Column

Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

As Vinyl and Cassette Sales Soar, I'm Fishin' in the Stream

Perfect! Streaming (even though I must admit to not subscribing) has served to be a marvel for me. A couple of years ago, I reviewed a book called Linthead Stomp by Patrick Huber, which examined the importance of the move to southern mills as a crucial factor in the development of bluegrass and country music. It detailed the lives of early musicians Fiddlin' John Carson, Charlie Poole, Dave McCarn, and Dorsey Dixon. I was only slightly aware of Poole, and didn't know anything about the other three. Through Spotify I was able to create a musical context for what I was reading, vastly enriching my musical vocabulary and awareness. In writing my reviews of biographies of Dylan, Springsteen, Joel, Buffett, and more, I enlarged my musical language, further enriching my listening life and informing my writing about music. My headphones have brought all these people into my life in ways that only reading about them never could. 

Thanks, Ed, for this terrific piece.

Cassette Store Day?  WTF?  

My wife has been on my case to unload my 1500 or so LP's and my 1200 or so CD's for years.  She bought me a Crosely that would convert LP to CD, and later an updated model for CD or LP to MP3. Now I have a collection of unused Crosely's to dispose of.  But yeah, despite nostalgia, the convenience of Spotify etc. is too compelling to ignore and I'm inching that way. Meanwhile, you used to get a sense of a person by their record collection (or absence thereof) or book collection.  Hard to bust someone's chops about having Donovan in their collection when they don't have one anymore.

Cassette Store Day sounds too much like an SNL skit but it's really real. Thinking about starting Piano Roll Day if you want to help with the website and membership screening. 

Americana Cassette Store Day!

One question, Ed...although it's not a simple one. How much does Spotify pay the artists? Given that we are fans of a small genre of music, not the Swifts or Biebers, how do the musicians make a living other than touring constantly to a shrinking base of  consumers? And what happens when they can't tour? In short, do you see the long-range results of not paying for the music you love?                                                                                                                Sorry, that's more than one question. But do you have any answers?        

You're right, it's not a simple answer. I can tell you what most of the 'bigger acts' in Americana do and that's put their music out on their own label and hire a marketing company to do the legwork. Labels make more than just the artists, so it's additional revenue at a higher rate. But not to get too deep into the weeds here, the question you ask is similar to what blacksmiths were asking when cars replaced the horse and buggy. You diversify, innovate and find new revenue streams. One reason why musicians drag around suitcases of merchandise from show to show is because while people might not actually listen to your vinyl or CD, they enjoy having a souvenir. The creative and energetic artists put a lot of thought into merch because it can represent 20% of a night's work. To those who can't tour consistently or even at all, the road is hard. But if you strategically use You Tube as an example, and create a brand, you'd be amazed at the money ad revenue can bring in. Anyway...good question but the reality is that the business model has moved to streaming even if you haven't. 

I just don't see that workng for most Americana musicians (not the "bigger acts") right now, in the real world. Talk to them, many are living on the edge of poverty and continue making music only because they are driven to do so, not because they are making a living. Dragging suitcases of merch around, or begging with a tip jar, just doesn't work in any way as a business model...especially with all the small venues that are currently going out of business.

I accept that streaming or another yet-unknown delivery method is the future, I just wonder how many great musicians we will never hear because they can't make enough money under this current structure.  The "bigger acts" in any genre are relatively safe, but the rest are suffering, or quitting. As it happens, I am mostly a fan of the "smaller acts".  Too bad!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I guess the real question here is, how can the streaming services continue to give away music to the public for virtually nothing? They can't pay a decent amount to the artists when the streamers themselves are not turning a profit. Their current business model is also unsustainable for the long term, so something needs to change. I don't have any answers.

I understand your rationale and accept it's rationality.  I still buy CDs even though I rarely listen to them even on my iPhone.  I buy them at concerts as a way to support artists whose work I enjoy.  They don't get any meaningful compensation from streaming services.  Merch is their royalty.  If they can't make a living recording music, why should they do it?  So, I try in my small way to give them a reason.

