Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Save the Music Industry - Steal More Music

(Don't worry, I'll get back to the penis-related humor soon.)

Recently on the News:
19 out of 20 songs downloaded on the internet are illegal downloads!
Record companies are seriously worried they might go bankrupt!

Finally, some good news for a change.

I sincerely hope that all the major record labels go down in flames. And I hope they take their crappy music with them. Please, people, if you really care about music, then stop buying it. When you pay for music, you're just encouraging them, making it worse.

But you're stealing from the artists!
The record companies want us to believe that it's stealing. “The artists should get paid for their work”, they say, and accuse us of ripping off the artists. I say: if the artists want to make money, then they can come to me and actually play the music for me. You know, in real life. Why should they get paid, over and over, into infinity, for a song they performed a single time in a studio?

Imagine you're a construction worker - but instead of going to work every day, you just video tape yourself working for one day. Then, for the rest of your life, you just send in the tape and get paid. Stupid analogy, you say? Hear me out, foolish non-believers...

The Good Old Days:
Not so long ago, musicians made money by actually playing music. Sounds crazy, huh? Here's how it worked: You, the musician, went to a place, unloaded your instruments, and then you played music for an hour or two. People paid you for the opportunity to listen. Not only that, but you almost always got laid. Hell, even the keyboardist got laid (or at least a hand-job).

It was great. It was fun. It was a good system. The artists got paid and laid for their work. And it was actual work. And they actually did it because they actually loved doing it. And those who didn't love it enough to do all this crazy “work” stuff were automatically weeded out.

Oh, and the music was a hell of a lot better than it is today, because the “artists” were actual artists.

Then along came recording
Wow, it was like magic. Musicians could perform the song a single time, yet listeners could experience it over and over again. Also, people could hear your music from far, far away without you having to go to them. What a great promotional tool! Now you could reach a much larger audience, which meant more gigs, bigger gigs, more sex and larger quantities of drugs.

Back then, it made sense to charge real money for a record. The technology was new. Records cost a lot to produce, to record, to cut the vinyl, and to ship them all over the world. It was sort of an honest business back then.

And along came the internet
Now days, iTunes just puts a bunch of mp3's up on a server. No shipping. No cutting records or even burning CD's. No packaging. No retail store. It's all handled by a computer program which does little more than take your money. They now have about 2% of the distribution overhead they used to have, yet they expect us to pay the same price we would if we were shopping in a physical record store, for physical products. Now, who's ripping off whom?

Brother, can you spare a commercial?
But the real scam, the most unbelievably diabolical flim-flam of the whole thing is this: they want you, the idiot consumer, to pay to be advertised to.

Consider this: Geico spends millions upon millions of dollars each year to make these very entertaining commercials with talking lizards and sexually ambiguous cavemen (they do seem a little gay, am I wrong?), just so you'll call them or go to their website, and then buy their product.

Recorded music serves the same purpose. When you hear a song on the radio, that's what it is – an advertisement. The ad says: "Hey, listen to us, aren't we great? When we come to your town, we'll totally rock hard, so buy tickets to our show!" The advertising power of recorded music is amazing, yet they expect you to foot the bill.

You really have to hand it to them, though. Those record companies are slick. Why, they even had me fooled for a while there. And I'm the fucking Captain!

And know this: I'm not coming at this issue from the point of view of a consumer. I'm looking at it as a musician - an artist, who writes songs (that rock, by the way) and records music. Not because I want to be a rock star, but because I love music. I'm the real thing, baby. And from this lofty perch, I have decided that this is how the whole thing should work:

Welcome to Fantasy Island!
Some musicians form a band. They write some songs. They play around locally for a while. If they get a decent response from the audience, and look worthy of investing in, then they get a manager. The manager invests maybe 5 to 10 thousand dollars to get them recorded. If the album is good enough, their music is heard on the radio. The radio stations pay a few pennies each time the song is played (which is how it is now). Now that they are on the radio, they get lots of exposure, which means bigger gigs. If people really like their music, then they get really big gigs, like stadiums, civic centers, etc. The band and the manager make a lot of money from those tours, believe me. They also make money from the radio and from internet downloads (which, in this fantasy world, are just 5 cents per download), but the bulk of their money comes from touring, from playing live.

Oh, and the sex and drugs? They get all they want for free, from the fans.

