Category: Music Business

Music for Nothing?

musicMusicians the world over (maybe even more than other artistic people like authors or painters) have become outraged that their music be “worth” something. That with all the hard work involved being a songwriter and/or artists, they aren’t earning back enough to pay their bills and make a nice life, and perhaps music just isn’t even worth doing?

The 20th century brought recorded music via the phonograph, album, and CD. These made billions of dollars for musicians and record companies for just over 100 years. But now that the internet has brought music to the world through cheap and free streaming, music folk are screaming that they aren’t getting paid enough.

This is particularly true of those who were part of the insanely profitable music industry of the latter 20th century. But is money the only reason we make music? Is that the determining factor if we even go to the trouble to make it or not?

I just read an article where Roger Daltrey of the Who said they weren’t going to make a new album because it wouldn’t make any money.

“We’ve talked about it, but it’s not going to be easy. There’s no record industry anymore. Why would I make a record? I would have to pay to make a record. There’s no royalties so I can’t see that ever happening. There’s no record business. How do you get the money to make the records? I don’t know. I’m certainly not going to pay money to give my music away free. I can’t afford to do that. I’ve got other things I could waste the money on.” – Roger Daltrey

Then maybe you should indeed waste your money on other things, Roger. I’m sure you have enough. Perhaps your music isn’t important enough if you’re only making it for financial gain.

To me that says, you don’t want people to hear an artistic statement or even go to the trouble of making music if you don’t see good money from it. That’s just sad.

That kind of thinking goes against not just art, but why God gave us our talents in the first place. He didn’t say, “Here are talents to use and share with the world…but only if YouTube and Spotify pay well!”

“Music is the universal language of mankind.” ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I believe our talents are our voice and our gift to the world. Everyone deserves, maybe even needs, to hear our songs even if they only get to listen once or come across it in a Facebook feed.

Your music may never pay the bills, but it may the music that soothes someone’s soul or pushes someone to pursue music themselves. What’s the cost/benefit ratio there? Is it worth it if you bring happiness, fulfillment, and joy to someone, even if you don’t get paid for it?

“If you can do anything else other than music, do that instead.”  ― Well known music quote.

Those of us who do music consistently (and sometimes for an attempt at a living) do it because we can’t NOT do it. We can’t possibly shut it off, stop the music from coming out, or not want to share it with the world.

For those of us like this, there is no way to wake up every day for the rest of our lives and just not do music. YES, of course we want to be paid well for our efforts, but if it does not, should we quit making it?

What I’d say to Roger is, if you can quit doing music, then maybe you should go do other things. Who are you, indeed!

“There is hardly any money interest in art, and music will be there when money is gone.” – Duke Ellington

Have a great week!

EC

Eric Copeland happens to make a living through music, but not necessarily his own. But he still makes what he feels he must and gets it out to the world. You can find out more at http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com

How Recordings Changed New Music

37924378_m“It’s the latest popular song,” declared the phonograph, speaking in a sulky tone of voice. “A popular song?” “Yes. One that the feeble-minded can remember the words of and those ignorant of music can whistle or sing. That makes a popular song popular, and the time is coming when it will take the place of all other songs.” – L. Frank Baum

Before the late 1800s the only way you heard music was if you went to hear it live, or someone was playing the piano in the home. So you actively went to hear chamber music, or opera, or other live events to hear the newest music. It was very much the same as when a new movie comes out. We are going to consume something new and we hope exciting. (More on that in a minute.)

But with the invention of the phonograph, suddenly you could have a recording of a song you loved and play it over and over. Thus the first century of recorded music was born, and so was an industry. Phonographs, and then the radio brought music to listeners so they could hear their songs all the time and fall in love with tunes.

“As recently as the late nineteenth century, even the most devoted music lover might hear his or her favourite piece just three or four times in his or her whole life. Unless you happened to be a virtuoso musician with access to both sheet music and instruments, it was almost impossible to bring large-scale forms of music into your own home. Not until the dawn of recording and radio technology did our ancestors have any great choice as to what they listened to and when.” – Howard Goodall

With so much recorded music available for people to consume, the tastes changed for what they wanted to hear at live concerts. No longer were they going to hear a concert to hear new music. Now they were going to hear their favorite recorded song.

