What the experts say
Experts are useless.
–Guy Kawasaki (ex Apple chief evangelist)
If you talk to so-called “experts” in the music industry, then they will probably give you some kind of advice. No matter if you talk to musicians, A&R managers, producers, record company owners, radio or TV people, or even to DJs, they will all tell you the same things, and in the end it all comes down to the following five “facts”:
- People don’t buy music anymore, they just consume it or download it illegally.
- The internet is the cause of the music industry’s problems, because with it came piracy.
- Forget about record sales – if you want to earn money as an artist nowadays, then this will only be possible with live performances (ticket sales).
- Follow the trends – if you want to become successful, then you’ll have to see what’s popular.
- The youth rules. You will have to see what kind of music the youth likes, because that’s the future.
All of this seems to be common knowledge, and nobody seems to question any of it, although I see three big problems here:
- Those five “facts” are just completely WRONG. You may not (yet) believe this, but you’ll see everything clearer very soon.
- They’re all deceptive. This just seems to be everyone’s opinion and all of this has been repeated over and over again during the past two decades, turning it into common belief. It seems that this is what people want to believe, but in the end it’s all just bullshit.
- They limit your options. If you believe what the experts say, then this will prevent you from ever trying out something radically different, which means that you will be stuck and you will not be looking for alternative or even crazy solutions.
So why shouldn’t you believe the experts?
Well, those are the same people who managed to ruin one of the most successful multi-billion dollar industries of the 20th century within only two decades.
It’s just normal that the people responsible for the current situation won’t admit that they’re part of the problem, and the internet seems to be the perfect scapegoat here. The internet allowed the music industry to blame an external factor for the trouble they caused all by themselves, by taking a number of highly stupid decisions during the past few decades. So let’s quickly analyze those five points mentioned above and see what’s wrong with them.
1. People don’t buy music anymore, they just consume it or download it illegally.
In the early 2000s record companies already claimed that people didn’t want to pay for music anymore, but then Apple’s iTunes store clearly demonstrated that this was not true. The problem was that the major labels were completely paralyzed as they didn’t understand what people wanted, and they were unable to come up with a viable solution. In the end the music industry had to be saved by a tech company, while so-called “music industry experts” were unable to come up with some kind of a working strategy on their own. While iTunes may have saved the industry in the 2000s, things seem to have become worse nowadays, as people don’t even pay for downloads anymore. Once again, the industry is blaming customers, while the problem is a very different one.
The number one problem is that there aren’t any great records anymore – if people don’t buy, then it’s because the music industry’s product is crap.
If you illegally download today’s music then you may be a thief, but if you pay for it then you’re probably an idiot.
It’s not worth buying most of today’s music, as it’s just terribly bad and irrelevant.
It’s that simple. And if the so-called experts claim that nobody’s paying for music anymore, then how do they explain the success of Adele’s 21? Released in 2011, it sold over 30 million copies (physical and online), making it one of the most successful albums of all time. And there are more albums that people are buying nowadays, and some of them are even more successful than many top albums of the 1980s, when people were still buying music like crazy. I won’t get into the details yet, but here’s the good news:
Many people are still buying music, but usually only if it’s GOOD music.
On the other hand nobody’s willing to pay for crap.
The real problem is that great albums have become very, very RARE.
You’ll soon learn how dramatically quality has dropped over the past few decades, and we’ll also analyze the reasons for this trend. Which means that it’s a lie if the music industry claims that nobody wants to buy anymore. And it also leads us to the following conclusion:
Chances that your albums will sell will actually be a lot higher if you’ll be making really GREAT music.
And you’ll soon learn how this can be done. What you will learn in this manual is the following: There’s music that some people will buy, and there’s music that nobody will ever buy.
The music industry is mainly focusing on music that NOBODY wants to buy, and that’s their biggest problem.
If there are people who are willing to buy records (especially albums), then you will have to find out who those people are. Soon you will learn that those people are usually music lovers, who are looking for good music in most cases.
So you will have to understand the differences between good and bad, which will allow you to produce a successful record by making better music. That will be our strategy.
