The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from music

musicians, writers, promoters unite
User avatar
humblebee
Posts: 10543
Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2007 16:33
Last.fm: http://www.last.fm/user/atomicbeatboy
Location: Sheffields
Contact:

The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from music

Post by humblebee » Fri Jun 03, 2016 10:10

Obviously there isn't a debate to be had, or anything like that. It is all, unambiguously, over. But this is a good piece about how and why.
(via that Mr Hibbett on that Twitter)

User avatar
tonieee
Posts: 4497
Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2007 08:40
Last.fm: http://www.last.fm/user/tonieee
Location: Sheffield Sex City
Contact:

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by tonieee » Fri Jun 03, 2016 14:03

Is it any harder now than in the past? There are a lot more people not making a living than those who are but hasn't that always been the case?

One big difference now is it's a lot easier and cheaper for people to record and release music and to get it to people so they don't need a big record label and maybe that means a higher proportion of records are by people not making a living.

User avatar
linus
Posts: 2491
Joined: Thu Mar 31, 2011 17:55

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by linus » Fri Jun 03, 2016 14:39

It's not only true of making music/being in a band, a lot of creative careers are in the same boat: photographers, illustrators, graphic designers and I'm sure many others... and yet there's a dearth of 'creatives' in the advertising/new media sector who charge the big bucks for doing nothing more than conceptualising... ideas having apparently more currency than actual craft and graft

Well, that's my jaundiced view based on little more than anecdotal evidence but I know I'm right

User avatar
humblebee
Posts: 10543
Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2007 16:33
Last.fm: http://www.last.fm/user/atomicbeatboy
Location: Sheffields
Contact:

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by humblebee » Fri Jun 03, 2016 14:45

My impression (and this is a notable omission by that article) is that in the past it was much more possible for fairly well-known indie types to make a few quid out of music and top it up with a job on the side. And this is the group that's been hit harder than anyone else by the fact that people won't pay for music any more. Today there's no room for that semi-professional status. If you're a musician in 2016 you're either Adele or you earn the square root of fuck all.

User avatar
tonieee
Posts: 4497
Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2007 08:40
Last.fm: http://www.last.fm/user/tonieee
Location: Sheffield Sex City
Contact:

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by tonieee » Fri Jun 03, 2016 17:03

I didn't see the article before - it doesn't show up in my browser. I had to quote Pete's post to see it.

Is it that the record labels used to subsidize many bands in the hope that one or two of them will make it big and now they only put money into the one or two?

Indiepop bands never made a living - I've just finished the Sarah book and that said everyone of their bands had a day job.

Also it depends what you do. My dad makes a living from being in a band. And there are people who's "day job" is playing in a tribute band and do their "real band" on the side.

I guess you can't really make a living off selling music anymore unless, like Pete said, you are Adele but there are other ways and I think the people who did before were a small amount.

noLooking

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by noLooking » Sun Jun 05, 2016 15:39

I think that one of the things that's changed is less about the money coming in from above, but the difficulty of getting exposure. Pre-internet, if the music press were to uniformly get behind a band then it didn't matter quite so much if you were on a big label or not, if you had that solid coverage and got played on John Peel or the Evening Session then a dedicated bunch of people knew who you were and that was a place to take off from. Mercury Rev and Pavement started on tiny labels in the 90s. Camera Obscura were probably in the last bunch of bands who could do that. A couple of years later, as coverage became ever more dispersed, it seemed to get a lot more difficult.

Nowadays the music press has no impact, even with something like Pitchfork people won't see a review unless they really go out of their way to look - it isn't sat there waiting to be read because there's nothing better to do (there's always a million things better to do on the internet). People tend to go to trusted blogs, which are good for finding the stuff you like but it creates a million musical ghettos which become very difficult to penetrate for the outsider, so nobody really bothers.

Another change for the worse has been to do with the downgrading of the single. In the early 2000s, a band with a solid following could trust a couple of thousand fans might go out and buy a single in its first week, get it in the charts and get some exposure. It was a bit of a mockery of the system that such small numbers could make a difference, but it did at least keep things open for bands who didn't have a lot of industry backing (though it did largely rely on press backing) and allowed them, to an extent, to push through from underneath. The download single killed that stone dead.

