Apple Music Controversy

I don’t really follow music much, but I do follow technology so I found it interesting to watch the drama unfold on the sidelines as it were. When I watched the Apple WWDC keynote and saw the part about the new music service, I was kind of “blah” about it. I’m mostly into ambient and trance right now, and I don’t even know the names of more than a couple of the bands I listen to. There were people who saw Taylor Swift as a huge hero for putting Apple (aka the big ugly corporation trying to screw over music) in its place, and there were ones who thought Apple should not have caved to pressure from an artist because they are always asking for more money. I’m kind of in a third bucket which thankfully there were a lot of people in, where I don’t see either party as trying to screw the other over, but that a conversation happened and a lot of people listened and acted. That being said, I do think that this shows the inherent flaw in media in general.
Art has always been a slave to the media in which it is conveyed to those who will consume it. The funny thing is that artists rarely have even a minute control over how there art is going to be consumed.
Think of painters. Painting is just an art form, and the media in which it can be placed on is relatively infinite, but at the same time Picasso would have been in serious trouble if he had decided to paint on the sides of people’s houses, or the people who wanted to see his art would have been in trouble if the only way was by sneaking into his house and making copies of them. While there are amazing artists out there that have done impressive art as graffiti and there are fans of that art, if their goal was to make money from their art they most likely failed if overpasses were the only places they put their art. It is not a question of bowing to “the man” but an understanding of how the people you want to consume your art will do so.
Success in art is as much a part of the media as it is the art itself. Music artists, actors, writers, directors, and all the people who try to support them need to understand this fundamental truth. How you get your art to people is as important as the art itself if you want success. How you measure success is still up for debate, but in the end if people don’t want or can’t get your art, you are not going to be successful regardless of whether your measurement is fame, fortune, or recognition.
Time marches on and even though art doesn’t change much only the variety, the media and the way people consume that art changes. This is not the 17th century where to be a success as a music artist was to get kings and queens to pay you to make music all day and occasionally have a concert to show it off. More is required from artists today. You cannot deny the impact the internet has had on visual and audio art distribution and how electronic based media has steamrolled its way forward. It might be a little late to throw my two cents worth in, but the way I see it, the music and movie industry as a whole needs to move on and keep up with the growing demand from media changes and consumer demand. There are too many people involved in the process of providing art that have no idea what they are doing and they need to step out of the way or keep up. Trying to fight against the media is only going to either force people to go around you (i.e. cassette dubbing, DVD ripping, P2P sharing, etc.).
The technology industry is not free and clear in this mess either. Most business measure their success by how much money they make every year which means that they tend to compromise on a great many things because they forget that every business is in reality a slave to the people who will consume their product or service. If no one will buy your product, you are not making any money. Making 10% profit or 300% profit is meaningless if people cannot or will not buy. Walmart and Amazon are prime examples of how success with gaining money can happen as long as you have people going to your store and buying stuff. At the same time they are prime examples of how trying to make money catering only to the consumer can end up screwing over a lot of people creating the products. A balance must always be maintained with the people who produce a product, and the consumer of the product regardless of what they are.
That’s partially why I’m happy with the outcome from the Apple music service fiasco. Yes, Apple bowed to an artist’s demands. Those demands were reasonable though. Trying to please only the consumers (because there were a lot of people that love streaming music) and screwing over the creators of the art they consume is not a good plan. If no one makes the art, art does not exist to sell. That is just good business strategy. Yes, Apple might take an initial loss from having to offer free trials and paying the producers of the music. If people like the service though and start paying for it, the initial loss will be made back many times larger. If they don’t like it, obviously the product needs to change or you aren’t getting the money. Do not penalize the artist for flawed or risky media. That would be like charging the artist for every 8 track you made that (please read with extreme sarcasm) for some reason didn’t sell.
Could the mess have been avoided? Maybe, but at the same time if you look at the disconnect that seems to constantly exist between the people who come up with art and the people who consume the art, you will continually have issues like this. Until you basically get everyone involved in the same room, from the artist to the consumer and including everyone that has a piece of the pie along the way, and have them agree on something, you will have a push and pull style of business progress. I think that the music service that Apple has been trying to create for a long time has potential to help bridge some of the gap, but it will not be the cure. Call me cynical, but in the end everyone involved is only human and the more people involved the more difficult it gets.

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