Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jaron Lanier Claims Touring & Selling Merch Will Not Sustain A Career. Huh?

Author, musician and tech guy, Jaron Lanier made a statement at the Canadian Music Week breakfast that touring and selling merchandise is not a long-term solution for the decline in the sale of recorded music for musicians. Try telling that to Los Lobos, Phish and many, many other musicians.

"Whatever it is that is rarefied that you sell instead of music is going away," he told the audience. According to Billboard, he added that "free" cultural supporters, who suggest musicians should give away their recorded output, are short sighted, with very few examples of successful careers built on offering material without payment.

"Every single example of these musicians who did really well by giving stuff away... they don't exist." There are a lot of people who pretend ... and it is fake."

The majority of musicians who make a really nice living from music, do not see a penny in income from the sale of recorded music unless they release it themselves or license it. I know this from working with musicians who are well-known, still tour and make a nice amount of money each year to live very comfortably.

I wasn't at the breakfast, so I can only speak from the quotes I am reading. Based on those, Jaron's theories are so far off the mark. Where does he get his "facts" from? I'd love to know the thinking behind his remarks. I've seen the touring/merch model work really well for years. Yes these acts did have a major label behind them at one point to finance the record, most of the time after that, the labels involvement fell to almost nothing. You don't need $100,000 to make a record now. You might need to hire someone to help with the tech stuff or PR, but it will cost a fraction of what would have been charged to your bottom line if you were at a major label. The labels would build to a sum that was insurmountable even if you sold 1 million units. It seems that Jaron has it all wrong.

1 comment:

  1. Why not contact him and give him the names of the successful musicians that have built careers on free music that you know about? He has been trying to find some who are successful. He's a very open, easy-going guy, looking for evidence pro or con.

    You really have to read his book, You Are Not a Gadget, if you'd like to know the thinking behind his remarks. Very provocative.

    Also, keep in mind that all creative work is not performance art and does not lend itself to touring. Authors, photographers and many other types of creators don't even have T-shirts to sell. And trying to put out a lot of extraneous "products" to make money off free content detracts from producing the content itself. While you are giving public speeches (assuming anyone wants to pay to hear what a photographer, for instance, has to say) you aren't doing your actual work.

    Music isn't the only issue he's talking about by a long shot.