I don't think this has been so bad for the music in and of itself, there are still lots of great bands around, but it's put even more glass ceilings in place in terms of making a career - if you can't get noticed, then you can't even get to the stage of complaining that no-one makes any money out of releasing records anymore because no-one knows or cares who you are apart from about ten people. You can get absorbed in tiny scenes and feel like they're the centre of the universe, so it becomes a jarring experience to find out that the bands you'd considered to be the big names aren't even big fish in a small pond, but more tadpoles in a rock pool.

User avatar
MJHibbett
Posts: 961
Joined: Mon Dec 31, 2007 09:03

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by MJHibbett » Sun Jun 05, 2016 21:23

I don't think I really agree with that - yes, the music press could get behind a band, but it was generally to do with how much advertising record companies were giving the paper, or if the band were mates with the journalists (the dog days of the Melody Maker were particularly bad for this). There were hundreds - thousands - of bands that couldn't get through the NME/MM bottleneck and so were denied any chance of exposure. Now there are much more opportunities, though the exposure available from each is obvs a lot smaller.

I think, optimistically, that these days people in bands get more chance and more leeway to BE in bands. In days of yore, if you couldn't get a record label to sign you then there wasn't really any way you could continue as a band writing your own material. Nowadays you don't need a label, so can keep on keeping on. Mind you I was talking to my colleague Mr S Hewitt about this the other night and he pointed out that, basically, this makes us all folk singers. I looked at his beard, our pints of ale, and my regular acoustic night, and told him he was talking nonsense.

noLooking

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by noLooking » Sun Jun 05, 2016 22:40

MJHibbett wrote:I don't think I really agree with that - yes, the music press could get behind a band, but it was generally to do with how much advertising record companies were giving the paper, or if the band were mates with the journalists (the dog days of the Melody Maker were particularly bad for this). There were hundreds - thousands - of bands that couldn't get through the NME/MM bottleneck and so were denied any chance of exposure. Now there are much more opportunities, though the exposure available from each is obvs a lot smaller.
I don't disagree with a lot of that analysis, particularly in terms of indiepop which, as Tonieee says, has ever been thus anyway. I think to some degree it's just a matter of perspective: as a fan, I like to see the bands I like make an impact and, ten years ago that wasn't unheard of, even in indiepop. Whereas yourself, as an indiepop musician (or a folk musician, fair enough), like the fact that at least there are no longer a bunch of bastards stood between you and potential fans.

Where I would definitely part company though is the idea that anyone is breaking through. If it were that there was just more competition for the same number of slots breaking into the charts then I'd concur, but the possibility of bands breaking into the mainstream even from the wider indie scene seems to have died out.

It used to be that the album charts were full of indie bands - a placing in the low end of the Top 50 was considered a failure. Nowadays, even the acts who do breakthrough to some extent (Sleaford Mods, St Vincent) don't chart high, and indiepop acts who ten years ago might reasonably have expected to make some impact, say Joanna Gruesome or Veronica Falls, simply get nowhere. I know the press was a far from perfect tool, but it did at least provide some focus for those who got past the gatekeepers.

I bet you can't have tadpoles in a rock pool can you, what with them being freshwater and all. Bugger.

User avatar
Trev
Posts: 6877
Joined: Mon Oct 01, 2007 10:56
Last.fm: lostmusic
Location: Cardiff
Contact:

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by Trev » Mon Jun 06, 2016 09:30

andyi wrote:
Where I would definitely part company though is the idea that anyone is breaking through. If it were that there was just more competition for the same number of slots breaking into the charts then I'd concur, but the possibility of bands breaking into the mainstream even from the wider indie scene seems to have died out.

It used to be that the album charts were full of indie bands - a placing in the low end of the Top 50 was considered a failure. Nowadays, even the acts who do breakthrough to some extent (Sleaford Mods, St Vincent) don't chart high, and indiepop acts who ten years ago might reasonably have expected to make some impact, say Joanna Gruesome or Veronica Falls, simply get nowhere. I know the press was a far from perfect tool, but it did at least provide some focus for those who got past the gatekeepers.
I'm not sure the notion of breaking through applies today. Breaking through to what? There is nowhere to break through to. The charts don't matter - they aren't obsessively followed like they were in 80s or 90s, there is no national TV popshow, there is no national weekly music press - where exactly are you supposed to break through to? Radio? Possibly. But even that has much less impact because people who obsess over music can get a much better fix than the radio network can provide by using the internet.

