Free music

What do you think?

You should probably read the full interview in Rolling Stone first.

If you didn’t know, Apple negotiated rights to U2’s current album, Songs of Innocence, and distributed it to half a billion (crazy, I know) iTunes Store customers, for free, in September.

As Bono explained at U2.com:

To celebrate the ten year anniversary of our iPod commercial, they bought it as a gift to give to all their music customers. Free, but paid for. Because if no-one’s paying anything for it, we’re not sure “free” music is really that free. It usually comes at a cost to the art form and the artist… which has big implications, not for us in U2, but for future musicians and their music… all the songs that have yet to be written by the talents of the future… who need to make a living to write them.

However, not everyone was thrilled. By attaching the album to iTunes accounts, it caused unexpected downloads. Furthermore, customers were unable to delete or ‘unlink’ the album from their online profiles. Some people really were terribly upset about getting an album from one of the world’s biggest bands for free. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those people had been helping themselves to music for almost twenty years by downloading illegally. Or envy them for not having more important things to be upset about, for that matter.

I’m not being mean here, I get upset every single day about the most stupid things that don’t matter one jot in the grand scheme of things. I’ve come to believe that we secretly love to be offended and outraged. I’d imagine many were genuinely inconvenienced by it, taking up valuable space on their devices; that’s why instructions on how to remove the “gift album” were demanded. I can see why most teens whose music libraries consist of rappers and pretty boys wouldn’t want it. I had no intention of buying it – my interest in U2 largely ended with The Joshua Tree, I must admit – but I eventually realised I had their kind offering, listened and quite liked it, and I haven’t yet removed it. So, thanks a lot, U2. Very decent of you.

Now, if Justin Bieber’s people ever try pulling a stunt like that…

On being told it was “rude” to force their album on people in this wicked way, I thought Bono’s response was perfectly reasonable:

We had this beautiful idea, we got carried away with ourselves, artists are prone to that kind of thing. Drop of megalomania, touch of generosity, dash of self-promotion and deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into over the last few years mightn’t be here. There’s a lot of noise out there, I guess we got a little noisy ourselves to get through it.

I’m much more sickened to learn that Apple spent a reported $100 million on a worldwide ad campaign for this. Who can’t think of 100 million better ways of spending that amount of money? (Let’s not make a list.) And I don’t ever like to see guitars getting smashed, as The Edge does in the advert, unless it’s archive footage from 1970 or earlier. How unforgivably wasteful and also just a tad embarrassing for anyone over the age of thirty to behave in this reckless way.

Following the digital release of Songs of Innocence, on 13 October came the physical release. You could choose between (deep breath) a deluxe, gatefold double album containing an acoustic session of songs from the album and four additional tracks, with a 24-page booklet, or a gatefold, double white-vinyl LP with an exclusive remix of one of the songs. I don’t recall which song.

Devalue music, you say, or truss it up like a Christmas turkey?

If it’s really all about the excitement of hearing about people enjoying it, as Nick claims, won’t many more people hear it if you give it to them for free? How many of us buy an album these days from someone we’re unfamiliar with on the basis of quite liking the first single picked up by radio stations? Who takes a gamble when albums cost a tenner that needs to be spent on petrol? I think it should mean more to artists, particularly to the older and wiser ones, that ‘the kids’ like their ‘stuff’, that a lot of people appreciated the gesture (gimmick*, or whatever you think it was) and enjoyed the music enough to want to hear more of it. After all, isn’t the accomplishment all the greater when the ones who like what you’ve produced haven’t generally liked everything you’ve ever done before and have bought it, in multiple formats, for thirty- or forty-odd years?

I think it’s most welcome, getting something new for free that you can discard with ease and zero environmental guilt attached if you don’t want or like it, because much of what I hear on the radio is either old and familiar or new and bloody awful, so that’s not helping me find new music that I want to listen to. YouTube is so full of adverts now, I soon tire of waiting for the link that allows me to skip the ads, so I move on to something else. TV producers and presenters keep bringing back their darlings to be guests on their shows and to perform whatever it is they’re promoting this time, so there’s little opportunity for anyone who isn’t already connected and favoured.

