The Heart of the Matter

Following up on Steve’s post below, there’s a bit towards the end of Don Henley’s op-ed that caught my eye:

Artists are finally realizing their predicament is no different from that of any other group with common economic and political interests. They can no longer just hope for change; they must fight for it. Washington is where artists must go to plead their case and find answers.

AAAHHHHNT! Wrong answer, Don! Would you care to try ‘Singers Who Don’t Know How Pretentious They Are’ for $500?

Look, Henley’s right about a few things here. The music industry, as we’ve known it for all of our lives, is dying. Their economic model doesn’t work any more, their product (at least the product the major labels are pushing) has fatal quality control problems (i.e., it’s mostly horrible), and radio sucks like an Electrolux.

But the solution is not to try and get the government to magically turn the clock back to 1977. A regulatory approacy to popular entertainment wouldn’t work even if Henley could convince the Feds to try it.

Don, old man, you and your pals are going to have to give up the crutch of the record companies and the radio stations and learn to be entrepreneurs. I know you don’t like that idea; it was much easier when somebody from Asylum was there to pay the studio bills and ship out the albums, but those days are going the way of vinyl.

There are other ways to get your music out there in front of people. It’ll take more effort on your part, but the good news is, it’s a lot easier and much less costly now than it was just five years ago. Pro-quality production tools are available for cheap, and without record company overhead, if you’re good enough, you just might be able to make a very nice living selling albums directly to your fans (this is the tack that Natalie Merchant took recently, electing not to re-sign with a record company and going all-online with her new work). And don’t tell me that you can’t make money playing live–I saw the ticket prices for the Eagles’ last tour.

You say radio is horrible, and I agree with you (I’ll never forgive ClearChannel for ruining TK-101 out of Pensacola, for instance), but this is the 21st century, Don! There are other options! Satellite radio is taking off, and they’ve got a lot more channels to fill than your standard FM dial. Bands all over the world are streaming and/or allowing downloads online, and with high-speed wireless expanding all over the place, it’s entirely likely that people will be beaming music directly off the net and into their cars, phones, iPods, you name it, from anywhere they can find a hotspot (which is going to be nearly everywhere).

Free your mind. If you can put out something worth listening to, the fans will follow.