcloud.

        Online music mag The Quietus does a regular feature called “Baker’s Dozen” where musicians pick their favorite records, that can be a good source.

        And I use Metacritic all the time, very useful to aggregate opinion; though that really only is useful for stuff that has made at least a dent in the popular consciousness already, not to discover truly obscure stuff (though of course any given artist may be obscure to *me*, if I’ve never listened to them before).Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Glyph says:

        @glyph do you know about businesses like Echonest?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        @zic – not that one specifically, but I am familiar with similar concepts like the Music Genome Project, and the general idea behind recommendation engines, and…I am a little uncomfortable with them, personally.

        I know many people who swear by letting Pandora pick for them, and I don’t wish to contradict their experience; but I worked in radio when the ‘art’ of letting computers pick the playlists, and the corresponding devaluing/disempowering of the DJ/human programmer, was really in full swing.

        I don’t trust programs to get things truly ‘random’ the way I think we humans need them.

        And I don’t trust the people who are buying these programs (the owners, not the end-users) not to game the programs to get the end results they want.

        I trust *people*, whose messy, unpredictable tastes I trust. 😉Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Glyph says:

        @glyph yup. (Full disclosure: they offered my sweetie a job, big bucks, we turned it down; for many of the reasons you suggest.)

        But more to the point; this isn’t just recommendations, it’s actual data analysis of music, freakin’ huge database of music — one that my sweetie uses as input to actually make new music (computer music technology being the subject he teaches). And yes, this is used by radio stations to develop playlists.

        And it’s only just begun. But this is definitely were the AI awakening will develop it’s taste for sound. . . and cats, too.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Glyph says:

        Unlike Glyph I do endorse Pandora. And Rhapsody! Discovered a bunch of new bands with each. Pretty much the only new bands, really, since I stopped listening to the radio.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Glyph says:

        I trust AIs to run pattern analysis of people’s choices until they grok it good.
        I’ve got a very funny video about what happens when AIs develop a taste for other people’s sound… I’ll see if I can pull it.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Glyph says:


        Spoken like a true neo-liberal!Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Glyph says:

        @saul Damn right and not in the least bit ashamed of it either. The musicians are better off, the masses are better off, anyone who wants to die on this hill with the gilded megastars, the oligarchs and the coke encrusted gatekeepers because of “there’re benefits that can’t be summed up in numbers” is welcome to do so but count me out.Report

      • Avatar Coke-Encrusted Hollywood Exec in reply to Glyph says:

        Thank goodness no one has figured out a way to download movies, this gravy train would need to end!


      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Glyph says:


        I am not necessarily sure that musicians are better off. They are in some ways but the avenues for being a semi-decently paid musician are getting smaller and smaller and I think that while art was always hard, it should not be impossible. I do think musicians and other artists should be able to earn an okay existence without needing to bartend between albums and tours.

        I also do believe that there is a role for critics in the “Hey, check outthese guys you haven’t heard.” This is an essential part of criticism to me. I do think the Internet has destroyed a lot of local arts scenes because it is hard for internet media to focus on that stuff. Even thrillist type places seem to be more about food than anything else. I’ve mentioned this before but I have seen people get angry at the New York Times for covering New York arts and culture stuff even though they are The New York Times. I find this odd.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Glyph says:

        Glyph, I’m not really sure that anybody ever listened to music this way unless they were art music fans. According to Elijah Wald’s How the Beatles Destroyed Rock N’Roll, before the mid-20th century most people used music as something to dance to or a way to pass the time or have a religious experience to. The idea of associating a particular musician very closely to a particular song is also a mid-20th century innovation according to Wald. There used to be dozens of editions of popular songs sung in a variety of styles by different artists. Music store clerks assumed that most customers would be satisfied with any decent version of an Irving Berlin song rather than only wanting a particular version sung by a particular artist as being definitive. Before rock music, the idea of a cover song simply wouldn’t make sense because the association of artist and song was much weaker.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        I’m in the wrong business.