All those indie bands that placed at the low end of the chart had that position bought for them by their labels. Labels aren't interested at the moment in 'bands' - hence no bands in those positions. If the wheel comes around again it could well be that a slew of also rans get their 5 minutes in the sun.

I think you can sell reasonably well and be unnoticed - you can sell to any country and any person across the planet. Music FANS are a dwindling bunch. There are still plenty of casual consumers (as it ever was) but I think the rabid music fans of yore are dying breed. Music doesn't fill 'the youth' en masse with excitement like it used to. The age of the massive band breaking through and being front page news is probably done but that doesn't mean you can't make music put it on a cd, tape or vinyl and sell it to a lots of people without ever troubling a 'chart'.

Now I'll toddle off to my niche record label that struggles to 'sell' 500 copies of anything. :-)
not really here

noLooking

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by noLooking » Mon Jun 06, 2016 15:36

Trev wrote:I'm not sure the notion of breaking through applies today. Breaking through to what? There is nowhere to break through to. The charts don't matter - they aren't obsessively followed like they were in 80s or 90s, there is no national TV popshow, there is no national weekly music press - where exactly are you supposed to break through to? Radio? Possibly. But even that has much less impact because people who obsess over music can get a much better fix than the radio network can provide by using the internet.

All those indie bands that placed at the low end of the chart had that position bought for them by their labels. Labels aren't interested at the moment in 'bands' - hence no bands in those positions. If the wheel comes around again it could well be that a slew of also rans get their 5 minutes in the sun.

I think you can sell reasonably well and be unnoticed - you can sell to any country and any person across the planet. Music FANS are a dwindling bunch. There are still plenty of casual consumers (as it ever was) but I think the rabid music fans of yore are dying breed. Music doesn't fill 'the youth' en masse with excitement like it used to. The age of the massive band breaking through and being front page news is probably done but that doesn't mean you can't make music put it on a cd, tape or vinyl and sell it to a lots of people without ever troubling a 'chart'.

Now I'll toddle off to my niche record label that struggles to 'sell' 500 copies of anything. :-)
I'm never quite sure what I think about the whole 'the young don't like music so much' thing. Certainly they aren't herded towards a particular thing anymore [which I'll carry on maintaining had it's upsides as well as downsides despite the fact that clearly no one agrees : ) ], though isn't it that just that they don't get it in the old ways, haven't grown up with records and the like? But certainly, even if all the old industry infrastructure was still in place, there's a good case to be made that pop music has been dying out since the 90s when it stopped renewing itself. I wonder how long it could have carried on scraping by, even it digital hadn't wiped it away. It does seem to a degree that pop music is increasingly a nostalgia trip for balding, middle aged men with their copies of Uncut magazine under their arms, off to see their favourite band of 20 years ago play a full album with no surprises (or "No Surprises")

But in terms of sales, I think the point was whether you could support yourself. The reason why I talk about "breaking through" (though I agree that it's an increasingly nebulous concept) and charts (though again I agree that no-one's watching anymore) is that I have the possibly naive perception that those people in the Top 10 LPs are the ones who are still making a living out of it. Whereas people selling stuff on Bandcamp probably sometimes make enough to supplement an income (and just as often don't) but can't keep themselves on that, though I admit you'd know better than me about that.

Perhaps the other reason I look to the charts and the press is that I still get a bit nostalgic for the days when The Jesus and Mary Chain or someone, basically someone who was any good, could start a band with the ambition of becoming famous and selling lots of records and the old industry, shite as it was, used to make that possible, which it doesn't today. But I accept that those days are gone for all but the luckiest and the kids with trust funds.

User avatar
tonieee
Posts: 4497
Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2007 08:40
Last.fm: http://www.last.fm/user/tonieee
Location: Sheffield Sex City
Contact:

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by tonieee » Mon Jun 06, 2016 15:48

Most of the music my teenage son and his mates listen to you can't even buy a download of, nevermind a cd or vinyl. It's all just on the YouTube.

