Music Is a Commodity but It Doesn’t Have to Be
I wrote this last month after using Tidal for a while. Before and after Jay Z “bought” it. But didn’t publish it then, but decided to do so now.
Much has been said about Tidal and Jay Z the “illuminati 15.”
I get what what they are trying to do in a way.
They want music to stop being such a commodity, they want to elevate music back to being an art form. An art that is paid for. They want it to have value, but first we need to know why we are where we are. People do not pay what things cost but what things are worth.
Music 45s and LP’s of yore had to have good songs. They had to sell and each one was recorded live. They had “value,” they had worth.
Then labels wanted more songs to charge more. Filler songs came to be. You could buy a single or you could buy a full album. There was no pick or choose. This was the state of music until the early 2000’s.
Napster and digital music change that. One could just pick the song you wanted. There was no more need to buy full albums at $15 or $20 when you could get the 3 good some from it.
Kanye in a interview mention why his latest album wasn’t “good.” There were deadlines from his label. He had to “rush” creativity, recording.
When someone as big as Kanye talks about deadlines imposed on them for the creative process one starts to wonder why not just own the label… Well then we get to the point where nothing is release. See the sequel to the Chronic by Dr Dre. It’s been 10 years since we known the Album is coming but there is no end in sight. Jay Z became CEO of Roc Nation and owns the the masters of his first studio album (reason he was able to pull it from Spotify when he announced TIDAL)
I’m going to use person experiences and friend to show how Jay- Z could have done it better.
Label have contracts, mechanical licenses… all these thing are left out. No talks about them because it’s not sexy. It’ boring paper work. Most musician don’t even make most of their money from ablumn sales… they make money from touring, live concerts, appearances, promo, merch. When the act is big enough they can negotiate who owns the master or the songs. (Writers of song don’t necessary preform their own songs, artist can write songs for others. and make money that way.)
If you want to make music not a commodity you have show the creative process. Show writing of the songs. How you preform, show you producing.
This can also be a double edge sword. Some artist don’t write their own songs… their label goes to a publishing house and pick their songs.
My example is an old college friend. He cut his teeth in his craft. He produced, recorded several CDs for local musician. He is one man band, you can see a video of what he does at every concert below
As you can see it’s a performance by himself. I bet you bar none it took him hours just to set up… Weeks, if not months to figure out what items he could use to create a sound. I know personally that we would spend nights working in our dorms working in Logic to find the right sound for things.
Yes, we should value music more. It’s a art form. Let’s start by cutting out filler. Albums might have less songs and might take longer to deliver, but fans will appreciate it. You’re not long taking advantage of them, int heir eyes.
Apple just released Apple Music, but an interesting part of it is Connect… There are behind the scene of how music videos are made, video diaries, photos of lyrics, things that Tidal should have done. They didn’t, their narrative was not right. But Apple Music and Connect is different, they want musicians to post these behind the scene, they want to show the creative process, the art form of creating music. Drake even announced that he will release his new album on it. It’s going to be interesting seeing where this goes especially with curation from Zane Lowe.