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

All of this to say, music was a messed up business long before the Internet, Apple, iTunes and Internet radio came along. It's never been a place where anybody other than cigar-smoking label execs and a chosen few artists do really well. The bulk of the pack can only hope to get as "lucky" as Social Distortion did so they can shed their days jobs, focus on music and then extract themselves as quickly as possible from the truly evil and unfair part of the equation -- the record labels.

If the labels and the rest of the music industrial complex gave a damn about musicians ... If puppets such as Yorke and Byrne had a real clue and wanted to do some good ... If any of the people questioning the long-term value and potential of Internet radio actually wanted to move their industry forward, they would ...

  • Help manage the transition from downloads to on-demand and personalized radio-style streaming. That's something the music industry failed to do as physical sales gave way to downloads. You would think, at some point, these guys might learn from their own history.
  • Educate rank-and-file musicians on how to use the incredible number of tools available to them in the age of Internet radio. It's funny how self-proclaimed artist advocacy groups such as musicFIRST spend so much of their free time and energy (and, worse, their members' money) bashing Internet radio over royalties. Why aren't they educating bands on how to use platforms such as Kickstarter and live streaming sites like Concert Window? Why aren't they encouraging them to head to Oakland, play a whiteboard session at Pandora headquarters and see their artist data? Or, better yet, hopping on the horn with Pandora's sales and marketing people to try get some of the members involved in advertiser-backed Pandora Presents shows.
  • Where are the advocacy peeps to stand up for artists who continued to get screwed by the injustice known as pay-to-play?
  • Why isn't the music industrial complex investing (in a MAJOR way) in the great music startups tech companies such as Yahoo! (YHOO) are buying. It appears Sony Music would rather sit on its hands than build out a live concert streaming platform that could generate billions of dollars for itself and its artists.

I mean there's all of this opportunity in myriad areas -- from fundraising to live concert streaming to touring to the mass instant exposure of Internet radio just waiting to be monetized beyond royalties -- and the labels and their partners sit back and do nothing but complain about Pandora and Spotify.

If the music industry wasn't so inept in the first place, I would have a hard time believing that this is actually what's happening. But it is. And it sucks.

We should also remember -- no matter the landscape -- making it as a musician is not easy work. Internet radio didn't come along to hand working artists an easy life or a direct pathway to success. However, it has brought the tech and the data that, contrary to the cries of the blamers, has done nothing but make it easier to succeed for big names such as Beyonce to the indies and unsigned bands we've never heard of.

All I want for Christmas is for the complainers to wake up in 2014 and do something other than complain and encourage the media to write the same old thin and pointless story about how Pandora and Spotify aren't paying artists enough royalty money. As if anybody has ... ever.

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is a columnist for TheStreet. Pendola makes frequent appearances on national television networks such as CNN and CNBC as well as TheStreet TV. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.
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