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David Byrne Explains the Music Business

how the music industry went from real art to making money

David Byrne Explains the Music Business
image by factmag.org

Thank you David Byrne, I believe you saved my life.  I think we all reach a time as an artist where we begin to wonder what the F I am doing.  Is anything actually making a difference and then low and behold I ran across an article written by David Byrne that made me stop and think and see things from another perspective.

David Byrne used to own a record label, called Luaka Bop that still exists today although Mr. Byrne is no longer involved in the process of running the business.  He mentions that back when he wrote this article in 2007 at that, that the music business was not what it ever claimed to be, it was all about selling the shiny CD’s wrapped in their annoying plastic wrap that you could never get off without finding a sharp knife and a bad attitude.

He goes on to say that music is a product, a marketable item that is put into a tangible product that is bought and sold and never really appreciated.  Think about Shakespeare and his original vision which was to have all his performances to be heard live, on stage.  The same goes for Opera, it is so emotional that you can only understand Opera as it is performed in front of you, emotionally and fully charged.  You connect to it, you become part of the performance with your reaction.

First, a definition of terms. What is it we're talking about here? What exactly is being bought and sold? In the past, music was something you heard and experienced — it was as much a social event as a purely musical one. Before recording technology existed, you could not separate music from its social context. Epic songs and ballads, troubadours, courtly entertainments, church music, shamanic chants, pub sing-alongs, ceremonial music, military music, dance music — it was pretty much all tied to specific social functions. It was communal and often utilitarian. You couldn't take it home, copy it, sell it as a commodity (except as sheet music, but that's not music), or even hear it again. Music was an experience, intimately married to your life. You could pay to hear music, but after you did, it was over, gone — a memory.”

Recordings changed all this, money and greed changed all this.  To experience live music is a gift, it is an amazing experience that becomes less dignified when you pop in a CD and listen to the same song over and over again.  You never truly appreciate the living in the moment or as Eric Steinberg once told me, creating the perfect moment through your art.  It was never meant to be packaged and sold like a bunch of office supplies.

Technology keeps on rolling and one must adapt in order to survive the transition in this sector.  So, there will still be an industry and it will be bought and sold mostly through the internet.  Unfortunately, self-producing is becoming the most popular of the ways to get the music out into the public.

As for ticket sales, my god, to go see a band nowadays costs almost as much as a semester at college, I cannot believe how much live tickets are going for these days.  If I wanted to purchase tickets to go see Paul Simon and Sting at Strathmore Hall in Rockville, Maryland on March 12, 2014 the cheap seats are $292.00 and the expensive seats are $874.00.  If I wanted to go the Washington National Opera at The Kennedy Center on March 23, 2014 those tickets are only $92.00 with a few more expensive seats at $140.00.  At any rate, thanks David, you are a godsend.

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