Side effects may include Not Sucking
If this was how the system worked, there would be some major side effects. For one thing, the music would get better. We wouldn't have these fat, bloated, heads-up-their-own-asses record companies, with their retarded focus groups, deciding what we will listen to. Bands would have to be able to actually play their instruments live on stage, and actually be able to sing.

But what about Brittney Spears, Usher, R. Kelly, and Jessica Simpson? They could just move directly to porno, where they belong.

Also, People wouldn't be compelled to “steal” as much. At 5 cents per download, most people would just go ahead and download it legally. I'm not being idealistic here - It's just easier to download stuff directly from iTunes than it is to use that Kazaa crap, with all the spywear and slow connections. 20 songs for a dollar? Sure, I'd do that. Just about anyone would. And, considering how flooded the market is with music, 5 cents is really all a song is worth.

Supply and Demand, baby
Do the math. Downloads are currently $1 per song - and since 19 out of 20 songs are not paid for, 5 cents is all they are getting now days anyway. The way I see it? The market has spoken. The record companies just can't deal with what it's saying.

It's saying “DIE, mother fuckers, DIIIEEEEE!!!

So, in conclusion:
Fuck the record companies for destroying the music culture, fuck “musicians” who don't care about music and only want to be famous, fuck iTunes for charging $1 per song, fuck the RIAA for saying that 2/3 of the population are criminals, fuck bands like Metallica who feel they are entitled to be paid over and over for a song which they performed a single time, and fuck Carlos Mencia.

I know that last one has nothing to do with the music industry, I just don't like Carlos Mencia.

He's really not funny.


knifepainter said...

That all makes perfect sense to me....I only get paid once for a painting.

If I'm lucky !

I'll be off to buy an ipod then.

D. C. Warmington said...

Hmm. What about authors?

("What about authors?" I hear you say.)

Lil said...

Captain, that is a good point very well made.

Me, I’ve given it all up and now only listen to vinyl and CD's. I no longer own any downloaded music and I’m even prouder of that fact now I’ve read your post.

My reason for hanging on in there with my retro music appreciation methods is because I lost a shitload of purchased-via-itunes music on a laptop that prematurely and expensively went off to laptop heaven. Of course, I could still listen to the stuff I’d bought on CD from the nice man in the shop but the downloaded stuff was lost forever. And I never uploaded the music onto an ipod/MP3 because I don’t have one for these reasons;

1. I'm clumsy, I break things easily. And I am a little scared of technology since the aforementioned laptop incident.
2. I'm not up for walking around obviously wearing something that somebody wants to punch me in the face to steal.
3. I hate listening to other people’s music when I am on the bus/train and wouldn’t expect anybody else to have to listen to mine. Besides, it is a universally acknowledged fact that reading/writing/doing the crossword/sudoku are the only acceptable methods of passing the time on public transport.
4. I am short sighted and often too forgetful/vain to wear my glasses. If i went about my daily life listening to music I would be depriving my usually distracted brain of yet another essential sense and would more likely be dead within the week.

Captain, I like your blog. I’m not usually one for leaving comments as I don’t have a blog (tried it once, too distracting) and make the assumption that bloggers don’t value comments from non bloggers. What are your thoughts on this?

Lil x

PS – When will we hear more about the Adventures of Captain Smack and his incredibly mischievous penis?

Electro Kevin said...

Aye Capt'n,

I don't know what it's like where you are but radio DJs round here seen to be in the pockets of the money men and play the same old shite over'n'over. I get in my car and it's like I've a CD stuck in the player with the same tracks except it's not - it's the radio channels playing the chosen few.

I'm now sick of Bryan Ferry, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, David Bowie ...

There're contemporary artists I haven't even bothered to learn the names of, but Virgin used to play a band called Jet so much that I wrote in and complained - I ended up abandoning their channel.

Yeah - return music to its roots and give it back to the people. Accountants and lawyers are ruining everything and don't belong in recording studios or music venues - they belong in tombs sucking the blood from the corpses of dead politicians.

Colin Campbell said...

VIP (very interesting post). Ever since I bought my first LP, I marvelled at the economics of the record companies. Load up a piece of plastic of mostly shit music. Include one (or maybe two) heavily promoted tracks and sell it for a shit load of money to lots of stupid or somewhat ignorant people and voila, moolah in spades.

Too many bloody lawyers running the show.

Tom said...

Dayum! Good post. I found your blog from Waiterrant's comments. The "Toothpaste" incident was hysterical.

Captain Smack said...