        The Amazon reviews are priceless:

        “These series of books have helped me deal with my own past issues with dinosaur bullying and discovering who I am as a person. Highly recommended!”

        Also, I had to look up the term ‘dubcon’. I thought it was a meeting at the Marriott of dreadlocked, ganja-smoking record producers.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Glyph says:

        My experience with local music and the Internet is different. Back home, there were a large number of sites devoted to the local country scene, giving it attention the media rarely did, record labels rarely did, and radio almost never did until artists became big enough. (If I were willing to divulge where I’m from and you were in to country, I could name drop some now national acts.)

        The local scene did falter eventually, but definitely not because of the Internet.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        @will-truman – “into country” and speaking of my local community station, last Saturday afternoon I was listening to it as I drove around running errands, and they followed up “Mama, Don’t Let Yr Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” with something off the last Jason Isbell record.

        THAT’S the kind of country I can get behind. But good luck finding a major station that would play that kind of mix. Most modern country lyrics that I have heard are, to put it mildly, AWFUL.

        And that’s a problem, when country prides itself on being a storytelling genre and the music has to play it a bit conservative/traditional by nature (by which I mean it generally can’t stretch too far in any direction towards ‘avant’ or unusual, or it ain’t country any more).Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Glyph says:

        Contemporary Nashville country is to country what “adult contemporary rock” is to rock.

        It still has its good points, but it does make my tooth ache when I listen to it for too long. But there was some really good stuff a decade or so ago out of places that weren’t Nashville. Bakersfield, Texas, Oklahoma, and the Midwest. Among others.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Glyph says:

        @saul no, why would it?

        From the article linked it seems that performances for huge numbers of artists command much greater income for them than it did in the past. So the paradigm is that instead of a small number of artists getting crazy rich a much larger number of artists are making modest incomes. I am not going to lose sleep over that.

        Now as for whether artists should be entitled to some basic level of income? Well sure, I’m already on board with a GBI so I think everyone, artist or not, should be guaranteed a basic level of income. Should artists be able make a certain basic income just because they’re artists? Well then those pesky number questions pop up. Who is going to pay them? Who decides who qualifies as an artist? Who decides how much they get paid?Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Glyph says:

        @glyph @will-truman Have you been watching Dave Grohl’s “Sonic Highways”? I haven’t decided what I think of the songs yet, but I’ve loved the majority of the shows, particularly the first three episodes. Anyhow, the Nashville episode seems to do a wonderful job of bringing this point out:

        THAT’S the kind of country I can get behind. But good luck finding a major station that would play that kind of mix. Most modern country lyrics that I have heard are, to put it mildly, AWFUL.

        And that’s a problem, when country prides itself on being a storytelling genre and the music has to play it a bit conservative/traditional by nature (by which I mean it generally can’t stretch too far in any direction towards ‘avant’ or unusual, or it ain’t country any more).

        The segments with Emmylou and Tony Brown are particularly worthwhile, I thought.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        @will-truman Do a music post! My last comment may have come across as more snobby or hostile than I intended, I really would like some recommendations of current (or more current, anyway) country that’s a cut above the stuff produced for mass-consumption today. I just don’t really even know where to look. Is “No Depression” still a thing? 🙂

        I may have mentioned that I only got into the DBT’s universe in the last couple years; I wrote them off for a long time as a joke band based on the name (and their frankly hideous album artwork).Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        @mark-thompson – No, I dropped HBO until Game of Thrones comes back. I’ve heard good things. Grohl is probably an engaging host, he’s a pretty enthusiastic music fanboy (you see footage of him playing with Bob Mould? He’s grinning from ear-to-ear like a kid who can’t BELIEVE he’s basically playing in Hüsker Dü), which is refreshing in someone at his level of fame.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Who is going to pay them? Who decides who qualifies as an artist? Who decides how much they get paid?

