Steve Albini: The music industry is a parasite… and copyright is dead

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Steve Albini is a renowned musician, record engineer, producer and songwriter. He’s also not shy of expressing a controversial opinion or two.

The 52-year-old has spent nearly 40 years making music, and developed a unique perspective on the business that surrounds that process.

With a long history in the DIY music scene as one third of Shellac, and a recording engineer for bands including Nirvana, Pixies, Mogwai, PJ Harvey, Manic Street Preachers, The Cribs and many, many more, Albini has made a living without tying himself to a major corporation.

He famously spurned the chance to take a royalty percentage of multi-platinum albums such as Nirvana’s In Utero, sacrificing riches by instead working for a flat fee – simply on a point of principle.

In 1993, Albini’s essay, The Problem With Music, explained his issues with major labels, attacking them for being helmed by “faceless industry lackeys” and holding bands “hostage” with opaque contracts and unfair royalty splits.

Then, during a keynote speech at Face the Music Conference in Melbourne last year, Albini updated his thesis, opining that the internet age has created “audience-driven music distribution” that’s “made it much easier to conduct the day-to-day business of being in a band”.

The Melbourne keynote has since been viewed over 57,000 times on YouTube.

AlbiniOn Friday (May 29), Albini further explained his viewpoint – and didn’t mince his industry-baiting words.

Addressing an audience at Primavera Pro in Barcelona (pictured), he let rip on topics including copyright, the ‘administration’ of the music business and the future of streaming services.

Here are five of the highlights:

‘The music industry is a parasite’

“I don’t feel like I’m part of the music industry, the music industry meaning the corporatised business structures where you have people who are in the lower level, people in the upper level, people in administration, and people making legal relationships between all those people.

“All of that has always really bothered me.

“When I think about it, it makes me angry that it exists as a parasite on the music scene, which is the fans, bands, shows, and the people who help them.

“This administrative structure That’s been syphoning money out of the [music] scene has always seemed artificial and UNNECESSARY.”

“That all feels very organic to me, fraternal and comfortable.

“This administrative business structure that’s syphoning money out of that whole scene has always seemed artificial and unnecessary and I’ve spent my life trying to remove its influence.”

 

‘Hype and promotion no longer works’

“When bands were signed to record labels before [the internet age], the contacts were unfair and the record label controlled the exposure.

“Now there is so much music it’s hard to be noticed. But that means there’s so much music available because it’s so easy for music to become available.

“So the barriers have been removed for exposure, and the relationships that bands build with their audience is going to be based on the music finding a sympathetic audience.

“If your music is not special, it’s no longer possible for hype to do all of the work.”

“If your music is not special, it’s no longer possible for hype and promotion to do all of the work. There are always going be a few mainstream pop stars, but that is no longer the main focus of music scene.

“The main focus is going to be people finding music on their own and discovering stuff that they like specifically for themselves.”

 

‘High quality streaming misses the point, but streaming services are just a temporary solution’

“Streaming platforms don’t have very good sound quality for music but that’s not why you listen to music on a streaming platform, you listen to music on a streaming platform because it’s convenient.

“In the 1960s there were transistor radios and the sound quality was terrible, but you could bring it with you to the swimming pool, you could listen to the radio while cooking.

“You listen on a streaming platform because it’s CONVENIENT.”

“Hi-fi has magnificent quality but that’s not the only way to listen to music and I think that’s a perfectly reasonable situation.

“But eventually we’ll have something even easier where you don’t have to subscribe, you don’t have to give any data, you can just play music on your phone or computer.

“I think that the natural progression of technology implies there will be something easier and that will default in the convenience. But I think sitting in the living room and playing records is always going to be there [too].”

 

‘Contracts are a complete fallacy’

“The idea that you have to have contracts to do [business] agreements, that you have to have formal understanding between people in order to have a long relationship, is a complete fallacy.

“If you enjoy working with someone and both feel the relationship is working out, you naturally carry on indefinitely.

“The way I’ve approached all of my business is that you don’t need contracts.”

“That’s the way I’ve approached essentially all of my business, you don’t need contracts.

“I think it’s the best, safest and also the most reasonable way to conduct, not just an informal things, but even very important things like millions of dollars worth of business between my band and a record company.”

 

‘copyright is not a realistic way to treat ideas’

“The constructs of copyright and intellectual property ownership is not a realistic way to treat ideas. Ideas once expressed become part of the common mentality, music once expressed becomes part of the common environment.

“I think the idea of intellectual property will naturally have to be modified to accommodate the way people exchange ideas and music and information.

“The old copyright model has expired. It can no longer exclusively control music.”

“The old copyright model – the person who creates something owns it and anyone else that wants to use it or see it has to pay them – has expired in the same way that around the world you’re seeing structures and social norms [lapse] that were standard for many years.

“It’s going to take a lot for the business to catch up to where the audience is, in the same way it takes a while for the church and the laws to catch up to where the people are.

“But there is no longer the possibility to exclusively control music through copyright.

“I think the term ‘piracy’ is absurd. Piracy is people boarding a ship with violence and killing people and physically stealing material goods….

“Equating somebody downloading something on his iPhone with that is preposterous.”Music Business Worldwide

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  • pschase

    Always enjoy hearing what Steve Albini has to say, and coming from the perspective of underground, independent, alternative-or-whatever-you-wanna-call it, he is mostly right.
    One point about copyright that I’m always wary of though – what if a corporation uses an artist’s song for a commercial purpose without credit or payment ( which has happened )?
    Is that an instance where copyright or a notice of ownership works?

