Thursday, June 21, 2012

Emily White, David Lowery, And The New Music Paradigm

intern image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
If you've not been paying attention, there's been a minor furor recently between NPR intern Emily White and Cracker/Camper Von Beethoven frontman David Lowery. To briefly paraphrase the situation, 21 year old White wrote that she has 11,000 songs in her iTunes library yet has only paid for 15 CDs in her life, while Lowery wrote a long reply describing the Music 3.0 world of an artist and songwriter that wanted/needed to be paid.

It should be pointed out that White was lamenting the fact that she wanted to support artists she loved and felt guilty not paying for their music, but the culture of she and her peers dictates that music should be for free, and they rarely feel compelled to pay for it. After all, you can find it for free in so many places already anyway (YouTube, Grooveshark, the various Torrents, to name of few). She's not opposed to a service like Spotify and would love it if she could get anything she wanted, whenever she wanted, with a great portion of the money paid for the service going back to the artist.

Lowery went on and on and on about the problems of the music world today and, in my opinion, more or less missed the point.

This makes me want to arbitrate the conversation from a distance and illustrate where the music business is at today in regards to both consumers and artists/songwriters.

We live in a different musical world today. It's too easy for the consumer to get music for nothing or almost next to nothing. It's a commodity like soybeans, only less vital to our health and the economy. As White stated in her letter, kids don't care about liner notes or fancy packaging or even any packaging at all. They don't see the collectible nature of a vinyl record, cassette, or CD like the previous generations. It's a new ballgame.

That doesn't mean that they love music any less than the previous generations did, nor does it mean that music is any better or worse. Take a look beyond the top 40 (which has always been, for the most part, superficial) and you'll find some amazing acts.

The problem for many old school artists, publishers, and label executives is they can't accept that the paradigm has shifted. All of them want to be paid just like they were before. Who can blame them? It leads to a pretty cool lifestyle when the money flows freely. But those days are over, at least for now, and as far as anyone can tell, they're not coming back any time soon.

Artists and songwriters the world over want to get paid for their work, especially when they gain some measure of visibility. There's no argument that that shouldn't happen (I suffer just as much from a stifled royalty stream as anyone else), but the music creation system as it's constructed today doesn't match the way consumers consume the music they love.

There's no use complaining about it any more. That only pisses people off and it's not helping the situation. Buggy whip makers complained when the automobile hit the scene, as did typewriter manufacturers when computers were taking off. That didn't get them very far as they died a slow death. Adapt or die was never a more appropriate phrase.

I have some interesting thoughts on the things that have and have not changed in our journey from Music 1.0 to Music 3.0 which I'll share in a future post.

Read the Emily White post here, and the David Lowery reply here.

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Léo Saramago said...

I believe my generation suffers most: we were raised inside the Old Model and now we struggle to embrace the current status. We were caught off-guard way before we had a chance to establish solid careers; we never saw this coming. Our hopes and dreams are older than the big paradigm shift and that's why we see so many complaints. "Adapt or Die" causes rage because people don't understand it's not a punch-line.

steve harvey said...

This is an interesting addition to the debate:

Anonymous said...

I don't think David is really missing the point. A lot of young people say that they want the artists to be paid. Of course they do - it seems fair. The issue is when it comes to them actually paying out their money for it, that's when they come up with all kinds of excuses why they don't. At the end of the day, if it's available for free and other people are doing it, most kids aren' going to shell out for music anymore. Emily says that she wants a giant database of music that she can listen to whenever & however she wants. Of course somehow the artists should "get paid" for this, but there's no mention of "I would pay X amount per song" or anything of the sort. She does say that she'd never pay for an album, but that she would pay for convenience. To put it simply, they'll only buy something they can't steal (or easily get away with stealing).

You're right that it's not worth complaining about the industry change anymore, but I think David is responding to a certain attitude. You've got all these kids who are all about social justice & morality, but when it comes to music, this all seems to go right out the window. They support the artists being paid, as long as they don't have to be the ones to do it. I could imagine that as a full time muscian, this attitude being upsetting. He's basically telling her to put up or shut up.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe David missed the point...there really does seem to be a justification to take others IP (intellectual property) / songs away. You really can't fault the big tech companies for wanting this, it is what keeps people online. As far as kids downloading songs without paying...hey, no one is getting caight / punished - so party on dudes... - but it doesn't change the fact that taking something that isn't your is stealing.


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