Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Future of Free Music

So it was with a heavy heart that upon doing my daily surf through social media (as occasionally even FB will spit out something more useful than a cat on a skateboard), a good friend of mine posted this article regarding the future of free media by David Carr of the New York Times.

Now, firstly, while the article is called "The Future of Free Media", what Mr Carr actually means is music and, secondly, while this is by no means the first article to discuss the drastic situation that music creators find themselves in, it is noteworthy that their plight is now making it in to the public consciousness with articles such as this being given prime space is major publications.

There is also now a clear divide between the obscene amount of money that large tech firms will pay for companies such as Beats Music, compared to the pathetic royalty payments that Spotify and the like will offer to their content creators. So if the money that consumers are willing to part with is all going on tech and gig tickets (which also has the unfortunate results of only paying the larger artists), then how are artists going to develop?

Rather than rant about the smaller artists' lack of exposure, I will try to paint a picture of the sanitized future of music that may await us should creative content creators (Songwriters!) not find a place for their work.

Lets first get the elephant in the room out of the way.. Too many uniformed critics will say that the cream will always rise to the top, so just "Get better!". Well, to those people I would have to suggest that while paying a gas bill may not be difficult for some, if a winters work spent producing a work only yields a pitiful royalty then it won't be long before those songwriters, especially those wanting security for their families, will have to look at other forms of employment. 

At this point I'd like to offer a quick tangent. Consider David Bowie, consider Bruce Springsteen, consider countless other world class song writers. With pitiful first album sales (in the case of Bruce) and a winding road to success including a kids album (in the case of Bowie), what these artists benefited from was time and investment in their ability. Time to hone a talent, time to grow. As I'm not the 'Doctor', I'm not going to try to argue that either one of these artists would have not made it now. There is every chance musicians of their ability would have. But how many would not?
How many of the other amazing musicians that populate our glorious cultural musical history would have, and now are falling by the wayside?

The future? Well, I will leave you with a comment from my sister (26) who is a massive music fan and a regular at Glastonbury until this year. I asked her if she'd missed the occasion to which she replied:
"Not really, I used to go there to find new artists. I'd come back and drop a bomb on CD's and enjoyed it so much. It looks more like a corporate sales pitch now and most of the acts are boring and all the good ones I've seen before, even last year!"

If thats the future, I hope we start realising that songwriters need paying. Otherwise, all we have to look forward to is a few great acts, a load of aging ones and some young boring ones... only if they can afford the 3-5k that a PR company requires to get your name out there... Sounds like fun, hey!

Alastair @ Park Studios JQ