    • Barking dog

      that should be like the number 1 concern about copyright

    • Marshall Eubanks

      If the worst case outcome is that it becomes difficult for bands to make money by selling their work to advertising agencies, I think music and art will survive. They might even be better for it.

      But it’s a non sequitur to suggest that, by legally conceding that it’s impossible to own non-rivalrous goods, we’ve eliminated any mechanism for artists to control who profits from their work. That is, we might well choose to grant monopoly privileges to _distribution for profit_, while maintaining that it’s ludicrous to grant monopoly privileges to _any and all means of distribution_.

      I’m not necessarily advocating that outcome, by the way, I’m merely attempting to demonstrate the depth and magnitude of the non sequitur you just committed.

      • pschase

        I wasn’t trying to suggest that artists making money from advertising was the main reason to hold on to current copyright law – just the idea that if things were to change, maybe there should be something in place to protect artists.

        My comment was exploring this specific quote: ““The old copyright model – the person who creates something owns it and
        anyone else that wants to use it or see it has to pay them – has expired
        in the same way that around the world you’re seeing structures and
        social norms [lapse] that were standard for many years.”

    • No, that is an instance where Contract trumps loyalty.

    • My big beef with Albini is that while he’s excellent at these takedowns of everything wrong with the industry, he doesn’t tend to do much to explain what viable, sustainable solutions or replacements are.
      He’s stellar at being curmudgeonly, though. It’s sort of his stock-in-trade.

      • pschase

        Yes, true enough – strong talking points but no solution

  • Hugo Istay

    Entertaining pov but WRONG in almost every respect…

    • nomel

      Why is he wrong? Your empty comment could easily be applied to itself.

    • nomel

      Why is he wrong? Your empty comment could easily be applied to itself!

      • Hugo Istay

        see also response to Barking Dog… and as for “The old copyright model has expired” – what was the Marvin Gaye / Robin Thicke court case all about? If anything the Copyright model is tightening with nearly all countries extending the scope and length of copyright and big ass publishing companies making a fortune for themselves and their writers.

        • The EU is tightening my balls with Copyright Theroy into practice, I want to barf on the brits allowing their nonsense.

          • Hugo Istay

            The US is much more restrictive. Look at the debacle of the Gaye/Thicke/Williams case. That would never have held water in Europe. But I would equally point out that EU law is much more protective of creative rights than the US. Indeed, in France you cannot sign away 100% of you rights in anything. Droit d’auteur a fine principal we should all support.

      • Who is wrong, and no , it could not (you are right, that was easy!)

    • Barking dog

      so you love that bands get raped in the ass by big ass corporations?

      • Hugo Istay

        Of course I don’t “love that bands get raped in the ass by big ass corporations” – but without big ass corporations we would not have had The Beatles, Stones, Who, Police, Madonna, One Direction, Taylor Swift, etc… Like it or not the Music Business is just that – a business – and a business relies on marketing and distribution – which is what big ass companies do very well. Sure I know people who had number one hits one week only to be driving cabs or window cleaning the next – but that was down to bad or crooked management not big ass companies. see also response to nomel…

        • Zadan

          As a working musician (one who plays multiple paid-gigs per week) and local promoter (3-4 decent sized shows per month), I would like to point out that Hugo Istay’s opinion is 100% wrong.

          I’d like to point out that Hugo also 100% misinterpreted Steve’s point, which makes his rebuttal even funnier and misguided to read.

          • Ya, it is quite odd.

          • Hugo Istay

            There are idealists and pragmatists. Steve is the former, I am the latter. If you work on how the world really is you have a chance to change it. If you stand outside and point out the wonderful a world it could be, it will never change. But it is changing, slowly…

        • You can REALLY remove Taylor Swift from that equation.

          • Mat Wigley

            But, but… Shake it off!
            1D however.

        • Bob Hansmann

          The most dangerous ‘big-ass’ corporations are not the record companies, but the streamers such as Youtube, Pandora, Spotify, Apple, and even Facebook.

        • happydog

          Once you mentioned Madonna, One Direction, and Taylor Swift you lost the argument. Comparing the Beatles, the Stones, and the Who to that pop culture diarrhea is idiotic.

          • Vincent Clement

            Actually the Beatles existed before any “big ass corporation” ‘discovered’ them.

          • Yeah, but they were basically a cover band playing German sex clubs. Brian Epstein polished them up, put them in suits and made them palatable to a wide audience.
            That is sort of a missing piece without a viable music industry – A&R probably served a useful function, providing an outside perspective on how to make stuff work and wrangling the proper technical talent (producers, engineers, session players). The downside was they were usually attached to enormous soulless corporations.

          • pschase

            Agreed! The industry focus should always have remained with A&R..”real” A&R that are actually music fans. Most of the best stuff that music has given us as an industry has been the result of those folks, especially in classics era..

    • Cranky Crab

      I guess you know more about it than Steve Albini,

      Hahahah, just typed that out to see how retarded it looks.

      • Hugo Istay

        It is possible…

  • Timo H

    “the person who creates something owns it and anyone else that wants to use it or see it has to pay them” is not the current model. The model only requires permission, not payment.

    • Excellant point.