Good point. It's like Joni Mitchell said: “Nobody ever said 'hey Van Gogh, paint Starry Night again'.”

I assume you're referring to the songwriters/composers, correct? As it is now (and you probably already know this, but I'll mention it anyway), authors are paid royalties through ASCAP or BMI. Radio stations, record companies, performing musicians, Juke box owners, etc., all have to pay ASCAP/BMI, who then pays the authors and composers.

As I understand it – and correct me if I'm wrong – when a band performs a cover song live, then they must pay ASCAP/BMI on a per-performance basis. I'm not sure how they decide how much to pay, I believe it's all rather complicated, but it seems to work. I do know that, at least in the U.S., bar owners have to pay ASCAP/BMI if they have cover bands perform, so that musicians playing small venues don't have to bother with it. As for Itunes (as well as record companies and other companies that distribute CDs to retail outlets), they also have to pay ASCAP/BMI.

I really don't see any problem with leaving this system in place. If iTunes charged 5 cents per download, then the major difference would be that authors – just like the bands themselves - would not make as much money per download. However, when you factor in that 95% of internet downloads (currently) are illegal anyway, I'm not sure how much of a difference it would actually make. So basically iTunes would continue to pay royalties, but the slice would be smaller.

That response was probably a lot longer than it needed to be, but I'd never actually thought about it until you pointed it out. I'm sure someone with a more thorough understanding of how ASCAP and BMI works could come up with a more sophisticated view of the whole thing, but that's how it looks to me.

Captain Smack said...

I have a friend who just lost his iPod along with all the music on it. The loss of music was far more expensive than the actual iPod itself (and he had one of the really nice ones). I don't have an iPod either, I just listen to CDs in my car (when I'm not listening to talk radio) and directly off my computer at home. I'm very pleased to hear that you don't annoy others with your music. As for the short sightedness, have you considered contacts? Just throwing it out there.

As for getting comments from non-bloggers: I have no idea how other bloggers feel, never heard it mentioned before, but I couldn't care less if someone leaving a comment has a blog or not. I love getting comments, especially if they are comments that deserve a re-response, like yours. To me, that's the whole point of blogging (as opposed to just publishing articles) – to have people involved, open discussions/debates, feedback, etc. In fact, that you do not have a blog yourself rules out the possibility that you are only commenting to promote your blog (which I don't mind, either). Please leave comments anytime you want, I very much appreciate it!

And as far as the upcoming penis adventures are concerned, I'm still in the process of negotiating with my penis about that. He's very embarrassed that I'm talking about him on the internet, but he'll just have to get over it. I'll keep you posted.

I know what you mean, kevin, it's exactly the same way here. I love Jimi Hendrix, sure, but they play the same 3 Hendrix songs over and over and never explore the rest of his music. Here in the states, we actually have laws against pay-for-play (aka payola), but it still runs rampant.

Thanks, colin. I totally agree. It really is the lawyers. A lot of people don't know that it's mostly lawyers, literally, who make decisions on the music. It's especially bad in Nashville, and country music is the WORST it's ever been. I like a lot of the 70's country, but the new stuff is astonishingly lame.

Thanks a lot, nice to have you over. Waiterrant is great, I love that blog. Glad my agony amused you (and there's more where that came from).

D. C. Warmington said...


No, I was referring to literary authorship, but the same ideas apply. There is widespread copyright theft on the net; DRM'd ebooks are a disaster; and of course there is the omnipresent public library system which on the one hand does something to encourage reading and promote unknown writers, but on the other is in effect heavily subsidized by working writers -- who are among the worst-paid people in most economies. All in all, there is lots of discouragement of authors/lyricists/composers of all stripes. I don't know what the answer is. I am in favour of micropayments, like 5 cents, myself. I also think an honour system (like shareware) might, perhaps, provide a workable model.

One of my books was made into a movie with a reported budget of $80m (most of which probably went up certain noses). I have 1.5% of the gross. Guess how much it's earned me, over and above the rights + options? Yep, $0.00.

I heard a story about a movie made on location in Brazil (no names). They made a second movie at the same time, on the first movie's budget. All the stakeholders in Movie #1 lost out. All the stakeholders (i.e. the producer and his wife) in Movie #2 made a fortune.

They have some great accountants in Hollywood. Pity the creatives can't afford to hire them.

Lil said...

Retro Music Appreciation Methods:
Good for you Capt’n. I reckon i lost over a hundred quid’s worth of downloaded music. Lesson learned the hard way.

