Steve Albini looks back 20 years on “The Problem With Music”

From Boing Boing:

The Nirvana re-issue of “In Utero” was the twenty year anniversary of your now-famous Baffler article “The Problem With Music” Did the drive to write it stem from witnessing the post-Nevermind major label feeding frenzy which was consuming so many indie bands?

Absolutely. There was a feeding frenzy, where major labels were signing anything holding a guitar, and within the community of the underground there was quite a debate on how to deal with the situation. Some people thought the industry could be taken advantage of — swindled essentially — and that bands could use the resources of the industry for their own agenda. This was a rationale used by bands who wanted to maintain their self-respect while still having a rockstar experience. They were flattered that they had been given the opportunity, but it would be unseemly to embrace it, so they adopted a cynical angle for cover. I wanted to make the case that the labels operated exclusively in their own best interest, that their agents’ participation in the culture was purely driven by accumulating power, money and influence within the industry, and that everyone involved knew how to use the ambitions and vanity of the bands as leverage for their own ends. Most importantly, the industry didn’t care if occasionally a band had to be destroyed to keep the system in place, since bands are considered a bulk commodity. The industry is no longer what it was, so much of what I wrote is meaningless in specifics now, but at the time it was a trajectory I saw executed many times.

It used to be that the music industry was synonymous with the record industry, but now selling physical records is a very small part of the world’s use for music, and all those people who secured their positions within the record industry did so to little long-term effect. Most of them are real estate agents or doing PR for startups or selling macrame on Etsy or something. It’s only people who were honestly participating in the culture who are still at it.