    • Hugo Istay

      Then the answer is not to give permission UNLESS payment is involved…

      • Bob Hansmann

        That answer is not an option. Take-down Requests are completely ineffective, and compulsory Licensing (covers) devalue a work to zero.

  • Spencer Mead

    As someone who goes to concerts, buys the bands shirts, since that makes the most contribution to the band individually. I’m still surprised that there is not a patron service to have been launched to crowd support musicians and artists.

    This man is a patron to artists he could immorally determine that he could make more money using other avenues of fee assessment but his flat fee structure makes their relationship based around providing a meaningful service to one another.

    In a way the idea of a record company like Fantasy Records owning the rights to CCR’s music has always struck me as such a horrible arrangement. Copyright laws that allow an owner to prostitute your ideas almost ad infinitum go against the very organic nature of music itself.

    Then there is the whole vein of remix or re-imagining songs, as we’ve struggled to define ideas for these parasites to further feed off artists as ideas grow or are remixed or staple ideas like the Funky Drummer beat by Clyde Stubblefield that get reuse over an over again.

    We live in a world where ideas are available at a keystroke, that we are able to produce our own content in a solo endeavour. That people can re-imagine samples in a way the original content producers never were able to is the point of innovation, that we take from the breadth of human knowledge and make something new.

    Copyright is an idea which is to benefit an innovator, sadly something went wrong and copyright is now a means to legalize extortion.

    • “I’m still surprised that there is not a patron service to have been launched to crowd support musicians and artists.”

      Just back from Mars?

      Bandcamp, Indiegogo, 20 others

      • Spencer Mead

        I stand corrected

      • Patreon is a big one, too. It’s an actual “pay me to do this, and I’ll recompense my patrons with exclusive content” model.
        It’s interesting to see if it works, long term. There’s always a bit of a chicken-egg thing there – you need fans to make that sort of thing work properly, but you need something like that to get to the point where you can get fans.

        • Drawmer

          A lot of the podcasts I listen to are supported via Patreon. I think it’s a great idea, but perhaps more suited to the “show” type content than a band, since you can rely on the “show” to put out an episode every X amount of time, but with a band it’s trickier to drip feed regular content that people would pay $2, 4, 10 per month for. I’m sure a band could figure that out via regular chats, webcasts, rehearsal footage, demos etc.

          The plus with something like Patreon is that it does serve the “super fan” model well. You can be a patron at $0.01 if you want to and still get all the benefits of patronage. The super-fans offset that by contributing much more and bringing up the average.

  • Bob Hansmann

    We’ve heard all this before. This is exemplary of the kind of thinking that destroyed the music business.
    Anyone who thinks music is free is wrong. Streamers, especially Youtube, make billions of dollars through infringement of the same copyright laws the author claims to be expired.
    If anything, music creators should be encouraged to, not discouraged from, claiming ownership of that which they’ve created, just as they are in any other endeavor.

    • “We’ve heard all this before. This is exemplary of the kind of thinking that destroyed the music business.”

      Yes.

      “Streamers, especially Youtube, make billions of dollars through infringement of the same copyright laws the author claims to be expired.”

      Complete falsehood.

      “music creators should be encouraged to, not discouraged from, claiming ownership of that which they’ve created, just as they are in any other endeavor.”

      Yes.

      • Bob Hansmann

        “Streamers, especially Youtube, make billions of dollars through
        infringement of the same copyright laws the author claims to be
        expired.”

        Complete falsehood.”

        If it were not for creative content of others,Youtube would be ‘an empty file cabinet’ with nothing to offer consumers, and ergo nothing to offer advertisers. The latest figure I could find was from Forbes Magazine, which predicted Youtube ad revenues in 2013 to hit $5.6Billion.

        • Google benefits in other ways too. They make ad revenue on searches that end up promoting sketchy download sites that don’t compensate the artists in any way. David Lowery harps on this one a lot.

    • Cranky Crab

      Anyone who things music is a commodity is a whore.

      • Bob Hansmann

        I have no idea what you mean by this. If you are saying that an artist’s value is inversely proportional to his ability to make living with that creativity so that Google can reap in all the profits, then you are clueless.

      • Realspear

        How did thinking ever make someone a “whore?”

    • “This is exemplary of the kind of thinking that destroyed the music business.”

      Yeah…that’s kind of the point.

      “If anything, music creators should be encouraged to, not discouraged from, claiming ownership of that which they’ve created, just as they are in any other endeavor.

      Once again, yes! This is what Albini argues! Musicians should claim ownership of their own work, which means cutting out the expensive stifling middle man of the corporate music industry and producing and distributing their music themselves.

      • Bob Hansmann

        ” Musicians should claim ownership of their own work, which means cutting
        out the expensive stifling middle man of the corporate music industry
        and producing and distributing their music themselves.”

        With VERY few exceptions, musicians have neither the expertise,time, energy, or funds to distribute and promote their music, and when they self-produce, the results are usually less than professional quality.

        Record companies have traditionally funded all of the artist development, production, distribution, and promotion. Streamers contribute nothing other than providing a URL with no protections to upload to.

        Ergo, Artists need to have a middle man. It should be their choice who it is.

        • Justin Colletti

          Although the terms “middleman” is not a popular one, it’s true that a little bit of specialization can be a very good thing. Division of labor is what makes prosperity possible for everyday people.

          We kicked all the bean-counters out of the music industry and now musicians looks around going “hey man, where are all the beans?”.

