About Kevin

Kevin is a Grammy nominated artist, podcaster, and indie musician advocate. He resides in Portland, OR where he is the Director of Marketing for CD Baby (cdbaby.com). Oh, yeah, he also plays guitar in Smalltown Poets.
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    Sports talk radio gets it! Why doesn’t the music industry?

    I was driving in to work listening to sports talk radio, when the host, Colin Cowherd, said something very interesting. He was discussing another athlete who got caught smoking pot, and how some people just don’t care that this famous athlete broke the law. In reference to how people have come to view the law in general, Colin used speeding as an example and said, “Americans don’t see speeding as a law, but as a suggestion. There are two many laws, and the more we pile on, the more people will pick and choose which laws they think are important to them.” Colin, without knowing it, pinpointed the reason why the music industry has such an up hill battle in the digital age. People don’t see file sharing as breaking the law, because they see anti piracy laws as suggestions. I started thinking about this cultural shift and what has caused us to view copyright laws like we view speed limits. My conclusion is that the main culprit is taking music out of the physical world, and putting it into the digital world. Not because it’s now easy to share files, but because we don’t see a digital file as having any value. I think the point can be easily made by considering a painting. An accomplished painter can sell their paintings for thousands of dollars, but if they scanned that image and tried to sell it in a digital format, they would have a hard time getting any money at all. The image is the same, you can still see their handy work and enjoy it’s beauty, but the real perceived value is in having that physical object hanging on the wall. The problem isn’t that there are a bunch music pirates giving away entire music catalogs for free online, it’s that the the average person, while consuming more music than ever, just doesn’t attach the same value to it as they once did. Instead of addressing the real issue, the music industry as a whole, has just been setting up speed traps, trying to catch perpetrators as they speed on by, and the response from the public at large has been(to quote Sammy Hagar), “I can’t drive 55!”

    • http://www.myspace.com/thegouts Nick D

      Background
      Fine art stands for “Fin” meaning finished.

      Fine Art Verses Music
      There are always exceptions to the rules but for the most part painting truly falls into the Fine art category. A professional painter’s intention is to create a finished piece of artwork usually to exhibit it and then to sale it. The painter’s piece is not usually something submitted to a factory for mass production and mass consumption because it usually appeals to a niche market and would not be desired by a standard demographic.

      Music as a Fine Art
      A finished music recording is the Fine art of a band and its production team. Usually “true” music fans still do buy albums by their favorite artists and favorite production teams. These fans are a niche market and not a standard demographic. In the digital age people (mass markets) don’t have to buy an album to hear a band they like. So, for the most part, the masses don’t buy this finished piece of art because they don’t care about that aspect of the music.

      Music is a Performance Art
      Unlike painting music is a performance art. The digital age may take the emphasis off of the record sales but at the same time it allows music business and art to refocus on the performance aspect of the craft. For better or worse artists now have to focus on their live performance (or other creative multi-medias—fine art) to run a lucrative business. Major labels know this, that’s why they are using the 360-degree record deal more and more when signing new bands.

      Opinion
      The digital age excites me because as the backlash of all this settles many artists will realize that they must tour to make money. Artists will no longer crave simply the major label record deal because they’ll have to figure out how to be successful without record sales. This will allow artists to create original music without having to adapt it to a mass market. Once again music will be a performance art and I think there will be a bigger camaraderie and community in the music scene because of it.

    • Kevin

      Nick,

      Thanks for the comment! It was like a mini blog post. I totally agree that one backlash to the digital age will be artists spending more time focusing on their live performance as a way to attract fans and make money with their music. It wasn’t that long ago that bands had to do that anyways, so maybe this is just a little course correction.

    • http://www.arthurpope.com Arthur Pope

      Personally, I would rather my music be consumed as “fine” art, as defined above.

      I enjoy performing, and I am working on being a better performer, but because of my situation, I would far prefer if people would look at mp3s how I do, and be more willing to pay for the art I have created in that form.

      I have never found it difficult to see value in something that is not tangible to my hands. I can’t hold music, but that doesn’t change the fact that the artist sacrificed his or her very valuable time, energy, and creativity to create the music that I want to download and enjoy. Why does it matter that the copying process got easier?

      I don’t see it as simply buying a product that I can’t hold. When you buy someone’s music online, you are investing in that artist’s continued work in musical expression.

      Touring is not an easy option for me because, due to vision impairment, I cannot drive. I’m a solo artist. I can’t just up and go, so I’m limited to my city (currently, St. Louis), which isn’t a bad thing, but I am also limited to bus transportation, and supportive friends to get around.

      I’m not trying to paint a sob story here, but the fact is: for me, I would be completely happy making a living by selling mp3s and cds independently through my website, and playing out only sparingly.

      Quality music is valuable, regardless of the form it is presented in.