Sour Grapes

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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.

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With that said, I have to address the main point of this article and why I was inspired to write it. This is an open letter for all to stop publicly shaming people who download illegally. Every time I read a blurb on Blabbermouth of some established rocker cry about how people downloading music is taking food out of his kid’s mouth, I want to punch the computer screen.

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.

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This might come off a bit harsh. Or maybe I’m just complaining about complainers, which also makes me a complainer and a hypocrite. I think I’m dizzy now. The truth is illegal downloading has affected my career firsthand in a negative way. The industry I decided to dedicate my life to evaporated from underneath. I’m not saying it’s a good change, but some things just happen. Negative things happen. Most of which you have no control over. Incessantly complaining about misfortune is a cancerous way to engage the world. We have to live in the world that is, not that we wish to be. So keep raging at the rain and the traffic and the President.

Keep calm and say it with me…

Bad boys

 

Edited by my longtime musician and producer friend, Len Carmichael. Please check out his badass hardcore band BottomFeeder.

14 Replies to “Sour Grapes”

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, and I’ve read this three times to make sure I’m clear on it, but your basic premise is that it’s a different time so stealing is OK?

    1. You aren’t clear on it. A.) One of my points is that it’s not stealing in the traditional sense. I’m not saying it’s right. It’s just a new phenomenon. You not understanding this kind of proves my point that it’s a difficult concept to grasp if you are from a different era. B.) It is a different time. It’s not about downloading being ok, it’s about focusing your efforts on things that will help. Downloading is an issue that needs to be dealt with from a legislative angle, and technological regulation. Not by making people feel bad because IT DOES NOT WORK. If you want to keep screaming in the wind, help yourself.

  2. I understood this perfectly clear, because Doc, your words are GOLDEN.

    What you’re essentially saying is that bitching and moaning about people DLing shit, is asinine because the truth to the matter is “Who doesn’t like free shit?” Which is the case with ALL age groups, I am BARELY below the age of 30 but I do not DL because my computer acts like a douche canoe when I do.

    But if my computer didn’t act this way, I would DL the fuck out of EVERYTHING.

    Essentially, you’re saying that in this day and age everything gets DLed and they need to focus their energies into promoting their music better and not making their fans feel like shit.

    It is the same premise as when you’re a kid and your parents tell you not to do something, you’re gonna fucking DO IT, because you were told NOT to. SHEESH. MUSICIANS! I SWEAR IT!

    Always a pleasure reading your highly intelligent blog posts babe! <3

  3. I think a lot of the whole “complaining” problem simply lies with the extreme confusion over the matter. The fact that some rock stars used to be literally like walking gods on the earth (remember when people passed out when Michael Jackson would come on stage?) and now that power has been whittled down to a few fleeting “rock star” moments on some competitive singing show is really confusing and hard to swallow. I still find myself randomly obsessing over the matter mostly because I can’t for the life of me see any scenario in which things are getting better. 🙁

    My opinion on the subject is this… Artists and musicians are great communicators in this world. We’re saying things that normal people can’t express or put into words but when the messages of the unified collective aren’t saying anything worthwhile the music and art suffer. I really think it’s that simple. I don’t think it’s really a matter of creativity or musical innovation either but there IS something to be said about creating the same sounds/music over and over…. That’s not art, it’s the same as anything else; it’s dressing up like something from the past and trying to sell it as normal or present “you’re not a cowboy…you’re a dickhead in a hat”. Anyway, when our schools, businesses and media teach us nothing but how to make money and get a job, it doesn’t move our species forward as much as it teaches us how to be better slaves. Sorry to go in such “conspiracy” related directions but when I hear or see the popular media of today I mostly hear a celebration of blind ignorance.

    So basically… nothing is wrong with the music industry in my opinion. The problem is that the people right now are saying music is pretty worthless or worth nothing more than that of a passing short-lived good time. As dumb as it sounds, the industry is not at fault and no new “model” is gonna save us musicians. What we create has to be valued once again and we need to either evolve for the better or continue down the shitty rabbit hole of slavery and bullshittery. And don’t mistake that as me bitching about being undervalued… I’m not undervalued…music and art are. Like all things in life there are highs and lows… this won’t last forever…but sometimes it’s hard to not complain about the “dark times” .

    Thanks for sharing your insight there dudepants. I enjoy reading it.