          Bottom line for me is that consent in any exchange is important. Piracy removes consent. Copyright (supplemented by the option of creative commons) respects consent.

  • Geoff Bell

    is this guy for real? Typical of someone who has made a lot of money and nows says no one else should. Of course we have to have copyright. What is the point of writing songs if you can’t monetise it? That premise means that there will not be a viable career path for songwriters and musicians.

    • Not really, h isnt a millionair by any measure, just succesfu, put that is a damn fine place to live. But the second half of your argument, yes, WRITERS need to be paid for their music being heard, MUSICIANS need to paid to have writer’s music played and performed by them and others. Always – that cannot change, and needs to blossom.

    • Fuck Ya’ll

      You know NOTHING, and you’ve obviously done NO research on Albini… He has worked with everyone from Nirvana, to SLEEP and where most producers and engineers ask for royalties on the records, he has NOT done this. He has missed opportunity after opportunity to make millions and instead makes a healthy living based on his hard work and his own fucking reputation. Not to mention, made grate music with the acts he is affiliated with over the years that is cherished by actual music fans… you want to talk about “monetising music” and “copyrights”… you can continue that with whatever shit band you are or aren’t involved with, while the rest of us understand that releasing music prolifically and playing shows on tour or out of town, and connecting with the fans that actually support what music is these days, is what decides your level of success. FOAD

    • walterstucco

      typical comment from some angry son of the rich world from a rich dad.
      you can suck albini’s socks

    • Bob Hansmann

      ” He has worked with everyone from Nirvana, to SLEEP and where most
      producers and engineers ask for royalties on the records, he has NOT
      done this. He has missed opportunity after opportunity to make millions
      and instead makes a healthy living based on his hard work and his own
      fucking reputation.”

      Firstly, According to this article, he certainly has worked on spec. Secondly, whatever opportunities he may have missed along the way in no way enhances his status as an artist or justifies demanding other artists do the same if they are not to be considered a sell-out.

    • There are bands now that are professional, touring musicians who make there entire living off playing in basements and VFWs; something unheard of 15 years ago. People will find a way to sell themselves. It’s true that without big industry, musicians have to basically build a whole new business infrastructure to support themselves, but they are and it’s working.

      This guy is absolutely for real.

      • Carla R. Bozulich

        No.

    • David Mark Rupel

      Obviously, you both have different paradigms. You have the capitalist paradigm of your self worth of songwriting being held up by the premise of whether or not you’re making money. Steve’s paradigm is just stuck in DIY hippie mode (which promotes fun and interesting things instead of washed out melody-blending, cranked out by money addicts at big name record companies).

      • Carla R. Bozulich

        i hate the words paradigm and parse. Only those.

    • Vincent Clement

      Albini charges a flat-fee for his services. He doesn’t take points. He gave up millions of dollars producing In Utero.

      If we accept your argument that copyright is needed to ensure a “viable career path of songwriters and musicians”, why did the term “starving artist” exist before the internet? Copyright doesn’t sell records or songs. It doesn’t sell t-shirts and other goods. And it most definitely doesn’t sell tickets to concerts.

      • RealityBass

        The idea of Steve Albini living in a mansion is pretty hilarious.

        • Carla R. Bozulich

          it must have a great musty, woodsy and electricity smell at his house. I can imagine a flopsy dog or mopey cat. Anyway, yeah, a flat rate from Nirvana sounds A-ok to me! Flat rate!

        • Carla R. Bozulich

          I say if you use a 2-inch deck regularly, you’re livin’ large.

      • Wallace Collins

        Copyright protects an artist’s expression of an idea (not the idea itself) – and like it or not, it IS the law, and to violate it makes one an outlaw (and one with not as much originality as those who do not need to infringe to create).

    • happydog

      The point of writing songs is to create music. If you have to justify music by “monetising” it, fuck you. Music exists and it always has existed, before assholes “monetised” it. Go be an IT guy or something if you want to “monetise” something. Corporate asshole.

      • Well, I think you might be over-reading into that a bit. For most musicians, the goal of “monetizing” is “make enough money at it to keep doing it self-sustainably.” While it’s great and all to do it for just the love of the art, buying gear, renting studio time, and putting gas in the tour van are all things that are not going to get done without some sort of funding.
        I think, though, the model of the “full time indie musician” is slowly fading away, since it’s getting harder and harder to both make the music you love and put food on the table at the same time. What will replace it? Probably more of a musical “middle class” – the guys that used to be “weekend warriors” playing in garage bands after their 9-5’s were over. Now those guys (like me) can actually put music out for distribution, and still do things like “eat” and “have health insurance.” To an extent this has always existed with the struggling musician-with-a-day-job kind of thing, but the whole dream of breaking big and quitting the day job is getting supplanted by just building the side-hobby into a second career, funded by a longer-term day-job career path.

        • Tom Jefferson

          Well said. Of course, there are certainly cases of musicians making huge amounts of money – look at the Country genre – but I think what you said is correct.

      • Geoff Bell

        Fuck off you idiot. What do you think keeps young songwriters in the game? A cut on a record or at the worst plays on a streaming sight. How do you propose they live, feed their families? Dickhead

        • Jason Max

          “How do you propose they live, feed their families?”
          How about they work any other job in the world and make art on the side–like myself and many, many, many artists. Artists make art for it’s own sake–and if they are in it for money, the art is probably really horrible.