Audiences began to (and still do) demand these favorites in concert, rather than new, original pieces by artists. This changed the way new music was introduced forever, and still holds today.

Amazing popular composers like Billy Joel, Elton John, and the Eagles aren’t actively writing and recording new songs because they know fans don’t really want to hear new songs when they go to their concerts. It’s not much different for current artists like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, big bands or cover bands. Modern concert audiences want to hear what they’ve already heard recorded, not the newest thing the artists are working on.

To be honest there is much more money in live performance for artists, especially today. Why spend time writing, recording, and marketing new material that will bring in little in royalties, if you can just hook a tour, repackage, and keep selling the old stuff while making a tidy profit?

This Ain’t the Movies

“There’s no business like show business!” – Irving Berlin

The film industry has worked out a unique strategy that keeps money flowing quite well. It releases its newest movies mainly in stages. They start with a big blowout, large theatrical release, then it goes to smaller screen theaters, then to pay per view, then DVD/Bluray, then Netflix, cable, broadcast, etc). It’s an amazing cycle of marketing opportunities and makes money every step of the way.

New music has been introduced for more than a century as a recorded form that people are inundated with first. Sure there still may be some orchestral works that have live premieres, but popular music by and large is blasted out to ears whether they want it or not. And those that have the deepest pockets get their music heard the most.

Don’t think people haven’t tried to think of ways of doing this “windowing” technique and trying to release music to CD then downloads then streaming. It just hasn’t and won’t work. People now want to stream it the minute it is released. It’s not about convenience for the artist or label, it’s about the wants and needs of the consumer.

The funny part of all this is that recorded music had an unparalleled run through the last century, due in part to technology starting with the phonograph through the CD. But the tech of this century has now put us in a quandary on the future of the whole recording industry.

Will we ever go back to hearing (or wanting) new music live again? Or will we continue to depend on media tastemakers to tell us what the best new music is?

Your thoughts (and best guesses!) are welcome.

“So people will come along and do new things and sometimes return to the spirit of an earlier age.” – Norman McLaren

Have a great week!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a musicologist, or a fortune teller, but through the writings and community of Music History Matters, he can look back and see the parallels and lessons of the past in music today.

Musical Indentured Servitude

“It’s really hard to make a living as a musician. It’s almost impossible.” – Billy Joel

servitude500In order to make a living with music, we have all done what we had to. We have studied, practiced, achieved degrees, taken paying music positions, and played whatever gigs we could find so that we could eat, live, and support ourselves and our families. The problem is, it is usually on someone else’s terms. Even if we are the boss, or own our own business in music, we have clients who dictate what we do for them, and how we create or produce the music.

This has been an issue throughout music history.

J.S. Bach was mostly always employed and creating his music for use in his job as organist or music leader. At some points his job required a new cantata each Sunday! That’s one way to build your catalog! And like all of us, he knew the struggle to make amazing music and please his bosses.

My masters are strange folk with very little care for music in them. – Johann Sebastian Bach

Joseph Haydn had many jobs as a music teacher, a street musician, and accompanist before he got a sweet gig for the prince of Esterhazy, and rode that job for decades. But he was often little more than a paid servant, and felt that way. As with Bach, in order to have music ready every week for the music hungry Esterhazys, Haydn’s output was extraordinary. Eventually he was able to work with a publisher, gain some fame outside the estate, and later become more independent in London and elsewhere.

Mozart was one of the first composers to say no to working “for the man”. But even with many commissions and a post here and there that didn’t last very long, it was a struggle for one of the world’s best ever composers to make a consistent living.

The first to really sever ties and find somewhat lasting success was Beethoven, who after moving to Vienna in 1792, began to establish a reputation as a superstar pianist and composer. He was able to secure patronage to write and perform the rest of his life, making him somewhat the first successful “indie” musician.

Why This Matters

Getting to the music we want to make is very difficult in a life where we make or work in music for someone else. Even as a full-time traveling artist, there is booking, marketing, and other things to do besides actually composing and being artistic. It’s just hard to make music when there are so many other things to do (I’m looking at you Facebook, Twitter, and oh yeah, the next job I have to do to continuing getting paid so I can pay a mortgage, car payments, etc.)

The key is finding that balance, like turning off email and social media for the weekend to compose, or self-imposed block out times to sit at your instrument and just create.

