There is a significant problem in the music industry and it’s one that no one is really willing to talk about for reasons that will soon become obvious. The issu eat hand is that the handful of publications who truly move public taste on a grand scales are also unwilling to cover bands who aren’t already huge. Of course – it somehow gets worse – the reason for this is not that the people running those big league publications are assholes, but rather because they are not allowed too. Why? Because they are owned by the same companies who own the record labels. Even if you have a group claiming to be an independent, it’s not hard to tie it back to a larger corporate interest. In other words, we are fighting against monopolies and independent bands might be more screwed than we would like to think.
Of course, that’s not the only way that the major label monopolies are able to nefariously impact the music industry. You also have things like the Apple Music suggested artists, who, as we are continually learning, are really just suggestions curated to make big name artists like Ke$ha even more popular. If you’re finding out about bands from one of the worlds biggest companies, you don’t think that there is going to be a vested financial interest worked in there? As we’ll discuss later, it actually makes a lot of sense. Am I bitter? Well yeah, they tried to justify making us give away our music for free by claiming democracy and then used their allegedly democratic system system in order to ruin the futures of countless bands who didn’t already have a place of their own amongst the ominous major players.
I know I sound crazy, and I might very well be giving too much credit to those who have power, but in many ways it makes sense for them to feed their massive circle jerk. It creates a system that feeds itself, and in an industry that has increasingly little money, being able to sustain yourself by owning all affiliated enterprises both lateral and vertical can be extremely helpful. In other words, the major labels don’t have the pull they used to with new artists, and they know it. So what are they doing? Choking out all the newer guys and building up altars to those whom they know can succeed and make them money for year after year. That’s why concert attendance is up, but it is increasingly difficult for low level bands to tour.
This is an unsustainable model though – and I think we are starting to see the cracks. People like being able to find their ‘own’ music, and as we have hammered down on this blog time and time again – niche markets are the future of independent music, there simply is no other way. As the income stratification continues to… um… stratify… people we are left with something of a shadow economy, and there might be more than scraps to be fighting over once this shadow economy starts to properly evolve into something real and viable underneath the crushing power of the Katy Perry’s and Miley Cyrus’s of the world.
Of course, some bands are able to break through this cycle. It’s not likely though and is usually due to non-corporate entities showing interest first, or indie bands buying into massive corporate PR. In both cases that’s a legitimate way to go, Pitchfork, before they got bought out, were able to break a lot of really exciting bands that way. Consequence of Sound hold a similar role today, however they are very much beholden to the need for clicks, and the bands that get clicks are the big ones. To keep covering indie bands that excite you, you have to make whatever money you can supporting the huge ones, and the more space you dedicate to the huge ones the more money you can make and then it’s a question fo paying the bills or writing about Subrosa… and that can be a tough choice to make.
Part of my inspiration to write this article came from a recent piece I did for Metal Injection asking, “Is Lamb Of God The New Metallica?” The article went viral unlike anything I have ever written before, it got hundreds of comments and earned me a couple of death threats (Nothing too serious, don’t worry beloved readers) It was really a wake up call as to how even mentioning big bands like Lamb Of God and Metallica could allow an article I wrote to blow up. People are fickle, and if you can capture controversy then you know that you are going to at least get a reaction. That’s why blogs won’t write about you, they want hits, be it for money or to massage their own egos, and there is nothing you can do about that.
Is everything screwed forever? No. There is still a sense of democracy out there, even if the music industry is increasingly dominated by monopolies. What we are starting to see though is a niche economy, so niche in fact that the monopolies cant control it. The second that they start to dig their claws in is the second that a scene starts to die, just look at grunge. What it means though is that if you can cater to these markets you can circumvent so much of the lies and slander that dominate this industry and find your own path. Given the choice between a path of deceit and one of hard, honest work, I think you know what you should go with.