The music business is a complicated system. In the essay Don’t Stop Believing by Deidre Pike, she addresses 3 points that question the music industries honesty, independence, and productivity.
The first point discussed was honesty. Is the music industry honest with the way they promote music and artists? Record label executives, who are investing their money want to sign a person that is going to make them money, can you blame them? Just like any other investment an investor makes, they want to statistically sign an artist who will likely give them a return on their investment and then some. People don’t realize how much money is spent on an artist to make them popular. Yes, with the advent of YouTube people can rise to stardom and create a loyal fan base, but they will not make it to the popularity of superstars like Justin Beiber, or Miley Cyrus without the push, connects, and money a record label/investor is able to give them. With the digital age, streaming, and social media, it has helped independent artists develop their fan base, but still is a rarity, and a long, tough road to really making it.
In the essay, it touched on Ani DeFranco, who is an artist who works her butt off independently and has had some success. Not to be rude, but I had no idea who she was, and have never heard a song of hers in my life. Without the push of the record labels, it’s hard to stay relevant for long periods of time. Yes, maybe 5 years you can stay relevant working hard, and spending your own money, but not only would it be much much harder, you also are in a position where other labels and people with money can blackball you or buy you out. Money makes the world go round, sad but that’s life. Macklemore, he made it, and now takes the money he made and continually invests it back into his career.
Can music be independent, yes! Like we saw with Nirvana and other pieces of art, if it’s good, people love it, and it sells, then record labels jump on. I don’t think the message matters anymore, I think it’s more based on what sells. Controversy just adds more hype to the artist and the music. Great example with Nirvana. Another that comes to mind that did it independently is Macklemore, who was able to become a super star overnight, and still has his own record label, Macklemore LLC.
If I could think of another artist I would think of Pink. Record Labels tried so hard to mold her into what they wanted. And 90% of the time, if the artist doesn’t conform they’ll say, “bye bye, we’ll find an artist that will.” Then there are those few artists that don’t conform, stand their ground and stay true to who they are. It’s just a question of whether or not an artist is willing to sell their soul to the devil. It’s all a mind game. If they change who they are as an artist, they’re considered a sell out, if they change they also may find super stardom from taking some great advice, or they can fall flat on their face conforming and then the label drops them and they are broke, and back to square one.
It’s hard to make it in the music industry. Now record labels won’t give you a chance unless you have a huge fan base online, and they feel you are someone worth signing. My boyfriends friend J.Spoolz is a rapper, and has a song with Wiz Khalifa (before Wiz was big) and the song is hard. Then Wiz blew up, and Spoolz didn’t make it. He’s since tried to get in touch with Wiz to tried to shoot a video, but can’t even get ahold of him and the label isn’t interested. To make a long story short, Spoolz is still on the grind, doing concerts, making music videos, paying for verses from other known rappers, stays popular on social media, and travels all around the US, networking and making music. He has probably spent over 100 grand in the last 6 years trying to make this rap thing happen. All it takes is that momentum, one hit song, and a record label actually wanting to give you a chance, but so far it seems more like a hobby, and a money pit. I respect his hustle, because even when people try and talk trash about him he continues to push. But…. still you have to have a ton of $$$$$ to even think about making it independently. All the money he’s spent traveling and financing this endeavor will never be returned to the investors, unless he makes it big, and the chances of that seem slim to none.
Is the music industry productive?
I think music does influence the way we think, and at times shapes the person that we are. But like the decision in the Judas Priest case, music can not directly make you do something. There are other factors that play into the decisions a person makes: mental illness, bad life, depression, abuse, anger, pain. Music is a form of expression, and a lot of times I like music because I relate to it. I love rap music, which lyrically talks about guns, hoes, and drugs. But I also love christian music and singing to the lord, and country music & thinking about the fair and drinking beer. It’s just different moods I’m in, I want to listen to different things. Most of the time it triggers memories and good, or fun feelings.