David Lowery is a name you might not be familiar with unless you’re a passionate follower of ’90s alt rockers or music industry wonks. And there’s probably some heavy overlap between those two groups. Well, he is getting more buzz in the last couple of days than he has since his band Cracker was in MTV’s Buzz Bin, thanks to a blog post he recently wrote in response to an NPR intern, regarding nothing less than the future of music commerce.
Lowery was a founding member of both Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven. Both groups navigated the tempestuous waters of the music industry in the late ’80s and early ’90s and both managed to find moderate success. Cracker is likely known to many fans of AOR and MOR radio for their singles “Low” and “Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now).”
But David Lowery is a music industry renaissance man. He has done stints as a college lecturer at the University of Georgia and as a trading analyst, specializing in quantitative finance. Suffice it to say, the man is smart. “I like to think that I am uniquely qualified as an artist, entrepreneur and geek,” Lowery wrote in a blog post from April 15th titled “Meet The New Boss, Worse Than The Old Boss?” He continued, “I can out geek most of you.”
Hard to believe we’re already a month into 2012. Just as hard to believe is that we’ve almost got season two of The OurStage Panel in the can for you. That’s right, we just wrapped the first four episodes. Now all that’s left is the finale, which is gonna be big, man. Big. Might I add that the one and only Gavin DeGraw is our guest panelist this season? I might. I might just. Stay tuned for updates.
What else is new? I’ve been enjoying the outrage over that TIME Magazine piece on the two brothers in a band trying to make it in some kind of misguided interpretation of the modern day music business. Their central claim is that it costs $100,000 to operate a band these days.
This, of course, is insane. To begin with, everyone does things differently. Every successful artist has a different story about how they got where they are. But then there are varying degrees of over-inflation in their good-natured, passive-aggressive, woe-is-me, itemized list. This aspect quite riled up some people.
- The A.V. Club: Band claims it costs $100,000 to make it in indie rock, finally rendering the term indie rock meaningless
- The Lefsetz Letter: Time Magazine Band
- And our own Munson the Destroyer gives his quick take:
You can absolutely be a successful artist without dropping $100k. First of all, they shouldn’t include lessons [in their tally]” that’s a personal expense and something not everyone needs to incur. Secondly, that instrument cost is well inflated. Drag that price out over a decade and halve it due to gifted instruments and it would make more sense. Lastly, there’s no way that they need to blow a bunch of money on living in NYC. Cool sob story, fellas. Learn to spend your money better and do some things yourself. It’s a rough world, learn to adapt.
All of this is not to say that you can’t spend $100k a year on creating, recording and promoting your band or career. Yes, I think it can be very easily done. But, damn Sam, if you have that kind of money to spend, don’t do it like these goofballs. Send it to me. I will make your ass famous. I mean that literally. Your ass. Famous. Nothing more, nothing less.
Speaking of new and interesting and not stupid ways to promote your art, watch our BandAids column for creative ideas.
P.S. Spiritualized just announced a 2012 North American tour. Thank you @babyjeebuz.
Steve Jobs announced Apple’s new cloud-based service last week”fully equipped, of course, with an industry-rattling curveball. iCloud itself holds no real surprises; it’s basically a free way to share new music you purchase with up to ten different devices. The real kicker is that Apple is also launching a complimentary service, for $24.99 a year, called iTunes Match. This allows iTunes to scan your library, ID your songs and (assuming the song exists in iTunes) give you access to their legit version on the iCloud. On the surface, iTunes Match is just a convenient way to quickly take your library to the cloud without having to upload it”which could take days. What’s ruffling everyone’s feathers is that Apple is letting people convert their bootlegged songs to legit ones for what is essentially $2 a month. As you might expect, everyone (and their mother) has an opinion about how this will affect the industry.
Let’s start with the bad. Many people think that Apple is just offering a “parley” with the music pirates and essentially finding a way to profit off of piracy. The stance of “some payment is better than none” is nothing more than a weak compromise. But that’s far from the biggest concern. With the industry moving closer and closer to subscription services, some people fear that Match will kill the future before it has a chance to happen. The big four labels, who are reportedly being paid about $150 million up front by Apple (all together), have taken the quick cash without any incentive to pay their artists in the future. As Bob Lefsetz says, “[I]t’s like Nintendo being paid a bunch of money to never develop the Wii. It’s like Electronic Arts being paid to never develop mobile games. It’s a denial of the future. Who in the hell is going to buy a music subscription for even $3 a month when for $25 a year you can have everything you own, even stole, at your fingertips via iCloud?” While Lefsetz’s theory may be a bit extreme, he does bring up a good point.
On the other end of the spectrum, however, there are those who see Job’s announcement in a more positive light. The most obvious upside is that the industry will recoup some, if only a fraction, of the money it’s lost over the years to illegal downloading. As pointed out earlier, it will probably only benefit the labels and not the artists, but it’s still something. According to the industry executives that Fast Company spoke with, though, the real value is in the data; legitimizing illegal libraries will give them firsthand knowledge of what people are listening to. This crucial information has been almost non-existent since piracy became popular. There’s also the theory that suggests the exact opposite of Lefsetz’s: that iTunes Match will actually help prepare the world for music subscription services. The logic behind it is that Match will get people back into the habit of spending money on music. After years of illegal downloading, people have come to expect music to be free”Match, supposedly, will make consumers associate costs with the product once again and ease the transition into a world of subscriptions.
Like anything else, there’s at least three sides to Apple’s upcoming release. What do you think? Is it good for the industry, the end of life as we know it or will it just get sued into oblivion by the record labels like My.Mp3.com? Share your thoughts below!