See above. You're support at the merch tables is essential. I also don't feel it would be a bad thing to pass around gratuity mason jars at smaller venues. 

I appreciate both answers as well as the convenience that even Youtube provides in researching new ideas and previously unknown artists.  As much fun as making music is, I just wonder how many potentially great performers move on to other things because they can't see their way to making a living.  Will it get worse in the future? 

I can't see that far ahead. But think of painters whose work hangs in museums today. Most of them didn't make any money from their work, existing from the proverbial day jobs of the day. People who create do so as a calling or personal expression, and I don't think money is their key driver. 

That's it! Everybody get a killer day job! Problem solved. Huh.

The idea that artists should make a living from their art is relatively new in history. In the past, artists were able to get wealthy patrons to hire them or purchase their productions. Dickens may have been one of the earliest commercially successful writers who managed to accumulate considerable wealth, but most of his books were published serial format in magazines of the day. Technology made accumulation of great wealth from acting, making music, and painting. Now, technology is removing that support and democratizing art. There's a heirarchy of performance from local bars and small performance halls to arenas and stadiums. There's no way the earnings of people able to fill these venues can correspond to either the quality of their production or their personal worth as human beings. In the end, history will help to sort it all out, and people will continue to produce art while others will enjoy consuming it. Most of it won't reach concert halls or museum walls. And how much of that will stay loved a generation or two later?

I think we will look back at the period from about 1940 to 2005 as a sort of golden age when a whole lot of talented musicians, not just the Billboard big sellers, made the most amazing music...because they were getting paid for it. I can only hope another such period will come again.

And that golden era was in large part a myth. Yes...thousands of musicians and execs became very wealthy, but tens of thousands toiled in virtual slavery, many ending up deep in debt. It was basically a feudal system where the labels advanced a loan with no way possible to pay it back. On top of that, there infinite ways to screw even 'successful' musicians and songwriters out of publishing, ownership of masters, management rip offs and promoters holding back money. It was indeed a golden era...not. 

Yeah, you're absolutely right. There were many flaws in the old "system", many ways for the unwary to get screwed. I got carried away there...and besides, there's no going back. Once people get something essentially for free, it's really hard to get them to start paying for it again! I just can't help feeling for all the wonderful artists going broke, and I have no solution to offer except to support them myself-clearly impossible. 

I agree. It's a pretty dismal situation and my heart is always with the creative community. Two years ago Kickstarter seemed to offer the path for patronage, and while that type of fundraising continues, there appears to be serious consumer burnout. The technology piece isn't ever stoppable but the abilities to create new opportunities and to think...I hate to utter these words...out of the box will always be there. 

A few months back I saw the Cowboy Junkies, the sound guy was right in front of us at a small club. Got to talking.  They play around 50-60 shows per year. The drummer is a contractor, builds homes, remodels homes. Jon Langford stays plenty busy musically, he also has developed a career in painting/visual arts.  Heard Jon Dee Graham once say he does well with house concerts, often better than club shows. Better for merch sales too. He sells prints of his sketches of bears.  A few years ago, Tom Russell was moving from El Paso to Santa Fe and had a link to the real estate listing for his El Paso house and property on his website. I think he was selling it for $350,000 or so, a pretty decent price for the region. He stays plenty busy at around age 70 with music, travels light and seems to have a decent side business selling his paintings (maybe it's more than a side business).  Those Roots Music on the Rails excursions seem popular and musicians keep doing them. In other words, being resourceful as a musician is and probably always was a key to staying in the game for most.  Some may be doing better than we might think under current conditions though I'm sure most are operating and living on a shoestring.

My wife and I just caught a Dave Alvin West of the West train tour show at Off Broadway in St. Louis, and it was absolutely wonderful. Dave with Cindy Lee Berryhill, Christie McWilson, Rick Shea and Jon Langford himself. We've talked to Jon several times-what a great guy! He sold several of his tile artworks for $100 each, which is a huge help to the 'ol bottom line. Too bad more musicians are not visual artists as well, and too bad we couldn't afford to ride the train-those tickets are not cheap!