User avatar
Trev
Posts: 6877
Joined: Mon Oct 01, 2007 10:56
Last.fm: lostmusic
Location: Cardiff
Contact:

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by Trev » Mon Jun 06, 2016 15:55

andyi wrote: I'm never quite sure what I think about the whole 'the young don't like music so much' thing. Certainly they aren't herded towards a particular thing anymore [which I'll carry on maintaining had it's upsides as well as downsides despite the fact that clearly no one agrees : ) ], though isn't it that just that they don't get it in the old ways, haven't grown up with records and the like?.
Oh I agree that having choice and being able to follow your own path not 'get what yr given' via the weekly press is a better state of affairs - but I also agree with you when you say this means there are no 'gatekeepers' and that's why it's hard to get something noticed.

And yes kids still listen to music. Sure. Not sure I know many that obsess over it like I (we) used to do (still do). My nephews are 20 and 15 and they know lots of songs - from all eras but very little new stuff outside what they exposed to on national radio or xbox games or youtube. I find it very weird. When I was 15 I was (and so were loads of others) obsessed with heavy metal. We'd go shopping for new records every few weeks with our mates and buy the 'latest' thing. And by 20 I had more money as was scouring record shops for gems - new stuff (again like loads of people who did that, at that age). I think music just "happens" around my nephews. It's a thing they can hear. But they don't actively seek out songs or bands or scenes. It's just there and it's not all current as they have 50+ years of soundtrack at their fingertips - they're busy hearing T Rex or Anthrax or The Doors or Orbital for the first time and then picking choice songs on streaming services - or probably not even picking - just looking for songs like 'x' and streaming playlist not put together by themselves. I took the eldest nephew to a small gig when he was 17. He really didn't know what to make of it. He said it was 'alright' but there was no spark of enthusiasm. He's since been to a few 'festivals' or all day events - mainly dance orientated and I've asked about what he went for. It was because his mates wanted to go and it was something to try - not one of them seemed to give two hoots about the actual music. I was acutely baffled by it. I know he's just one lad, but I think it pretty much captures the way that generation 'consume' music. Sure you will still get people who love it in the way we used to but I don't think that happens on the same scale as it did 20-30-40 years ago.

There must be a whole load of them out there somewhere as the punx scene is littered with all ages shows so young teens can go. Whenever I've been to all ages show though, it's mostly been the usual gig goers and not a massive influx of hitherto unknown faces. Let's hope the next generation of gig goers and music consumers is out there, though.
not really here

User avatar
MJHibbett
Posts: 961
Joined: Mon Dec 31, 2007 09:03

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by MJHibbett » Mon Jun 06, 2016 16:00

From all the Young People that I meet (i.e. basically friends' kids) I'm pretty sure that they ARE still rabid about music, it's just that it's a) available instantly rather than after a trek round the shops b) free rather than costing a week's pocket money c) in individual song format rather than as a "single" or part of an album d) often completely different to what we'd consider "pop" music or "fun". The latter especially is exactly how it always has been. What we call "pop music" is very much the preserve of the middle-aged, just as blues, or folk, trad-jazz, or punk rock, or heavy metal, or was when their core-audience got older. AC/DC played near my house on Saturday, for example, the DEMOGRAPHIC was not young!

The only difference, of course, is that the music I like is DEFINITELY the best.

As for the financial side of things - every documentary I've ever seen about The History Of Music, on BBC4 or otherwise, and every Musician From Back Then I've ever spoken to has told me that almost nobody has ever managed to support themselves via music. It's largely a myth peddled by THE MAN to gull artistes into signing contracts that divert all the CA$H towards the minions of evil and away from the people actually making it. It used to be EMI, now it's more likely to be Spotify.

However I think the truly lovely thing nowadays, as Trev says, is that you don't need to worry so much about pleasing THE MAN or journalists or anyone. In the words of every band ever in the 80s and 90s, at last you CAN make music for yourself, and if anybody else like's it that's a bonus!