        In order:

        1.) You guys.
        2.) Me, and I am an artist also.
        3.) See #2.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Glyph says:

        @glyph Yeah, that’s about right. There are moments in each show where he (or Taylor) makes a point of letting his inner fanboy out, and they’re really quite endearing – finding the old piano backstage at the old Austin City Limits set, marveling at the old studio logs from Zac Brown’s Music Row studio, reminiscing over seeing Naked Raygun for the first time in Chicago, taking a ride with one of the guys from the DC go-go scene. There’s a few moments in his discussion with Roky Erickson (of whom I unbelievably was previously unaware) where his compassion and fanboy-ness combine to bring something out of Erickson that I can’t really describe, but that is pure beauty – I’ve only seen something comparable once, in a VA hospital back in high school.

        Like you said, there’s just something incredibly refreshing about one of the wealthiest musicians in the world being genuinely humbled to be in the presence of often quite middle class musicians and ex-musicians.

        But what makes the show really enjoyable to me is that the interview segments that are the show’s bread and butter come across like you’re just listening in on a couple of musicians talking to each other about their craft rather than an actual interview. The interviewees are just completely relaxed and unguarded in a way that I don’t think they’d ever be with a journalist – they don’t need to think much about what they say because they know that Grohl completely gets them and isn’t going to put anything out of context.

        The Nashville episode is easily my favorite, and it’s also the episode where Grohl has the least chance to be a true fanboy since it’s not a scene with which he ever had a lot of ties or from which he ever drew much influence. But it works even better because of that – Grohl comes across as a student trying to learn from his elders, and lets them guide the interviews and episode in a way that feels surprisingly organic.

        The other episodes give a bit more of a feeling of “the story of the parts of the _____ music scene that most influenced Dave Grohl.” Which is to be expected when you’ve only got a one hour show and have to be selective about your topics, and is itself interesting in its own way.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I am somewhat amused by the debate between @glyph and @north . It is the debate between the aesthete and the non-aesthete. Though like Will, I love Pandora for car trips. You get more music and fewer commercials and I am largely not a fan of most music played on the radio. There are a few good indie-rock stations out there but I haven’t lived near one in a long long time. There used to be WLIR/WDRE on Long Island but they went away a long time ago. I don’t even think the hipster filled New York and Bay Areas have alternative/indie rock stations anymore except some stuff NPR every now and then.

    @glyph, do you have any theories about why alternative/indie rock seems to be the hardest to find a commercial radio outlet for? The music might not have the same levels of listernership as Beyonce, Jay-Z, or Taylor Swift but it is still pretty popular. Radio seems to be mainly Top 40, Hip-Hop, Classic Rock, and Light stuff that doesn’t deserve to be called music, and Spanish-language music.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Hmmm, I don’t see me and North really debating. The points I was making are really a sideshow to Albini’s argument, and I don’t see any necessary contradiction to them. I suspect Albini would also like to see music kept weird.

      I haven’t listened to the radio in years, aside from my local community-supported station (a reliable source since the ’80s). For a while there in the ’90’s major radio got deliciously weird, but The (Re)Clampdown happened pretty fast, and then they got hammered on the other side by newer channels (satellite, then the ‘net). I think even 80’s alt-radio-institutions in major markets (like KROQ in LA) are gone, or just pale shells of their former selves.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Glyph says:

        WLIR/WDRE died sometime when I was in college and probably even before the year 2000. One day I discovered it became a Latin-station overnight. Yeah, there was a time in the 1990s when you could hear a lot of alt-rock on the radio and it was when I was getting into music.