On the other hand, being secure in a music position may allow us to create much of the works we will leave behind, just as Bach and Haydn did. We will make things we never expected because a client, boss, or sponsor will suggest a direction, a subject, or a use for a piece.

Wherever you fall on the indentured servitude scale, whether an instructor, producer, orchestral member, composer for hire, or whatever, finding the balance between the thing you love and making a living is crucial.

If you can create an honorable livelihood, where you take your skills and use them and you earn a living from it, it gives you a sense of freedom and allows you to balance your life the way you want. – Anita Roddick

Have a great week!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist, so don’t get your panties in a bunch if you think this is drivel. He’s just your everyday, full time music producer who is also pursuing a musicology masters because he wants to help all music folks and students how to make a great living in music.

A Tough Nut to Crack

hardnut“Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.” ― Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was not a stranger to hard work, but like any composer, he had to be inspired…and he had to have time to compose. But also like many of us, he had to deal with this thing we call life.

Every Christmas, The Nutcracker is adored by music lovers, both professional and casual. It’s become a staple of our Christmas musical landscape.

Originally commissioned by the director of the Imperial Theaters after the success of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, the composer received initial instructions on the Nutcracker ballet in 1890. The ballet was to be based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s fairy tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. This didn’t do much for Tchaikvosky since he liked that fairy tale and didn’t see much room for a ballet in it.

Like a good composer for hire though he put his nose to the grindstone and began sketches in early 1891. But then…life settled in.

He ran into constant distractions from travel, including a trip to America, and then the death of his sister Aleksandra.

From New York he wrote, “I cannot start working again before June at the earliest… otherwise whatever I tried to write would turn out wretchedly”.

Even when he arrived home to St. Petersburg, he continued to find he was flummoxed by other things in his way of writing. In a letter to his brother Modest he wrote, “It is also good for me here, but work isn’t going as quickly now as at first. There are unexpected distractions.”

Once he did finish writing sometime in 1891, he still had to orchestrate, which started around the first few months of 1892. Finally in March or April of 1892, he could put down his pen. “I’ve finished the ballet; all that remains is to insert the markings and put it in order.”

Why This Matters

We all have works we need to get out; art that needs to get done. But life happens. We have travels, sickness, family matters, and sometimes that little thing called work!

Sometimes we (and when I saw we, I mean me) have projects that go a lot longer than two years to finish. But a work like The Nutcracker has stood the test of time, and I think the goal is to do our best work, as we can, when we can. Then let the work stand on its own, indicative of our hard work.

Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use. – Earl Nightingale

Have a very blessed and Merry Christmas!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist, but hopes Santa will magically bring his Musicology Masters degree for Christmas!

Art vs. Commercial (Rossini meets Beethoven)

artvscommAt the end of his career Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the greatest composers to have ever lived, was completely deaf. Around this same time, Gioachino Rossini had also become quite popular with his comic operas including the huge hit, The Barber of Seville. With the public’s mixed reception of Beethoven’s vast Ninth Symphony, Rossini perhaps outshone Beethoven as Europe’s most popular composer at the time.

Since hearing Beethoven’s Third Symphony, Eroica, Rossini had been moved to meet Beethoven and had tried several times through a few people to meet the composer. It seems most likely that Antonio Salieri was the culprit (so to speak 😉 of setting up the meeting, since he had played violin at the 1813 premiere of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, and was a friend and former teacher of Beethoven.

There are various accounts of this supposed meeting.

“The most popular composer in Beethoven’s final years, even in Vienna where he lived, was not Beethoven himself but the Italian Gioachino Rossini, whose light-as-a-feather smash-hit comic operas, such as The Barber of Seville (1816) – all laughs, saucy farce and hummable tunes – were arguably closer to the general public’s idea of an ‘Ode to Joy’. The two composers did meet once, an encounter brokered by the kindly Antonio Salieri, and we have it word for word since Beethoven, being deaf, had to have the conversation written down. The rules of engagement between the two types of composer were even evident in their short back-and-forth in 1822, with Beethoven congratulating Rossini on his success but warning him not to write anything other than comic opera as ‘his character wouldn’t suit it’. It is a conversation that continues to be played out between self-styled ‘serious’ composers and ‘crossover’ composers to this day.” – Howard Goodall, The Story of Music

Other sources tell different, but similar accounts.