That’s not to say that people shouldn’t be paid for their efforts. Of course they always should no matter what. But offering a free sample of anything is a good way to get people interested, I think.

Take the music many of us helped ourselves to in the good/bad (you decide, I can’t say) old days of Napster et al., when we discovered something we liked, then, on the back of that, bought an album or three, some concert tickets, a DVD and a T-shirt. Lose a few quid on CD sales, make loads of new fans who’ll buy all your merchandise.

Music being devalued… Some will say that nothing devalues music quite as much as yet another remastered, albeit beautifully packaged, anniversary reissue that nobody needs. Or when it’s played to death in television commercials. Or covered badly by whoever’s flavour-of-the-month (perhaps, worse still, when there’s an awkward collaboration between young and old that shames both parties).

Sharon Osbourne, wife of Ozzy (who has put out some pretty lousy songs, it has to be said), insists that U2 gave their “mediocre music” away because no-one wants to buy it. There’s a lot wrong with that, if you think about it. Please think beyond questioning the respectability of using your family as exhibits in a TV freak show, or in oiling the wheels that turn the endless conveyor belt of talent show bores that monopolise the charts and offer the listener nothing new at all.

There’s a lot of truth in Iggy Pop’s “And now the biggest bands are charging insane ticket prices or giving away music before it can flop, in an effort to stay huge. And there’s something in this huge thing that kind of sucks.” It does suck. But I don’t think Songs of Innocence was ever likely to flop. Radiohead’s seventh album, In Rainbows, didn’t flop in 2007. They actually made more money out of it than they did their sixth album, even though they let people pay as much, or as little, as they wanted for it without any record company involvement.

The same year that Radiohead let people pay what they liked to download In Rainbows (and sold 100,000 copies of it in box-set format), Prince upset music industry executives and retailers alike (a “huge insult to an industry battling fierce competition from supermarkets and online stores,” apparently) by giving away his Planet Earth album – which had debuted at Number Three on the US Billboard chart – for free in the UK with a national newspaper. He then announced a run of 21 dates at London’s O2, all of which sold out, earning him $23.4 million. He might well have lost $4.6 million by licensing his CD to a newspaper, but still made a $18.8 million profit.

It must have been worth it, because he did the same a few years later with 20TEN – in the UK, as well as in Germany and Belgium.

In 2007, Ray Davies also gave away his (excellent) Working Man’s Café album in a Sunday newspaper in the UK. “Personally, it’s about reaching as many people as possible,” he said. “I’m incredibly proud of this LP and am truly excited that 1.5 million copies will be distributed to people who’ll hear it organically – the way it was intended. It’s an exciting opportunity I couldn’t resist.” (Of course, when the CD went on sale the following day, it contained two bonus tracks not included on the promotional copy.)

Continued Bono, before the backlash:

Part of the DNA of this band has always been the desire to get our music to as many people as possible. In the next 24 hours, over a half a billion people are going to have Songs of Innocence… should they choose to check it out. That is so exciting. People who haven’t heard our music, or weren’t remotely interested, might play us for the first time because we’re in their library. Country fans, hip hop afficionados from east LA, electro poppers from Seoul, Bhangra fans from New Delhi, Highlifers in Accra… might JUST be tempted to check us out, even for a moment. What a mind blowing, head scratching, 21st century situation. Over 500 million people… that’s a billion ears. And for the people out there who have no interest in checking us out, look at it this way… the blood, sweat and tears of some Irish guys are in your junk mail.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t criticise that enthusiasm. I can only wonder, if I cared enough to do so (I don’t), with eyes narrowed suspiciously, whether the real reason he wants to reach so many new listeners is to be able to get more money out of them in the long run.

Perhaps I’m just being gullible, but I don’t see the harm in it.

The BBC’s annual John Peel Lecture this year, courtesy of Iggy Pop, was on the topic of ‘Free Music in a Capitalist Society’. He made some excellent points, but is the process of buying an album really “kind of an anointing,” as he claimed? I find that terribly self-important.

