Interesting chatter in the blogosphere this past week about how, according to Tommy Silverman, founder of Tommy Boy Records, TuneCore and the like are to blame for inflicting “amateur hour” on the world. In his opinion, the vast majority of music that is released is crap and should never have seen the light of day. It takes away opportunities for real talent to shine.
Cue in TuneCore’s MD Jeff Price who says he’s really sorry for allowing people to buy music that’s not been approved of by Mr Silverman. The cat fight continues.
Interestingly, some dude commented on the TuneCore guy’s article, applauding TuneCore’s stance, saying that he’s an artist, can’t play any instrument, been doing music for a year and is getting ready to release his debut album. He was so impressed by what Mr TuneCore had to say that he will put his debut out on TuneCore.
Can’t play any instrument. Been making music for a year.
I bet that album is gonna be great…
The sales figures of a lot of new music are astounding. There are records made and released that don’t even sell the obligatory copy that Mum usually buys. It’s clear that sales are not an indication of artistic value, but gimme a break! Records that sell less than one copy?
At the other end of the spectrum, a few years ago I met top record producer Nile Rodgers, whose career spans a few decades as a founding member of disco legends Chic, producer of huge records for Madonna, David Bowie, Duran Duran and others. He was frustrated with the low level of creative ambition and ability of the artists he’s being asked to produce. He says, thinking back to the days when he got a record deal with Chic that they KNEW they were hot. They were the hottest cats in town. They had it in them and boy could they blow it out. Nowadays when he gets a demo from a band his reaction most always is an incredulous “YOU got a record deal…?”
A mate of mine managed an artist signed to a big label. They made an album. The recording budget was a cool £125k. They recorded it in the finest studios with the finest producers. Went to Nashville to record the strings, because, well… you just can’t get the right string sound in London, can you? By the time the bill came, the recording budget had doubled to £250k.
I heard the album. It wasn’t great. Unperturbed, the label went on to spend big bucks on videos and marketing – the whole hog. The first single sold all of 96 copies. The artist was dropped.
Whether you’re doing it DIY style or you’re signed to a label is rather irrelevant to the Big Question. Our weekly Monday morning coffee conversation centred around the fascinating topic of “why does modern music suck so much?” Where is the talent, the creative drive and ambition? Even the mainstream media wonders.
One reason is this: we creators of music (call us artists) think that our music has a divine right to be popular. That belief is in-built. Consequently, when we write a song we are in a terrible hurry to tell the world about it. We don’t really finish writing it, we demo it poorly… and rush off to tweat, blog and pester people to buy buy buy, vote vote vote… whatever ad nauseam. Most of our time is spent on everything that’s irrelevant to the creation of something amazing.
I spend a lot of time discussing these things with emerging new artists. Sometimes what you say turns you into a pariah, because you’re not saying what the recipient wants to hear. So it goes. The other day I got an email from someone I met a long time ago. It was titled Thanks For The Blog, in the subject field.
Just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your blog about the industry. You may recall we met when my (now defunct) band [xxxxxxx] sent you a demo and we had a brief meeting. I always remember your assessment of us at the time, how correct you were yet how unable we were to take it in. I think a lot of people, including myself, could do with heeding the advice in your blog at various times but probably at times when the mind isn’t opening to listening! That said, now, whenever people ask me what happened to my band I always truthfully say “we weren’t good enough and didn’t write enough good songs”. It sure beats deluding yourself saying “we didn’t get the right break / radio support / tour support, the industry is evil etc, etc”
Many thanks for the “Kill your Friends” book recommendation too. One of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time and probably not too far from the truth!
Anyway, best of luck with everything and keep up the good work with the blog.
This message blew me away. It took a lot of balls to write it, I think. I wore a hat today just so I’d be able to take it off to the person who sent the email.
Reminds me of a conversation I had recently with the head of one of the Universal labels. He remembered me from the band I was with back in the day. He considered signing us over several meetings with our manager. In the end, he passed. Cut forward a decade or so and he talked about it and tried to explain his reasons. It was very nice of him, but maybe, just maybe, our band wasn’t good enough. In any case, we found our relative fortune elsewhere. And here we are, many seasons later, still making music for a living.
I wish I could be as honest as my friend… !