Published on September 6th, 2007 | by Tom1
iPod Continues to Cluster Frag the Music Industry
A couple of years back, I had the folks at Creative Artists Agency splitting a gut laughing when I called them to hire Bob Dylan and his son Jakob Dylan to play a gig together. Father and son had publicly pledged never to play the same stage together, they said; everybody knew that. Except me, apparently. Anyway, I put the offer in and whaddya know, they accepted. Our private show in Silicon Valley remains the only time pop and son have ever played together, but it proves, that the mythologies of the music industry are paper thin.
Yesterday, Steve Jobs announced a new crop of iPods, including the sixth generation "classic" and new video Nanos. Per usual, the announcements touched off a new round of debate over the impact Apple is having on the beleaguered music biz. The iPod is killing the music industry? Another myth meant to mask the industry’s shortcomings.
Yes, today the entire music industry is in a sink hole of death. According to the prevailing myth, Apple is the force mejeur. Lynn Hirschberg at the New York Times summed it up nicely on Sunday: "The mighty music business is in free fall — it has lost control of radio; retail outlets like Tower Records have shut down; MTV rarely broadcasts music videos; and the once lucrative album market has been overshadowed by downloaded singles, which mainly benefits Apple."
Lynn goes on to quote music monster David Geffen who nails it: "Only 10 years ago, companies wanted to make records, presumably good records, and see if they sold. But panic has set in, and now it’s no longer about making music, it’s all about how to sell music. And there’s no clear answer about how to fix that problem. But I still believe that the top priority at any record company has to be coming up with great music." Bang.
Today, a compulsion over music distribution has distracted the music industry from its number one mission: turning out great music. In the end, distribution format never mattered and never will. From wax to MP3s, to paraphrase Chumbawamba, the only thing that really matters is the music. The iPod need not shake up the music industry any more than the eight track did. No, the real problem is the suits have taken all the danger out of rock n’ roll, sucked the beatitude our of Jazz, homogenized street music until it smells of sugary vanilla.
No, the only thing wrong with the music industry today is the music. When the top dogs at the major labels start to understand that mass markets are dying, that albums are an anachronism, that music designed for distribution at Walmart is the real cancer, that concert formats are stale, that DRM is a throwback to the Industrial Age–only then will they get back to producing great music that stirs the human spirit and creates for artists something more important than a distribution channel: a lifelong audience. Distribution will come and go, but a loyal audience will always pay to see and hear an artist it loves. That’s where the focus should be. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have a new album, Jimmy Eat World has a new album, Jakob Dylan has a solo album in the works. That is music news.