          Taking money out of art doesn’t reduce the amount of good art, only the amount of bad, corporate art.

      • Carla R. Bozulich

        Yeah, happydog! Devastating obsession with genuine art is our weapon and why we get to live well no matter what we “have”. Unless you have kids….. then you better hustle.

        You mean bitches have spunk. Focus it. Tear it up. I mean tear it up as in—-I do it regularly with a % of my writing and drawings so I remember why I live this way, why I fight for this life and the underdogs—how I get by with what’s on my back. It’s because the arts keep me well and give the world context so I can be here. I appreciate ideas, tours and a label with this philosophy intact.

        You’ll never be able to guess what people will buy. I do know it’s mostly luck who gets exposure. Still, the arts will always give more than they take.

        Henry Miller said Paint As You Like And Die Happy. Yeah he was rich and ancient at the time but still, there was no market for his writing when he started. He was poor. Most artists always have been. Die happy.

        Fuckers—-Challenge your brain so you can fight efficiently—-do some calculated fucking damage to these corporate bitches. Try hitting me first (perhaps with something compelling) for practice and then go get ’em, sluggers.

        Signed, A ‘Middle-Aged Twat’ that could blow you away without even noticing the puff of smoke.

      • Jack Palance

        …and that’s exactly why it sucks, now.

      • Marc Coiffier

        Hey ! Stop sending us all the assholes, what did IT ever do to you ?

        Nice thought though, even if the delivery was a bit rough 😉

    • mathew7

      If you followed these king of articles, you would see that the career paths of songwriters and musicians are very short, because the music company, not the author, owns the copyright. The expression “selling your soul” is aplicable to most of the contracts. Small artists are at most neutral to “piracy” (which is music corp. “invention”) because its advertising/exposure. Please treat the popular bands/artists as exceptions, not the rule.

      • Carla R. Bozulich

        No, the writer has a choice about keeping their copyright. If your label owns yours, you agreed to that for one of a few reasons. That agreement must be done on paper. It’s fraud for a label or me or whoever to register your copyrights. Anyway, for musicians of smaller size than Shellac or Blg Black or whatever, copyright, publishing, writer’s royalties…. are usually not much to fret over. Little somethin’ to put in the tank. No label’s gonna spend attorney dough to draw up the papers. Smooth sailin’!

        • mathew7

          Of course there is choice. But most go for “the big break” and sign away everything because of lack of experience, later realizing what actual profit they get vs. the Corp. I’m not saying there aren’t fair music companies, but the more unfair they are, the bigger power they have over the industry.

    • Danny McGough

      When no one pays actual money for intellectual content – copyright is nigh on meaningless. I own the copyright. Whoopie.
      Copyright and 3 bucks might get you a coffee.

    • Wallace Collins

      U r 100% correct!

    • Jason Max

      “What is the point of writing songs if you can’t monetise it?” The point of writing songs is to make art. Speaking as a songwriter who’s written hundreds of songs over the past 15 years (and made hundreds of dollars, yipee!)–that’s a beautiful thing and has nothing to do with money. Your assumption is sad.

      Artists make art because they have too, it’s what they do–there’s a reason that the ‘starving artist’ stereotype persists, because most good art is made by people who don’t make much money off of it.

      The idea that artists will stop making good art if they can’t sign lucrative contracts is absurd. Many of my favorite bands (I’m an aging punk who now listens to a lot of old folk, blues and country) made nothing off their music. Do you think Leadbelly needed a royalty contract before he would write a song or play a show? Do you really think Van Gogh would have made ‘better’ art if he’d been paid millions to do so?

      • “The point of writing songs is to make art”

        I’m sick of hippie, therapeutic nonsense like this. I write songs because I CAN. I don’t feel emotionally ‘compelled’ to make music. I make a conscious decision to make music. You have your reasons and explanations, and I have mine. Stop transposing your worldview about art onto everyone else.

        • Jason Max

          Do you think only hippies make art? That’s a pretty weird, sad worldview.

          But it sounds like we don’t actually disagree, you’re just being disagreeable. As I said, “The point of writing songs is to make art”, and songs=art. So you could just as easily rewrite my sentence as “the point of writing songs is to write songs”, which sounds like your perspective.

          Of course it’s a conscious decision, do you think that somehow makes it less artsy? And I’m definitely not a hippie, for the record.

      • DtotheInfinitePower

        It’s not just about making money, though. Without copyright protection, people’s work gets exploited. It’s terrible for a creative type who spends hours, weeks, months, years, putting all effort, skill and emotion into something wonderful, to see others exploit their work and profit from it — while they make next to nothing

        And it’s all fine and good to say “do it for love,” but people still have to eat, put a roof over their heads, etc. Van Gogh was lucky enough that he had a brother who supported him financially, so he could afford his paint and supplies and keep from being homeless. And he spent his life…trying to SELL his paintings. Michelangelo and other Renaissance artists worked on commission. Architects like IM Pei and Frank Gehry create amazing works of art in their buildings…on commission. The money helps support them so they can continue creating.

  • Mick

    Agree with Steve on everything except the end of copyrights. Without copyrights, the music industry he hates so much will simply appropriate other people’s musical ideas. They have the money and power to hype their product and eliminate competition, but they don’t have the ideas; if you eliminate the intellectual property rights of the creators, you’re giving the industry hacks the last thing they don’t have — and you’re giving it to them for free.