Off Broadway, what a great club!  Spent many a night there in the late 90's when living in St. Louis.  Looked into buying it when the father/son owners who had it at the time were trying to sell it. Coulda swung it but decided as much as we loved St. Louis it wasn't home permanently. I looked into a couple of those train trips, and my kids tuition bill, and...maybe someday.  I'd be curious how the economics works for the musicians for those.

Ed, I hope things get better for my talented musician friends before I end up "in the box" myself! 

I "shook my head with disdain" throughout this whole piece. What really pisses me off about streaming is that it has killed the album/CD as an artform and regressed music back to the hit single/top 40 mentality. I will never stream a piece of music and if in some continually uglier future one cannot even get music any other way but by streaming (or whatever the next new technology is)  I will just stop listening to new music except live and listen to the reocrded music I already have. I have a vast collection and not many more years ahead of me anyway.

Instead of streaming from Spotify I beg, borrow and steal the music and to ease my guilty mind I drop a penny at the feet of every musician I see and that's a better deal for them and me.   

 

@Dennis: I get it. But I beleive you are mistaken that streaming killed the album. First of all, the album still exists. It's how 99% of musicians release their new music, as a complete group of songs. If you're complaint is that it gives the user the option to 'browse' and 'choose' which songs they want to hear, that's a different story. Streaming had nothing to do with that. You always had the option of picking up the needle and dropping it whenever you wanted, just most of us were too stoned to get up and do it. My collection used to be vast, and it began to feel like a weight tied around my waist. Now...in the new fangled world...I think about something I want to hear and BAM...there it is. If that's not the coolest thing ever, I don't know what is.

Since you asked, perhaps rhetorically, the coolest thing ever would be if  I could rewind time and the Democrats ran an electable candidate.

Sure Ed, the album still exists but its importance as an artform is dead because so few people care about it anymore. I don't deny the convenience of being able to find a song instantly on the internet. I'm a Luddite curmudgeon who also hates computers but it doesn't stop me from using it (and dare I say loving) how easy it is for me to find lyrics and information about most any song or artist I want to. But the fact that the culture as a whole and even old music lovers like yourself are abandoning the album to clear out their clutter means the album as a collection of songs meant to be heard in their entireity is dying if not dead.

The cd killed album art, streaming killed the album.  And  try cleaning your weed on one of those goddamn 99 cent downloads!

I stopped listening to albums in their entirety when I bought my first iPod and discovered the shuffle feature. And I don't smoke that stuff anymore AFKARM, but if I did it'd probably come packaged and clean. 

Being slightly less of a Luddite than Mr. Nyman, I confess to using the shuffle feature and using iTUNES. I also confess to buying an album (cd), importing it and promptly forgetting to listen to it only to discover it when it crawled into the shuffle playlist days, months, years later.  Spotify (for me) is the equivalent of speed reading.......skimming the surface without going deeper.   But EasyEd, even when you are wrong or I disagree, I enjoy reading. Thanks for writing and the discussions your column prompts attest that I'm not alone!

AFKARM

PS-I'm off the dope.

 

Off weed?  

 

Okay, "off" might be a little strong. I have a friend that brews a weed-infused beer. Does that count?

"But EasyEd, even when you are wrong or I disagree, I enjoy reading."

I agree 100%! 

I agree that Easy Ed's postings are wonderful and this was really the first one that rubbed me the wrong way and probably because when people like him abandon the album/CD format it's just more evidence of its demise.

So true Mr. Mutt and all my old double vinyl albums have herbal dust in their crease. But luckily, as Easy Ed noted, weed's now seedless and doesn't need cleaning. That'd be hard to do on a CD cover too.

