I'm not a musician. I took guitar lessons for a few years growing up, but I never practiced. It wasn't for me.
I listen to a lot of music, however, and know a couple musicians. You could say I'm a music fan.
Who am I to discuss the music industry? I'm in my early 20s and I have an internet connection. That makes me able to comment on anything, right?
It all starts with music streaming.
Rdio and Spotify were kind of the only ones people used, and Spotify ended up being king. College students loved it because they didn't have to pay much for music.
There was the problem. See, musicians were getting paid but a few cents for each of their songs that was streamed. If you're trying to make a living on music, that sucks.
In comes Tidal, started by a few artists, mainly Jay-Z, promising a streaming service where the artists get paid. The quality of the music is also higher for all those audiophiles out there.
Tidal was heralded by it's creators as something that supports the little guy, yet those artist's on stage announcing this all have a combined net worth of a couple billion.
As you see, Deadmau5, Kanye, Daft Punk, and many others are there to announce this major release.
Musicians are fighting for artists with Tidal, they need to get paid for their work. That's the new focus, the fans are unimportant in this new mainstream music industry.
Speaking of Kanye: he just altered the music industry is an extremely telling way.
You've heard the whole Life of Pablo fiasco, and it ended up being a Tidal exclusive. Short term, making it exclusive could be a good plan for Kanye (he's supposedly in $53 Million in debt), long term, forcing your fans to subscribe to another streaming service just to hear his new stuff.
This is an alarm bell: mainstream musicians basically told the world that they don't care who hears their music, they just want to get paid for their art. They don't just want people to hear their music, they want to get paid for their music. But should they be getting paid for it?
If you know anything about economics in a capitalist society, you would know that the market dictates the value of your product. If the market doesn't want to pay more than a couple cents for a song, then the value of your song is a couple cents. That simply means you need to put more work into making money: play more shows, sell merch, be more active online. Your fans aren't dumb for not wanting to pay much for your music, it just means you have to work harder to please your fans. It's the state of the market and reality.
Work harder is essentially what solves this problem; but the opposite is happening, and Kanye just amplified it.
Mainstream musicians are releasing unfinished, unmastered work, and Kanye just gave them permission.
Kanye's Life of Pablo isn't a finished album. He supposedly mastered it in a day, and through his indecision, showed that the album doesn't have a vision. It's a scrambled mess; it greatly resembles a 20 year old's Soundcloud account. Life of Pablo isn't the work of a seasoned, mature artist.
Now Kendrick Lamar has released a surprise album called untitled unmastered. It appears to be making fun of Kanye, but it also has a roughness about it.
Is this the future of mainstream music? Surprise unfinished mixtapes being dropped by major players giving rise to lower quality music? The internet embraces process and behind the scenes, but is the response by artists to release low quality music more often as opposed to one really good album every couple years?
Kanye is a trend-setter, no doubt. Did he just open the floodgates to big artists going back to indy roots? Or was he following the trend brought to you by indy musicians who make music in their bedrooms?
Just like bitter french roast coffee that peasants drank becoming trendy to the rich, is the home studio of teenage musicians becoming cool to the major artists? The playing field is getting even; smaller musicians are trying to get bigger at home with all they can afford, and bigger musicians want to appear small time but make more money doing it.
It seems that it's going to become easier and easier for indy musicians to get discovered, because the mainstream Tidal partners are all trying to appear indy. Indy is cool now.
It's obviously not this simple, but maybe it is: For indy musicians to be discovered and break through the clutter, they just need to make good, well-thought out music. The music industry is in desperate need of quality, because the money grabbers of mainstream music are attempting to release bad music more often to get paid, which is a backwards approach.
The question is: Are you out to serve your fans, or are you out to make money? Making money is great, but it shouldn't be priority one. Money comes when you do your best to serve the ones that want to hear your music.
But who am I to say all this? Oh yeah, a fan.