Late Night Music Thread: Interesting, If True…

Quote from a Vanessa Grigoriadis article in NYMag:

The dead, dead doggy of the music business has one last bit of life left in it, and that’s around big blockbuster stars like Bieber. Winners take all in music today. With the top ten of top-40 songs played twice as much on radio channels as they were a decade ago, and the top one percent of artists receiving over 75 percent of CD and music-subscription-­service revenue, celebrity artists have never been more ­valuable…

If those numbers can be trusted, I’m irresistably reminded of the Pleistocene megafauna — weird beasts roaming the wild Earth, heedless of encroaching extinction. Or, in the case of music agents, possibly Megaladon would be a better model…

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29 replies
  1. 1
    David Koch says:

    speaking of music:

    CIA @CIA · 9h

    No, we don’t know where Tupac is.

    Retweets 89,008 Favorites 49,114

  2. 2
    Xenos says:

    Just another case of the ‘winner takes all’ economy. This seems to be the case whether the new technological edge is digital, industrial, iron arrow points and hoes, bronze spear-points or really well designed Achuelian hand-axes.

  3. 3
    NotMax says:

    As with the oft-touted death of radio, the demise of the song industry pops up repeatedly every few years.

    Cassettes were heralded as the death of the industry.

    “People can readily and inexpensively make copies of albums? We’re doomed!”

    CDs were the next harbinger of extinction.

    “People can make copies on a (relatively) even more durable medium? We’re doomed.”

    The core industry adjusts (for example, the tectonic shift of distribution and delivery outlets) but as for passing away, I don’t buy the doom and gloom for a New York minute.

  4. 4
    Alison says:

    Not speaking of music, and it’s late and I’ll bug people again in an OT tomorrow, but…anyone in the SF area happen to be interested in buying 2 tickets to the Giants game on 8/31? It’s Star Wars Day! Lemme know…

  5. 5
    NotMax says:


    It’s Star Wars Day!

    Punt on the fourth down, they will.

    (Now, if they substituted an Ewok for the ball…)

  6. 6
    David Koch says:

    It’s kinda disappointing. Obama found bin Laden, Al-Alwaki, Whitey Bulger, Ratko Mladić, Goran Hadzic, the Ben Gazzara mastermind, but he still hasn’t found Biggie and Pac.

  7. 7
    Not Adding Much to the Community says:

  8. 8
    Alison says:

    @NotMax: That would be a very bad coaching decision. You know, since it’s baseball.

  9. 9
    SectionH says:

    @Alison: Yabbut funny.

  10. 10
    Amir Khalid says:

    How is Hari Merdeka* also Star Wars Day? I always thought the latter was May the Fourth.

    *Malaysian Independence Day

  11. 11
    NotMax says:


    Further proof (as if any was needed) that I pay no heed to any sports whatsoever.

  12. 12
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @David Koch: Impeach!!!

  13. 13
    kc says:

    @David Koch:

    Is that really an official account?

  14. 14
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  16. 16
    Hawes says:

    That’s the genius of Sirius/XM and internet radio.

    I have never – to my knowledge – heard a Bieber song all the way through. But if I’m in the car for 2 hours, I can be reasonably sure I’ll hear Ryan Adams. So that works for me.

  17. 17
    Applejinx says:

    You’d be wrong. I work in the industry, and infrastructure is drying up like crazy. Never mind studios and songwriters and such, movie post in LA is hitting the shitter: Soundelux and Pacific Ocean are closing and laying off everyone.

    No magical capitalism fairy is coming to bring new songs, new facilities for mixing the sound for big-budget movies, new studios and musicians. Only a libertarian would think that, at this point.

    THIS IS MARKET CULTURE in action. This is literally what it is and what it does. Anything skilled or good can’t compete with cheap or free heavily marketed garbage in the market, a feedback loop kicks in, and the good things die off like flies until such a time as society gets so tired of sitting in piles of shit that they get busy with some protectionistic, socialistic, unionistic activism and push the other way.