What a depressing article! I have some thoughts. First off, vinyl and the album format ain't dead, its alive and well. How long that remains the case we will see. Of course its a fad right now and all fads have limited shelf life. However, record stores are flourishing in my town, RSD day is huge and seemingly year after year it remains this way. The demographic is definitely with younger people who are enjoying tangible, physical copies of music. Now, no one here can seem to find a consistent answer as to how musicians can make money off of their music other than of course live shows. It takes money and time to record music, of course with the rise of home studios and such it has become easier, I'll give you that. But ...is all this technology devaluing this wonderful art form that we all enjoy so much? How about the way people listen to music? It used to be all about home stereo systems, serious audiophile sound, high end speakers etc. Now, people listen on ear buds! Talk about changing culture and values.  Anyhow, I see this not as progress but as the death of the music industry as we know it. How long do we have before its no longer possible to make a living producing , recording and playing music is anyones guess but its not a happy prospect. I for one am enjoying the vinyl rennaissance but I do get your point that a sizable collection can become clutter. Every now and then I do a record purge and downsize my collection by trading them in. Not ready to join you on the all streaming thing just yet. For me, the digital file is convienient but it leaves me cold and the sound isnt as good as other formats. But, all things said, Im a sentimental guy all the way and technology is never sentimental...it marches on relentlessly.

Thanks for sharing. I'm certainly not unsympathetic to the creative community, they color my world and thoughts. And I'm also a realist, and can read read spreadsheets, spot trends versus blips, and speak from a place of experience. That said, I do hope we're all wrong about music being reduced to zeroes and ones. Funny...I write this standing in Union Square while streaming Dylan's first album. 

I absolutely love vinyl (btw, I'm 51).  I guess I don't see why people that don't enjoy one format have to knock the other.  I don't give my wife a hard time for enjoying knitting because she can buy clothes online.  I like my vinyl because it forces me to pay attention to the music as a whole.  I liken it akin to the slow food movement.  I have plenty of mp3s but they always seem to be lacking something to me.  Too ephemeral.  Btw, I don't think the quality of most records are as bad as you think.  That sounds like info taken from that terrible WSJ article.

 

 

It was not a great article from WSJ and I'm not knocking the config, just sharing my experience at consumption. To each their own...I am not the spokesperson for streaming. Actually prefer live music. 

High resolution downloads sound great to me, but not really better than a well-recorded and mastered CD. And those hi-res outlets aren't cheap! Mp3s frequently sound bad...the percussion becomes electronic noise instead of the clear "tings" and identifiable instruments they should be . I'm also profoundly unimpressed by the typical sound of streaming music, it seems to be compressed and lacking in dynamc range and the noise floor is high. Fine for the car or while running, not for serious listening. Maybe I'm spoiled from all my years of focused listening to a high-quality home system. A lot of people, perhaps most, have never experienced how much impact recorded music can have when it's properly presented. I hope this changes in the future, as higher quality media become more common and Mp3s go extinct. BTW, my hearing is excellent for someone of my vintage-just had it tested. A lot of folks, even young people, have ruined their hearing with things like earbuds at excessive volume and ampified live music sans earplugs. I started taking earplugs to every single concert many years ago, after Roger McGuinn made my ears ring for two days at an outdoor show with only a 12-string acoustic guitar and a PA system. Once those little cilia in your ears go away, they never come back. 

Whatever happened to Neil Young's ultra-hi-fidelity PO(r)NO experiment?

Looks like a failure unless things change in a big way. Their online music store shut down over a year ago with no sign of a return. There were problems with pricing and marketing, and the triangular shape of the player was unpopular as it is not convenient for either pocket or home. Nice try though, Neil.   

 

Thanks for the update. It sounds like PONO is the Edsel of portable music players. 

Here’s a link to an article where Van Dyke Parks lays out the economics of streaming and has a great comment about the value of writing a song with Ringo Starr 40 years ago versus today.  

http://www.thedailybeast.com/van-dyke-parks-on-how-songwriters-are-getti...