Of course, the bottom line is this: It’s their music, let them do whatever they like with it. And we’re all free, as punters, to take it or leave it.

I’d love to hear what you think, though.

The chatroom will be open tomorrow, from 2pm (UK), so do drop by.

*As Iggy Pop says in his lecture, “Every free media platform I’ve ever known has been a front for advertising or propaganda or both.”

57 comments

  1. Michèle

    1 – When I go to the restaurant I want to look at the menu and choose. Would you accept, say, frog legs or foie gras to be served automatically – even for free – on your plate? 😉 Not me.

    2 – U2 didn’t give away their album. They sold it to Apple for $100 million. Nothing very generous there. Apple then ‘gave’ it to to all iTunes subscribers, the people who buy their over-priced gadgets, in hope of getting more and more users. It’s a marketing tool. It’s just business, all about money.

    3 – U2 can afford to give away one album for free, they have a large back catalogue and can expect lots of money from their concerts, but what about young unknown artists who are just starting out, who can’t ‘call’ Apple and expect a good deal with them? No hope for them. In this sense, yes, U2 have ‘devalued music’.

    4 – Bono sucks. OK, sterile comment, I’m biased. 😉

    • FEd

      When I go to the restaurant I want to look at the menu and choose. Would you accept, say, frog legs or foie gras to be served automatically – even for free – on your plate?

      You make a very, very good point.

    • Tim_c

      It is a mistake to think U2 sold this for $100m – Apple spent $100m on marketing this idea, which is not the same thing (and its probably exaggerated to maximise the tax write down as well).

  2. Taki

    What do I think? Clever move. They got paid to advertise themselves (and Apple, too).

    Do I care? Not at all. I’m neither Apple’s customer, nor do I listen to U2.

    Will it devalue music? I don’t think so. There is always a number of people that don’t pay for music. They either can’t afford it or download it as a habit (IMHO). If there wasn’t an opportunity, they wouldn’t buy it anyway, so nothing bad happened in reality. Now add the “free” downloads and other offers. Will any existing customer (or call them fans) stop buying albums? I won’t and I imagine others won’t either…

    Off-topic: Friday is coming fast. 🙂

    Cheers

    Taki

    • FEd

      There is always a number of people that don’t pay for music.

      It’s interesting that you say that because, for all the success Radiohead had with In Rainbows, there was speculation that 62 per cent of those who downloaded the album paid nothing for it. The band denied this, but I don’t think they ever disclosed any sales figures.

      Is there something happening on Friday? 😉

  3. Ullie

    For the German fans, the popular radio station SWR 3 already aired one interview of Pink Floyd today, but will also tomorrow at 9.15 AM and between 19 and 20 PM on Tuesday and Wednesday. You can also listen online.

  4. Pavlov

    Not necessarily a legitimate comment but I really dislike being ‘force fed’ anything and my choice being taken away. Sure there is somewhat of a choice to listen or not and a rather convoluted way to get rid of the imbed. Personally if I were being offered a ‘freebie’, I would prefer to choose whether to accept it or not.

    I read something on Forbes in September that sums it up for me:

    “People want pull, not push. By and large users of any platform hate to have info pushed to them. Yes, there are exceptions like email and text notifications, but by and large, we hate being shouted at, even if it’s being done electronically. A better strategy in this situation might have been to say, “Here’s the new U2 album. Take it if you want it.” While that wouldn’t have amounted to the same ability to say that it was the biggest album release of all time, it would have alleviated the feeling that people were getting an unwanted musical virus planted on their phone or computer.”

    • FEd

      It would have been better to offer the choice to opt in our out, even if it limited the element of surprise and meant not pushing that boundary once the idea had cropped up. I imagine that, for certain ambitious types, once you’ve accomplished everything you can, being the first to do something so different, and getting everyone talking about it, becomes the only important thing left to achieve. And they do say that the only thing in the world worse than being talked about is not being talked about. Oscar Wilde did, anyway.

      I wonder if Apple will reveal how many customers removed the album. I wouldn’t expect so, but do suspect that more removed it than kept it.