        I think KROQ is still around. I see videos on the net every now and then of a band that stopped by their studio. I think Seattle also has an indie-rock station but I can’t recall the call letters. The rest are largely gone except some college stations probably.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Glyph says:


        I might be using selection-bias to vastly overestimate how popular indie rock is in a “I listen to indie rock, lots of my friends listen to indie rock, The Magnetic Fields show was pretty packed.*”

        *The Magnetic Fields packing Townhall or Herbst Theatre is different than Beyonce packing AT&T park.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        You may be thinking of KEXP in Seattle. Good station (they post all kinds of really well-recorded live sets to YouTube) but it’s a public station kinda like mine.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Glyph says:


        Ah! It figures that they are a public station. Indie-rockers tend to go for the public radio format. Us NPR lovers.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      “do you have any theories about why alternative/indie rock seems to be the hardest to find a commercial radio outlet for?”

      Because shops and offices want to put on the radio for Pleasant Background Soundscape, and breaking-voice teenagers yelling about their dad or moping about their ex is not part of a Pleasant Background Soundscape.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        Why don’t they play more Mozart, Johann Strauss or other light art music than? Thats a lot more pleseant than the smooth rock, jazz, or inoffensive pop that they usually playReport

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jim Heffman says:


        There is a lot of indie-rock that is not super-loud and good for offices.

        Take this song!


      • Possibly related to the number of shops in the area where I live that pipe light classical music through their outside speakers because it’s an effective teen-ager repellant.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        From my own biased perspective, a lot of indie rock music now is actually really boring- sort of a mix of 90s college rock and 70s a.m. mellow gold folk rock. Not aggressive at all. It sounds like an Ikea commercial to me or some sort of car ad. I halfway expect a smug narrator to come in during the instrumental parts: “When you find a bank that gives you freedom, well you just know…”Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        “@rufus – “a lot of indie rock music now is actually really boring- sort of a mix of 90s college rock and 70s a.m. mellow gold folk rock. Not aggressive at all. ”

        Agreed emphatically on the one hand; it’s a rant I’ve given myself, many many times.

        OTOH, it may just be a semantic/nomenclature problem – there’s plenty of aggressive rock music out there, being produced truly ‘independently’; it’s just called other things now.Report

    • Avatar dhex in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      ““do you have any theories about why alternative/indie rock seems to be the hardest to find a commercial radio outlet for?””

      there’s a long line of stuff that’s even harder to find a commercial outlet for. a very, very, very long line.Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    A lot of the moaning about how the Internet is making it impossible for musicians to make a living off music is weird. The current music business is no older than the early 20th century and didn’t really exist as we knew it until rock came along after World War II, basically still in living memory. If anything the recording industry also did its fair amount of damage to the ability to make a living off music by killing off the hundreds of orchestras and bands that used to exist in various ballrooms, clubs, hotels, radio stations, and movie studios. It basically destroyed the music middle class by getting rid of the orchestras and bands that provided a living for countless people. Rather than having Benny Goodman and his band of a dozen or so musicians; you had three to four people with a guitar, drums, bass, vocalist, and maybe a piano or sax or trumpet on occassion.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to LeeEsq says:

      A lot of the moaning about how the Internet is making it impossible for musicians to make a living off music is weird.

      Well, yes, that’s what Albini’s piece is about 🙂Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to LeeEsq says:

      My own admitted moaning isn’t really a “what have we done?!” sort of thing. More a general feeling that we’re not done yet. Yes, the old paradigm is best suited for the dustbin of history (two cliches in one sentence!), but we haven’t gotten to what comes next yet. I think we’re on the way there. I think the fact that an out-of-town band that I like with a fairly large internet following will email me personally because they’re playing my local bar next week and then, after they play, see if I want a free copy of their new 45, which happens to be one of a four part series, so I should make sure I pick up the others… that sort of thing is pointing to a future in which bands run their own lives and don’t need to work on the record company’s farm. I still say we need better tools though.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Rufus F. says:

        In the beginning the musicians sang live for their pay. Now it looks like after a long diversion music may be returning to that state.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

        The problem is getting people out to shows. Attendance is way, way down there too- except, once again, for the already successful artists. I am fine with returning to the era of traveling minstrels, for what it’s worth- but we need to return to the era of people being together socially in public spaces.