30-year-old Rossini succeeded in meeting Ludwig van Beethoven, who was then aged 51, deaf, cantankerous and in failing health. Communicating in writing, Beethoven noted: “Ah, Rossini. So you’re the composer of The Barber of Seville. I congratulate you. It will be played as long as Italian opera exists. Never try to write anything else but opera buffa; any other style would do violence to your nature.” – Wikipedia on Rossini

Why This Matters

To be honest, there are so many different takes on how this meeting really took place, or if it is just an anecdotal tale (although I like the thought that it had to be written down due to Beethoven’s deafness and therefore could be somewhat preserved.)

But the point is that we may have many meetings with those who either feel our commercial music is not as “important” as their art music, and vice versa. Rossini just wanted to meet his idol, but Beethoven saw the real truth: it was probably easier for Rossini to gain a larger following, because his Barber of Seville and other light comic operas were easily digestible, easy on the ears kinds of works. The public could “get” them in one setting, hum them on the way home, and then easily forget them as they went upon their daily lives – much like pop music.

Beethoven’s work, like his Ninth Symphony, was so large, so groundbreaking in some ways, it was hard for crowds looking for pure “entertainment” to always get it. While he was certainly revered as a genius, there were mixed reviews.

“Beethoven’s musical revolution received mixed reactions. A critic who attended the (Ninth Symphony) premiere effused praise: “the effect was indescribably great and magnificent, jubilant applause from full hearts was enthusiastically given the master.” A London critic who heard the work in 1825 called the hour-plus length “a fearful period indeed, which puts the muscles and lungs of the band and the patience of the audience to a severe trial.” – Oxford University Press

This account, true or not, just shows how the debate of art over commercialism in music has raged for centuries. Where do you fall in the debate?

Have a great week!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist but plays one on the Internet. He actually is a busy music producer and is currently preparing to work on his masters in music with a focus in Musicology. For more on Eric, go to http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com

Bibliography

(Excerpt From: Goodall, Howard. “The Story of Music.” Open Road Integrated Media, 2013-12-04T16:43-06:00. iBooks. This material may be protected by copyright. Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itun.es/us/WI8YU.l)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gioachino_Rossini

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony premieres

The More Things Change

spotman

Over the past decade, much has changed in the music industry. The relatively short reign of the CD found its decline as a new generation decided it preferred downloading only the songs they liked. Now, music listeners are deciding they may like streaming music more than downloading using apps like Spotify, Pandora, (and soon Apple Music.)

In truth, what the end user listener (who you will remember is who the music is created for) has always liked is the most convenient way to access music. Streaming apps on their phone is great for listening like we used to listen to the radio, or records, or CDs. It’s easy, and we can dial in the music we want. Set it and….forget it.

But for musicians, songwriters, and others who are the makers of the music these folks listen to, the change is not so wonderful and helpful. In fact, the money that is made on the back end of the recordings is getting atrociously small. Streaming pays very little per stream, and you’ve probably even heard about artists like Taylor Swift taking her music off Spotify in protest (who needs all that small change anyway? Shake it off!)

As a person who makes and sells music myself, and works with people in every position in the music business, I can see how it’s easy to be really mad about all this. It doesn’t seem fair that the quality, money, and time invested reaps so little in return.

But as a student of music history, I also know that this is just another cycle in the history of music business. Not the music business, but the business of music.

Like the printing press, sheet music, the phonograph, the radio, the LP, the single, the cassette, the CD, and the MP3, streaming is changing the way the world consumes music. We might want to just quit crying and get used to it. It’s not going to switch back magically because we music types are mad about it. Like all those other times, we will either have to figure out how to monetize the music work we do in the current age, or do something else.

Many things in music haven’t changed. Live music is still as vibrant and effective as it has been since music was invented. You can even still sell product live. If you love music so much and are a musician or artist, you might best concentrate on getting out there and making it in front of an audience. If you are a producer, player, engineer, songwriter, or some other person involved in the making of music, it may be time to find your own niche and go after it because the “sit back and watch dollars roll in because you made or contributed to recordings” days might be over.

I find that those who are really the most fit to be tied are those who made tons of money in the heyday of record business (see the invention of the CD and everyone “re-buying” every album they ever loved on the new pristine format). The people who came up and flourished in the “days of wine and roses” where sales and money flowed like water, are the ones that are “suffering”. (This just in, many of these same people still make more than anyone else in the world doing music, but they are just disgusted that it’s not as much as they used to make).

