Friday, March 14, 2014

but, but, April 1st isn't for another two weeks....

"Unthinkable? A tax on dinosaur rock -Rock dinosaurs clog up the festival stages and airwaves – why not take a cut of their earnings to fund new music?"

A Guardian editorial published today and so wishful-thinking, I had to check the date to make sure it was really in earnest:

"The music industry has a long history of repackaging its former glories and presenting them as new: David Quantick coined the phrase "pop will eat itself" to describe the phenomenon as long ago as 1986. The news that Led Zeppelin, a band that split 34 years ago, are releasing previously little-heard tracks is, then, but the latest example of what the music journalist Simon Reynolds has called the "rising tide of the historical past [that] is lapping at our ankles". Other contributors to that tide include innumerable Beatles releases, reunions by Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, the Beach Boys, the Stone Roses and Blur, and the annual Rolling Stones world tour. This endless pop revivalism follows its own inexorable financial logic: back in 2005 the Rolling Stones were reckoned to have made more than half a billion dollars from their world tour. But it has its costs for the culture: one of the knock-on effects of these superannuated millionaires refusing to fade away is that they suck oxygen from the new talent. Rock dinosaurs clog up the festival stages and the airwaves with their safe, old repertoire, and even new bands are often picked by conservative music executives because they sound like the old. So why not redistribute this creative capital? Take a small cut from the next never-before-released Tupac track or Sex Pistols reunion gig and use it to fund innovators who are trying to push for something genuinely new? Even Led Zeppelin's most diehard fans could surely appreciate that."

Thing is, this is how the record industry used to work, kinda. The blockbuster successes, the steady back catalogue sellers, the resold golden oldies whose recording costs long since recouped the first time around -- this cash-flow "subsidised" the more speculative or low-profit-margin investments of the big companies: A&R taking a punt on something new, untried, or weird, on the grounds that you never knew, it might take off; the support to "mid-list"artists, yer Kevin Coynes or John Martyns, who might never get beyond cult-ceiling sales, but added lustre to the roster, integrity to the brand....    That's how the record industry worked (book publishing too), not out of idealism particularly (although there's always been real 'music heads' working within the heart of the Machine) but as a sound business strategy: diversification, fingers in many pies, risky punts offset by guaranteed play-safe bets...   Rather like how a hedge fund operates, I should imagine.

That all got blown to fuck by a bunch of things, not just filesharing and collapsing sales, but also conglomeration and amalgamation, labels getting bought up for huge amounts and then to yield a return on the over-investment, effectively having whatever they stood for in terms of A&R sensibilty / image / brand / reputation gradually eroded (what happened to Island).

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