  5. frank

    What a different spin on things. Yes, I got my freebee, I listened because it was free, a couple of great songs, nothing to write home about. Apple pays 100mil? Ka-ching, ka-ching.

    “Money, it’s a hit but don’t give me that do-goody good bullshit.”

    Someone should write a song with those lyrics, LOL.

  6. NewYorkDan

    One of MY favorite restaurants gives a free sample of a menu item as an appetizer, just after you place your order. It is nice to get something for free. That said, it is also true that they ask you if you want it. They say, “Would you like to try our [fill in the blank]?”

    I think the issue with the U2 album is that people felt like it was being forced upon them, whether they wanted it or not. I think it would have gone over much better if the free album had been presented with the option of saying “yes” or “no.”

    • NewYorkDan

      Let me add to the above: For at least the past decade, bands have not made nearly as much money from their hits as they make from merchandising, selling a full album, playing concerts, doing commercials, and so on. Pharrell Williams is a great example: his “Happy” is everywhere, and nobody would ever have to pay for it. But it directed a lot of traffic to his website, made him a celebrity, and sold lots of copies of his album.

      So it is not entirely true that music is devalued. Artists still get paid for their work, as U2 themselves did, but the business model has changed. Fans may not exchange music for cash, but their idols still get paid.

    • FEd

      I think it would have gone over much better if the free album had been presented with the option of saying “yes” or “no.”

      I agree. As Michèle said about being served complimentary foie gras, I’d want to be able to politely refuse the offer before the repulsive stuff got anywhere near my plate, and I would object more strongly if pushed to accept. In that situation, I’d have to leave in disgust on principle and never return, choosing to eat elsewhere and encouraging others to do likewise.

      Not that being forced to listen to U2’s music is as cruel as the production of foie gras, of course, but their ‘Sweetest Thing’ single has turned my stomach on more than one occasion.

  7. Pete -Coventry

    I think it depends where on the ladder of success you sit.

    I personally pay for all my music. The main reason being I am very old fashioned. I do not possess a mobile phone of my own and I have nowhere to download music to. So at the moment I am stuck with the physical product. I am happy about it.

    I go to an awful lot of gigs a year. Mainly very local pub stuff to 500 capacity venues. I still do the occasional ‘big’ gig. But not many of them come around nowadays which turn me on.

    If I am buying a CD I try, in the first instance, to pay the band direct. If that is not possible then I go to the record company. Then when all else fails, somewhere like Amazon.

    Realise I need to drag myself into the current century but what really annoys me are people who make no effort to go to gigs and still get free music. They contribute nothing.

    Cheers.

    • FEd

      what really annoys me are people who make no effort to go to gigs and still get free music. They contribute nothing.

      Well said, Pete – and good on you.

    • ash

      I’m the same, pay for all my music and don’t download anything. There are several reasons why I don’t download.

      The most important for me is, I’m not used to using headphones, I’ve got some but only use them once in a blue moon for something really special. My main reason for not using them, I need to and want to hear the world around me. I’m guessing people who download aren’t using their Hi-Fi to play back.

      This leads me to the next reason, I don’t have a portable music player and my phone doesn’t have the facility. I only carry a mobile phone so that I can be contacted in an emergency by vulnerable family members. I don’t think I could cope with being permanently plugged in to music.

      I think THAT practice devalues music appreciation.

      I prefer to listen when at home or in the car, not whilst shopping, exercising, crossing the road, looking after toddlers and rampant children in the supermarket. . . . oops, got a little sidetracked for a moment. 🙂

      I really like the “old fashioned” practice of turning the Hi-Fi on placing a CD in the player, (although I’ve got a few vinyls, I have them for sentimental reasons now. . . .bear with me. . . my, swear words edited out, ex-husband stole OUR lifetime together, 30 years worth collection, of LPs and tapes and CDs and the Hi-Fi and speakers. I had to start afresh but I haven’t sought to replace the collection because I had outgrown a lot of it but I wanted to explain why I don’t have a turntable and vinyl collection, I’m not a heathen :)) ) and enjoy being surrounded by music.

