Friday, April 08, 2011

Come as you were

Business writer and former Flying Nun muso Nick Smith has written a piece for today's NZ Herald business section, and opinion piece on the death of recorded music.

The article is called "After the soundtrack, the silence." Subheading is "First vinyl and cassettes - now it's music itself that's facing extinction...."

some extracts... "... Long story short: Private equity and transnational banks bid up the price of music conglomerates, loading them with debt at a time when they had lost control of their revenue channels because of illegal downloads. Now they need to create new ways of making money from music or face oblivion. Their predicament has prompted headlines such as the Independent's "Labels face the day recorded music died" [republished by NZ Herald here].

".... An important occasion like a funeral does require a soundtrack. But for me, Nirvana's Nevermind, released in 1991 and the last piece of new vinyl I ever bought, is better listening than any fat lady.

"The song Come As You Are powered through a 1970s amp connecting two monstrous pairs of 1960s English speakers is punching holes in the walls as I type...."

"The reason I stopped buying vinyl is because record companies sold so few LPs they stopped making them...."

When I posted a link to Nick's story on Twitter earlier, it got a pretty negative reaction. The general tone was it was hopeless out of touch.

The music business is still making money, especially  off publishing, where you are dealing with legacy artists for example. As for suggesting "The reason I stopped buying vinyl is because record companies sold so few LPs they stopped making them"... Nick needs to do some research.

The other big story mainstream media like to write about the music industry, apart from "the music industry is dying" is the other chestnut, "Look, vinyl is making a comeback". Some journo writes this story somewhere in the world on average at least once or twice a week.

There is a wealth of artists releasing new music on vinyl. And a ton of legacy artists getting good quality reissues on vinyl. Maybe some nice person could take Nick record shopping.

ADDED one response on Twitter... "royalty income from music in 2010 was at record levels as was amount of music released..." from Simon Grigg.

ADDED Nick's article also includes this quote often attributed to Hunter S Thompson: "The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."

Dave Roper pointed out to me that it is incorrect (thanks, Dave). Thompson has had numerous variants of that quote attributed to him, with various industries inserted ie radio business, show business etc.

The quote comes from Thompson's book called Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the '80s. It reads...

"The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.

Which is more or less true. For the most part, they are dirty little animals with huge brains and no pulse. Every once in a while, they will toss up a token human like Ed Bradley or Edwin Newman or Hughes Rudd... and there are others, no doubt, like Studs Terkel in Chicago and the twisted Rev. Gene Scott, who works like a sleepless ferret in the maniac bowels of Southern California....

But these are only the exceptions that prove the hideous rule. Mainly we are dealing with a profoundly degenerate world, a living web of foulness, greed and treachery... which is also the biggest real business around and impossible to ignore. You can't get away from TV. It is everywhere. The hog is in the tunnel."


Anonymous said...

He also gets the Hunter S Thompson quote wrong. It was about TV, not music.

A shabby piece in many ways.

felix said...

It's hard to take seriously the views on the state of music retail of a guy who last bought new vinyl 20 years ago.

Simon said...

or a guy who thinks the music industry lives and dies with the majors.

Didn't Flying Nun teach him anything?

Robyn said...

It's an odd piece. He seems to be a bit of an equipment anorak, proud of his creaky old set-up that plays his decades-old vinyl the way he likes it. Yet he evidently is unaware of the massive vinyl revival - probably even better quality pressings than the stuff he bought back in the day.

And, of course, not everyone listens to music the way he does. For some of us, a dinky little iPod Shuffle or a cellphone with trebly speakers is all that's needed - just like teens in olden times used to listen to pop singles on crappy little record players or tune in to pop radio on a tiny little transistor radio.

Matt @ Kurb said...

It's like the Sheldon article - do the people at the herald seriously think we're that retarded? Is the writer really this retarded? surely not.

What's the agenda?

Poor sheldon just totally got handed his arse, I'm sure muso's say retarded things all the time but which editor at the herald decided to go ahead and give him the rope and publish his own idiotic words to hang himself with?

Peter said...

Thanks for the comments, folks. Matt - your comment confused me -Sheldon? What's he going on about Big Bang Theory for? Then I remembered that Shelton (ex Blindspott) story. Bazinga!