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What the Music Industry Really Needs

Image Source:  Sounds Like A Revolution

What the music industry really needs is not another hit song with the beating of a dead horse sound of autotune. It doesn’t need another female displaying her “hot” body in videos, mocking the fact that she’s actually got real talent with her voice. It doesn’t even really need a solution to all the money that it had “lost” due to “illegal downloads”. No. The industry needs none of that. It has been pulling its hair trying to figure out how to get its head out of the water, but alas, it is sinking, falling, fading. And nobody can save it but itself. The underground music scene, on the other hand, is bustling and growing! But the industry, because it still has power over mainstream diffusion, is suppressing all that music from ever coming out to the surface for the greater public to enjoy. What the music industry really needs is to stop being so selfish and to finally wake up to its responsibilities.

The industry’s CEO’s and top players need to remember that music is more than just a product that could make them profit. Music is an essential part of life. It is a substantial part of culture that enriches our lives. It helps people get through tough days, but also enhances joyful events. And there’s something quite spiritual about it; not in a religious kind of way, but in that ‘searching for truth’ or quest to ‘know thyself’ kind of way. It connects people. It has a magical and mysterious way about helping us in any area of our lives. It has even been said that music can factually heal. And as long as the industry misses the point that music is a common good for humanity; and as long as they continue to use music to selfishly make themselves money, then it is doomed.

For if they treated music, and the artists who create them, with respect, the industry would not be in the deep trouble that it’s in. It would bloom and prosper, as it did in its golden days. Because let’s face it, people didn’t stop buying music just because Napster’s all of a sudden started giving them away for free. I mean, it would just be too easy to blame it all on technology. Part of the reason why people stopped buying was because somewhere along the line, they started sensing that the whole music scene had slowly began to lose its meaning. PhD Ethnomusicologist Rob Bowman mentioned in the documentary, Sounds Like A Revolution, that “We have probably more politicized artists in the 21st century than we had the 1960’s. The problem is majority of those recordings reach virtually no one.” The music industry gets to choose which music is diffused in the mainstream, and the people are just getting tired of the lack of choices.

                             

So let’s say the industry wakes up today and realizes that it needs to change its ways; logistically speaking, what can it do to prove itself? Let us introduce you to Constructive Capitalism by showing you some of its essential points, and how the industry can use it as a guide to take responsibility of music:

1. Transparency- All customers have the right to know about any product they purchase. In the case of music, we have the right to know about the major label policies. For example, what percentage of sales do they actually pay the artist? Is he/she given financial independence through proper remuneration? Also, does the artist have artistic freedom or is he trapped in an abusive contract where he doesn’t even own the rights to his image and his productions? Does the company allow or oppress political messages or protest in the music it works with?

2. Meaningful Publicity- Instead of the usual aggressive tactics, it would be responsible to use a more selfless method for advertisement where social and humanitarian organizations can benefit. Because music is a common good, Artists for Change believes that profits made from music should not remain in a private company; which is why we donate 75% of net profits in this new advertising system that serves the general public. For more information on this new system of advertisement, please click here.

3. Profit-sharing- Where 25% of net earnings are shared equally among the employees, profit-sharing ensures circulation of hard-earned profits in the real economy, as it would boost people’s buying power. It encourages employees to be more implicated in his/her job. And it also establishes a balance in capitalism, whereas the fruits of productivity would be justly allocated. For example, if Sony Corporation were to share 25% of its net profits in 2015 to all its 131,700 employees, each of those employees would have received a bonus of around $8,300 at the end of that year.

Here at AfC, while we dedicate 75% of our net profits to Meaningful Publicity, we share 25% among employees, management and shareholders.

4. Proportionality of wages- Everyone in any given company is responsible for its productivity, therefore everyone should be entitled to fair wages, based on what a company can pay. There should be a limited wage gap within a reasonable ratio of 4:1. It just doesn’t make sense, for example, how the CEO at Ralph Lauren could earn almost $25 million per year while its average employee barely makes $50 thousand a year! According to research done by Glassdoor, the average pay ratio between chief executives of major U.S. firms was at 204:1 in 2014.

The trouble with these massive pay gaps is that it keeps the working class relatively poor, when they are the ones who mainly keep the real economy alive. In the case of the music industry, having no limit on wage proportions makes it even more convenient for CEO’s to focus on profit gains rather than the serious responsibility of commodifying the common good that is music.

There you have it, unless the music industry wakes up to realize that it has a responsibility to preserve music, by taking at least some of the measures mentioned above, the artists and their musical oeuvres will continue to suffer the hooks of neoliberal claws where we would continue to experience:

-diminishing diversity and creativity in mainstream music,

-as well as diminished quality,

-exploitation of artists where they lose rights to their image, their right to adequate remuneration, and an overall loss of control or initiatives over their own productions

-lack of political or social messages from artists and activists, who utilize music as their tool; their music would not even be given a chance to be diffused on mainstream media because their messages would most likely be a revolt against the neoliberal system that the music industry is in.

Do you think the industry would ever pull away from the neoliberal system when it’s what it really needs? Or do you think it’s just headed for self-destruction?

                                                                    -Co-written by Olivier Fersancourt and Jillian Manalo