Don Henley is 1/2 right.

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by P. Aaron, Feb 22, 2004.

  1. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    I personally think Henley's analysis is on the money here of the problem(s) in the music industry and radio with regards to creativity, originality, and artists not having or losing control of the product they make, but his solution is Wrong. If the production companies and conglomerations of radio and recording industries all merge and/or collapse...let them. The artist can always so "no" to "their" recording contract.

    Music slowly gets killed when artists lose control
    Eagles singer says musicians seek fairness from industry
    By Don Henley
    Detroit News illustration / Jeffrey R. Tarsha

    Music Industry 1970s

    A large number of record labels signed cutting-edge singing acts. There was a great variety of music broadcast on the radio. Small stores catered to customers' fancies. Musicians connected with their fans. Sales were brisk.

    Music Industry 2004

    The industry's few multinational corporations don't take chances on unique singers. Radio targets a limited range of listeners and styles. Large retail stores sell the music. Fans don't connect with musical acts. And sales are declining.

    When I started in the music business, music was important and vital to our culture. Artists connected with their fans. Record labels signed cutting-edge artists, and FM radio offered an incredible variety of music. Music touched fans in a unique and personal way. Our culture was enriched and the music business was healthy and strong.

    That’s all changed.

    Today the music business is in crisis. Sales have decreased between 20 and 30 percent during the past three years. Record labels are suing children for using unauthorized peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing systems. Only a few artists ever hear their music on the radio, yet radio networks are battling Congress over ownership restrictions. Independent music stores “are closing at an unprecedented pace. And the artists seem to be at odds with just about everyone — even the fans.

    Contrary to conventional wisdom, the root problem is not the artists, the fans or even new Internet technology. The problem is the music industry itself. The industry, which was once composed of hundreds of big and small record labels, is now controlled by just a handful of unregulated, multinational corporations determined to continue their mad rush toward further consolidation and merger.

    Sony and BMG announced their agreement to merge in November, and EMI and Time Warner may not be far behind. The industry may soon be dominated by only three multinational corporations.

    The executives who run these corporations believe music is solely a commodity. They fail to recognize that music is as much a vital art form and social barometer as it is a way to make a profit.

    At one time artists actually developed meaningful, even if strained, relationships with their record labels. This was possible because labels were relatively small and accessible, and they had an incentive to join with the artists in marketing their music. Today such a relationship is practically impossible for most artists.

    Labels no longer take risks by signing unique and important new artists, nor do they become partners with artists in the creation and promotion of the music. After the music is created, the artist’s connection with it is minimized and in some instances is nonexistent. In their world, music is generic. A major record label president confirmed this recently when he referred to artists as “content providers.” Would a major label sign Johnny Cash today? I doubt it.

    Radio stations used to be local and diverse. Deejays programmed their own shows and developed close relationships with artists. Today radio stations are centrally programmed by their corporate owners, and airplay is essentially bought rather than earned. The floodgates have opened for corporations to buy an almost unlimited number of radio stations, as well as concert venues and agencies. The delicate balance between artists and radio networks has been dramatically altered; networks can now, and often do, exert unprecedented pressure on artists. Whatever connection the artists had with their music on the airwaves is almost totally gone.

    Music stores used to be magical places offering wide variety. Today the three largest music retailers are Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Target. In those stores shelf space is limited, making it harder for new artists to emerge. Even established artists are troubled by stores using music as a loss leader. Smaller, more personalized record stores are closing all over the country — some because of rampant P2P piracy but many others because of competition from department stores that traditionally have no connection with artists.

    Piracy is perhaps the most emotionally gut-wrenching problem facing artists. Artists like the idea of a new and better business model for the industry, but they cannot accept a business model that uses their music without authority or compensation. Suing kids is not what artists want, but many of them feel betrayed by fans who claim to love artists but still want their music free.

