Last night, I read this article, shared via Facebook by my friend Craig Havighurst. In this interview, Sony Music Nashville Chairman and CEO, Gary Overton, proclaims his undying love for country radio. The first line of the article basically says it all; “If you’re not on country radio you don’t exist.”.
Obviously, once you step out of the major label bubble, this is utter nonsense.
Amidst the many cries that the Music Industry is going away, Overton’s feelings are certainly sincere. He and his peers desperately need country radio and all the other organs of the major label side of the industry. But claiming that music is going to go away because major labels can’t figure out how to make money is like McDonalds saying the country will run out of food because they aren’t selling cheeseburgers the way they used to. These are the sentiments of business people, not music people. If a business person can’t sell enough widgets, they stop making widgets. Music people, on the other hand, will continue to make music in the face of great risk and find ways to get it out. And, they can realistically earn enough fans of their work, who are willing to pay for it in some way, that they are able to continue making music of quality. Which they call “being successful”.
What would be more appropriate would be for the big guns to say that the business model that has allowed them to become rich is going away. That might actually be true. The numbers that major label executives need to keep themselves in the manner to which they have grown accustom are getting harder to come by. That doesn’t have anything at all to do with music, or even with what is becoming the new music industry. While the big players are trying to find ways to keep making boat-payments, independent artists and their partners are chugging along, maybe even gathering momentum. This is not to say that success is easy or certain in any corner of the music industry, only that there are more tools and outlets available to folks at all pay levels.
For small artists who make good music, who have a plan and a voracious work-ethic, there are more paths to success than ever before. We’re in the middle of an explosion of very creative bands who are making great music and inventing their own business models. They may not all be getting fabulously rich, but many are able to keep the lights on while making music of great quality. These groups have defined their own version of success and are pursuing it. But because they aren’t making numbers that will pay for the renovation to Overton’s vacation home, they “…don’t exist.”.