I don’t mind dabbling in the share market. And like everything in life, the share market is one of boom and busts. If you look at the share market booms and busts you can casually make a comparison to the recording industry booms and busts.
There are billions/trillions of dollars in the share economy while the recording industry is a billion dollar industry and when you add the rest of the industry that forms the music industry you see that music is worth a lot of money.
In share market investing, the usual story is that if someone has a great idea and makes some dough from it, then others will eventually find out about the idea and they will start to put money in, to get money out. So use this analogy for the music business.
When one-act becomes a success, the recording labels would go about and sign hundreds/thousands of acts that sound the same. The labels would also get their current roster of acts to produce music that is similar sounding to the “HOT” act. Three periods in metal music stick out.
From 1980 to 1983 it was the Judas Priest era for clone like acts. From 1983 to 1986 it was the Motley Crue era for clone like acts. From 1986 to 1989 it was the Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and Guns N Roses era for clone like acts.
What about streaming. From only a few streaming players in 2008 we know have a crowded market place. The early success of Spotify and Pandora leads to a monster called envy. This monster than leads others to want to get in on whatever else is in vogue. The latest to join the line of streaming services is the star-studded Tidal. Remember the last star-studded product launch in Neil Young’s PONO. Tidal is no different and the same fate awaits it because both services are about protecting the incomes of the better off artists and they have nothing to do about what the music fan wants.
If Tidal and Pono want people to pay for music again then their business model of putting music behind a pay wall is not the answer. As soon as you do that, P2P will increase again. Newspapers tried to put their content behind pay walls and guess what happened. People just went to websites who offered the content for free.
How do you think the Huffington Post became a large game player?
But as sure as night follows day, all booms come to an end, with a thud. The recording industry is not immune to it. In the share market investors turn to safe companies which pay a secured dividend. In music we turn to the acts that we know off. So those few companies/acts benefit a lot from our patronage.
Then, interest in the share market is renewed through mergers and acquisitions. Remember all of the mergers and acquisitions that have happened to the plethora of record labels over the past 20 odd years. The majors are down to just three.
Throughout it all, musicians still create and get on with their lives. You have the mega rich artist trying to stifle a genuine music business saviour in Spotify while in the meantime said artist is making way more money than any artist has in the history of music. You have wannabes complaining about digital payments. You have a public that 90% of the time cares about the stars and the artists who break through.
And then you have the middle of the road artists who are stuck in a world where the whole history of music is available to the fan and the music fan doesn’t have enough time to gravitate to them.
Sort of like Shadows Fall, Chimaira or God Forbid. All three bands came into my head space when an early 2000 issue of Guitar World was delivered to my mailbox that spoke about a New American Movement in Heavy Metal. So of course I had to check them out.
And all three bands are good. Each band has a definitive song. Being caught up in a cultural movement helped them out a little bit more than other bands however with all cultural movements only a select few end up rising to the top while the rest either fade away, dissolve or continue as middle of the road acts.
So you have bands like Lamb Of God and Slipknot moving into the Institution league. Killswitch Engage and All That Remains are two bands that come to mind immediately that are middle of the road acts.
Then you have Shadows Fall, Chimaira and God Forbid who decided to call it a day and move on. As guitarist Jon Donais (who is in Anthrax at this point in time) said in a recent Loudwire interview;
“Brian (Shadow’s Fall vocalist) was the first one to say, ‘I can’t go on tour anymore because it doesn’t make sense for me. I got kids and a wife’”. He needed to do something more stable because Shadows was always a crap shoot. We never knew what we’d come back [from a tour] with. We never became a headlining band. We were always a support act. I got so lucky. Shadows Fall was coming to an end and this opportunity with Anthrax came up. There just weren’t that many opportunities out there for Shadows Fall. It kind of fizzled out. People stopped caring, so we were all like, ‘Alright, what’s the point?’ We got along great and we loved writing music, but financially it was impossible to go on the road and come back with enough money, especially for the guys who have families. Two of the guys have kids. When you’re single you can go, “Alright, it’s just me on the line,” but when you’ve got a family, you gotta provide for them which means coming back with enough money so they can survive. The fun and games stop once you become a real adult.”
The fate that befell Shadows Fall, God Forbid or Chimaira is no different to the fate of many bands throughout the history of music. It is a cycle that keeps on repeating regardless the propaganda of the recording industry and the RIAA. It is a cycle of boom and busts.