Kill the Rock Star

By: Chris Dahlen

Posted 10/08/2007 - 04:12:09 PM by grandbanks:
 Last line says it all. Pretty good piece, especially the first half. Humanism is the next frontier. Live all the way.
Posted 10/08/2007 - 05:35:50 PM by garlad1:
 I'll smoke a turd in hades long before I ever even begin to feel sorry for the Gallaghers. My album on the last RPMchallenges was/is: Elsie Allen / Black Bart Days. It's an instrumental heavy metal spaghetti western.
Posted 10/08/2007 - 10:46:56 PM by joeyjeremiah:
 Lovely article, but it is kinda sad and hilarious to watch the mainstream music industry squirm and screetch as it shrinks. The problem is not just that kids don't buy as many CDs, it's also that they don't care as much anymore.
Posted 10/09/2007 - 11:55:28 AM by syurix:
 Articulating what those of us in noise/hardcore have known for years; make something you love. If it resonates, further out, great. If not, you've at least made something you love. Art doesn't owe you a living, if more bands realized this we'd have a lot more assured excellence and a lot less mediocrity whose endgame is to be able to quit the day job.
Posted 10/09/2007 - 02:56:33 PM by grandbanks:
 Yeah, I don't think any great record has come from someone targeting a demographic or trying to quit their day jobs. There are indeed too many bands. Complicated issue, but the internet has definitely helped muddy the waters as much as it has helped level the playing field.
Posted 10/10/2007 - 10:42:41 PM by Utica5:
 not that there's anything wrong with day jobs per se, but if a person wants to persue music as a livelihood, he has the right to. the problem is, and always has been, that most "successful" musicians end up with about as much money as does some guy on a streetcorner playing fleetwood mac covers. "success" has always benefited the music industry (and music journalists) more than the musicians themselves, because there's an infrastructure of tens of thousands of people who need to eat. (that musicians also need to eat has always come second) i enjoyed reading this article, but the reality is that musicians have ALWAYS been very poor, and there have always been people making lots of money exploiting them. i think that radiohead's new M.O. is relevant, and could be the birth of musicians finally being able to earn money for themselves. the realization that direct sales are more profitable than packaging, promotions, and mounds of debt has the potential to turn the business model of the whole "industry" on its head. the fantasy of super-stardom does have to go, but the ideas that i'm seeing in the comments (that musicians basically need to give up, record music in whatever spare time their bosses allow them, and then be happy when no one pays them for it) strikes me as a tad defeatist.
Posted 10/11/2007 - 12:29:26 PM by janinedm:
 Utica5, I don't think anyone's trying to be defeatist. It's more about a relationship between the public and music; that maybe the professionalizing of music is becoming less sustainable as it stands. To go back to the cooking metaphor the people who are most passionate about food and will, frankly, pay the most for it and wait years for reservations at French Laundry or wherever are usually pretty serious home cooks. I don't think the article is arguing that people should give up on the concept of paying for music at all, but we do need to get rid of the idea that that is the apex and only end to playing music. I wonder how relevant that model is if you don't have a huge following. I am certain that artists have been pursuing this model for years. I can't name any of them because they're not Radiohead.
Posted 10/11/2007 - 03:46:20 PM by GlassAnimalBoy:
 Cool article, and syurix - Beautiful comment. Very inspiring, and hitting home very nicely for me right now. I guess I'll drop this as RPM Challenge Album was called "And Now the Truth" - artist name is Glass Animal. It's one continuous instrumental track at 132 bpm. I made it in the last 8 days of February, and it still gets me excited when I listen to it. I recommend the challenge to pretty much anyone, musician or not.
Posted 10/11/2007 - 03:49:01 PM by Utica5:
 janinedm: publicity is just another profitable industry that, more often than not, costs musicians more than it ends up benefiting them. radiohead certainly doesn't need it, but when you follow the money, you realize that nobody else does. also, i didn't think the article was advocating giving up on paying for music, it's just that everyone seems ready to declare that musicians should be happy to survive off of table scraps (as if this were some sort of new perspective brought about by technology). the idea behind the radiohead method is not that all musicians will get super rich, but that they at least might be able to stop subsidizing vast higherarchies of non-creative people, and instead funnel whatever money their records bring in directly to themselves. again, stardom is for morons, but what kind of society do we live in where a 40 hour a week data entry clerk is valued higher than an artist? the right to be creative and the right to eat should not be mutually exclusive.
Posted 10/11/2007 - 03:57:33 PM by grandbanks:
 Look, Dahlen's article is good, but mostly offers more questions and lots of vague statements, which is understandable because this stuff is really complicated. Hardcore and noise scenes try to make it very simple, but it isn't (as much as I like the general approach of these scenes). I don't read defeatism anywhere here, pretty much exactly the opposite. Firstly, if a person wants to persue music as a livelihood, of course they have a right to, they are just crazy to imagine that this desire will reconcile with any type of "artistic freedom" or "creative control" (let alone a good living). Utica, you pose some age-old problems, but not much of an alternative for these would-be career musicians. The Radiohead model really is irrelevant, as they made millions of dollars off of the old industry model before fiddling with their own myth and business practices. It's easy to do when the stakes are low. That doesn't mean they aren't admirable, and that it isn't impressive that they escaped the fate of many industry bands, but it is still irrelevant (and not new, Robert Fripp has covered this territory exhaustively in getting his work in his own hands and somewhat directly to fans). What can a new band learn from Radiohead's model? They are struggling to get even the fraction of a fan base that Radiohead commands. The mystery is mostly gone, and this is sad. Where do kids find mystery these days? I have no fucking idea. Art is generally the answer, but bands aren't doing enough to keep it there. If I was a band and Pitchfork posted a news piece about us every 3 days for a month, I would have a fit and tell them to fuck off, honestly, as that is just overkill (A Place to Bury Strangers the most recent example of WTF?) Doesn't mean the band is at fault, just that it is stupid for a site to go that far. Now I am getting incoherent, sorry. All of this attention being paid bands that are essentially just Ok is a dead end. There is more mystery behind the guy covering Fleetwood Mac on the street corner than there is in the Decembrists or Shins (just to highlight two examples of high profile internet-age unlikely stars). The fantasy of the rock star is great, and should be encouraged. It sometimes fuels great art and creativity. What should be discouraged is the idea that everybody that can make a good sounding record and is willing to tour deserves money of any kind for doing it. Maybe they do, maybe not, but if they consider it art then they need to get over it and just get on with making it better.