        Honestly, I don’t know why musicians record anymore. A record is such a niche product now. Why not just play live and refuse to record? Let people put videos up on Youtube and just play a really great live show. A record’s a nice memento, but they’re probably most useful in spreading the word about bands that already broke up.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t there a lot more “really successful” artists now? Because it seems like there’re a lot of niche artists who made it big on youtube and now tour professionally.

        I ask out of sheer ignorance here, I’m completely unconnected to the musical world.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F. says:

        If we are returning to travelling minstrels I have one thing to say, long live the rock lute.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F. says:

        North, I think it depends on how we define succesful. The number of artists doing really big shows at stadiums, arenas, and concert shows for audiences in front of huge audiences for lots of money seems to have declined. Going back to my school days, there seemed to be more popular artists in more pop genres. You had Bon Jovi, Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, Whiteney Houston, Bruce Springsteen, Metalica, Mariah Carey, and numerous other musicians in diverse genres doing big shows. The number of musicians and bands in popular consiousness streamed smaller. The further fragmentation of popular music might make it more possible for bands to tour but I think the number of artists that are really part of cultural consiousness have declined.

        I hope what I wrote above makes sense, its easier to think about this than express it in words.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Well, I don’t know any. Actually, no, that’s not true. I know a successful musician, but he did it the traditional way- joined a band that recorded for a major label, shot a video, went on Conan O’Brien, toured, etc. There might be more stars on Youtube. The problem is how does that translate to touring? Might get you booked. I’m skeptical because I remember checking out a band that had a viral video a few years ago that was seen by however many million people and when I checked out their page they said basically “No, we know you want us to come play, but we can’t afford to take off work and tour, okay?” Touring is a big investment that usually loses money until it doesn’t. Most bands do at least two or three tours before it starts looking less nuts.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Rufus F. says:

        Better tools.

        That’s the other big part of the music industry these days; tool development. That’s the industry most of my sweetie’s students hope to go into after the graduate; there’s a lot of innovation and investment there right now; too. So I’m curious, @rufus-f what sorts of better tools you’d like to see?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Rufus F. says:

        @leeesq – I guess I don’t understand why it would be in any way preferable that a few megapopular artists then were able to command so much money and so much of the popular attention in a monoculture, versus many many more artists existing in a more fragmented culture at more human scales.

        Without necessarily meaning to draw a specific parallel between any of the artists you named and whatever the Hollywood tentpole blockbuster of the summer is, why is one (or three, or five) blockbusters preferable in any way to say twenty mid-sized films of varying quality and genre?

        Is it better to have one ‘Transformers’ sucking up all the cultural oxygen and money, or 10 smaller films that split a ‘Transformers’-sized budget 10 ways, catering to 10 different audience slices/demographics/sensibilities? To me the latter seems self-evidently preferable.Report

  4. Avatar Jim Heffman says:

    The thing to remember about the music business is that most of the people who got paid were adding nothing other than their phone book. That is, “I’m the guy that knows the guy that knows the guy that can get you Burt Kargewicz as your sound engineer, give me a percentage and I’ll hook you up”.

    And now, because of the internet, I can get in touch with Burt directly.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      Well, yes, that’s what Albini’s piece (well, both of them, in a way) is about 🙂Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      And you know this how?

      Because I’m actually married to someone who’s worked in the music business for the last 40 years. So could you please explain this to me?

      /please forgive me, but I’m kinda tired of the lack of respect actual working musicians get. The wannabe rockstars are not the music biz, the people who actually play music, and who sustain life-long careers playing music, are the music biz. They work hard, they have to balance complex streams of income, including non-music jobs, balance travel and teaching and recording and performing. Most of them never become famous, either.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to zic says:

        @zic – read the linked Albini piece (really, both of them). I read Jim’s comment to be referring not to the musicians, but to the businesspeople; and that’s certainly what the linked pieces are about.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to zic says:

        IOW, the internet’s disintermediation has eliminated all kinds of middlemen and therefore the money no longer flows quite as unevenly to the overhead at the expense of the musicians.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      Yeah, I was gonna say more; I have problems with his piece; it’s good for what it is, but it’s incomplete. He’s looking at bands.