    • beyond_the_apple

      The classic retort to this argument is to observe the fashion industry. No copyrights and yet still massive businesses built on quality, name, and talent. Always refreshing and renewing its creativity.

      • You can’t download a dress.

        • beyond_the_apple

          True, but you can download a patten, layout, design, etc

          • when everyone has automated looms in their homes, i guess that will be a problem for the fashion industry

        • Maskeladden

          3D printing will change that soon enough.

        • One would think that evident, no?

          • and yet the OP still compared copyright in the fashion industry to copyright in the music industry…

      • Mick

        The two are not analogous. Fashion industry businesses create their own designs. The music industry contracts its creativity to outsiders, making deals to distribute their work. If there were no copyrights, they’d simply take the ideas and market them themselves.

        • Laviathan Rider

          Ya but they’ll still need the artists to perform the songs either way so I still don’t get your point. As a creator of musical content for YouTube, I would not mind having my stuff redistributed by anyone regardless of if they made a buck of not. When you upload to YouTube, you are automatically giving away your music for free anyway. So why complain if someone else likes it enough to work with it? As an artist I just don’t get your point.

          • Mick

            Is creating musical content what you do for a living?

          • ChuckBob

            Except that if I have a song copyrighted, and put it on YouTube, and some guy at Mercury/Polygram hears it, likes it, and has his pet project band cover it on their next record, I get paid royalties. Remove copyright protections and I become the next Jake Holmes.

      • The fashion industry still makes physical products that it sells.

        Thanks.

    • Let it go.

      • Mick

        You let your money go.

        • Fortunately my money is not going towards this field anymore.

          • Mick

            Then maybe don’t tell other people to let their money go?

          • My original comment wasn’t really referring to money, more aimed at the old model of the music business. It’s gone, the new day is here.

          • Mick

            This is all about money.

          • If you believe that, then..believe it.

          • Paul Abruzzo

            Just because you’re not good enough to make money in music, don’t be bitter that some of us can. Next life, try harder.

          • Hah ad hominem attack- so you lose . Here is one of my own- Got news for you, the 30k you make a year in music is pocket change to me.

          • Smithereens

            You’ve never made a dime from music Paul. And you never will no matter how hard you try. Give up. Get in the sea.

    • Laviathan Rider

      I produce music for YouTube regularly and I don’t get your point .. if I create a song .. wouldn’t I want a lot of people to hear it? Yes I do. And if someone else makes a buck from my creativity, which is completely free for me, when I clearly could not, then good on them. Why should I care. Everyone is just so damned greedy these days.

      • You mean greedy in terms of wanting to pay their rent?

  • Mike Canavan

    Stupidity from someone who should know better.
    If you take away creator ownership, there will be no incentive for people to create and produce original work. Because the marketing labels will rip them off.

    • Carla R. Bozulich

      The incentive is compulsion and aptitude to use what we are born with—these arguments should assume that the artist works because they must —not just to avoid a day job. I know it’s hard to work without pay it separates us from the drones we will eventually have to address. This downloading shit is huge. Way bigger money than any record company scandal. 1000 times bigger.

    • WW4

      Incentive is love of doing what you do. If you’re smart about it, you can make some money with it on your own terms.

    • Laviathan Rider

      Sir may I respectfully state that You have no idea as to what drives people to create art … here’s a clue: it’s not money. Get over it. You sound like one of the administrative types.

      • Mike Canavan

        Yes, people are not generally driven to create art to “make money”. However, people who create art need to be properly rewarded so they can eat and survive. Starving artist? There are too many in this world. Remove their copyright protection, which is weak already?
        That would make the situation worse, not better.

        • DtotheInfinitePower

          This.

          The idea that a creative person shouldn’t worry about getting paid, or having control over their work, because they “do it for love” is ridiculous. Loving what you do doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be compensated fairly for it.

          Not only that, but copyright allows artists/writers/etc. to have their work used in the way they wish, even if there’s no money involved. For instance if I write a song, maybe I don’t want Political Candidate X to use it for his or her campaign theme because I don’t agree with their views.

      • Midi Man

        I think and please correct me if I am wrong there might be two type of artist’s one that gets in it for the love of music and the other for the love of Money. How can I define this. Jazz musicians are in it for the love of music pop and others are in it for the love of fame and money.

  • Carla R. Bozulich

    Marvelous as he may be, SA has also had lots of wiley luck. Big Black was too fucking great! Many people here are saying that these days you gotta be especially great. I will add luck to that! Nirvana brought him much more than percentage points could ever do, for example. As a raging talent, the guy from Big Black, the ace analog producer of so many projects his mythology seems to be, thankfully, equal to his work. He’s a fucking smart person who got punk rock and seems to bring it with him and I love that. But come at things from another place… and it’s clear a lot is subjective. Informed opinions are rad. Mine: sometimes opposite of this charmed guy who has seen maybe even more than me, female musician/producer (there are few of us in the underground). I guess I’ve been on all sides of this—-passed up the same kind of dough as him, too—and it still feels good knowing I did the right thing even in leaner times. Facts/opinions: Even when they are based in hands-on experience, they are colored by personal circumstance. Contracts, for example. Indie labels without contracts. Being with an indie or proudly doing biz without a contract—-well it’s the best and it’s utopian and healthy but another roll of the dice. It feels so good when it works. I’m on my 6th with CST—handshake style.—-still fantastic But contracts get signed by both parties and that can be an advantage. First of all you put what you want in there and then do or don’t fuvking sign it. You don’t want them having any creative control? Put It. Righteous mechanicals? Maybe they’ll honor it all, mine did. Then again, the no contract way is great cuz you can just walk away—hopefully with no messy horrible legal stuff that could be a choice between just eating the loss or figuring out quick how to jump into that legal game and get your royalties or whatever. But there’s the subjective part that matters to us who ain’t famous: not all people have FRIENDS with internationally distributed labels that would never rip them off. That’s is the major flaw of that whole theory, so popular among some of the best artists I know of. It falls apart when an artist is not already known and there’s no documentation that your “label” agreed on anything (standard handshake is 50/50 split after label expenses re-couped). And even friends with big indies rip you off sometimes in that scenario—–severely. I’d puke if I lost Constellation. Some of my friends are actively protesting but I like it when people download my music…. better you than iTunes giving me 2 pennies on the $$$. Do it. I love that everything is up in the air—I can’t wait to hear the next wave.

