Why The Music Industry Thinks Clicks Are Better Than Money!

See these words I've typed?

They didn't used to be here. Instead, it was an empty page of nothingness that greeted me this morning, begging, as it always does, to be filled with..something...anything that turns this vast sea of white into something worth clicking.

Well, I've obviously done it, because here you are, reading the words as I type them. If I could make one suggestion, try reading just a little bit slower, my fingers are just a few characters ahead and quite "erroir prown" today.

See, it's one thing to create something - our garages and attics are proof of that - but to have that "something" acknowledged by the world, as you've just done here, gives it value. In a sense, the mission of this piece has been accomplished simply by you, the consumer, clicking on it. In other words, my job is done.

I could stop typing and it wouldn't matter. You've already clicked.

But I won't because I'm actually attempting to make a point here. What it took to get you to click was actually quite the Herculean effort behind the scenes.

See, for those words to finally begin to pour out of me, I had to first shake the cobwebs out of my head. This can only be done with top-shelf bourbon. Or coffee. Lots and lots and lots of coffee, which, as you know, has value and, therefore, costs money to consume.

I'm typing on a computer that, itself, cost hundreds of dollars. Without it, my fingers would still more than likely be tapping on counter tops, desks, and dashboards, but no letters would be coming out.

If I wind up needing to create a snazzy pie chart or edit an image for this article, I can create something eye-catchingly passable in any one of the many amazingly powerful (and expensive) after-market software applications that are on the market.

Of course, just buying Photoshop or Illustrator doesn't make you automatically capable of creating an eye-catching design. It just gives you another endless sea of white upon which to create "somethingness" from nothingness,

No, doing that will take endless hours of reading a manual that succeeds only at being poorly-written in seven languages. Only through your own dedication and hard work will you finally come to excel at creating eye-catching visuals.

"So, where are you going with this?"

So, where am I going with this, you ask?

Great question and, quite frankly, long overdue.

The price for all of the above expertise in this case was, to you the consumer, zilch. No money actually changed hands, as far as you or I can see. Even so, a transaction did actually take place.

"Me want Billy Squier song from Flashdance video."
The advertised price of that transaction: One click.

Not one penny, or one dollar. One click.

All that experience and know-how amassed at great personal expense, enabling one writer among many to create "somethingness" out of nothingness that then somehow, some way, finds itself to you and can be yours for the price of one bleeping click?

And we pay it without even thinking because most of us do it without thinking at all. In fact, we've never once considered our clicks to be worth much at all, really, yet we still think the greatest song in the whole fucking world is worth only one.

("Seriously, if I have to click twice to hear "Back In Black", I swear I will take my business elsewhere.")

If you think it's bad for writers, imagine you're Aimee Mann or Nigel Tufnel.

Immeasurable years of solitude spent honing your craft, years of shitty gigs leading to not-so-shitty gigs, and finally you're part of the small percentage of musicians actually good enough to become an attraction of sorts for lovers of that particular musical genre.

You land a major label record deal, of all things, and actually manage to achieve a great level of success; the sort that enables you to make music your career.

"We're here for the Quiet Riot try-outs."
As a by-product of your success, you eventually get to live in a house in one of the country's most expensive zip codes. Whether you rent or own depends on many things, the least of which being your ability to save money during those rare "good times". Those gold and platinum albums on the wall are not fakes, baby. You earned 'em the old fashioned way: by your label flooding the marketplace with unsold copies (the awards are given based on number of copies shipped, not sold). Just kidding, you had a couple nice hits and made some nice bank, which put you in this nice house.

But the music industry's obsessive desire to bankrupt itself by lowering the price of music to a single click hits career artists like Mann and Tufnel especially hard because their whole livelihood is based on being paid with actual currency for their expertise.

Without it, there is no keeping the lights on in that house in one of the country's most expensive zip codes that Mann and Tufnel could afford quite easily before.

Keep in mind, we're not simply talking diminishing returns, here.

Another pic of Aimee from the '80s that we'd never seen before, but found on a
foot fetish website. Bless the internet.
Of course, quite a few more copies of Til Tuesday's 1985 gold-certified major-label debut Voices Carry were moved than of Aimee Mann's 2002 self-released Bachelor #2, or, The Last Remains Of The Dodo, but, even so, an artist of Mann's career stature can continue to pay the rent, even in one of the country's most expensive zip codes.

But not if the price of her next album, or the entirety of her back catalog (everything she has recorded prior to that), is made available to all for the price of a click.

Can Aimee pay the gas bill with clicks?

"Yeah, can I, asshole?"
Can she trade clicks for organic cranberries at Whole Foods?

Will we soon bump into her, or Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, begging for clicks in front of the 7-11?

No. No. And, uh, maybe.

Yet that's the price that's been established by the music industry.

At this point, anybody still paying for digital files that are readily available for free streaming on any number of industry-approved platforms (Spotify, et al) is doing so of their own volition. It's funny that the process of paying artists has taken on a sort of charitable "tip jar" aesthetic, as if we're somehow doing them a favor by chucking a few pennies into a guitar case.

Soulless space-husk currently inhabiting the body of Jimmy Iovine.
This isn't some nameless, unwashed idiot stroking an out-of-tune guitar on the Santa Monica pier, though. For that, pennies more than suffice...and chances are said idiot probably lives in a nicer house than all of us...but, for the likes of Aimee Mann, or the legendary Nigel Tufnel, clicks just will not fucking cut it.

