Music 5.0 Manifesto

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Well, which is it? Is it the best of times, or the worst of times? I am on a million email lists and I have google alerts for "Spotify" and "streaming," so - every day now - I get a heads up whenever another breathless article comes out praising streaming as finally "saving the industry."

For example, here's one. And here's another. And here's one more.

And in nearly every single article, after the chart of rising revenues, down at about the second-to-last paragraph, is The Caveat. For example:

"Sure, there are problems–artist payouts suck and need to be addressed." Or: "Cue the ongoing debates about whether music publishers are getting their fair share of the streaming boom, as well as individual artists and songwriters." Or: "There’s also the small matter of how much of these major label streaming revenues go back out of the door – especially to independent label partners." Or: "More of the streaming money goes to the label side of the business, and under traditional record deals the label keeps the majority of that income."

From the start, Spotify and the other streaming services have promised that as soon as the proper scale has been reached, the whole model will work for musicians - and that it will finally be profitable for the companies. Are we there? This is now being called the "golden age" of streaming, and yet payments to the people creating the products are still not equitable. So is this an unsustainable model, built on the backs of starry-eyed creatives, destined to implode?

On the artist side, far smarter people than I have weighed in, and you can learn a lot from reading what they've had to say. I've been particularly moved by David Byrne and Zoe Keating, and The Trichordist has a ton of great and snarky information all the time.

I want to look at this from a slightly different angle.

I've had an idea brewing, and I'm going to lay it out here in its embryonic form, and I would love for you to weigh in. As some of you know, I made a movie about the state of the music business, and I've developed a survey about music creation and consumption and have been gathering feedback there. I haven't come to any big conclusions just yet, but I've got some thoughts.

So, ladies and gentlemen...

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Back to School

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It's that time of year again, in case you aren't on social media at all, and in Musicianland too: Sara Hickman has been posting exuberant adorable photos of all her daughter Io's teachers; friend Carmen (whom I met at a music conference) proudly displayed a letter from the board of education authorizing her to homeschool her kid, and Matt, as you can see above, is way more stoked than his kids are about the whole thing. School started here in Ojai a couple weeks ago, and my daughter Stella - still home for the summer - kept commenting on the adorableness of the tiny freshmen in their new clothes.

Then, on Sunday, I put her on a plane to go back to Boston for her junior year. And I sobbed the whole way home, same as I did when we dropped her off the first time and same as I did when her sister told me she had decided to move to Colorado. Of course I was happy for both of them and supportive, but aaaaaahhhhh! This phase of back-to-school parenting is HARD. You spend their whole childhood praying that nothing and no one will take them from you, and then, all of a sudden, they take themselves away.

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Self promotion in a dangerous time

I’m sitting here gearing up for the DVD/VOD release of The Shopkeeper, the film I made, and every day it’s one horror after another in the news. I can't shake this feeling: how can I presume to release a movie about the travails of musicians when its their livelihood and not their lives that is on the line? It feels increasingly frivolous.

But then I think: Music is not optional.

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Welcome to the new website

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Well, hello there! It's high time for a new site. I'm still working on it, so bear with me, but I'm very excited at all the new options since the last time I did this!

Coming soon: new improved online store and archived posts from the years of my old website.



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