      I like to own the legitimate article because the sound is as the musician/s intended I should hear it and I want the artwork package. BTW, I’ve ordered the T-shirt deluxe CD, Endless River package but last night I watched David on Jools Holland and saw the vinyl, the art work looks so good, I want that as well !!!!! This is the big draw back with CDs. Too small.

      I agree with Pete, support live music.

      ash 🙂

      • FEd

        Ash, I agree with so much of that (you mustn’t start me off again about toddlers in supermarkets; I almost fell over one the other day because it came out of nowhere and charged straight at me, and if looks could kill, its gormless mother must at least have blood coming out of her eyes by now), and I thought the same as you about The Endless River when I saw Jools hold up the vinyl, which looks fantastic (again, great job, Ahmed Emad Eldin), but…

        Downloading is so much better for the environment.

        At the risk of becoming even less popular around here, it makes me wonder if we shouldn’t be paying less to download, actually.

        P.S. Kids in supermarkets? Precisely why I listen to music when I’m shopping.

    • ash

      Laughing at you Fed. :)) You make some very good points. Yes, I agree now, wearing headphones in the supermarket might be a good idea (sigh).

      OK, teach me. If I download music to my computer and when you buy it the music company sends you a booklet (recycled paper) and a big poster, we’re happy with that and we’ve done good for the environment, what do I do to maintain my copy of the album?

      My computers die, even if I have worked out how to play it through my Hi-Fi. 🙂 My answer could be to make a hard copy onto a blank CD. Isn’t that as bad as buying one that was commercially produced?

      ash 🙂

      • FEd

        My answer could be to make a hard copy onto a blank CD. Isn’t that as bad as buying one that was commercially produced?

        Probably, pretty much. We’re all doomed.

    • ash

      Laughing at you again Fed. :))

      I wonder what archaeologists of the future will find of our culture and what they’ll make of it? Bet they’ll wonder where we got all the plastics from? And how come there’s no trace of a raw material or seams of it to mine in their time? Wonder what they’ll think it was all for, the variety of it.

      That is of course assuming a sophisticated technological society, interested in more that simply living, does develop again in the future.

      Getting deep now, probably should head to the pub to continue this conversation, eh? :))

      Stimulating blog post Fed.

      ash 🙂

    • ash

      Probably, pretty much. We’re all doomed.

      On the other hand, at present we all buy music we really like several times. I’ve bought at least four copies of Dark Side of the Moon, three copies of P.U.L.S.E, three of The Division Bell. I could go on. All Pink Floyd’s work, lots of other artists’ work. Maybe I would buy a download again when I upgrade the computer that died trapping everything inside it!!!!

    • Pavlov

      I don’t think I could cope with being permanently plugged in to music.

      Oh Ash, I don’t think I could cope without being permanently plugged in to music. 😀

    • Pete -Coventry

      I wonder what archaeologists of the future will find of our culture and what they’ll make of it?

      Ash – simple answer – didn’t they have a great time back then? They listened to great music and they had the chance to watch it performed live. And have a beer with their mates.

    • Damian Cunningham

      My good friend Andrew owns an indie record store in Hexham, Northumberland and he said he is struggling to order enough copies of the Endless River. One Direction, LOL.

    • ash

      How could they possibly have thought that people wouldn’t buy the album?

      There are an awful lot of us “old school, old fashioned” types that really do appreciate good music and whole albums and we’ve been around a while and listened to all sorts of music to become very discerning.

      I hate to say this, they must have lost touch with us somehow.

      ash

  8. Pavlov

    U2 kind of lost me around Zooropa and I haven’t knowingly heard or bought anything of theirs since (the ‘old’ stuff, yes). I’m not a big one for getting on the “rah-rah” band-wagon, waving banners, grouping together in protest or rallying for or against something. To be fair, I haven’t heard their new album and I might listen to snippets. If it pleases my ear, I might buy it. If not, no effort wasted.

    I’ll always think twice when U2 is mentioned (if I care to give them a thought) because of this marketing/revenue generating ploy (no matter how well-intentioned it was).

