With all this talk of MP3

I was just wondering when music became so well renown? In the old days, Middle Ages and before, musicians were treated like trash and rarely made more than your average man, and probably less. Yet today our respect is so high for music that it has caused the music industry to be gigantically huge and the musicians themselves treated as superstars are. What has caused this to happen, and do you think the mp3 may win over and revert the music community to their old ways?

The main reason for the time frame you suggested, middle ages till now, is that the average persons disposable income has gone through the roof. In the middle ages, everybody was a farmer. As technology increased and efficiencies came about, new professions were able to emerge. This increase in disposable income enabled more low-utility, high-cosmetic professions, including artists.

By that implication, artists will not go back to being paupers in the near future.

Now, as to why musicians went from being famous but not rich in say the 1940s to mega-zillionaires in the 1970-80-90s, I’ll let someone else hypothesize.

If MP3s are allowed to proliferate without any provision for paying the artists for their copying, it’s inevitable that musicians will go back to living in poverty. It will be virtually impossible for them to earn enough money from their music to pay their expenses.

Further, it will be next to impossible for a new artist to attract the attention he needs in order to have a chance of doing anything more than appearing at the local bar. Sturgeon’s Law applies to music, and when 90% of MP3s are crud (and the percentage will increase when everyone can make an MP3), then the other 10% gets lost. People will also expect to get their music free, so will be unwilling to pay anything to listen to it in any format.

Artists get rich because they’re paid when people play their songs. Other artists don’t get rich, but can make a living at it because they’re paid when people play their songs. If artists don’t get paid, they’re not getting rich – or even making a living at it.

The ultimate solution would be to set up a royalty system for MP3s. The listener is going to have to pay somehow. But if you’re not willing to pay, no artist is going to get paid. It’s that simple.

RealityChuck wrote

Disagree. Pre-MP3s, better than 90% of the CDs burned were crap, and the remainder didn’t get lost. Pre-CDs, better than 90% of the records pressed were crap, and the remainder didn’t get lost. Etc. It is true that lower recording and distribution costs will increase the percentage of crap, but a hungry market will find the cream.


That’s one way.

The big ways they currently get paid:

  • Selling records (or CDs or MP3s or whatever)
  • Selling the rights of their songs (to other artists to perform)
  • Selling the rights of their songs (to commercial interests)
  • Selling Concert attendance
  • Selling merchandise

Perhaps the future lies in giving away the first 2, and charging for the last 3. In any case, as long as there is interest in music, there will be money to be made in the music business.

As for the rich artists complaining about MP3, I offer this link.

Why not look at it the other way around RealityChuck? Suppose you’re in an up-and-coming band? MP3 offers a wonderful alternative to pressing CDs and making tapes and such for distro. Not to mention promo: people have come to see us or bought a tape from us solely from hearing us in MP3. And even though I’m in web design and programming, the day when anybody can make MP3s was here two years ago. Simply dump your file to a 44.1KhZ WAV and any number of programs can encode it into MP3.

I agree with billehunt for the most part about the future of mainstream music. However, my band’s top ways of making money is playing shows and selling tapes. We offer MP3s on our website of a few songs because that way people can check us out without ever seeing us and without shelling out $$$. Plus it works well if we want to play somewhere and we don’t want to send out a demo tape to them. We’re planning our entire late summer tour this way.

And as a final aside, I’d like to remind anti-MP3-thugs that any “artist’s” ultimate goal should be to be heard. If you’re in it for the money, then you are not an artist.

How? Listen to every MP3 made so that you know?

In book publishing, there’s something known as the slushpile, which is filled with books that are just not good enough to publish. It’s purely a quality issue – no one wants to read poorly written stories. Most publishers say that 90% of what they get submitted is totally worthless. The next 10% has value, but they can only publish a portion of that (we’re talking about 50-100 submissions a week, total. If we take 10%, that’s 20-40 publishible books a week. A publisher might put out 5 books a month). So maybe 1% of all books get published.

Now, 90% of the cream of the crop is crap. When you add the rest that just wasn’t good enough . . . you are inundated by slush.

Lets say you eliminated #1 and #2. #3 and #5 are only options for a very small percentage of even the most successful musicians. If you’re a new group, you’re not going to get any commercial payments (and if you work in an unpopular genre, you’re not going to get any money from that even if you are established. I don’t hear many commercials made with heavy metal music, for instance.). The same with merchandise. It’s great for 'N-Sync, but how many others have that sort of marketing appeal?

That leaves concerts. A look at your CD collection will show the fallacy of that.

How many CDs do you have of groups you’ve never seen in concert? I’d guess over 75% of your collection.
How many people have you seen in concert once, yet have bought multiple CDs? I’d guess most of the rest.
Do you buy more CDs than go to concerts? I’d guess “yes.”
How many groups have you spent more money on concerts than CDs? I’d guess very few.
How many of your favorites have never held a concert in your area?

