Is there anything left in the industry that needs repair, or does this implosion need to play out so a new industry model can rise from the proverbial ashes?
The music business has changed so much from what it was; every aspect of it has changed, like the way in which music is made, the way it’s listened to, the way it’s distributed, the way it’s marketed, the way it’s sold…every aspect of it has changed, and if your criteria for judging the change is, “to what extent does it reflect decreased revenue streams,” then the changes are seen as negative. But even if that’s the way you look at it, there’s still nothing that anyone can do about it, so complaining about the changes in the music business is akin to complaining about the weather. It’s a fact of life and in the last few years I’ve met with lots of different record companies and publishing companies, and the companies who are desperately trying to hold on to the old revenue streams and the old business models are sort of sad, crumbly places; but the companies who recognize the way the current climate actually is are like thriving, interesting places that are doing well and filled with dynamic people.
But I guess that’s true for everything. It’s akin to dealing with actors during the Vaudeville silent film era as it moved into talkies and color. I’m guessing people back then who lamented the end of silent film probably woke up everyday depressed and they hated going to work.
It certainly follows that an unwillingness to adapt will inevitably lead to suffering.
Yeah, and I certainly understand the reason for doing so. There are a lot of people whose livelihood is based on the way things were, and I certainly can’t criticize them. I mean, I’m single and I don’t have kids. I imagine some person in their fifties who had a job with a major label—and they have a mortgage to pay, they have alimony, their kid’s tuition—it must be profoundly disheartening and depressing to see these changes, but nonetheless the changes have happened.
The next huge change that I’m really curious to see how the record business responds to is the move away from people owning music to a pure streaming model.
Well that fight erupted into a new battle quite recently when Thom Yorke began yanking his music off of Spotify.
I mean, that does sort of seem like Ahab fighting Moby-Dick. It kind of reminds me of Lars Ulrich from Metallica fighting Napster. Even if that’s how you feel, why fight a battle that is one hundred percent unwinnable? Not only is it unwinnable, it should be unwinnable. Personally I find the democratic chaos of the Internet fascinating, and for the most part really benign.
In the wake of these massive industry changes, you’ve recorded what you’ve said is the album that you’ve always wanted to make. What freedoms did you enjoy in making Innocents that you might not have experienced in other projects?
One of the most emancipating things is the fact that, in the past—say the late 90s—you’d make a record and you’d really need to make the label happy and you’d really hope that a lot of people would go out and buy your record. Now, I honestly love making records and I have no idea if anybody’s ever going to listen to them, so I made this album because I love making albums and I don’t really expect too many people to actually listen to it, because it’s 2013 and I’m 47 years old, and so a) very few people listen to the eleventh album made by a 47-year-old musician; and b) very few people listen to albums. (laughs) So if there were a Venn diagram of that, the number of people who might actually listen to this album from start-to-finish probably could be counted on two hands.
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