 

Of course he has no real solution and I don’t think there really is.   But 40 years ago the vast majority of artists didn’t make a great living playing music either.   At least today artists have a lot more platforms to be discovered on and niche audiences can coalesce and sustain them better than the past.   This community with our interest in artists 98.6% of the public has no knowledge of could not have existed back then.     

I agree with Ed though.   My wife is telling me we are moving in the next couple years and when I look at our 2000+ records, I know they are not going to be going with us.     Most of the 1000+ CD’s aren’t going to be collecting any new dust either.   Sure, I’m nostalgic about looking through Record Stores but I also realize that nostalgia is a mild form of depression.   I'm also nostalgic about my wife's old 1966 Buick but at least I don't have to worry about my 2016 Buick starting every time I get in.  That is progress to happy about.             

What will you do with all the CDs and LPs? I mean, I assume you will sell them, but what will you do with all the music they contain? I guess you can rip it to a computer, but that would be a big pain in the butt. 

I didn't give you, as Paul Harvey would say "the rest of the story" Tommy.   When I moved into this house 15 years ago I stuck all the records in the basement and haven't touched them since.   Some of the them are probably in pretty poor condition right now and will get "recycled".  There are actually three very good vinyl stores here in Rochester New York. one of which is almost exclusively vinyl called the Bop Shop.  I will see if he wants some of them.   I will keep some for sentimental reasons.    Some are probably not on Spotify so I'll keep those too.  About half the selections are my wife's.  I don't know what her passion level for her Shriekback collection is these days so they may "recycled" as well.       

I'm sure there is some else who is interested in Tom Verlaine's "Flash Light" so Ebay will be an option too.             

Back in the eighties for a few years I bought and sold collectible vinyl for a living. When I recently looked into my own remnants, I was amazed at how far down the value has gone. If you want to take the time to really get into the marketplace, use Discogs and not eBay. I was shocked that my Skip Spence Oar original release commands $300, while the John and Yoko Wedding Box with all the goodies still inside is less than $50. Also learned that today people are interested in cover art still in great shape. If it's worn, dirty or moldy the value is nil. This new collector group is searching for 'art' as well as the tunes. 

Great suggestion thanks.   I will have to take an inventory because I don't know what the collection looks like these days.       I have a friend that collects 45's and 78's and thought that is where the value is these days.    I do not kid when I say he has close to a million dollars of collectables in his basement including the original Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers single of "My Bonnie".   His basement is different than mine in that he has three sump pumps and it is climate controlled.    

Hello,

Haven't been by in quite a long while. Had a bit of time this morning which is rapidly running out! Gotta get rolling - a lot to do before my job starts at 9:30. 

Anyways, I read your post and thought it would be one of those controversial hot topics. I only read about half of the comments as that's all I have time for, but I can see that I was right.

I remember someone (I think it was Jason Isbell, but I may be wrong.) posting a revenue stream chart for artists. Spotify was something like pennies a stream though I know this was a couple of years ago and certain artists have been battling the system. It seems to me that when people asked what format he would love people to buy - he said LP. Don't quote me though as it seems like forever and a day ago (as does yesterday some days!).

Anyways, Spotify. Mostly it's a pain in my... er... rear. Only because I rarely think to use it and it takes forever to load (automatic load for some reason) and slows down my computer start time (have to do something about it... some day.). 

Why do I have it? Spotify, to me, is a great resource to have when you've been reading biographies (ie/ me making note of various musicians as I read a Dylan bio) and want to search for songs, bands, solo acts and find out whether you like them. Youtube is a mess of amateur covers and it can be hard to find more obscure acts. Yet... it also holds its place in the scheme of my music searches (and I'm addicted to Graham Norton and Jimmy Kimmel videos).

Huge chunks of music that I look for turn out to be horri... I mean... not for me. I've listened to everything from the Harry Smith Anthology collection (takes some getting used to that I wasn't willing to wait for!) to Leadbelly to Nirvana to the Carter Family to (my preeeeeeecious - as those who'd know me from when I used to be on here) Ryan Adams (still I didn't care for the last release). 