User avatar
indiehorse
Posts: 1941
Joined: Mon Oct 01, 2007 10:50
Last.fm: http://www.last.fm/user/
Location: Nottingham
Contact:

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by indiehorse » Mon Jun 06, 2016 17:56

Trev wrote:There must be a whole load of them out there somewhere as the punx scene is littered with all ages shows so young teens can go. Whenever I've been to all ages show though, it's mostly been the usual gig goers and not a massive influx of hitherto unknown faces. Let's hope the next generation of gig goers and music consumers is out there, though.
I have a bunch of 16/17 year olds regularly turning out to my gigs these days. They love it.

User avatar
Trev
Posts: 6877
Joined: Mon Oct 01, 2007 10:56
Last.fm: lostmusic
Location: Cardiff
Contact:

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by Trev » Mon Jun 06, 2016 21:10

indiehorse wrote:
I have a bunch of 16/17 year olds regularly turning out to my gigs these days. They love it.
Am currently assessing and looking for spaces that can cope with all ages or 14+ in Cardiff to see whether it makes any differences.
not really here

noLooking

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by noLooking » Thu Jun 09, 2016 15:32

MJHibbett wrote:From all the Young People that I meet (i.e. basically friends' kids) I'm pretty sure that they ARE still rabid about music, it's just that it's a) available instantly rather than after a trek round the shops b) free rather than costing a week's pocket money c) in individual song format rather than as a "single" or part of an album d) often completely different to what we'd consider "pop" music or "fun".
According to this, young people still have some time for albums. However...
"I have vinyls in my room but it's more for decor. I don't actually play them," Jordan Katende, a student in Manchester, told BBC News. "It gives me the old-school vibe. That's what vinyl's all about," he added.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-36027867

I do worry about the youth of today.

User avatar
Gordon
Posts: 5353
Joined: Tue Feb 05, 2008 22:33
Last.fm: http://www.last.fm/user/GreenGordon
Location: King's Landing
Contact:

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by Gordon » Fri Jun 10, 2016 06:40

Hasn't Beyoncé just proved that albums can still work as a concept just as long as they're a fucking good concept? Obviously barely anyone's going to get paid for them.

Can't help but think that like everything else these fashions will all be cyclical. CDs can't have much life left in them though.
Toot toot.

noLooking

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by noLooking » Fri Jun 10, 2016 15:43

Gordon wrote:Hasn't Beyoncé just proved that albums can still work as a concept just as long as they're a fucking good concept? Obviously barely anyone's going to get paid for them.

Can't help but think that like everything else these fashions will all be cyclical. CDs can't have much life left in them though.
Well, pop albums were always going to start dying out once you could break them up because they were usually just three singles and filler. An industry based on charging £15 for something where you can get the three 80p bits that you want, or just play them for nothing, was always going sink very quickly.

I suppose that albums will carry on but become more focused on where there's the talent to string them out, which in a sense is a return to the sixties - if singles are a band's strong point and no-one buys albums, it's likely that will dominate again and probably already is. It's difficult to string out a career based on stuff no-one has to buy, but it's still pop stardom. I suppose at that top end, people sell their brand as much as anything else and you don't need to actually sell any records.

I thought that one good thing in that BBC story was that it was the young who were buying vinyl more than anyone else, whatever it is they're doing with them - I'm as guilty as anyone of buying something, playing it a couple of times and then just listening to the download thereafter. Maybe there are parallel paths for all this and the art of the LP will be kept alive.

User avatar
Yex
Posts: 616
Joined: Sat Mar 30, 2013 02:11
Last.fm: http://www.last.fm/user/yex
Location: People's Republic of Cascadia
Contact:

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by Yex » Wed Jul 13, 2016 09:28

Nothing that hasn't been said before, but I read this and thought I should drop it here:

https://newrepublic.com/article/120996/ ... n=sharebtn
humblebee wrote:Yex, what's that siren? Quick, hide! I think it's the Eleven Music Distraction Police. They've been alerted to your outrageous crimes against the definition of a country!

ketameaningless
Posts: 377
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2009 11:50
Last.fm: http://www.last.fm/music/The+whatevers
Location: www.itstheitsinnit.bandcamp.com

Re: The forlorn & long-dead notion of making a living from m

Post by ketameaningless » Tue Jul 26, 2016 17:52

If only there had been some sort of opportunity to stop this from happening

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest