In a review of the book Fortune's Fool, the New York Times goes over all of the same issues that aren't issues as everyone else who doesn't understand the economics of the music industry.
"Is this a good thing? I have had numerous conversations with musicians — both famous and obscure, but all of them doing important work — who lament that they are making much less money now that the major labels are on the ropes."
I don't know to what musicians he's talking, but if you talk to any of the musicians on TheSixtyOne, who are only making any money because of the internet. In the era of the major labels, they wouldn't have been musicians.
Money is always made with t-shirts, and touring, and posters, and other crap. Most musicians never made money from albums. This article is confusing the music industry with the CD industry, which are entirely different.
Even Mick Jagger argues that musicians never really made money through album sales. The album companies made money through album sales. Want more evidence? How about Metallica earning less than 5% of their money from album sales, and they're a major band. Want to bet that smaller bands, who are still indebted to the record companies, earn ANY money from album sales? I'll take that bet and have you buy me dinner.
"Sure, they have released mountains of Top 40 schlock. But it paid the bills and enabled them to put out less-profitable music with real cultural value, like jazz, opera and all sorts of esoteric rock ’n’ roll.
They can’t afford to do that anymore. Now it’s pretty much all Lady Gaga all the time. No offense to her ladyship, but is that really progress?"
YES! It's lots of progress! For one thing, Lady Gaga is great, just wanted to throw that out there. For another thing, none of these guys have ever partaken in Pitchfork.com, the army of indie labels releasing bleeding edge music, or the services like Uvumi.com or TheSixtyOne.com that let you hear all of the future Radioheads that the labels can only give a chance after they've selflessly covered their costs. Fuck this argument.
These guys, the author of the article, the author of the book, and sure-as-hell the executives at the companies don't know shit about shit. They've proven it. The world is changing around them and they continue to tilt against windmills. They are classic executives. Men (primarily) who got to where they were and did nothing. The machine that was built around them churned on, making money and doing what it was designed to do, and their stupidity was never revealed. Not until the market changed, that is. Then, suddenly, actual skill and insight is needed.
Skill and insight?! Gasp! No! We never needed that before! We just needed to look good behind our desks and sign papers! When times are good, the executives and business leaders with actual skill are hidden. Only when things go sour are they revealed. And every time things go sour, it's always so sad to see how few of them there actually are.
The Recording Industry, on the Ropes (New York Times)