If I purchased every last thing I listened to, I'd be even poorer than I am now (though I blame that on having to buy a car, my vinyl love and the obscene amount of books I've been buying.). 

Spotify is a great tool, but not how I would choose to listen to music. The average day is me forcing my ipod on everyone at work. Some people appreciate my varied tastes and some... don't. Got a tongue blistering from a customer who didn't appreciate Bob Dylan's "Farewell" the other day. The theme of the rant was "Hillbilly Music". 

I don't buy CDs anymore unless it's a specific person who I love. Was buying all of Jason Isbell's, for example, but didn't get the last one after I played the LP and didn't love the music. I'll buy them if it's a set such as a Bob Dylan bootleg series release that looks good, but I don't want the LP either because it's too expensive or I just want to add it to my ipod.

Records... I don't have a massive collection as I am picky. Extremely picky. I'd say I have a quality collection that on the Ryan Adams side includes about 98% of everything he's done (Still hunting some of the more expensive ones down.). I haven't listened to vinyl in months as I moved my record player and the cord doesn't reach the outlet. I have to get an extension cord. Considering I just spent over a couple of hundred dollars for that U2 "Joshua Tree" set a few months ago... I have to get on it. I don't want to hoard music I want to enjoy it.

This brings me to a rambling end. I guess it comes down to - what brings you the most enjoyable access to music. LPs are fine and dandy, but it's more of an experience with music. Taking the time to set a mood or routine. It's more of a production to a degree. If all the cassettes, 8 tracks, vinyl, and CDs gather in the corner collecting dust, are they worth keeping? I am a physical person who likes to own things and hold them in my hand. I like the visual of my book shelves full of books, for example. I don't want a Kindle. 

MP3s have been a big part of my life for a long time. I still remember the excitement when that original 100 song ipod was announced as I clutched my discman in my sweaty teenaged hand. I still remember fighting with that cheap 40 (or less) song mp3 player some traveling sales man convinced me to buy. They're easy.

Spotify. Also easy.

I guess in the back of my mind I wonder if easy is everything it's cracked up to be. We get spoiled. Does music matter as much? I like that furtive search for that one 45 that I JUST HAVE TO HAVE to complete my collection. The thrill of the chase. Music is my muse. I have neglected her lately as I have been struggling with my laptop and the technicians that keep insisting there's nothing wrong with it. However, the search for the next song or the next artist always keeps me going. 

There's nothing wrong with Spotify, but I do agree that if it's a pyramid with the top brass making the money and the artists getting by on nothing - there needs to be a change. I remember seeing (on here?) at some point about an artist who killed himself because he was losing pretty much everything despite being popular thanks to the uprise of illegal downloading at the time. That always stuck with me. 

Also, one last thought in this ramble of my mine before I run to get ready for work... 

The days of a concrete, cohesive album with an entire album of amazing songs. I can see them fading away into the distance. Very few albums of today hold up to... say... "The Joshua Tree". It's an era of singles. Rush, rush, rush to get an album out to capitalize on popularity, etc. Why should we buy CDs, LPs, or any other format of the entire album when it is just not worth it? 

Being tired and in a hurry (and on a sugar high - testing a desert I made last night), I hope that something I wrote comes across as I meant it to. My thoughts tend to come out in a ramble. Next time I'll proof read and revise... maybe. 

Easy Ed - you always make me think.

@Stina! Heart be still. Miss your insights and activity here at ND. Such a thrill that you took the time to read and comment. For the record, the first artist I loaded into my digital stream library was Ryan Adams...the early years when he was doing the kind of music that resonated. Anyway, glad you're still out there. Be well. 

I tend to keep an eye on what you're posting in your column. Decided it was time to jump back in, but it took a while to get a new password this morning - couldn't remember it! 

Hopefully I can pop back on a bit more here and there! :)

Great to see you back, Stina!