    Speaking of intention … from a marketing perspective, they couldn’t have hoped for better!

  9. Damian Cunningham

    This kind of relates to today’s topic.

    I read that David was fed up with playing in front of huge stadium audiences, and that he wanted to be more in touch with the audience in much smaller venues. He could quite easily still fill 20, 40 even 60 thousand seater venues and make millions, but the man is putting his music and his fans before any financial gain. The man is a true Artist, and it proves he does appreciate people’s love for his music, and that his music always comes first.

    As for U2, I really do think it was a genuine gesture of good will but really good PR as well.

    Damian.

  10. Damian Cunningham

    David on Jools Holland. Bryan Ferry was first act with Guy on bass.

    Damian

    • FEd

      It’s on again on Friday, don’t forget – an extended version this time.

      Also available now on iPlayer, if you missed it and can’t wait until Friday.

  11. Davie

    Hey FEd,

    Good topic for discussion!

    For me, I’d ultimately have bought the U2 album anyway, out of curiosity. However, getting it for “free” (at least, I didn’t pay for it) has certainly diluted the impact of it for me. I guess you could say devalued, in a way.

    I suppose it took away the enjoyment of buying the physical album, because by the time I got it, I had already listened to the album for free. However, I feel the same way about bands streaming their album online the week before sale date; however, I guess in that case I have the choice not to listen.

    So I guess for me, they devalued their own music, but only because I personally still value the physical product so much. Had they posted a copy of the CD through the door, perhaps I wouldn’t feel that way? (Though it would have to be a bit more lavish than those cheap-looking Prince albums you referred to!) 🙂

    • JulieD

      However, getting it for “free” (at least, I didn’t pay for it) has certainly diluted the impact of it for me. I guess you could say devalued, in a way.

      Hear, hear….

  12. ash

    Apple paid U2 £100 million???? Did I really read that somewhere?

    Money for nothing, no tour, no tour staff, flights, trucks, etc. No merchandise, no plastic or vinyl to press.

    I don’t know if it was a stroke of genius or a signal of their death throes or their retirement plan.

    Is £100 million a lot to make by a band for one album? I don’t have much of an idea how much a big-name band would expect to make out of an album.

    Was it really £100 million? Where did I read that?

    ash (scratching head)

    • FEd

      Was it really £100 million? Where did I read that?

      Michèle’s comment above?

      U2 didn’t give away their album. They sold it to Apple for $100 million.

      She’s right, though. Please see: Nothing innocent about Apple’s $100m U2 deal.

      $100m is small change for Apple, though. Their revenues last year? $171bn – a profit of $37.5bn. So really, as the article states, $100m is “just under five hours of revenues at the tills around the world, or just one day’s profits.” Scary.

    • Taki

      … they surely found a way to deduct those $100m from their taxes, which means, we paid for the stunt…
      Not they are paying too much: greetings to Ireland. 😉

    • Tim_c

      See above Ash – it’s not what U2 received, it’s what Apple spent marketing the idea, which is another thing altogether …

  13. ash

    OK yeah, small fry for Apple but for U2, was that a lot of money? Have they “sold out”? They’ll lose a lot of respect for that. That must surely be the cardinal sin.

  14. ash

    Thanks for the link Fed, thank you Michèle.

    Yes, I see the answer to my questions. Disturbingly, I’ve realised how much power and control Apple has over its devices.

    ash (running away from devil phones. . . )

  15. Michael Kelly

    I’ve been under the impression that the issue was more a matter of practicality rather than whether or not the music is devalued. iDevices have limited disk space and no removable media, so space on devices are at a premium. So when Apple forced a large download on people who did not necessarily want it on their iDevices (and apparently made it difficult to remove) everybody was up in arms.

    I personally think if Apple had done this the right way, which was to make it available for free download but not force the download, this would have been a complete non-issue among the general population.

    Perhaps other musicians would have been upset, but I think that had more to do with the fact that here is a supergroup who can give their music to people for free and still get paid, whereas the average music act has no chance of ever being able to do that.

