Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Future of Music Looks Bleak

Every so often I'll break out my guitar(s), write a song or two, and maybe even feel compelled to record something. At times I'm asked by others why it is that I don't pursue music as a career. Well aside from the obvious crap-shoot that music can be, it's a question I return to myself as I do enjoy music and musical creation more than most activities in this world. The simple answer to the question is that I don't pursue music because the music industry is a mess right now.

Now before anyone turns violent with images of curbing me ala American History X, let me say that I do NOT blame file-sharing for the current woes of the music industry. No, far from it. Music needs to change its business model, a topic I discussed in a previous post here. My master's thesis was based on the issue of file-sharing and I have yet to see any hard evidence through my own research of over 100 college students, studies published by Harvard School of Business, and many others, that file-sharing has led to the downfall of the music industry. This all leads up to an interesting video I found the other day when doing some research on a man easily considered a former vanguard of the recording industry.

John Kalodner is probably one of the creepiest (look at him!) and most famous A&R men of the twentieth century. For the un-initiated, A&R stands for Artists and Repertoire. It used to be that if you wanted to get a record deal, you wanted to get your tape in front of an A&R man. This is the guy that would go to the other execs and say hey, we need to sign these guys, they're going to be big!

Kalodner has worked with Aerosmith, Foreigner, AC/DC, and many other large rock/pop groups. Sometime around 2003 or so, the record companies decided that Kalodner was too much of an expense and not worth keeping, even though he had made some groups very, very large and in turn made the record companies very, very large sums of money. In the following interview taken during Januray of 2006 Kalodner, out of work and disillusioned, weighed in on the state of the industry.

While he says he would love to see a new delivery system, he still calls file-sharing stealing and likens it to someone going into Target and stealing everything. Additionally he says that everyone who does not admit to this is a liar.

Conversely, he readily admits that music was marked-up beyond reason by record company executives (or 'pigs' as he calls them) which should have not been the case, and that music can never “be for free”. What is so deliciously ironic is that Kalodner was ONE of the pigs himself! This is a man who was paid a lot of money to do what he did. I have to wonder if folks like Kalodner are only upset over the fact that their paychecks aren't as fat as they used to be.

Meanwhile artists such as Coldplay and Nine Inch Nails are doing exactly what Kalodner said was impossible. They are giving their music away and asking for donations etc. Where we go from here is a mystery. Where do you think the music industry will be in the future, what will it
look like? I look forward to your comments.


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Monica Ice said...

I just found your blog searching John Kalodner. We have to rewrite the business model for music. Kalodner at that time was still an insider like you said, and inside, it was very fractured with bits of information all over the place, pumped points-of-view, and no one really down on the streets, so to speak, who were in the trenches with working bands. There is a black operations underlying the changes of the industry in the 1990s, but now they've pushed themselves into a hole they can't climb out of. Like you said, let's see what it changes into.