A record I've been wild about lately is The Americans "I'll Be Yours", which I think is going to give Chuck Prophet's "Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins" a run for the money as my favorite of 2017.  Bought it on CD, been in the car a few weeks. Unsure if it's on Spotify but well worth checking out. First heard of them last fall here on ND, Cara Gibney did a nice write up, the ND search feature should get you to her piece if curious.

I just streamed Chuck the other day. Will seek out The Americans. 

It's great to be remembered with any degree of fondness! :)

I just wrote both down as albums to check out ASAP. Will try to get back online after supper on my own computer in a quiet spot. My Grandma is living here now so there's less in the way of quiet spots! I love recommendations so you've made my day!

It's great to be remembered with any degree of fondness! :)

I just wrote both down as albums to check out ASAP. Will try to get back online after supper on my own computer in a quiet spot. My Grandma is living here now so there's less in the way of quiet spots! I love recommendations so you've made my day!

Very thoughtful comment, and Spotify and the like may be most useful for some of us to help figure out what music we DON'T like!

Let me just add in reference to "There's nothing wrong with Spotify, but I do agree that if it's a pyramid with the top brass making the money and the artists getting by on nothing - there needs to be a change." That's exactly the situation, and that means there IS something wrong and there needs to be a change. I wonder what would motivate a streaming company to make such a change, as they seem perfectly happy with the current ripoff status quo.

To clarify - I meant that aside from that there'd be nothing wrong with Spotify as a means to getting music.

I know that certain artists (I believe Taylor Swift and The Beatles were amongst them.) fought the company over rights. I don't know if they just managed to help themselves or others. The concern would be for folks on the level of Guy Clark or John Prine or even the newer upstarts that don't have the draw of the 100% mainstream (ugh) music.

A little food for thought regarding Spotify and all the other streaming vehicles. The common theme is to blame them for the pay structure and that's pretty far from reality. These companies didn't hold a gun to the head of musicians or composers, they courted the major corporations who hold the keys to 75% of the content and they agreed to this payment structure. The indies followed out of necessity to compete. In fact, and I'm not about to go research the details, but Spotify gave those major corps a share in the company when they came to the US. So the reality is not to blame technology or the companies that embrace it, but to look at the content owners and the current laws on payments that screw the creative community. What's that line...meet the new boss, same as the old boss. 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/hughmcintyre/2017/06/27/why-did-taylor-swif...

The link showing Taylor Swift changed her mind. I hadn't read this one until now. Apparently they make a case that Spotify helps an artist chart, etc. I'd like to think it goes by talent and how good something is, but there are so many little acts that continue to struggle despite a good number of views. Then again, you can't just blame Spotify - it could be down to their business sense or something else. It's like turning on a light in your home and a car accident happens on the street. The light does not shine into the drivers' eyes. The two are not necessarily related. (Stealing / Paraphrasing that from a Nill Nye book I started reading last night....)

"The new deal between UMG and Spotify allows for artists to choose to window new albums (or make them unavailable to free users) for up to two weeks after their initial release — a huge win for the label, and a sticking point for Swift. Streams from paid users pay far better than streams from ad-supported users on Spotify, and Swift is nothing if not fully in control of her content and her finances."

"In 2014, the last time Taylor Swift released an album, people still bought albums. She pulled her catalog from Spotify the week 1989 was released, stating the service doesn’t pay artists fairly and doesn’t give them enough control over their content. “I'm not willing to contribute my life's work to an experiment that I don't feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music," Swift told Yahoo at the time." (Maybe it was the YAHOO article I read. Can't remember.

I refuse to sign up with Wall Street Journal (I wont use it plus it's exercise time in 15 min.), but I believe that this may be the article I read - https://www.wsj.com/articles/for-taylor-swift-the-future-of-music-is-a-l... - Taylor Swift's view against Spotify (Until she apparently changed her mind.)

Another interesting one on the timeline of her various stances: https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/9/15767986/taylor-swift-apple-music-spot...

"As a symbol for the rights of artists in the digital age, she’s a watery one at best."