    Although even Pink Floyd is doing that to an extent. Allons-y (1) is available for free on Spotify. Now they are doing it as a sampler to entice people to buy, which is similar to the traditional method of putting tracks on radio and hope people will buy. But it is free music in the same sense that the U2 album is, the only difference is it isn’t being force fed. Does it devalue it? Well Pink Floyd certainly hopes it increases the value enough to entice people to buy.

    Now I am enough of a fan that I don’t need to listen to the track, in fact I am avoiding it because I want to listen to the whole album start to finish without prejudice. This is something I did for the Division Bell and did not do, much to my later regret, for On An Island. However others who are on the fence might not buy if not for this free music being offered.

    So free music does not always devalue music, it can enhance it if done properly.

    • FEd

      Thanks, Michael. You make some good points, as always.

      How very fortunate to be in a position where you can give your music away to the public for free, knowing the tremendous potential to gain from the sale of tickets or merchandise (as Prince did), but still get paid (in this case, by Apple).

      I can’t decide if it’s more difficult or easier than ever in this digital age for a musician just starting out to get noticed.

    • Pete -Coventry

      This is a really good post as for me, being a non downloader, gives me greater insight to the internet world.

      As for it being difficult for current up and coming musicians, well, I guess they can take the X-Factor type route.

      But most that I see gigging are doing it through pubs and clubs as well as selling their own music through their own home. But I understand the difficulties of getting to gigs nowadays. Back in the ’60s and ’70s we had regular 7:30am-4:30pm jobs and you had leisure time in the evening. Now people seem to work all kinds of weird and wonderful hours.

      Then you factor in the amount of talent around nowadays. And there is a lot. So everything is spread thinly.

      So I think bearing all that in mind it is difficult to break into music nowadays. And that is why my mantra is: If you enjoy it, help it flourish by buying it.

    • Michael Kelly

      I personally think the landscape has changed tremendously over the years, but it is no more or less difficult to break through.

      Pink Floyd started out in the clubs and their popularity spread through word of mouth. This was back in the pre-internet days where people would go to clubs to listen to new music (among other things). In the internet age you don’t have as many people going to clubs, though some still do. But what you do have are vehicles like YouTube in which you can record your music and bring it to people’s homes directly, and you have a worldwide audience that is eager to watch and listen. And rather than true word of mouth to spread the word, you have “likes” and “views” to quantify how good or popular a video is, and comments and friend recommendations to help spread the word.

      I’ll give two popular examples of music acts that were able to break through in that way in the internet age: Justin Bieber and Rebecca Black. Now I know most Gilmour/Floyd fans would scoff at the idea of labeling them musicians, but then again you can probably say the same thing about most pop acts these days. That is beside the point though, the point is that while you cannot get noticed through in the same way as the pre-internet days, it is still possible to get noticed through.

      But it does involve offering at least samplings of your catalog for free. Perhaps that makes it tougher because one has to make a living in the meantime. Most musicians I know have day jobs, I don’t know what it was like back in the pre-internet days.

  16. Tim_c

    Heaven forfend Fed, but I tend to agree with most of your piece … i.e. I’m not terribly excited about it all.

    I take the points about the foisting of U2 rather than the option – it was there waiting for me when I synched my shiny new iPad, it didn’t bother me, I haven’t got round to listening to it either although I’m generally happy to listen to Bono and his pals – I thought the one track I heard on the Graham Norton Show – which they also gave away to anyone who wanted to record the TV – was quite good.

    The music business has rarely been a paragon of virtue and the fast moving technology has thrown up all sorts of interesting issues about ownership and access. I’m fairly relaxed about that as well.

    I suspect that most people who really want to can make a reasonable living if they play their cards right, some make huge amounts, some deserve it, some just get it. Equally some very talented people won’t make much (and never did).

    Music has always been marketed, there’s little moral dimension to it – creative people will always find new ways of doing it, punters will respond positively, negatively or passively.

    However one thing is for the good, I think – musicians may be returning to earning a living from playing live (which can’t be simulated, bootlegging apart) rather than sold “recorded” and this might eventually lead to better bands with better stagecraft, more virtuosity, etc. rather than pop essentially manufactured by producers and ‘houses’. Who knows, we might get a return to sweaty bands tearing around in transit vans, learning their craft and getting really bad skin … we can dream.

  17. frank

    It’s Full Moon Thursday. David mentioned he would consider playing smaller venues again if he went touring. I’ll be eager to see him again at Massey Hall in Toronto the 3rd time. Wow!

  18. Suzy Smith

    Hey FEd and Everyone

    I think U2 got a lot of free publicity and reached many people that may have never ventured to listen to them otherwise and have now heard some of what they do.

    I’m wondering if some people went over their data plan limit when U2 was automatically downloaded into their systems and had to pay for extra storage. As I have said, I am not real computer wise so I am not sure how that works.

    I am glad to find out that many fellow bloggers are not techie savvy and do music the old fashioned way. There is a lot to be said about going to local music stores and getting music. That in itself is a fun treat to just look at all the music at such stores. Then to wait for a favorite artist/band to grace one’s ears with new/not heard of yet music is one if those little treasures of life.

    In the newspaper I receive there was an article about a widow that was fighting for the rights to her late husband’s music collection of years worth of paid/legal downloads. She lost. In the USA the court ruled it was in his name, therefore, she could not consume it. It did not make much sense to me because one would assume that a family member or friend could have them. But apparently that is not the case.
    I thought that was strange. But many things in life are…

    You all take care,
    Suzy

  19. JulieD

    I am in big protest over it all…

    Especially when a certain person was all against it and did the same thing.

    …and there are less and less music venues to play at in Birmingham these days, probably because everyone wants it all for ‘free’…

  20. Andrew

    The devaluation of music is not just U2, it is the entire industry that has been devalued.

    I recently met Gary Wright (Dream Weaver) and asked his opinion of what is wrong with the music industry. His comment was that record companies no longer invest in artist development. In short, it’s kind of a one and done thing. If you happen to stumble on a huge hit, then maybe they will invest in another opportunity.

    It is shows like American Idol and X Factor which have devalued music. It’s the thought that 15 minutes on TV can lead to a lifelong successful career in music without having to put in your time in refining your art in clubs, bars and coffee houses.

    And it is the advancement of technology that has devalued music. Back in the 70s we could only record copies of music on cassette tape. That still involved time and you had to listen to the whole album to make a copy of it. Now you just zip it from one disk to another in a matter of seconds. Just like digital photography has destroyed the art of the picture. (How many billions of megabytes of digital images are out there which will never be seen again by the person who snapped the original picture?)

    And then we have the radio airwaves that seem to refuse to play any new music from old artists. I have yet to hear a track from the Endless River on commercial radio. They barely played anything from On An Island, one song for maybe a month.

    And then you look at Taylor Swift. Genius. She makes the conscious decision to pull all her music from Spotify, yet her new release still sells platinum in no time. Maybe you don’t care for her music but fact is she is from the old school. She writes her own songs, plays an instrument and performs. She is a talent, has a tremendous fan base and actually delivers a very entertaining live show. I was skeptical when I took my daughter to see her but actually walked away quite impressed. She is the real deal of a dying breed.

    I could go on and on with the topic of devaluation of music.

    Thanks.

    Andrew
    PS – I also agree with Michèle, Bono sucks.

    • FEd

      Maybe you don’t care for her music but fact is she is from the old school. She writes her own songs, plays an instrument and performs.

      Unlike so many others…

      Good for her, I say. At the end of the day, it’s her music.

    • Michèle

      PS – I also agree with Michèle, Bono sucks.

      For that, a big XOXO to you, Andrew. 😛

  21. Andrew

    Unlike so many others…

    I hope that was not a pointy stick comment. At least I don’t think it was meant to be.

    • FEd

      I hope that was not a pointy stick comment. At least I don’t think it was meant to be.

      Oh no, not at all. I don’t believe half of the most popular acts under the age of, say, thirty, write or perform their own music, at least not without a lot of help, so all power to her for retaining control over her work.