This Day On The Street
Continue to site right-arrow
ADVERTISEMENT
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Stocks Under $10 with 50-100% upside potential - 14 days FREE!

Musicians: Don't Blame Apple or the Internet For Your Problems

Stocks in this article: AAPL P

Bruised and battered, these guys take on an easy target -- Internet radio. Because it's much simpler to craft the narrative that Pandora and Spotify don't pay artists enough than it is to take on Apple. Or even broadcast radio. Music industry executives might be dumb, but they're not stupid.

In some corners, these guys have succeeded by creating and perpetuating the patently false notion that Internet radio came along and started screwing musicians. As if there was a royalty system in place prior to the emergence of Pandora and Spotify that paid artists commensurate with their blood, sweat, tears and the value of their art.

That's bull. And the folks who allow that meme to float know it. They're something worse than liars.

Terrestrial radio has never paid royalties, outside of the publishing licenses it abides by. And there has never been a royalty system in place that made anybody rich other than mega acts. It's not like working musicians were making something just north or south of a good living off of royalties and then Internet radio came along and took that away.

Terms such as working musician and starving artist existed long before and independent of Pandora, Spotify and the others. In fact, if I was in the business of assigning blame as a major record label executive I would look in the mirror for answers to why it's so tough to make a living as a rank-and-file or even decently successful musician:

Back then (in the late 70s, early 80s) ... it was every band's dream to get signed to a major label ... And then ... well let's cut to the chase, it's the last form of white slavery. It's not a fair situation. I think we're like still in debt to them (Epic Records, a division of Sony (SNE) Music) for recording "White Light, White Heat, (White Trash)" ... We just thought they weren't really doing anything for us that we couldn't do for ourselves.

That's Mike Ness of Social Distortion, transcribed from a 2011 Guitar Center Sessions interview discussing the toxic relationship bands often have with big record labels and his decision to move to an independent label.

I could have picked any number of interviews from any number of musicians to illustrate this, but, while I might distance myself from putting the word "white" in front of "slavery," Ness has a straightforward way with words that I like.

In addition to describing how the label sends the band the bill for basically doing what needs to be done to make the record (costs incurred get subtracted from the advance), Ness noted that he was able to quit his day job painting houses after the success of "The Story of My Life" and "Ball and Chain," both released in 1990.

I provide what we'll call a representative anecdote to illustrate the very real notion that when you hear music industrial complex hacks -- from guys at the labels to the RIAA to mouthpieces such as Byrne and Yorke -- speak about what's fair, remember the culture many of these guys have either created or are strongly associated with.

As Ness put it, "It's not a fair situation."

So, simply put, we're not talking about a business that was humming along peacefully and doing right by working musicians until Internet radio came along. Before Pandora was even a twinkle in Tim Westergren's eye, a veteran like Ness was able to quit his day job and focus on music only because he took the successful musician's rite of passage -- getting screwed by a major label and, having had enough of it to the point where he couldn't wait to go indie.

2 of 3

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!

Markets

DOW 18,030.21 +6.04 0.03%
S&P 500 2,081.88 -0.29 -0.01%
NASDAQ 4,773.4720 +8.0480 0.17%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs