Monday, July 8, 2019

It's Not Personal, It's Business...

The business of music reared its ugly head recently, when Taylor Swift decried the sale of her back catalog, over which she has no control.

Much has been made of her anger at Scooter Braun, who bought Swift's former label, and with whom she's feuded... and how the young and innocent are taken advantage of in their zeal to be famous and successful.

Note how I put that: famous and... (then) successful.

Famous means people know who you are; successful means you actually make a living at it long enough that it becomes a career. It is in this distinction that many fall by the wayside.

Any number of up and coming acts, both those promoted by the industry (labels) and those on their own (social media) become famous. Whether they achieve success is rarely brought up and only after the fact of becoming well-known and generally in the context of "Whatever happened to?" The music business, certainly for performers, is the graveyard of dreams. Far more are famous than successful. I know that sounds harsh, and to some, defeatist, to which I say: good for you.

I'm comfortably in the "I'm doing it my way" group, and am not terribly concerned whether I become famous or not. That also means I've accepted that I will not be successful based on my own criteria. Again, I'm okay with that.


If there is one thing that can be counted on it's that those who seek to be famous, and hopefully successful, must start early. Beyond your mid-twenties, you're toast. Yes, there are those very rare performers like Susan Boyle, but she was something of an anomaly and while we're on the subject, name the many middle-aged successes in the biz since?

Take your time...

This is the only business; okay, maybe acting, with so strong an age bias because we've universally accepted that all of our musical canon is developed when young and after a certain age we do not form new musical patterns of listening. This is both right and wrong. It's right because in our youth we have the time to seek out and listen, and wrong because as the business of music is predicated on creating new acts for the young and recycling the "classics" for older generations, new music made by anyone older than 25 isn't played. In fact, even many very well-known musicians continually produce new music that never makes the new music rounds and is almost never played in concert.

Example A: Paul McCartney rarely plays ANYTHING he's recorded after the mid-80's, and yet he's continued to write and record. Can you name a single song from his last album? (Hint, the album was Kisses on the Bottom.) And that's not a knock on Paul; it's the way it is.

As for Taylor Swift and her anger at who now controls her back catalog; that too is a common music biz complaint. It is the source of success! Whether she was taken advantage of; she was 15 when she signed her first contract, is something I'll let you, dear reader, determine for yourselves, but the biz was like that long before Taylor, and will continue to be long after her.

On the plus side, Ms. Swift is both famous and successful.

©2019 David William Pearce

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