      The music biz certainly has bands.

      But it also has a lot of individuals who do a lot of other things besides record and distribute music in a band, too. That’s just the most obvious part of the music business. It’s also teachers, studio musicians, composers and arrangers, film scorers, video-game production and on and on. People make long-term careers at music without being in a band, and that’s all part of ‘the music business.’

      I think he also misses the problems of venues where new bands learn how to gig. Bands have got to get out and play in front of people in order to learn how to play in front of people. Playing in your garage, recording in your bedroom, not having to go into a recording studio makes it a whole lot easier to make recorded music; but it does not necessarily develop stage chops to take to perform and build audience. (Remember Boston? Hit record, created in the studio, they couldn’t perform it.) You can build all the audience in the world possible with your free mp3 on Soundcloud, but if you’re plan is to get paid for performing that song, you’re going to have to get out there and play in front of actual people, and that requires places to play.

      So he’s right, I dont’ think he’s said anything that’s incorrect; but he misses some pretty big stuff. I guess I’d say he’s discussing the recording industry; and my response is that the recording industry is only part of the music business; and even a good analysis of the recording industry isn’t necessarily reflective of the music industry as a whole.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to zic says:

        Yeah, it’s not MUSICIANS that suffer from a glut right now — it’s Graphic Artists, straight out of the old Soviet System. Now brought to your computer, courtesy of games that, while playable, may still not have their english right. $5 a pop, get them online.Report

  5. Avatar dhex says:

    perhaps slightly contra glyph, i enjoy being smothered in the glorious haze of more music than i could ever listen to.

    the internet cannot be beaten for curation. cannot. period. specialty blogs are plentiful, less speciality blogs are plentiful, people like glyph are plentiful, total pains in the asses like me are plentiful, etc. pandora, which is very much not my bag in the slightest, is a perfectly reasonable way for someone to get a pu pu platter of sounds stuffed in their ear holes.

    and one day pig destroyer will play the kennedy center and the eschaton can set its facebook status to immanentized.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to dhex says:

      Hey! Speak for yourself, I am a unique snowflake!Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to dhex says:

      Also, I don’t know if you saw, but the shoegaze band reunion train continues apace. Ride and Swervedriver will be touring, and Swervedriver is planning an album. Even Luna is going to play some dates next year. Nobody stays broken up anymore, except the Smiths and Spacemen 3.

      I’m still bummed Slowdive didn’t come anywhere near me.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Glyph says:

        Speaking of which, I saw this lasts night:

        Took my wife, who mostly missed the first shoegaze wave (‘cept for Jesus and Mary Chain, but they were kinda on a different level). It was fun to bring her back to that time and place.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Oh cool, it’s finally out! I’ve been hearing about this for a while.

        I don’t know if it’s just selection bias talking since I tend to click on those articles, so it looks to me like a lot people are talking about this stuff, but it seems like there’s a lot of revived interest in that whole scene right now.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Glyph says:

        @glyph — Yeah. The theater was packed and not just with we older folks.

        My favorite part was the fact that Kevin Shields looks and sounds exactly like Kevin Shields has always looked and sounded. He’s adorbz.Report

  6. Avatar Jim Heffman says:

    Interesting how he points to the inflation of concert ticket prices as “fans are willing to pay more”. I’d argue that he’s trying to take the fact that nobody makes money from selling recordings anymore and spin it into something that sounds happy and optimistic. You pay more for concerts because that’s how people make money now.

    Although he does seem to have the attitude that concerts and live shows are how REAL FANS listen to music, and recordings were only there as a marketing trick, so I guess he’s being consistent.