This should indicate to you that the money is in CDs. Most people spend more money on CDs than concerts. This is especially true for all the millions of music lovers who live in areas where there are only a handful of concerts to choose from a year.

A few musicians can fill arenas; these do make money touring. Most others don’t do more than break even. The point of touring is to sell your CDs. Touring is expensive – you have to pay for hotels and transportation and other expenses in addition to your normal day-to-day costs. Even the most established groups, more often than not, need to have sponsors to help pay the high cost of being on the road.

It’s also ironic. People justify stealing MP3s because CDs cost too much. Concerts cost a lot more, and you can only listen to them once. If you’re getting your MP3s free, the price of concerts is going to seem even more astronomical. So you’re not going to be willing to pay >those< prices, either. And the number of acts that can demand prices high enough to pay their expenses will dwindle down to a handful.

The inevitable result of the economic forces is that musicians will be reduced playing on street corners and passing the hat. Those that can make money giving concerts will most likely be groups like 'N Sych, where someone tailors them for the most popular current trend.

I don’t think you’d like that.

All this aside, it would seem inevitable that MP3’s are going to change the whole industry.

The community of Napster, growing every day, is not going to collectively “do the right thing”, and start paying for MP3’s.

While it may be the ‘right’ thing to do, it is much, much more convenient to simply download these things for free.

I guess what I’m saying is imagine the worst case scenario. If it’s plausible, we’ll be there.

Personally, I have purchased CD’s of 90% of the MP3’s I have. I don’t think that MP3’s are going to hurt CD sales. But if they ARE going to, nothing’s going to stop it. The collective internet community is going to keep increasing the number of MP3 files listened to. And I doubt anybody is ever going to pay for MP3’s.

The music industry is going to have to find a way to live with this.

Are you kidding, musicians, artists and their ilk are all treated like crap. Except the tiny percentage that is consindered popular.

Why should you have to systematically listen to every MP3 available in order to find out what’s worth listening to, anymore than you previously had to listen to every CD? In my experience, most music fans discover new pieces of music by chance (on the radio, from a friend, in a movie etc.) and then persuing the source.

I’d say the ability to get MP3 files quickly actually makes it easier to find music that you like, and you can discard the crap without losing out financially. Personally, I’ve never considered it worth paying to simply listen to a song, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wish to collect the CD’s made by good artists, just as I wouldn’t consider downloading the complete works of Dickens as a substitute to owning the books. I used to make hundereds of speculative audio cassettes, now I’ve got hundereds of speculative MP3 files. That hasn’t stopped me buying albums.

The point is that the crap percentage become so big that’s it will be harder for >everyone< to find the good stuff. Your friends won’t be able to find it.

As far as other venues are concerned, with all the complaints about big record companies, you’re merely putting the power even more strongly in their hand.

A friend of mine pointed out that this “justification” has been used since computers were invented. “I wasn’t planning to buy the software, so it’s ok that I make an illegal copy.”

The fact is that you’re listening to music and the artists aren’t getting paid for it. Why should you be able to enjoy their work without their permission or without them getting paid for it? Why not just shoplift a CD? That would save you money, too.

Oh, the music industry will do just fine. They have the cash to find a way to make a profit.

It’s the musicians who are going to get screwed and exploited. That’s bad for everyone.

The first step is to start educating people. Software is freely available, yet most people pay for it. It’ll have to be the same way for MP3s – or if you want to hear music, you’ll pretty much have to make it yourselt.

“Software is free, yet most people pay for it”

I’m not so sure of that. I don’t know about most people in the US, but from what I’ve seen in the UK, most people rarely pay for the big products, unless they need them professionally or have used them before.

So does this mean that the UK piracy people are much slacker than the US? I suspect the reason no one does anything about it, is because piracy by small time home-users (who can’t afford the software anyway), helps perpetuate the over all popularity of the software.

Example. When I was at University, every one of the 70 students on my course had a ripped-off copy of Autocad 13, which otherwise costs more than the average student’s budget for a term. Now that we’ve graduated, there’s another 70 engineers out there who are familiar with Autocad. Has this detrimented the software company?

Reality Chuck: I accept that there may be more crap around if there’s a free for all, but looking at the state of the UK top 40, it couldn’t get much worse. Fortunately, bad music has a tendency to disappear sooner or later, while the classics live on. Also, I certainly wouldn’t steal a CD from a shop, because this involves ripping off the shop keeper. I have no intention of ripping anyone off, I just want to know if I like the music before I buy it. If the facility to preview albums by copying them were not available, I’d give up buying CD’s all together.