My purpose this week, ostensibly, in some way, at the very least tangentially, is to tell you that Third Eye Blind have gone and made some new recordings and now they want you to give them money, directly or indirectly, in exchange for the pleasure of listening to this music.
They are asking with earnest hands and straight faces, all five of them.
We live in an exciting time, technologically speaking, scientifically speaking. New devices are out every six months that are bigger and more powerful. Christ, the iPhone 6 Plus is a goddamn truck of a phone. How do you even hold that in a human-sized hand? We quit making watches like 20 years ago and now we’re making watches again but these are better watches that can read your horoscope and count how many times your heart beats during an episode of Game of Thrones and calculate with the utmost precision the exact moment you will die. Your watch knows more about you than you ever will.
What else? There’s a fucked-up doctor in Italy or wherever planning on doing a full head transplant. A full head transplant! He’s writing down all the procedures involved in doing a full head transplant and then he is going to go someplace with a person who needs a new body and he is going to PUT THEIR HEAD ON A NEW BODY. That’s wild shit! That’s science in the twenty-first century. Real beyond any prediction.
You can’t do anything with a rock band in 2015 that’s going to genuinely surprise me like any of this. I know it’s not the same, but in an age where science and medicine have become entertainment, it’s a legitimate comparison.
But music isn’t dead, I suppose. Not clinically. Right now music is worth $15 billion dollars according to the International Federation of Planets International, the space lizards in charge of the strip mines where the artists of today endure brutal labor in 18-hour shifts to extract less and less of the valuable mineral from the Earth each year. ($15 billion seems like a pitiful number when video games were doing $25 billion ten years ago.) Scientists estimate that we will run out of music reserves sometime in the next fifty to seventy-five years, with peak music having happened in 2001 when Mariah Carey was paid $100 million to make Glitter and then $50 million not to make Glitter 2. These models are widely accepted in the scientific community, although there is a divergent line of thinking which claims that music is a gift from God and therefore will never run out so long as we keep feeding the pop machine the blood sacrifices it’s taken such a liking to.
The reason we’re in this situation to begin with is simply money. And I don’t mean that in some kind of cynical, Biblical, morally superior way. I mean that by allowing the economic mechanisms of the music industry to evolve the way they have, by building a garbage culture, by pitting artists against fans, by meticulously constructing and then half-heartedly condemning (but still adhering to, fervently, vehemently) this vulgar digital shithole capitalism we’re constantly being reminded of, by allowing labels the freedom to wreak such desperate havoc we’ve brought the end upon ourselves. Music will die. The big players, having lost the tight control of the market they enjoyed for about 60 years via graft, payola, artist exploitation—these companies are in full-on slash-and-burn mode, desperate to wring as much cash as they can out of their holdings before the whole thing collapses in on itself.
It has to end. It has to! How long do you think lobbyists can extend copyright? How long can labels continue to pretend there’s as much money in music as there’s always been, while other creative industries run circles around them? Why are free streaming models so despised? What the hell do they think radio was? Why is it so important to rights holders to make fans pay instead of advertisers? Apple is sitting on cash reserves equal to nearly seven years of music industry revenues. Spotify, meanwhile, absolutely bleeds money, and they’ll never turn a profit because the labels don’t want that to happen.
The problem is that the paid streaming tier has a bad price point.
And who’s responsible for that? The major labels, of course. Thanks to intransigent contracts and restrictive license fees (most of which go to their bottom line and not the artists, by the way), a streaming service is forced to charge 10 bucks a month whether it wants to or not. In other words, the biggest impediment from the labels making more money from streaming is the labels themselves.
And the artists are stuck struggling for attention and deals that will quickly turn worthless when the labels pull their money out. No venture capitalist worth their Forbes profile is going to continue backing a business model that loses $200 million per year. We’d like to believe otherwise. We’re using everything we can to convince ourselves that things will be okay, but they won’t. The goddamned plane has crashed into the mountain.
We know this, I’m convinced we do, in a deep hollow of our consciousness we know. And what are we going to do? We will naturally continue in our plotted course, complaining about how bad things have gotten yet refusing to detach ourselves from the greedy apparatus leaching the blood from our souls in service to a frenzied beast while our eyes glaze over to the sound of Dopamine and billions of pale bodies wrapped in fresh Third Eye Blind 2015 Tour shirts stubbornly clutch reissue vinyl singles of “Semi-Charmed Life” b/w “Semi-Charmed Life (Acoustic Version)” and wait for the sweet release only death can bring.