  • Carla R. Bozulich

    Marvelous as he may be, SA has also had lots of wiley luck. Big Black was too fucking great! Many people here are saying that these days you gotta be especially great. I will add luck to that! Nirvana brought him much more than percentage points could ever do, for example. As a raging talent, the guy from Big Black, the ace analog producer of so many projects his mythology seems to be, thankfully, equal to his work. He’s a fucking smart person who got punk rock and seems to bring it with him and I love that. But come at things from another place… and it’s clear a lot is subjective. Informed opinions are rad. Mine: sometimes opposite of this charmed guy who has seen maybe even more than me, female musician/producer (there are few of us in the underground). I guess I’ve been on all sides of this—-passed up the same kind of dough as him, too—and it still feels good knowing I did the right thing even in leaner times. Facts/opinions: Even when they are based in hands-on experience, they are colored by personal circumstance. Contracts, for example. Indie labels without contracts. Being with an indie or proudly doing biz without a contract—-well it’s the best and it’s utopian and healthy but another roll of the dice. It feels so good when it works. I’m on my 6th with CST—handshake style.—-still fantastic But contracts get signed by both parties and that can be an advantage. First of all you put what you want in there and then do or don’t fuvking sign it. You don’t want them having any creative control? Put It. Righteous mechanicals? Maybe they’ll honor it all, mine did. Then again, the no contract way is great cuz you can just walk away—hopefully with no messy horrible legal stuff that could be a choice between just eating the loss or figuring out quick how to jump into that legal game and get your royalties or whatever. But there’s the subjective part that matters to us who ain’t famous: not all people have FRIENDS with internationally distributed labels that would never rip them off. That’s is the major flaw of that whole theory, so popular among some of the best artists I know of. It falls apart when an artist is not already known and there’s no documentation that your “label” agreed on anything (standard handshake is 50/50 split after label expenses re-couped). And even friends with big indies rip you off sometimes in that scenario—–severely. I’d puke if I lost Constellation. Some of my friends are actively protesting but I like it when people download my music…. not because life is kush—-only because there’s not really shit for me to gain with me having an small, underground audience and the pay ratio being what it is = better you hear it than iTunes giving me 2 pennies on the $$$. Do it.

    I love that everything is up in the air—I can’t wait to hear the next wave. –C

    • Tom Jefferson

      I’ve got to disagree with the contracts issue. I mean, even if you just type out a few paragraphs explaining the percentages and roles of each party, you may just save yourself a crap load of problems later.

      But then again, I’m an attorney.

      • Carla R. Bozulich

        it’s a crap shoot.but then again, i haven’t dealt with a contract since around when SA started bagging on them and I was buying my own home and taking tons of hot bands on the road and paying them out of my Virgin records tour support. oh…. just an address would do, now. I wish i had a contract for my Red Headed Stranger—then the record co wouldn’t have laughed in my face when i asked where my royalties were. Crap load of problems. Most musicians won’t sue…. any type of label knows that.

      • Eugene Robinson

        If Touch N Go had actually had a contract with the Buttonhole Surfers, I feel fairly certain Touch N Go would not have gone the way it did….I’m a big believer in contracts. But then again I’m a big believer in extra-legal remedies when those contracts fail.

  • DavidHamPhoto

    Just another load of waffle from a guy that made his money in the olden days when people still bought records.
    For all the ripoffs and poor deal contracts, actually getting some royalties meant at least some musicians could, at least for a time, work full-time on their art. With pay-to-play gigs and beer money for a million Spotify plays, outside of a few hyped corporate acts, it’s hard for an act to move on from playing in the pub round the corner.

  • Great way to stimulate debate but I almost completely disagree.

  • WW4

    No one is owed a living; people need to earn a living, and artists are no different. Music has been big business only for a unique sliver of time in human history where technological and economic forces combined in a particularly fruitful and unique way. And if it reverts away from that, guess what? There will still be more great music than we’ll ever need!

    We have to do it for the love of doing it. If we want to make money at it, there are ways to figure out to do so, ways beyond legal ownership structures. (Performing, of course, is the time-honored way). If that includes “selling out”–hey, I’m all for it! Lots of indie artists license their music for commercials, etc. and it helps them pay the bills and fund their next project. But complaining about music not being a viable career path? Do something else!