What kind of smarmy, jive-talking oil salesman could have possibly conned the industry into buying into such a ridiculously diabolical farce?

"Hi, I'm Sean Parker. You may remember me as the guy
the industry sued into oblivion for that whole Napster thing. "
Enter Sean Parker. formerly of Napster, the entity, the entire industry wanted to burn at the stake not so long ago for giving away their music without permission.

"Label owners and executives, I have brought you hear today to invite you to consider going into business with me. Now, from me, you will get fractions of pennies upon the dollar for content that you have paid mightily for over the years, but, let's face it, out of all the millions and millions and millions of songs recorded in, say, the past 30 years, only a small percentage have actually brought about any measurable income. Even fewer still continue to make money to this day.

I'd be doing you a favor for licensing them all for one reasonable lump sum rather than just paying for the few that I want. Should you agree to my terms, and I see no reason why you wouldn't, you will be the main beneficiary of the many millions and billions of consumers that you will reach by licensing your music to me.

Say 'No' and those millions and billions of consumers go elsewhere. Simple as that, gone,. Poof."

That may have snowed the likes of Jimmy Iovine and L.A. Reid, but, to anyone who has had to lift their own fingers to get things done in the past ten years, it's a con job that every crooked jackal with an expense account fell for hook, line and sinker.

Or did they?

Perhaps the pitch went a little more like this:

"Aren't you tired of paying the likes of Aimee Mann and Nigel Tufnel royalties for songs they recorded on YOUR dime back in 1985? Sure, these are terms that the industry, itself, dictated to artists in exchange for their souls, but so what?  Hell, Mr. Columbia Records over here is still paying Journey $1 for each copy of Journey's Greatest Hits that he sells. That adds up to over $500,000 a year in royalties payable to the band's members, who, as you well know, are only gonna blow it on heroin, Ferrari's and divorce settlements.

That's YOUR money, damn it.

If you stop selling albums and singles, guess what? You don't have to pay royalties to those smarmy, long-haired trolls any more. You get to keep ALL the money!"
Sure, Sean Parker still had half a speech to make, but, by then, the labels were literally walking over each other to sign their entire catalogs over to him.

What they didn't realize then and, amazingly, still don't seem to have a grip on now is that having ALL of nothing is still nothing and that the actual income they still see from those who continue to insist upon paying for music is going to go away completely very soon.

And then what, Jimmy?

"Yeah, asshole, then what?"
Oh, Jimmy doesn't care because Jimmy, who used to be the best friend an artist could have in this business - just ask Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, or the members of U2 - is cashing out, baby.

Thing is, Jimmy, L.A. Reid and their ilk have been cashing out for twenty years, selling off cornerstones of the industry at fire sale discounts when they still have immense value while claiming to everyone else (like us, the consumers) that they don't.

All so they don't have to share with the artists anymore.

They'd rather have all of nothing than share billions and billions of dollars. They'd rather go out-of-business than stay in business because, if they can obliterate the entire industry, they can convince governmental entities to re-write friendlier legislation that does away with requiring labels to pay artists the royalty rates previously agreed upon.

Hell, they may even ask that performing rights entities like BMI, ASCAP and SESAC be prevented from seeking monies owed to artists based on "antiquated" contractual agreements based on outdated business models.

Should such matters be decided in the favor of such labels, many of whom are part of larger corporations with deep pockets already quite adept at paying off, er, donating sizable amounts to political parties, campaigns, etc., the entire industry will then be built back up according to these newly established guidelines and the premise of paying artists will not be a part of that business model.

At all.

Is Guitar Center going to start giving away guitars, keyboards and drums for free as well to accommodate this new business model? I mean, if it works for the music industry, it must surely be good enough for the music instruments industry, right?


Whoever came up with the idea of getting the major labels to give their music away for free isn't a genius, they're a con artist and the Jimmy Iovines and L.A. Reids who have been pillaging this industry with complete impunity for the past decade are the idiots who went along with it for their own short-sighted, but immediate personal gain.

All so they wouldn't have to pay Aimee Mann, Nigel Tufnel, or the members of Journey the fractions of millions that they are contractually bound to pay for creating the content the entire industry is based upon IN THE FIRST PLACE.

This, as you can imagine, will ultimately end the music business, leaving all those great entrepreneurial minds in the music industry to venture out to other corporations and maliciously destroy those industries as well.

Maybe the gaming industry will be next, and the shoe industry after that. We'll all be sitting around in spiffy new Nike sneakers that we got for free while playing the latest awesome game on our equally awesome gaming console or mobile device that did not cost a penny. It will be paradise for us, at least until they just stop making sneakers or video games altogether.

What will we do then, I wonder?

"Not my problem! HAHAHAHA!"
It will be at this point that a lonesome voice in the wilderness, perhaps belonging to someone like Sean Parker, will say, "Hey everybody, I know times are tough and our feet are sore, but what if we started charging consumers MONEY for games, sneakers, and, oh I dunno, music?"

The assembled crowd of exasperated executives respond with angry snorts and harumphs.

"Maybe that way," he continues, "we can lure out the best craftsmen and artists among us to create new things for us to sell to consumers and the resulting money can then go into our own pockets, thereby enriching our own lives in the process!"

A shoe-less Jimmy Iovine steps to the front of the now-angry horde.

"Must we share that money with the artists?" he asks.

"Yes," responds Parker. "It's only fair."

"No,' responds the angry horde in unison. "Fuck 'em".

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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