So, on my day off yesterday I found myself sitting in my living room, next to a snoring dog, and reading blogs on the internet… Pretty standard stuff for a guy of my age with a brain that can’t sit still. Most of the time, I freely admit, most articles/blogs/statements go into my eyes and then fall straight out the back of my head without even scratching the sides – but yesterday I read something that consolidated several thoughts I have recently had, all at once, and gave me an understanding about what the difference is with music, and the way we consume it today, and for example, in comparison with 1985.
The article in question was from Wampler Artist Dave Brons – an independent musician from the North of England. His blog piece was talking about communicating and connecting with his audience and how he feels the music industry is treating artists in the 21st century. I strongly advise you read it here – The blog certainly gives you something to think about in terms of income streams for the professional musician and also how an emerging artist can make a difference in such a plastic, manufactured and manipulated music industry and maintain some sense of integrity.
This brings me back to the title of this blog. What is the the value of music in 2015? Where does value come from? Let’s look at the band who can arguably be called the biggest rock band in the world over the last 30 odd years – Iron Maiden. This week they are due to release their 16th studio album (it’s amazing they have only released 15 considering their first was in 1979) to an incredibly eager, loyal and patient fanbase. Now, thinking about this, I expect some of you can relate – In 1985 I remember being a 12 year old kid who had saved up ALL my pocket money to buy their latest release. Picture the scene – for the first time ever I was allowed to go into town on my own. The album, of course, was their now legendary recording made over 4 nights at Long Beach Arena, “Live After Death”. I made it into town without incident and had been into the store and headed straight back to the bus station with my prized possession ready to go home. In front of me was a 30 minute wait for the bus and another 30 minute bus ride home… How did I spend those 60 minutes? Well, if you are in someways unaware of the album I will describe it for you. It’s a gatefold double vinyl, with the usual conceptual artwork of “Eddie” provided by Derek Riggs front and back, and literally hundreds of photos by Ross Haflin inside that had been taken of the band over the entirety of the tour the album was recorded from – these photos were not just on the album inside cover but actually on the record sleeves themselves… I can tell you now that that hour was the fastest and most exciting of my life.
I can’t remember how much the album cost me, about £10 ($17 or so) which was at the time, to me at least, was an absolute fortune. Literally months worth of saving. The one thing I can tell you now though is that it was worth every penny before I had even got home and put either of the discs on to the turntable… Think about that for a minute. You go out to buy an album for (subjectively) a LOT of money and you consider it to be complete value for money before you’ve even put the record on and listened to it.
How does that compare to today. Well, as mentioned before this week sees the new Maiden album being released. Book of Souls. And guess what, 7 days before the album was released I was offered the album on .mp3 at 320 kbps. So, in the opinion of many people, probably the best quality you can get out of .mp3. That .zip files could be downloaded, unzipped and in my iTunes within what… 3 minutes? Now, let’s compare the acquisition of this album and directly compare it to that 12 year old kid who was so engrossed in the cover of an album he nearly missed his bus stop on the way home. Quite the difference.
It saddens me that music has come down to this level. It’s pretty obvious that to many it has become a disposable commodity openly shared between people who don’t know each other. People can steal music in a matter of seconds, or if they do buy it is in their preferred music player almost instantly without leaving the comfort of their own armchair… Where is the excitement? Where is the fevered anticipation? Where is fun?
In conclusion, it becomes obvious that Brons nails it in his blog piece. In order to make waves in your career you must connect with the people who buy your music. You have to find a way to make them emotionally invested in you as well as your product. You have to make them want to connect with you in such a way they will part with their hard earned money because if you can do that, you will start the long journey of successfully making a living by doing what you love – writing, performing and releasing your music.
I guess the question you are all asking is did I download the Maiden album a week before release? Could I resist it? Of course I couldn’t, I did it. I listened to it before release. But… think about this also, I had already preordered it at full face value a week before and the reason I continued with the purchase of something I already had possession of (I can’t say I own it) is because of the connection I personally have with Iron Maiden. Because of the 12 year old me sitting on the bus finding that tiny picture of Dave Murray sitting on Bruce Dickinson’s shoulders during a live show and daydreaming that one day it could be me…