An Open Letter to David Byrne

Dear David,

I’v recently started studying mass communication at my local university. The concept of convergence in the media industry is where I believe the Music Industry’s Black Box can be traced back to and I want to propose a workable solution. I think the change is doable and possibly in your lifetime.

I find it strangely neat the the people that pointed me towards your article, are part of a band that used the solution I wish to propose.  Jimmy Urine of the band Mindless Self Indulgence pointed to the article on Twitter and his band has used a program called KickStarter for crowd sourcing of funds. They set what to me seemed like a relatively low figure for the band to make money for the project. They set a pledged $150,000 goal, but now that I read your numbers and statistics I realize that the amount is pretty decent for a year’s worth of pay compared to streaming. They wound up raising $225,045. It means they did pretty well as a band by just releasing the music. They they toured to support the album and made a decent amount off of that. They had been touring almost non-stop and this allows for them to take a break to come up with even tastier licks for us to listen to.

Here’s the part that makes it difficult for some to handle. A digital download was $1 per album. Compare that to going to a store and having to pay $14-$18 for one CD. And a lot of people think that the artists a re getting that $14, when they really aren’t. They get about 15% like you pointed out. That means they only get maybe $2.25. That’s great compared to $1. And I don’t believe that the ones on the old system think this far out on it. Some perhaps do like yourself.  The extension came with the offer that for $5, people got 3 extra songs. So the band added 20-30% work margin but made a 400% increase of revenue. It even has a greater than 200% increase over the guy making 15% of the physical copy sale. The band sold much more of the bonus track selection and physical copy selection, than the basic album download for $1.

spotify david bowie
The popular streaming service Spotify with David Bowie’s Last Release

So why hasn’t this swept the industry into reform?

The major catalogs of the big 3. Convergence has put most of them music industry’s music into 3 big giant collections. You’ve mentioned that most artists can’t escape it even though they had voiced their opinions against the services for various reasons.  I can imagine that good number of artists signed these contracts and almost nobody could have guessed that this type of thing would be happening now. We saw a very similar situation with the Writer’s Strike in 2007-2008. But these back catalogs which come from artists that aren’t even making music any more, are very different from current and future writing credits that can stop and halt a major industry practically on a dime.  It’s difficult when the majority of an older catalog is all in one place, while new stuff would be elsewhere, scattered across the landscape.

As well this sets a new standard as to what music is worth to a consumer. If a band such as this can retain their rights, make decent money, and not have to care if the album is pirated afterwards, then what’s stopping other artists from doing the same. I get that some artists have that power to bring in more money per album.

The artists are going to have to tough through it, perhaps they could band together for their own streaming service to supplement income. I believe that the future artist may have to do so to cut off the industry’s practices by cutting them out of the equation.

I just hope that someone figures this dilemma out with the end result being that more people want to create and be able to live off of doing so.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jesse Williams

 

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