    • Tony

      If “it reverts away from that” we will have no pop music. “reverting” means going back to a time when there was folk music, religious music and music made for sponsors. Guaranteed that pick your 10 favourite albums (not classical) – you wouldn’t have them if there hadn’t been a music business.

  • Clive Blanston

    He’s spot-on for the most part. The music industry deserves to die. It is probable a better, more equitable distribution system will eventually come into being.

    The main thing the industry is freaking-out about is that for the first time they *know* how many people are swapping music. This is nothing new. In the past, “Best of” tapes and the like were common. A good way to see if an album was any good was to share. …But the industry didn’t have an exact count to this “theft.”

    In reality, if an album proved its worth, it was purchased properly in the highest quality available.

    The real problem is that the catalogs have been released on CD for decades and are being sold endlessly used…which does nothing for the industry BTW. The new stuff is mostly shit. So how many times did they figure they could sell Abby Road? Or “The Wall”?

    Fuck ’em.

  • DtotheInfinitePower

    Not having contracts is incredibly foolish. If someone won’t put their business commitment in writing, it can lead to very ugly scenes later. This guy might be honorable and do the right things with people with whom he works…most don’t.

  • End The Madness

    It’s interesting to note that even though SA slighted Prince for going after YouTube posters for playing his music on home videos of innocuous things like kids dancing — a bullshit move on Prince’s part and definitely assless chap overkill — Prince had also started to eschew contracts for the very same reason as Steve Albini. He felt they got in the way of making music and it was almost always a mechanism for control of one party over the other — particularly in the music industry.

    I think SA is mostly saying this is over — all of it. There’s no rolling it back now without excessive intrusion and endless litigation. Now an artist should have the right to prevent their work being used in other money making, political or business ventures. The Rolling Stones just put an injunction in Donald Trump using their music at a political rally. They should have every right to prevent that from happening.

    There are hypotheticals to consider here. What if ones music was being played as an anthem at a white supremacist rally? Oh wait I already mentioned Trump. Anyway one should be able to stop that as copyright infringement. But from the user end and the creator end the days of controlling private usage are over forever and its mostly a good thing.

    After all the music industry has itself to blame entirely. Had they lowered prices on CD’s, and early digital downloads there might not have been as much temptation to circumvent them. But nooooooo what should have been $5.00 tops for an album hovered around $13-$18 dollars for a CD and $10-$15 for a download (even more absurd since no physical media was created).

    Also they screwed over so many artists for so long that they had the reputation as being greedy fuckers and in most cases that’s exactly what these companies were — bloated entities living off the back of their artists. This made it even more appealing to rake them over the coals.

  • Raymundo Ricardo

    1. “tha music industry is a parasite”
    it sure is, virtually all industries are. dat tha nature of authoritarian, technocratic economic structures & hypercapitalism & societies based on tha fallacies of 1. rights/entitlements & 2. property/ownership lol. obviously never stopped stevo from workin with it/in it loool. if anything, individuals like him have tha useful function of providing tha whole macrostructure with tha illusion of fairness, sincerity, & “artistic authenticity”. dont get me wrong, he seem like a cool guy & i respect his work, but that doesn make him any less of a tool/pawn.

    2. “hype and promotion no longer work”
    bullshit; tha typical, xplicitly corporatist, traditional forms of hype & promotion no longer work. before, in tha centralized era, labels would sign an individual first & then largely manufacture their hype for them; now, in tha decentralized era, its up to musicians & artists to buy/generate/manufacture their own contrived hype & THEN seek to get signed by labels lmao. PROGRESS. I especially love tha statement “If your music is not special, it’s no longer possible for hype to do all of the work,” which clearly & obviously xplains why some of tha only “musicians” making money & moving units anymore are oversexualized, crass cash slut, mass-manufactured generic corporate pop clowns ala taylor swift, katy perry, etc lolol.

    3. “high quality streaming just misses tha point, but streaming services are jus a temporary solution”
    wat tha hell is his point wit this tangent xactly? mad modern post-industrialized societies fetishize convenience & efficiency & instrumental reasoning & all dat utilitarian nonsense. lmao leave it to a sheltered kinda dude like steve albino to ack like its some kinda pithy, hella significant epiphany that mos ppl arent hipster audiophiles who can afford to buy nothin but vinyl & therefore don particularly care about tha sound quality of they music lmaoo xD smh. anyway, im p sure he’s predicting when google takes over tha planet after tha trans-pacific partnership passes & forcibly installs tracking & surveillance devices into eryones brains LOL, jus a guess 😉

    4. “contracts are a complete fallacy”
    again, coming from tha dude whose entire career/success was fundamentally, ultimately, & logically contingent upon his upper-middle class status & ability to manufacture hipster hype xD

    5. “copyright is not a realistic way to treat ideas”
    damn righ its not, but neither is wat amounts essentially to deflated, decentralized, american idol-esque, youtube-famous mob mentality rule; it jus tha same authoritarian bullshit hiding behind a new, trendy, tech-saavy postmodern facade; it no different than tha relationship between modern, inverted fascism/totalitarianism & traditional, overt fascism

  • asmodasmo

    There is an alternative to this now, its kind of new startup project but at least they have the right idea I think. It’s called ‘auddly’ and is sponsored by a bunch of big swedish musicians, its a place where copyrights, contracts and the rest can be managed more efficiently without ever having to confront the layers of bussines people Steve is talking about.

    Copyrights manageded on a person to person between artists is the main idea here.