How a Plan from the 1920s Could Change Music for the Better Today

People have long forgotten that the music industry was at war with itself in the 1920s. Record labels fought with radio which fought with musicians unions. Basically, it was tech vs. music’s status quo. Sound familiar?

Back then, RCA held the position Apple has today. How did they navigate these waters? The Daily Beast has a look back.

During the middle decades of the 20th century, RCA showed how artistry and technology can work hand in hand. Could the RCA strategy fix the problems facing the music business today?
The economic crisis in music has many facets, but the biggest problem can be summed up in simple terms. Tech companies have seized control of music from the record labels. Power has shifted from Hollywood to Silicon Valley, and most of the profits from music-making now enrich the coffers of Apple, Google, Amazon, Spotify, and other tech providers.

You don’t need a degree from Julliard to understand why this is bad for music. The people making the key decisions affecting musicians today have never written a song, produced a record, or played a gig. Their goal is to sell devices or generate clicks or convince consumers to sign up for Amazon Prime. Music, in many cases, is a “loss leader” for them.Apple, Google, and other tech giants would even be willing to give away every song in the universe for free if it helped them gain enough share in their base businesses.

Stop and think about the long-term implications of this shift. What happens when our music ecosystem is controlled by outsiders with no stake in the health of the art form? What happens when artistry is forced to serve technocrats who see creative talents as mere “content providers”? What happens when the dominant business model is built on squeezing profits out of songs and reinvesting them in new gadgets, watches, Google glasses, and the like? Well, that’s pretty obvious, no? You get a decimated music business and software developers earn ten times the wages of a typical musician.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “How a Plan from the 1920s Could Change Music for the Better Today

  • February 22, 2016 at 8:41 am
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    You could say the same thing about record labels as compared to tech companies. Many people who are on the business side aren’t musicians. Labels were always parasites when it came to music artistry. That’s why the industry is in the state that it is today.

    Reply

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