The music industry is a thriving industry. It always was and still is. History has shown that musicians have expressed themselves lyrically without interference in their vision. They have been creative and innovative. However, with the rise of the recording industry and the money pyramids that industry created, the musical vision was compromised. Greed became more important than the vision. Once our heroes attained riches, the songs post “most successful album” just didn’t connect or resonate anymore.
As kids growing up, we fall in love with music, the melodies, the riffs, the lyrics, the phrasing and that free rebellious feeling that it inspires in us. Music always captured a sense of time and place. I could hear a song that I haven’t heard in ages and immediately it places me back in a time and a place of my past.
Music is about the creative individual and how they express their creativity. Great creativity equals success and success equals profits. When money enters the game and people who contribute nothing musically start to live a very comfortable life from those profits, then all they care about is keeping those profits the same plus a little bit more. That is why pop music suffered in the Eighties while Metal and Rock took a foothold. Metal and hard rock was honest and real. However once it became a commercial viable product, commerce took over and metal/rock became stale, until Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Guns N Roses blew open the paradigm again and suddenly every label was chasing similar style of bands or getting their current roster to emulate those two bands.
Impose any financial and marketing frameworks on creativity and you get compromised art.
A business that is 100% about profit.
And the very thing that brought money into the industry in the first place and made the industry so popular is sacrificed. What was free and rebellious becomes controlled and processed. In 2014, the songwriters from Sweden have this down pat, which is no surprise as Sweden did give the world IKEA, which sells generic and bland ready-to-assemble furniture, much like the pop industry right now, bland ready to listen music.
The songwriter of the two thousands is without doubt Max Martin, a Swede. Taylor Swifts pop career has been written by Max Martin. Britney Spears career has Max Martin all over it. Bon Jovi’s comeback hit “It’s My Life”, yep that had Max Martin as well on it. Pink’s “Please Don’t Leave Me” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” also had Max Martin all over it.
And where did Max Martin start his career. It was as a singer in a metal/rock band called “It’s Alive”. The band was a stepping stone to meeting other people and eventually he got into song writing and at the moment his team is known as an “assembly line song writing team”. Martin is that big in Sweden, that the Swedes will now be able to lick him via his own postage stamp.
It’s a thin line as artists want to be paid for their creations and record labels want to make money of art that they have funded. Add to that mix songwriters like Martin who also want to get paid along with the publishers. However all sides are forgetting the crucial unknown, the FANS.
The casual music fans will lap up the trashy, mass-marketed pop music and any other music that crosses over into the pop stratosphere. The niche fans will bank roll their heroes forever and a day. Think of Shinedown as an example. They crossed over with “The Sounds of Madness” album and had platinum parties for singles and album sales in excess of a million. The follow-up, while still popular moved half of its predecessor. What that means is that the original niche fans of the band still purchased the album, the merchandise and the concert tickets while the casual fans streamed it and purchased the concert tickets, as Shinedown did big business at the box office on the Amaryllis tour.
But the question in all of this is that labels are seeing a future where the artists are tied to corporate ‘brands’. With this kind of business mindset, would another Dream Theater, Pantera, Machine Head or Metallica even come to be.
How can an artist be free to express their musical vision if they are tied to a corporate brand whose only interest is profit and commerce.
George Orwell said that “Myths which are believed in tend to become true” and the recording industry via the RIAA and the Publishing firms are all about making myths into truths. However Orwell also said that “In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act” and that is what the Internet has allowed. The internet has allowed people to tell the truth or to offer a differing viewpoint then the one that is pushed by the lobbyists and the copyright industries.
For artists it is all about the song. That is your ticket and your bargaining chip. The song is your entry into the business. A lot of songs equals a body of work (not an album). But you need to work it, and you need to connect.