Posted 10/11/2007 - 05:33:13 PM by grandbanks:
 Here's a link to a really interesting story:;=Extras Even people fighting the good fight are succumbing to the current clusterfuck.
Posted 10/12/2007 - 11:28:04 AM by janinedm:
 grandbanks: Exactly. GlassAnimalBoy: I'm pretty excited, myself. I'm just learning guitar in my 20s and am planning to participate this February. If I read right, my lack of experience (I just wrote my first song 2 weekends ago) is not a good excuse to not participate.
Posted 10/12/2007 - 12:29:37 PM by Utica5:
 grandbanks said: "The fantasy of the rock star is great, and should be encouraged... What should be discouraged is the idea that everybody that can make a good sounding record and is willing to tour deserves money of any kind for doing it." your reply was thoughtfull, and i've enjoyed this thread for its lack of vitriol, but i suppose i couldn't disagree with you more. rockstardom must go, because it benefits a thousand people before it benefits the "star" himself. what musicians need to attain is the strength to start collecting some of the money that other people continue to make off of them. i'm not saying that every artist DESERVES a comfortable lifestyle (many certainly don't). i'm just saying that the money their art does bring in belongs to THEM, not some phone-jockey in a marketing department, and definitely not some executive who's ammassed the whole of his wealth on the backs of other people's art. grandbanks also said: "What can a new band learn from Radiohead's model? They are struggling to get even the fraction of a fan base that Radiohead commands." so bands with fewer fans should be eager to give 95% of their record sales to some label that supplies them with nothing beyond glossy paper for their liner notes? why not take that money for themselves, big following or small?
Posted 10/12/2007 - 12:53:52 PM by raskolnikov:
 Perhaps Radiohead's model no longer applies to today's marketplace...they were a major label band from the get-go, and the type of market they were signed from is dead. They built their audience through the old methods of selling copies of their album and touring. That type of audience-building comes at the back end of the road for a band now. Before they've sold the large commercial chunk of their product they've already been downloaded, previewed, reviewed, and analyzed. So that's why Radiohead is no longer a model for today's bands, methinks.
Posted 10/12/2007 - 01:17:11 PM by janinedm:
 Utica5: Well, personally I'd rather have 2% of $750,000 than 100% of $5,000.
Posted 10/12/2007 - 01:19:23 PM by janinedm:
 I mean, some bands can generate substantive sales without the infrastructure provided by the industry. Some people win the lottery too...
Posted 10/12/2007 - 03:44:07 PM by grandbanks:
 Utica: agreed, no vitriol. I actually wrote a longer thing that I paired down, believe it or not, but was a little clearer. When I said the fantasy of the rock star is good, I meant that it encourages creativity and mystery and overachieving on artisitic levels (or at least to me). I never thought Jimmy Page was cool because he had $100 million dollars and got laid, it was because he seemed to be out of this world both in sound and action. Of course I want the musicians, if they are talented, to make most of the money themselves, but these are not mutually exclusive ideas. To be larger than life, amazingly talented, artistically challenging and rich and autonomous are all admirable things, sorry you thought I was implying otherwise. With the Radiohead example you also took the narrowest reading of my comments, which Raskolnikov covered. Of course a band's goal should be a %100 return on all hard work. Now tell them how to do that. Not simple. Otherwise all bands would. If I have 5 fans, I can mail them a copy of my record pretty easily. Great, but if your band is ambitious how do you have time to be great (as in a really fucking great rock band), and package your CDs (or vinyl or whatever), book your shows, make the merch, and make a living. Without a pre-existing fanbase. Chicken-egg.
Posted 10/12/2007 - 06:55:50 PM by GlassAnimalBoy:
 janinedm: my philosophy for my own music (totally separate from the music i listen to) is that my first record is going to be about as good as it will, whether i take six months or six years making it. I'll hear the difference, but most people won't. So 6 years down the line, I can either have the experience of having made one album, or 12 albums. I'm mostly interested in learning and moving forward, which won't happen if I sit around worried that my songs aren't good enough, or that I'm not a good enough singer or mixer or whatever. The challenge is cool, not because the music is necessarily any good, but because there is so much experience to gain from making a whole album with no hesitation. Maybe someday I'll master my craft and really start to take my time, but not now. I don't know enough to make it worth it. Good luck!
Posted 10/14/2007 - 12:47:02 PM by lawson:
 Nice article, Chris, I like your utopian ideas very much. But to be a cynical bastard I do think that this almost plays into the nascent regeneration of the music industry through 'grassroots'/DIY strategies - the commodification of folk contexts. Who knows, though, maybe this really is a new age?