Thursday, July 28, 2011

selling music in the digital age / spotify

It's been a while , and this is a long post ...

I grew up in an age of recorded music . My parents realized how much I loved music and for my third birthday I got a very basic turntable and a Beatles LP . I can remember dancing around the room listening to that thing . It's probably my earliest memory . I also remember convincing one of my sisters friends to dance with me to it ( my sister was jealous but it was hard for her to compete with the fab four ) . I also remember hearing Michael Jackson's " Don't stop till you get enough " at a friend's 8 year birthday party . We all danced to "off the wall" at that party with great relish until one kid danced through a glass window and had to go get himself stitched up by a doctor . He's fine now but probably still has the scars on his butt proving how funky MJ is . He literally danced his butt off . Much later after hearing a fender rhodes being played by Ray Charles , Herbie Hancock , Steely Dan and Pink Floyd I knew that I had to become a musician . Since then I have devoured most of the albums by many great artists like Miles Davis , Allan Holdsworth , XTC , Stevie Wonder , John Coltrane etc etc . Most of those albums I either paid for a second hand LP or purchased a CD . A made a few cassettes of friends LPs when I lived in share houses , I have burned a few CDs and even downloaded a few hard to find albums off the internet . Itunes was pretty cool and I have spent a great deal of money there too .
I love to go see live music in NY like Dr Lonnie Smith or Wayne Krantz or Roy Haynes or whoever is playing at smalls or the 55 bar .. That's an important part of life . Today I went to Lincoln Centre to see a free jazz music concert. Unfortunately Barry Harris didn't show as advertised but Eric Reed and Christian Sands played some great jazz piano ....
Even though I love to perform live , I am still a big believer in "studio " music . To me this is a seperate artform to live playing which really came into it's own with the advent of overdubbing ...
In my opinion Allan Holdsworth is the supreme master of this method of communication which probably started with the Beatles Sgt Pepper . Steely Dan , XTC , Weather Report , Miles Davis have made pretty significant contributions to the ART of recorded music , designed to be listened to through a good pair of speakers or headphones .
Roy Haynes is probably best heard with a drink a few feet away from the drums , but some of those other artists mentioned are just as good driving in your car ... I can't afford to spend my money on concerts every day but for $30 a month on itunes I can listen to plenty of great music all the time ...

Part of me thinks flying around the world to make a living is a bit crazy and I always liked the idea of recording music and selling it . My experiences of touring have been pretty poor from a musical perspective . Usually the piano , keyboards , PA system are less than adequate . Often the bass player is playing a borrowed bass , or you are dealing with musicians that are playing your music for the first time because you can't afford to bring a band around the world .

At least in the studio a lot of those problems can be solved . You can choose your piano , have it tuned , find a great sounding room to play in , pay the musicians you want who have been playing with you often . You can bring a whole house of keyboards with you if you want and even spend hours editing and overdubbing and mixing afterwards getting the music just right .

I still think live performance has it's place in fact I think it is equally as valid as performing " in the studio " . It's just a different medium . I play regularly in New York and occasionally overseas and it's always a pleasure . I think the pressure and communal nature of live music essential .

I also believe the renaissance that improvisation has had since the jazz age is in part a result of the fact that it can be recorded . For me it's a game changer that music doesn't need to be notated for it to live forever .

For that reason since I started playing and composing I have gone to great efforts to document my music . The process has been my greatest teacher . Making a CD that anyone would bother to listen too is a pretty huge challenge considering the amount of recorded music already out there . More recently with the help of some of the world's best musicians like Keith Carlock , James Muller etc I have managed to turn my recordings into something that generates a small but regular income . The income doesn't offset the dollars I have spent on musicians and studio fees , but if I stopped making any more CDs at the current income eventually I would start to get a small return on my investment . I haven't lost a great deal of money at this stage but it has been worth it to have my music documented as I would like it to be heard . I have always considered myself a better composer than performer and I would much rather people could LISTEN to my compositions than just look at dots on a page and try and figure out how it is supposed to go . I have been lucky that the tunes I have written have resonated and some of them have been recorded and other's are performed by other musicians fairly regularly , mostly in Australia by jazz musicians . I think Australia needs a body of original jazz compositions which can be reinterpreted so I am proud to be able to make a small contribution to the growing body of music written by folks like Mike Nock , Dale Barlow , Bernie Mcgann and Paul Grabowsky . The Australian general public is not greatly aware of this resource but I believe in the future it will be cherished as part of the Australian identity and soul ( perhaps when those who think Alcohol alone is entertainment enough are in the minority ) .

Why have I written so many words on this blog . Because I believe recorded music HAS VALUE .

The digital age and the internet have changed the way that music can be delivered . It is now no longer necessary to have a collection of your own music . It's possible for a central database to have all the music and we can listen to whatever we wish to whenever we wish . I think this is a great thing and I am all for it . Unfortunately at the time that the internet was created most of the music recorded at a time was owned by non-musicians . Sadly at this point the interests of musicians and the "value" of recorded music has been ERODED to the point where in the USA on Spotify you can listen to 10 hours of music FREE of CHARGE and for $5 you can listen to any music you like at any time ...

It is my opinion that $5 a month for as much recorded music as you can listen too (including most of the great music recorded in the last 100 years) is a DISGRACE and quite frankly and offence to music and musicians . It is so far below the minimum wage it is a joke .

At this point I ask my fellow musicians to take control of their own destiny . We need to set up our own distribution systems for music owned by musicians , with fair pricing and PROPER ACCOUNTABILITY . I believe that this will happen in the future and that the sooner the better ...

I am convinced there are a lot of people in the world who want to continue to support new music to be created and recorded and that they would be prepared to pay a lot more than $5 a month in order to support the latest product being produced . It is my sincere hope that musicians worldwide wake up at this moment and realise that we must take the "business" into our own hands . Let's hope that "Spotify" is actually the beginning of a new age of recorded music where the next Allan Holdsworth can record his/her compositions and be paid properly by the world's music lovers to listen to it . It could be a beautiful future where the creativity and talent of musicians can shine without being told what to play by "businessmen" and anyone with a decent idea can hope to get fair renumeration for it by music lovers .

Let's hope !

1 comment:

  1. Everything is going ditigal. From music, movies, television. The internet is the future of our lives and so is Internet Radio which will be heard in cars more and more. All musicians need to be looking to putting their music in digital format. CDs are becoming obselete.