    The music industry must also take a large amount of blame for this piracy. Not only did the industry not address the issue sooner, it provided the P2P users with a convenient scapegoat. Many kids rationalize their P2P habit by pointing out that only record labels are hurt — that the labels don’t pay the artists anyway. This is clearly wrong, because artists are at the bottom of the food chain. They are the ones hit hardest when sales take a nosedive and when the labels cut back on promotion, on signing new artists and on keeping artists with potential. Artists are clearly affected, yet because many perceive the music business as being dominated by rich multinational corporations, the pain felt by the artist has no public face.

    Artists are finally realizing their predicament is no different from that of any other group with common economic and political interests. They can no longer just hope for change; they must fight for it. Washington is where artists must go to plead their case and find answers.

    So whether they are fighting against media and radio consolidation, fighting for fair recording contracts and corporate responsibility, or demanding that labels treat artists as partners and not as employees, the core message is the same: The artist must be allowed to join with the labels and must be treated in a fair and respectful manner. If the labels are not willing to voluntarily implement these changes, then the artists have no choice but to seek legislative and judicial solutions. Simply put, artists must regain control, as much as possible, over their music.

    Don Henley is a singer and drummer with the Eagles and a founding member of the Recording Artists’ Coalition. Distributed by the Washington Post.
  2. Stephen S

    Stephen S Member

    Apr 10, 2002
    San Bernardino, CA
    I must say I agree with you in that, he is right about the problem, but his solution is all out of whack. I say we let the corporations burn themselves to the ground and start from scratch. It is bound to happen sooner or later.
  3. "The artist must be allowed to join with the labels and must be treated in a fair and respectful manner....Simply put, artists must regain control, as much as possible, over their music."

    Firstly, is his "wrong" solution the one above? That's what I took his solution to be. And if we are talking about the same thing then I also agree with 1/2 of what he is saying but maybe differently than you.

    The second part: "Simply put, artists must regain control, as much as possible, over their music" I agree with.

    The first part: "The artist must be allowed to join with the labels and must be treated in a fair and respectful manner" sounds great in a perfect world but it's kinda murky sounding. Wonder what he means by "must be allowed"? If he means go to Washington and try to effect more laws (or whatever) requiring labels to involve the musicians in the business-side I don't agree. But good luck to him anyhow!

    Still pertaining to the article but on somewhat of a different note, why don't the writers of these kinds of articles go on to fully describe why it's the way it is. Instead I always just hear/read: Consolidation/Merger! Two conglomerates control everything. Piracy! P2P. Children stealing(!) music on the internet. Sales have plummeted. And the inference being that these things account for the state of music or a band's inability to get signed (or whatever).
    Corporations can't take chances like were taken before. There's too much money at stake. Shareholders will vote with their shares/pocketbooks and management will be gone. Would you want to lose your $750,000+ a year job because you risked taking a risk you did not have to? Corp. types live for doing one another in so few get a second chance (just like bands). Radio targets listeners who are perceived to have money to spend pure and simple so that they can get paid for advertising. DJs are just employees now with pre-determined shelf-lives to keep things "fresh". If they play anything out of line they're gone.

    How 'bout this: We like garbage. Garbage is just easier to do, find, make, etc. We'll get by on it even though it's garbage. Maybe just maybe Big Business themselves are shaking their heads in disbelief that they can sell us garbage. Some of us like garbage so much we'll steal it. Maybe we're the biggest part of the "problem".
  4. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    Where I think Henley's wrong, is that legislation will solve some of/most of the problems. If the artist(s) want more artistic control, and/or a more inclusive business relationship with the recording-radio companies, negotiate it into the/your contract.

    Excellent post. Corp. Recording and Radio created this mess, if they all go under, let them. The record-radio megalopoly monopoly is too large for artists collectively or individually to fight anyway.

    Very true as well. We had our share of "garbage" in the "old days" when radio played a more diverse collection of artists. But even back then, West Coast "garbage" sounded different from Memphis "garbage", and Chicago "garbage" sounded different from New York "garbage".
    At least the old "garbage" had a bit more regional culture than today. Or so it seems to me.