    Because it sounds great to say ‘compete and reward only the greatest of the great!’ until you look around and see that in market terms is garbage because people are more dumb than not… and only when the earth is good and salted, do people start to think about growing their gardens and acting civilized again.

    Until then, welcome to the thunderdome. Nothing has any worth beyond its ability to kill its rivals (twice I began spelling that as ‘virals’… hmmmm!)

    You are wrong. The industry is not adjusting. It is flailing and dying, and I’ve already seen a ton of stuff go down. And I’m literally on food stamps and very glad of it, and I’d really like to go back to 2010-2011 and deal with what money I had, more wisely…

  18. 18

    The dead, dead doggy of the music business has one last bit of life left in it, and that’s around big blockbuster stars like Bieber.

    Yes and no. Yes, for certain, if you are looking at propagating the labels/recorded music model of doing business that has existed since the 1930s. But that trade has really run its string; audiences are too fragmented to support the labels and all their attendant lackeys.

    Not at all, if you look at live acts. I’ve only ever heard one Jimmy Buffet song on the radio, for example (not a fan) but the guy is a multi-multi-millionaire and all that sweet, sweet money he falls asleep on every night is from his tour revenues. I might also point out that he doesn’t have to share that revenue with anyone at his record company. His live act is the big seller and the record revenues are simply an offset for what, to him, amounts to a promotional expense.

    Were I to advise any youngsters going into the trade, I tell ’em to build their live show and audience following and forget about doing records. Dead art form. Oh yeah, and prepare to be really fucking poor no matter what. Frankly, I’m glad I’m free of the business. Poverty, in addition to all its well documented drawbacks, is really tiring.

  19. 19
    PJ says:

    @NotMax: @Applejinx: The culture of illegal downloading pretty much killed off a huge number of middle class recording careers (people who previously made, say, between $20,000 and $60,000 a year). Without the additional money coming in from songwriting and recording royalties, all these musicians had were door sales for shows, which were not enough to make a living, particularly if one is getting older and/or doesn’t want to sleep on floors anymore and/or has a family. Many of these musicians will still make music, but they have to have day jobs, and so it’s on a much reduced basis and the public is much less likely to hear it, in part because many independent record labels which used to promote music have disappeared, and the major labels are only interested in what amounts to Top 40 (there are other problems, of course, including the consolidation of the radio industry and the tendency of the internet and its various apps to push whatever will bring in the most advertising dollars.) And, as Applejinx points out, as a result, the infrastructure which supports recording as an art also has to shutter many of its doors.

    This doesn’t mean music, or film, will disappear, but it does make it much more dependent upon patronage than before, which means that art which is more individual and idiosyncratic will tend to get lost more. (Crowdfunding is highly unlikely to support the next Captain Beefheart.) Future generations will look back on the 20th Century as an anomaly when artists could support themselves from their work, and culture was truly popular.

  20. 20
    PJ says:

    @CONGRATULATIONS!: Artists like Jimmy Buffet can only make that much money from touring because during a crucial part of their career, they were supported by the recording industry, which gave them funds to tour so often and promoted their records, which created the audience on which they subsist today.

  21. 21
    FlyingToaster says:

    @Applejinx: I’m sorry you’re in the box.

    Alas, most of what we listen to is

    a) old stuff, that I can get on CD from mailorder or directly from the artists and put on the Computer and hence out to the handhelds.
    b) classical, ditto
    c) soundtracks (my daughter is currently singing “Frozen” in both English and Spanish, and she discovered Ozzy Osborne [!] courtesy of “Megamind”).
    d) very occasional dance stuff (Taio Cruz, Ylvis, etc) that appeals to said six-year-old
    e) kid stuff

    My husband still buys a fair amount of stuff, but it’s all on CD and then digitized for his office. Again, mostly directly from the artists, or from an indie house out in ?Worcester? ?Lowell? somewhere about an hour away.

    People in their teens and 20s have even less disposable income than I did in the 70s-80s, and that money is going for food and rent. They don’t have anywhere to store CDs, so anything they do get will be downloaded (paid or otherwise).

    The RIAA has shat in its own pond, and is now dying of dysentery, taking the industry with it.

  22. 22
    kindness says:

    Here in N. Cal we have a few rock stations. Each has their own mix. And while I do enjoy most the stuff that’s played by my local station (KHKK) I don’t listen to it so much as I do my i-pod. I never hear a bad song from my i-pod. I never hear an annoying commercial from my i-pod. I never hear a horrible editorial comment from my i-pod. Just 8,000 songs of bliss.

    Funny how that works.

  23. 23
    thefax says:

    Thanks to those of you here talking about how the problems with the music industry are already hurting the art. People don’t understand this; they’re heard that artists make most of their money from touring, so not buying music is ok. But what about artists who don’t tour? Not to mention that across the board revenues for live music is decreasing, and that bands who want to tour may not find a place to play because everyone is touring now. It used to be that the oversized profits from superstar acts would support the small eccentric artists, now the superstars are necessary to keep the lights on and there’s not a lot of room for anyone else. And too many people are waiting for the market correction that won’t come. (Streaming services will never support artists.) As a music fan, it’s scary.

    (I did pay full price for a Replacements CD at my local record store today, so I’m trying to do my part…)

  24. 24
    Mnemosyne says:


    Frankly, the record companies managed to create and fuel the culture of illegal downloading by refusing to make their music available digitally long after it was obvious that that was what consumers wanted. They fought against the very idea of the iTunes Music Store and letting people pay for and download music for years.

    If people can’t get the media they want legally, they’ll try to get it illegally, but IMO most people would prefer to get it legally, because it’s just easier. I’d rather go to iTunes or Amazon and spend $1.29 and five minutes downloading the song I want than spend three hours online trying to find it for free. Heck, I can get it legally right from my iPhone, so why go through all of the hassle of finding the illegal version?

  25. 25
    Anoniminous says:


    It’s a myth entertainment sales increase during a depression. We can look at the destruction of vaudeville the most popular entertainment venue during the 1890s and decades of the 20th century and which, by 1935, was moribund due to a combination of low ticket sales and competition from the New Media: radio, film.

    Entertainment spending is down across the board. Film ticket sales have dropped. Cable companies are losing business. And you know what is happening in the music business. All of these are losing sales and facing stiff competition from the New Media.

    The entertainment industry got fat and lazy from the insane profits they were raking in. Now they desperately need a new Business Model and they haven’t got a clue of how to make one. So they double-down on the Blockbuster and ‘Release the Lawyers!’ trying to protect the rapidly slipping away historic status quo.

  26. 26
    Anoniminous says:


    Buying entertainment has never been easier. Cutting through the Information Overload and finding new, creative, musicians with a sound one likes has never been harder.

  27. 27
    Quaker in a Basement says:

    Consider the example of the beer brewing industry. Twenty years ago, a tiny handful of huge companies had driven out small players and owned the world. Today, there are craft breweries as plentiful as Methodist churches. Potential model for music?

  28. 28
    apocalipstick says:

    @Quaker in a Basement:
    Only if your model includes people sneaking into the brewery and drinking the beer for free, then expecting more beer. And complaining that “beer wants to be free.”

  29. 29
    NotMax says:


    Appreciate your insight and sympathize with your travails. As someone who had to close his own business in 2009 (nearly 30 years after opening it) due to a combination of changes in a different media industry coupled with the economic crash, I don’t mean that as platitude.

    But I also feel you may not be seeing the forest for the trees. There will be downsizing and often wrenching closures as adjustments are made to the utilities of increasingly affordable (and thus more decentralized) technologies for producing the end product. But the end product is not obsolete, which was the basis of my previous comment.

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