Thursday, January 22, 2009

I Fought The Law

My review for Ben Kweller's Changin' Horses was deleted. "Why?" is possibly the question you're asking right now. Well, it's because I posted a link to download the album for free. "Well, you deserve it, because you shouldn't be taking food out of the mouths of already starving musicians", is what you might be saying to yourself. The truth is, your thought couldn't be further from the truth. In most cases, artists make little money off of record sales. Their main source of income is from touring and merchandise sales.

"If your album goes gold (ie, 500,000 units sold) on a major label, the average amount of profit is around $50,000!" ( I don't know if my math is completely right, but I believe that's 10 cents per album sold. Let's see, a cd or iTunes download cost $10 (on average), with the actual creator of the content pocketing 1% of that. ONE PERCENT! Is there anything else in this world more ass-backward than this? Could you imagine an artist having a painting sold through an art gallery for $1,000 dollars, and giving the gallery $990 of it, keeping only $10 for himself/herself? It's not only insane, IT'S MORALLY WRONG! I have absolutely no problem taking the food out of the mouths of record label fat cats who have plenty more food on the table. The thing is, these guys make their money by signing bands and artists (most of whom are just so stoked to be getting a record deal that they don't bother to read them over, or have a lawyer do so) to deals so designed to screw them over that it's amazing they're even legally allowed to continue operating.

The bottom line is, I can't think of any other industry where the actual creator of the product being sold is given so little of the profit his or her product makes. I understand that making an album requires much more than just the music itself, such as the album artwork, promotion, etc. But the fact of the matter is that the album wouldn't exist at all without the music. The Beatles tried to highlight this fact on the album know as The White Album. Instead of having an elaborate album cover (a la Sgt. Pepper), the band chose to have a plain white cover. Despite this lack of design, if the band pocketed 1% of album sales from The White Album (the figure would in reality be drastically different seeing as The Beatles released The White Album on their own record label, and by this time their albums needed little, if any, promotion), they would essentially be making less than the "artist" that created the album cover that didn't need any creating at all.

Basically, the music industry is an industry meant to commercialize art, and whore naive kids to the always hungry public. Until we do something about it (hopefully Radiohead started a revolution with In Rainbows, but nothing seems to have happened on this front since then), starving musicians, even relatively successful ones, will continue to starve.

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