The truth is everything has always changed in the history of music business, but then another way to make money always comes along. In fact, we are seeing new avenues for music now with YouTube, gaming, streaming, crowd-sourcing, and more.

Remember that when radio started, folks were outraged that their music was being played to people without monies being collected. ASCAP and BMI eventually began collecting that money, and people are still employed, paid, and getting rich off royalties today. But it took a while for this collection method to get stable and profitable as the technology grew.

Many folks, especially in music centers like Nashville, LA, or NY, are just very spoiled as a whole with how easy it has been to make good money as a songwriter/label/publisher over the last 30 years.

Ask any normal teenager or twenty something what they think, and they will give you a thumbs up on the state of music. They are happy with the way music is becoming easier to find and listen to. They are glad they don’t have to buy CDs for the one song they want, or fiddle with where to store downloads, when they can just tune in and access what they want, when they want. Kind of like we’re getting to do now with Netflix the past few years, and cable television for close to 40 years.

WHY THIS MATTERS

We have to remember that the end user listener is really who music is for. Our goal is that they listen. That hasn’t changed. We in the industry will just have to find ways to deal with the changes that have happened, and then as always find a way to make an income with our craft.

Or we could all go sell tires (until they invent flying cars, and then won’t we be mad!)

Have a great week!

EC

Eric Copeland is a producer, songwriter, arranger, author, and a dozen more things that allow him to earn a living and continue to create all day. Find out more about him at http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com

Pay for Play (Music History Repeating)

“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.” – George Bernard Shaw

Those who deride, denounce, and generally decry the new music business world of streaming and single downloads should know we’ve been here before. I won’t go into 45 “singles”, and in fact this particular story predates even those years by almost 70 years.

0dca9-cowboysIn the book “Cowboys and Indies: The Epic History of the Record Industry”, by Gareth Murphy, he tells an early story of the first (and only) recording industry monopoly. Around 1895, business tycoon Jesse Lippincott bought into Thomas Edison’s phonograph (at that time the prevailing “talking machine” technology was still a wax cylinder machine.)

He exclusively licensed the technology across the nation to dealers who in turn leased the machines to users. His partner in this business was Edward Easton, the industry’s first record producer, and the grandfather of Columbia Records.

“Despite a moderately promising start, Lippincott’s company and all of its affiliated distributors began hemorrhaging money. Wisely, Edward Easton went out to investigate what was happening on the ground. Throughout March 1890, in what would be the first nationwide study of the nascent record industry, Easton traveled coast to coast, visiting thirty-one of Lippincott’s regional branches.

“To his amazement, Easton observed something nobody saw coming. A San Francisco distributor had transformed the phonograph into “pay to play” jukeboxes. Custom-built, in beautifully decorated wooden cases and fitted with coin slots, they were placed in arcades, saloons, drugstores, and various strategic places of passage.

“The fashion spread from California to other cities. Although the average take for most of these nickel phonographs was about $50 a week, the most popular jukebox was believed to be in a drugstore in New Orleans. It averaged $500 a month. Within a year, Lippincott’s monopoly began to collapse.” – Gareth Murphy, Cowboys and Indies

It would seem throughout music history, consumers choose to pay for one song as they want it. I’m sure if they could have come into a music hall and demanded orchestras play just the piece they wanted, they would have.

WHY THIS MATTERS:

The plain truth that all current musicians have to live with now is that we are moving away from recorded music in general as a commodity. Until the late 1880’s the only way to even experience music on demand outside a music event was playing from sheet music, and that had only flourished since the widespread availability of the printing press.

Now, technology has freed music from such primitive constructs as cylinders, wax discs, tapes, and even digital discs. Music is everywhere, on every portable player, phone, tablet, laptop, and other device. It’s even available over the air in every restaurant or store, or on music channels in our cable package.

Just as jukeboxes transformed the first early record business, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Beats, Rhapsody, and others offer users the ability to hear any song any time, and it is rocking the recording business just like it did 150 years ago in it’s infancy.

It’s just music history, repeating.

John Eric Copeland isn’t a real musicologist but plays one on the Internet. Be sure to sign up to get this blog when it posts, and join us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkenIn for daily tidbits.