Sometimes, you reach a point when you realize you’re just….done. And now, I’m just plain done listening to musicians complain. Amateurs complain about how people don’t support the “scene”, or woefully contemplate why they aren’t breaking through when the truth is that they aren’t contributing anything special or innovative. I am done hearing mid-level bands bitch about how band “X” is inexplicably selling tons of records and selling out shows, but they can’t even land a decent support slot. “That band sucks! We crush them! I don’t get it.” Damn right, you don’t get it. I am really done listening to rich rock stars of yesteryear’s glory days whine about downloading and how kids today have ruined the music industry.
Whether you are in a local band trying to build any kind of audience, or in a signed, touring, established act trying to stay afloat in constantly changing times, or a millionaire dejected that music alone will not afford you that 2nd vacation home or 3rd Bentley, I’ve noticed that musicians do lots of fucking complaining. Maybe it’s a rock and metal thing. You guys love complaining so much, that people complain for me. After I wrote my piece about the demise of NWOAHM, several people scoffed at the idea that I postulated that maybe God Forbid wasn’t good enough. I didn’t say we weren’t, but just entertained the possibility that we weren’t. They have to assert a lack of fairness is built into the system so that the truly “great” bands will be periodically overlooked. That sounds like Conspiracy Theory 101 to me.
I’m going to work backwards here and deal with those musicians who are fat, happy, successful, and yet unable to go quietly into the night. The poster child of this mentality is the branding juggernaut, Kiss. None of us are under any illusions that Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley (who represent the brain trust and business leadership) are interested in anything more than treating their b(r)and as a multinational corporation seeking to maximize profits. I know people love Kiss, and I am actually not trying to shit on them, but it’s hard to ignore some of the messaging coming from these guys.
Of course, there is the “Rock is dead. It was murdered.” statements by Gene Simmons. Gene always plays the pompous heel, so this was not a surprise. But, I was somewhat surprised at Paul Stanley’s understanding or lack thereof pertaining to how peer-to-peer file sharing actually works on Joe Rogan’s podcast.
In this conversation, I have to say that Paul Stanley comes off as a really smart, self aware and vastly more likable and humble in comparison to Gene Simmons. But in the segment I’ve linked to, Stanley clearly doesn’t understand the concept of how file sharing is not technically stealing. It may be immoral, and in fact illegal, but it is not stealing in traditional sense. If I break into your house and steal your TV, I now have your TV, and now you don’t. It is an acquisition and loss transaction. File sharing doesn’t work that way. No one loses their copy of an album in the transaction. It is copying. It is replication. Not old-fashioned theft.
I’ve written in depth about this subject matter a while back when the streaming and Spotify issues first became hot topics. I feel like my examination of these new technologies are fairly straight-forward, but many very intelligent people (mostly over the age of 35) just can’t wrap their heads around these concepts. Perhaps, I should allow some leeway in that paradigms and concepts drastically altered from the world you grew up in can be nearly impossible to come to grips with. I have to be empathetic here, because there is a good chance the same to could happen to me. If I don’t do my best to stay mentally ambidextrous, then my open mindedness could shrink and wither away. This is why people tend to become more conservative and bigoted with age. Your scope for the infinite range of potentiality dwindles with every scar left by a bad experience.
I don’t know how much the idea of open mindedness is currently valued, but people aren’t really as open minded as they think. Even your standard “open minded” liberal is affixed to a prescribed ideology. To be truly open minded, you have to be able to look at an issue from all angles and everyone’s perspective. It involves emotionally abandoning your tribal allegiances and biases. Radical ideas scare people, but only by entertaining radical ideas can you imagine something that is actually revolutionary. Revolutions are often violent and creative destruction is a real thing. To create something new and ground breaking, you sometimes have to literally break ground. Destroy. Erase. Improve.
Here’s why these people need to shut. the. fuck. up.
1. Shaming doesn’t work.
Has all the bemoaning brought the industry roaring back? No. Sales are still going down and down. These people don’t realize that downloading has affected every industry that involves intellectual property. Film, television, books, porn, newspapers, magazines, and to a lesser extent video games. To varying degrees, many of these industries have been hit..HARD. Unless the technological capability to download illegally can be stopped or grossing regulated altogether, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
2. Only established musicians who have already made money complain.
When you are used to getting big advances, and have made an actual living off of music, you get used to that lifestyle. You probably have a self assured idea that you are worth something very quantifiable. I hate to use word “entitled”, but that’s really what it is. Have you ever heard a brand new band going around demanding $15 for their brand new demo no one has ever heard? No. They are selling it for $3 or $4 at a show or giving it away for free. They just want to be heard.
3. These people do NOT understand economics at all.
I am no economic expert, but I can grasp the basic concept of supply and demand. There is vastly more musical supply than demand. There is virtually no economic phenomena where people will pay for something when they can get it for free. Unless you can join up with ingenious Bottled Water people, who some how convinced people to pay a premium for something that flows from their faucets for pennies and literally falls from the sky. We are in a phase where pleading to fans for financial support is tantamount to charitable donations. I don’t even think charitable support of bands is a bad thing. The crowdfund era has been very positive in my opinion to connecting bands with their fans and making musicians more independent. But charity is a not a sustainable business model. Stop me if you’ve heard this one, “You’ll pay $5 for a cup of coffee that will last an hour, but you won’t spend $10 on an album that will last forever?” Value is subjective to what people are willing to pay. A giant diamond ring or a BMW is only worth tens of thousands of dollars because people are gladly willing to pay it. So yes, millions of people value their Pumpkin Spice Latte more than your album. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Keep in mind that your music is in competition with ALL media, of which there is more of than at any point in history. People are playing video games, listening to podcasts, watching Youtube and Netflix. And you can be damn sure that manufacturing and service industries will be the next to fall to modern technology when 3-D printers put Home Depot out of business, automated kiosks replaces cashiers, and self driving cars replace taxis and Uber. You sobbing musicians will have a bunch of other people whining and crying right next to you about job-killing technology.
4. People are broke….as fuck.
Here’s a few known heavy bands put out records just in October 2014: Slipknot, Unearth, At The Gates, Obituary, Northlane, Devin Townsend, Crobot, As Blood Runs Black, Abysmal Dawn, The Acacia Strain, Revocation, Sanctuary, Scar Symmetry, Pig Destroyer, Today is the Day, Fit For a King, Exodus, The Melvins. These are just some of the albums put out by some known bands in ONE FUCKING MONTH. If you like other music that isn’t metal, your choices and options multiply even more. What would you say is an adequate music budget per month? $20? $50 $150? What do you spend? Now, ask your self what the broke ass college or post-school table waiting, lawn mowing, student loan paying version of yourself could afford to pay per month for music. The majority of illegal downloaders are young (under 30) and male. AKA your fucking audience. If it wasn’t for downloading or $10 a month for Spotify or YouTube, they wouldn’t be able to check out new music to nearly this degree. When times are tough, you cut out luxuries and non-necessity items. Which unfortunately, music is.
5. You’re a hypocrite
There are fewer things that disgust me as much as sanctimony. The truth is we are all a reflection of our time and surrounding environment. All of you over 40 crowd would have been doing the same thing (apparently, a large percentage actually are) had you grown up in an era where there was infinite access to all things awesome and the economy was this shitty. My bad, you were “tape trading”. Totally different concept.
Keep calm and say it with me…
Edited by my longtime musician and producer friend, Len Carmichael. Please check out his badass hardcore band BottomFeeder.