2. The internet is the cause of the music industry’s problems, because with it came piracy.
Piracy existed long before the internet became popular, and it even existed back in the 1960s and 70s when the music cassette became mainstream. In the 1980s most teenagers owned more illegal copies on MCs than they legally bought singles or albums. And so did I.
Piracy always existed, and this has never been a real problem.
It’s even quite the opposite, as illegal copies may help artists to become more popular and thus to become more successful in future. You’ll soon learn more about the causes and the possible effects of piracy, illegal copies, and downloads. Again:
The real problem is that there aren’t any albums people want or need to buy. Music is no longer DESIRABLE.
So in this manual you’ll learn how to produce a relevant album that people will love to spend money on.
3. Forget about record sales – if you want to earn money as an artist nowadays, then this will only be possible with live performances (ticket sales).
This is true, of course, but only because the quality of today’s records is really low. As most artists believe that they won’t earn much money with their records anyway, they no longer invest as much time, energy and creativity into producing them – it’s a vicious circle, low expectations lead to lower quality, this again leads to lower sales, which then confirms the initial fears. The problem that many artists sell less albums leads to higher concert ticket prices (especially as many stars still want to earn millions, despite the fact that their records are utter crap), which again frustrates fans and fuels the hatred against the music industry as a whole.
If you manage to produce a real killer album, then you even won’t have to perform live at all.
You may not believe this yet, but you’ll soon understand how things may work out for you. Of course you should perform live if possible, and being a great live artist is always a big advantage, but for now you should just keep in mind that live performances are highly over-rated, while the need to produce really great records is under-rated.
4. Follow the trends – if you want to become successful, then you’ll have to see what’s popular.
I’m just so out of the loop when it comes to pop music, because it all sounds the same. It’s all the same chord progressions with the same quirky chorus, or the same hip-hop beat that took 21 people sitting in a room to come up with. It bores me.
–Corey Taylor (Slipknot)
One of the biggest problems of today’s music is that everything sounds more or less the same, which means that nothing is outstanding anymore, while everything has become irrelevant.
Following the trends – I’m talking about the Top 40 singles charts or whatever’s popular in your genre – will mean that you’ll do more of the same stuff that already exists out there, and that people are obviously not buying. And this will put you into a highly uncomfortable situation where you will be competing with artists that are heavily pushed by their record labels. If people are not buying a certain product, then why does everyone think they’d start buying if you just produce more of the same, or just some very similar product?
If you really want to make a dent, then you will need to stand out of the masses by being completely different from everything else out there.
You will soon learn why this is the case, and you’ll also learn how to achieve that.
5. The youth rules. You will have to see what kind of music the youth likes, because that’s the future.
The first thing you’ll need to understand is that the music buying population is much larger than just the youth. It may even be that younger people (ages 14-24) are less likely to buy your music than older people (ages 25-59), as they may not yet have a job, as they may need to spend their money on other things, or as they’re just not ready yet to understand what it means to buy art and to support real artists. While popular music was traditionally targeted at young adults (ages 15-24) in the 20th century, the music industry has been mainly focusing on music targeted at kids and teens (ages 10-14) since the early 2000s, and the only thing we surely know is that this strategy went terribly wrong. So making music for kids can’t be your plan.
You should not make music for a specific age group, but for a specific audience that appreciates art and that’s willing to pay for it.
You’ll soon learn that people who like good music are often more intelligent, more educated, and sometimes even wealthier then those listening to all kinds of mainstream crap. You should not care about the average age of your audience, but about the quality of your audience. Music lovers will buy great music, no matter if they’re young or old.
The most surprising fact you’ll learn, however, is that even today’s youth (I’m talking about ages 18-24) doesn’t like today’s music anymore.
The only ones who prefer today’s music are kids and retards, and that’s not the population that will buy your album if you intend to make good music. Everyone – including young adults – seems to prefer pre-2000s music, and you’ll be surprised to see that the tastes of the youth and of older generations (up to age 59) are not so different at all nowadays. This may sound surprising, and the reasons for those facts will be revealed in the next chapter.
So for now, forget about all of the advice you may get by so-called "experts".
Let’s dare to think different, and to act differently.