For as often as people, myself included, criticize parts of the major label system and other old school music business institutions, it is only fair to also look at the other side. The current status quo in the industry is partially caused by a still somewhat pervasive attitude on the artists’ side. Below I’ve included two quotes from a recent batch of e-mails sent to industry observer Bob Lefsetz.
“There are two kinds of music acts. There are artists, folks who started long before thinking that anyone might pay them $50 for doing it. Obsessively in the bedroom night after night, skipping school, honing their own version of music. They need it. It’s the lineament they rub on their bruised and sensitive skin.
Then there are the artistes. They think of music as a series of career moves. They are in it for the fame, the travel, the money, the glory, the fans, the trinkets, the adulation. They started by looking at stars on tv and in magazines and saying ‘I want some of that’.
It’s artistes that major labels are there for. Majors are not art institutions. It’s all about the bottom line. It doesn’t matter if they love what you do or hate what you do. If you sell, you’re in, if you don’t sell, you’re out. If you sign to a major and expect to be cherished, protected, nurtured and developed you’re an idiot or you have very bad people around you advising you. If you go to the right indie guy like Daniel Glass, Richard Russel, Laurence at Domino and a few others you will be loved and you will be cherished and you will be promoted.” – Robin Millar
“I have come to realize two things: one, most artists DO NOT want to do it themselves, maybe they just aren’t wired that way, maybe they’re lazy, maybe they think they need big money to make it really happen, maybe they are getting bad advice. Two, they don’t care about making a bad deal, they want to be FAMOUS. They want fame so badly they will sign anything. I mean anything. They don’t believe guys like you and me when we tell them it’s stupid. They want to be FAMOUS! Gaga did it an so can they. Katy Perry did it too. So can they.
When you show them Pomplamoose and The Weeknd, and others, they just yawn. How about Julia Nines on Kickstarter? Nah, They want to be in Spin and Rolling Stone and all of the other old media pubs whose time has come and gone. They want to be on NPR and in the NY Times. They want to say “Hey look at me! I made it mom!” If they have to be poor to get that, so be it. Maybe some day they can even be on Letterman or SNL. And as far as being poor, they don’t believe us, Gaga looks rich! – Todd Murphy, entertainment lawyer,
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be in a big magazine, performing on SNL to increase your reach, or signing with a major label. There’s not wrong with wanting to reach millions of people and sell as many albums. However, when artists are primarily motivated by celebrity status and adulation, rather than the genuine connection their music can make between people, or even just the therapeutic value of creation for themselves, then they do risk falling into the above mentioned traps. I’m just saying, whatever you choose, do it for the right reasons and with the right expectations.
If someone does things for the wrong reasons, they can end up with unexpected results. When looking to fill a certain void within through celebrity, the best case scenario is getting that success but feeling unsatisfied. The worst case scenario includes bad choices, disappointment, entitlement, and in the very worst cases substance abuse and early death. Celebrity doesn’t right any wrongs, it amplifies what is already inside.
Below is a video showcasing someone who engages in his craft for the right reasons, and is now benefiting from it.