Did you watch the 58th Annual Grammy Awards? I did not. (But I did look up the winners online.) Mike Doughty posted this online the next day. He has some really great ideas, and they deserve to be shared.
NINE REASONS THAT GUILT-TRIP GRAMMYS DUDE WAS RIDICULOUS
Did you listen to that guy at the Grammys, standing next to Common and a child pianist, scolding out-of-touchily about how music should be paid for? I hope not! Here’s what that guy—Neil Portnow, head of the Recording Academy, and once the music supervisor for “A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child”—doesn’t know:
1. You can shut off the musical supply and demand to get paid.
Yeah, that’s right. Just shut it off. Set a fair rate, then open the pipeline again. The reason you’re not doing that is because you’re convinced those Napster kids and their evil downloading is inevitable. But there’s something you’re weirdly not aware of:
2. The span of time between Napster and today is equal to that between “Billie Jean” and “Hit Me Baby One More Time”
Those college kids--who are 35 now--accessed Napster on Netscape, on their Dell desktops, hooked up to the wall by Ethernet cable, while chatting on AIM.
It's as if you were in the music business in 1981, and worrying that you need to get a band into matching suits and onto Ed Sullivan.
3. Music is an insanely valuable commodity.
If somebody other than you was in charge of selling it, it’d be profitable. Like, a junior engineer from Google, or a recently-fired IT person from Hulu.
4. It’s the Golden Age of Television.
They’re facing the same challenges are you, so they must be hurting, right? Wait, they’re not?! What?!
It’s $7.99 a month for Hulu, $7.99 a month for Netflix, and $99 a year for Amazon Prime. By the way, half the time the movies we want to see aren’t there—we have to rent them. I had to buy Boyhood from iTunes, for $15.
And, most importantly, they create fantastic, original content! Some of the most magnificent, complex, nuanced art in the history of modern media!
5. The film industry is insanely, incredibly profitable.
The 2015 box office total gross was about $11.1 billion. Adjusted for inflation, in 1982 (the year E.T. came out) it was $8.6 billion; in 1998 (the year Titanic came out), it was $9.3 billion.
6. People today will be bummed about paying, but they’ll pay. They pay more for other stuff.
Just get a line-item of $8.99 onto everybody’s data plan. People will grumble. Then, next month, we’ll forget about it, because we pay so, so much more for stuff that we forget about until we take that rare, painful look at our debit card statements. Our cable bills are hugely bloated, stuffed with weird charges we can’t explain.
Do you know why surveys show that people think the streaming services are too expensive? It’s something along the lines of, “All things considered, I prefer the free sandwich.”
7. Every time somebody forgets to cancel their GoogleAmaAppleDriveBox, another dick from Stanford gets a Tesla.
Those people are so much smarter than you!
8. The music business is so very complicated. It’s so complicated! Nobody understands.
My theory is that, more so than in any other part of the entertainment business, people in the music business need to pretend they’re adults. So, if you ask a question of a person in the music business, you’ll get an indignant reply of, “Well, the BDS AAA non-comm monitored stations mechanical royalties post-structuralism hermeneutics exhaust manifold!”
Yes, you’re a very special smart person who knows so much more than everybody! Your industry is dead.
9. I want to own a house.
Yeah, that’s it. I’m not gonna get rich. My biggest hit was in 1998. You goons being unable to run a media industry, selling high-demand, extremely valuable content is, for me, the difference between having the down payment on a two bedroom in Memphis, Tennessee, and living in rentals for the rest of my life.
The best part of the Grammys, for an artist, was a line from Taylor’s speech: “Focus on the work.” I can make albums at home. I’ll try to make the best art I can, and, in time, someone smart, and versatile, with a modicum of executive talent, will show up eventually, and run circles around you.