    And still so, with his attitude that IP protection is meaningless bullshit. If the only kind of music that means anything is performed live, then who cares about people copying recordings? After all, now that we’re Freed From The Tyranny Of Radio, sharing music is how everyone finds everything anyway.

    (He hasn’t seemed to recognize that copyright is what keeps ConHugeCo from just taking that super awesome indie song he totally loves and, like, totally wrecking its meaning by using it to sell shoes and cars, and not even paying the creators anything.)Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      “happy and optimistic”.

      This may be the only time I have ever seen those words in proximity to “Steve Albini”.

      He sees music as a calling, not a job. As long as he gets to play, and connect with other musicians and fans, he doesn’t really care how they heard the song.

      Now, as an established property (at least at a certain level of fame) he enjoys advantages others don’t; but he did, in fact, build that property, through many years of stubborn, prickly hard work.Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      You pay more for concerts because that’s how people make money now.

      Eh, that’s a factor, but it’s a Supply/Demand curve intersection for a reason.

      If you couldn’t get anybody to buy a $500 ticket, it wouldn’t matter if that was all that there was between you and starvation, you’re not getting $500 for that ticket.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Patrick says:

        In my experience, shows by all but the biggest of big acts are actually cheaper these days, probably as a result of the fact that there are so damn many of them. I don’t think I’ve paid more than $20 for a single show this year, and I’ve paid $5-$10 at least half a dozen times for national acts.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Patrick says:

        Austin is probably not a representative market though. I haven’t noticed a huge drop in ticket prices here, not that I’ve been to a ton of shows this year. I probably am not hitting the hippest shows either 🙂Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Patrick says:

        R. has basically forced me to focus on new or newish artists. I don’t want to think about how many shows I’ve been to this year at which I was either the oldest person or among the oldest 5%.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to Jim Heffman says:

      I think you are over reading what he says about copyright. He’s defending fair use. He has a fairly broad definition, but it’s still fair use. His test case is takedown notices on videos where your 5-year-old dances to a Prince song. I see, and it seems to me that he sees, a definite distinction between non-commercial and commercial use. I have no idea if that could be codified.Report

  7. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    When I was out for lunch the other day I grabbed a paper copy of Westword out of the rack to thumb through while I ate. I don’t read the articles/reviews, I read the ads. The high-end restaurants that are advertising are higher-end than they used to be. The sex businesses’ ads are a bit more explicit. There’s a whole new section of ads for the recreational and medicinal marijuana businesses. But man, you’d never know that the internet had happened to the music biz — still a bazillion live shows every night of the week and pretty much any genre you could think of, including the Colorado Symphony and a couple of smaller chamber groups.Report

  8. Avatar Glyph says:

    Serendipity – I just ran across this.

    So for all my fear of algorithms being used to usurp the popular will, they are also being used to instantiate it. “Hits” may turn out to be what people actually like, not just what they happened to be exposed to (of course, people tend to like what they think OTHERS like, so….)Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

      Was tweetin’ about that last night.

      You know, there’s this study in which a professor tells his students that they can have one candy bar a week, and gives them a list of candy bars and a calendar and has them pick a candy bar for each week at the beginning of the semester. And they pick a variety: their favorite gets picked the most, but they pick their 2nd and 3rd (and maybe 4th) favorite a few times each.Then in another class, the same professor tells students that they can have one candy bar a week, and each week lets them choose that week’s candy bar, and they pick their favorite one pretty much every time.

      This is kinda like that, I think.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Chris says:

        This completely explains what is going on in my Netflix queue.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Yeah, there’s a similar finding in which people who have to choose movies choose artsy films (I remember Schildler’s List was one of the films used in the study) when they pick for the future, but mindless action films and romcoms when they are picking for right now.Report

  9. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    I feel a certain amount of smugness when I read pieces like this. I’m afraid that it’s kind of unavoidable. I take great delight in the undoing of jackass middlemen by the internet. My part in building it was tiny, perhaps microscopic, but my delight in disintermediation is nearly boundless.Report