  4. I like that you bring up the fact that it’s a legislative issue. Webernauts claim the internet is immune to any sort of policing, but what do they really know other than it’s a free for all at the moment. Music Piracy is not a big issue to the government, but after recent hacking attacks it’s obvious that western culture is incredibly vulnerable to hacking. If our technology is shut down, bank accounts drained, secrets stolen, phone network cut off, city services shut down remotely, air traffic control wiped out, nude pictures reposted, etc, our entire society would crumble. Everything in western culture runs on the internet. We are completely dependent on it. Over the years, the government will have control over the internet, and may choose to target pirate sites as well.

    And who downloads music anymore anyway? The few people I know who listen to music in their free time just listen to it for free on youtube.

    Oh and tape trading was COMPLETELY different. You know that.

  5. This is a fantastic piece and I couldn’t agree more. Last year I wrote a somewhat similar piece after Gene Simmons made his “rock is dead” comment. As music industry professionals we don’t have to agree with the direction of where the industry is headed, but in order to survive we need to adapt to it. As musicians we are creative people in the first place but it’s often hard for musicians to think of a creative “solution” for adapting to their surroundings. That’s how my company was formed, by the need to adapt. Touring musicians typically can only make their money on the road by selling their merchandise. It seemed like a no brainer to me to create the “Downloadable Album Tee” so the fans buying our band shirts can have instant access to our album , social media ect.. right on their mobile device.. You buy the band shirt at the show you are already going to buy and within the shirt comes the album that will download directly to your phone . Stream, share , ect…

    “Fans have gone mobile with the rest of the world and they are the ones telling the market how they want to purchase and listen to music. It’s up to the artist to “be creative” or “adapt” and deliver content (in this case music) in a relevant way.”

    To learn more http://www.r-evolutionindustries.com/blog/6365715393549339128

    Cheers!!

  6. Thanks for your great article. This is an interesting topic and so arguing about it can be very useful.
    I live in Lithuania(eastern Europe) and I had pleasure of listening to many great bands. Guess how ? Anyway, not long ago in public transport there have been appearing messages telling people that illegal music is bad and that one should turn it off.
    And I always thought that being against downloading is fair.
    You know what else is fair ? That I am a poor student and I faced a dilemma of whether to listen to great bands and feel guilty about it or really just stop downloading.
    Basically my question is this – what’s more important having your music heard or having your records sold.
    In my case there is no third option, there are so many bands I love, that if I bought all the albums I love I would be instantly broke and faced with a huge debt.
    So yeah my point is that I chose to forego on downloading all them great albums coming out in 2014 and 2015 and besides streams put on youtube by bands themselves, I really did not pay attention to them.
    You are so right about knowing your audience, but there is something deeper about being able to easily download and boost music without a second thought, because it evades the question how music is important to you.
    BTW, I give charity regularly and I thought that instead of giving money to starving people, I could save up and buy more albums, but is this the answer ? I hope not.
    PS:When I went to few concerts in my country I bought albums. It’s a nice feeling to be able to support bands however small that support may be especially to upcoming local bands.

  7. The music industry was too slow to respond to file sharing back in the day, they were too busy charging 19.95 for a CD and squeezing every drop out of it they could.

    If the distribution channels and the innovators would have adapted sooner I believe the music industry would look completely different today.

  8. Whoa, 20 whole dollars! WTF, a cd or legal download is 10 bucks anyway. People are simply cheap pieces of shit who drink 8 dollar beers and eat 12 dollar burritos.

    1. First off, you need food to survive, so I’m not going to really bust balls for burrito consuming.

      In the economics of the matter, humans respond to incentives. If there are free options, you can’t expect people to pay for things they can get for free just because they want to be nice or charitable. There is an overwhelming amount of free supply. If people could get the beer and food for free, they would. I’m sure you’ve been to an open bar or free-food schmooze event. People tend to show up for those and consume away.

      People aren’t shitty; they are just people. Change the incentives or change the rules, and people’s behavior will changes. If they could get free records in the 70’s or 80’s, they would have, but they couldn’t. The record industry as you knew it existed for a whopping 50 years. Expecting all economic bubbles to thrive in perpetuity doesn’t account for the reality of economic trends. I wish it would have stayed like it was, but that system is over. Being mad because “people suck” is wasted energy. You either deal with the system as it is if you really love it regardless of money, or just do something else. It may be the smart move.

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