My prescription can’t be worked into contacts so I’m stuck with my glasses. Besides, for the most part, I prefer life in soft focus ( hence the everyday reliance on what I can hear, rather than see)

Here’s a question for you – if you had to surrender one of your senses, which would you choose? Could you imagine never seeing a sunrise again? Or never hearing your favourite song? Touching your toothpaste smeared penis? Smelling the sweet smell of bacon sizzling on a misty morning? Or indeed tasting that bacon sandwich on a misty morning?

I don’t eat meat any more but if anything was ever going to lure me back to the dark side, it would be the smell and taste of bacon on a cold and frosty morning.

Non Blogger Comments
When I was blogging it made me realise what a contrary creature I am. I kept changing what I thought and felt about things that I’d written so I gave it up as a bad job and went back to spending my spare time reading. With that said, I admire anybody who takes time out of their lives to blog and think that as I’m poking about in their thoughts, it’s only fair to at least offer up a bit about myself in my profile. Pro Quid Pro etc.

Have a good weekend Sir

Captain Smack said...

Oh, author authors. I see. Well, I don't know much about that kind of publishing (and I can't be expected to solve all the worlds problems), but perhaps I can offer a broader, what-it-means-in-our-culture point of view:

Writers are supposed to be poor. They just write better that way. They write their poor little hearts out, drink themselves to death, and expire alone and destitute in a dirty shack somewhere, wondering why nobody sees how brilliant they are. Then later, after they've been in the ground awhile, they are discovered and heralded as geniuses. It sucks for the writer, sure, but the books are way better. So maybe that's why the system is set up that way.

Rock stars, on the other hand, are supposed to be rich. You take some long-haired, lower-middle class high school dropout, give him a guitar, a pile of drugs, a few supermodels, and way too much money, then turn him loose and see what happens. It's really entertaining. And, for some reason, it actually makes the music better. Maybe throwing TV sets out of hotel windows is just inspiring, I don't know.

Seriously, though, I had no idea that downloadable books were that popular. Personally, I can't imagine reading an entire book via computer screen. I have to have ink on paper, myself. Sorry I can't be of more help.


If I had to get rid of one sense? Probably my sense of morality. That just gets in the way all the time. That or smell. To hell with bacon.

I have a friend who can't wear contacts either. She says it's because her eyes are shaped like footballs.

Erica AP said...

As a musician - I completely agree. Record companies are the devil. They will suck you and everyone around them dry. I have a friend who gets mad about people who download music for free and she only buys cds but I really have no problem with it. The best way to make money from music is to do it all on your own. It's really hard that way but it's the only way you can have total control over what you do and make all the money at the same time. As for me... I have an Ipod and I fucking love it. My friend gets the music... I don't ask where, and I don't care. I need my music and I know that the artist makes almost no money from the downloads (because we have our stuff on line too). The music industry has got to change and as romantic as it is to only buy CDs it's unrealistic for the future of technology.

Where's my beer to cheers you???

Oh - and where is your music that you say rock so much??

UBER MOUTH said...

The worst record comapny if I am correct was Chrysallis in the 80's who hirted on unknowns like Billy Idol and BLondie,,,,,,,,,,,,got them cheap when they were desparate to make a record and then locked them into low paying 5 year contracts ,effectively using up the best years of their talent.
The artist in the 80's made $1- per $20 record sold ( not much when it was a 4 member band) and then they were left out to dry when after their contractys expired or were due to they had produced their best work for nothing.
It's the record companies who rip off the musicians.
lawyers are just scumbags in every form.
Fantastic post Smackers!

Steph said...

I haven't paid for a CD in about three years. Record companies can kiss my arse.

Captain Smack said...

Yep, yep, it's just an outdated system. So how much does the artist actually get from iTunes, do you know? And that's another good point: artistic control, which is almost non-existent when you're in a contract. As for my stuff, I may kick out the jams around here sometime, not sure if I want those worlds to collide...

5 percent of the money is all The Beatles got, too. "one for you, nineteen for me..."

Uh-huh, same here. Only I have an ass instead of an arse, but it's very similar. Either way they can kiss it.

N. Steven said...

I agree. Carlos Mencia is probably the most overrated comic out there right now. And he really annoys me.

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About Me

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People often tell me that I look a lot like Jesus, so I always wear a Captain's hat so they can tell us apart. I also enjoy wearing robes and rockin' the tables.