Pando

“I listen to more music than I ever have but the economics have never been in worse shape”

By Sarah Lacy , written on June 22, 2016

From The Music Desk

This week the music industry has intensified its war against YouTube, enlisting U2 and Taylor Swift in the fight. And -- as I’ve written before-- I get it even if a lot of reporters don’t.

But if you think we as reporters disagree, that’s nothing compared to the music industry itself. The labels act as advocates for artists against companies like YouTube (who are genuinely fucking them over), and while some sign up to fight with them, many artists hate labels even more in return. There’s endless finger pointing over an industry that should make more money than it does given the impactful role music plays in everything we do.

My approach as a consumer is simple: I spend $120 on a streaming platform and buy a few albums a year. At -- say -- $140 a year that’s way more than I’ve ever before regularly spent on music, less than I spend on TV and Netflix and many times what the average person spent on music, even in the mythical salad days of CD sales.

My conscience is clean. Let someone more qualified in this byzantine system fight out who gets what of my $140. At least I’m paying someone for the work created.

But Smashing Pumpkin Jimmy Chamberlin had a far less sanguine attitude when I asked about his views on the industry at last week’s Pandoland. He described a byzantine, antiquated system that still charged him “breakage” fees -- put into contracts to offset crates of records falling off a truck-- in his digital deals. He recalled one Pumpkins deal in 1998 in which Warner Bros offered thousands in marketing spend, gratis, and he and Billy Corgan turned it down because they felt it would damage their brand. “What? Street teams?” he said.

“You would be hard pressed to tell me why anything like a label is needed right now,” he said.

He added that the fantasies that artists band together and do something about it… well, that will just never happen.

It’s astounding that an industry that produces the product able to help us through heartbreak, breakups, and way too intense work-outs is so depressing when it talks about its own future.


In coming weeks, we’ll post the entire Chamberlin interview, which was phenomenal. For now, here’s the clip (with apologies for the period of silence in the middle when Jason Hirschhorn weighs in from the audience!)...