Interesting. I should mention that I'm not a Taylor Swift fan. I might have been if she had matured, but continued along the vein of her first album. I didn't like it when Ryan Adams covered her album... then it grew on me and there are three tracks on my itunes. One of the songs in particular gets stuck in my head now and then.

Taylor pulled her music, specifically her new album at the time, from Spotify because she rightly concluded that the money people spend on streaming is the money they used to spend on music downloads, CD, albums, etc.   Adele did the same thing with her last album.   Both had the biggest selling records of the last decade.   

The article mentions Taylor's back catalogue being released to Spotify.   My guess is she will not release the new album to streamers when it drops but is using the back catalogue as a way to wet the appetite for the new product.   She’s like Warren Buffett when it comes to money.    Want to to make sure you can buy tickets for her next tour?   Buy merch from her store and each purchase moves you up in line.   As Max Bialystock says - "when you got it, flaunt it, flaunt it".      

Unsaid in all this is steaming companies like Spotify and Pandora are really selling a stock, not a product.   Pandora loses more money the more consumers use it and while I understand Spotify's royalty deals are slightly better they still are not close to making a profit.   There really isn't a viable business model for streaming yet.     

You are of course correct on all fronts. And it's exactly the same thing analysts said about Amazon for years. No profit, selling below cost in many instances, and offering expensive services like free shipping. Somehow over time, the business model repositioned itself into a successful entity that changed our consuming habits.

 

I agree and it looks like the pony to bet on is Spotify.   They will eventually cut the better deals with the labels.   Spotify is still growing and Pandora, which has already started to decline, can't even find a buyer though Iheart or Sirus are rumored to be in the running to pick up the crumbs.   Of course Iheart is 30 billion in debt as well.     

I've also heard rumor of a small start-up who is in the streaming business as well. I think they're called Apple. Wonder if they have the capitalization?

Getting a reference to The Producers into this thread earns you two gold stars and a "way to go!" from yours truly.

I had to reread this column EasyEd and respond after my shopping experience today. A co-worker took another job and gave me a gift certificate to the only local record shop in town as a thank you for my mentorship.  I headed over to Death Spiral Records (not the real name)  to pick up The Queen of Hearts by Offa Rex.  I wandered around not sure where it would be filed and eventually asked the clerk where I could find it. He checked the computer and said "Oh, we sold the last copy of that about a month ago."

Nothing else. Blank stare.

FYI-The release date was 7/14/17. That's a good sign it must be doing well. It was featured on NPR.

"Would you order a copy for me?"

"Oh we're not really set up to do that!"

 I guess I'll go download a copy from Amazon and look into Spotify.  

So stop by your record store one last time and think of it as a trip to a funky museum. They aren't going to be around much longer and I don't like saying that but I'm not feeling much sympathy for Death Spiral Records.

 

Well, that stinks. I doubt that the store owner would be pleased! Of course, I don't know where you live. Here in St. Louis there are several independent record stores that would have been THRILLED to order that for you. Euclid Records, Music Record Store, and Vintage Vinyl come to mind. Please don't accept that sort of terrible customer service quietly-complain to the owner! If he blows you off, that place is indeed in a death spiral. Terrible customer service is now found in a lot of retail establishments of all kinds, I'm very sorry to say. Just another reason stone & mortar retail is in trouble, not just the music biz. 

Perhaps you can tell I managed record stores for many years. That behavior would never have been tolerated.

 

What a shitty record store you went to Mr. Clown. The record stores I go to here in Seattle always offer to order anything I'm looking for that they don't have. The huge store here--Silver Platters--has several branches and if it's in stock at another branch they'll also have it shipped to whatever branch you would prefer to get it.

Update-I stopped in again (what do yu do when you have store credit?). I asked the showtunes playing goth-punk girl if they had the new Josh Ritter disc (release date 9/22).  

"No but I can order it for you."

So I guess I just got the lazy shit dude who just didn't want to be bothered.

I'll see if the disc ever shows and if it does I'll order a couple more discs when I pick up Ritter's latest.