The Music Doesn’t Need Saving (Video)

Trying something a little new this week… a video blog.

I hear a lot of people say we need to “save the music” by preserving the old business models of the music industry. “If there are less career opportunities for musicians,” they argue, “surely there will be less good music.” I call shenanigans on this short-sighted perspective. There is more music than ever before, and a new breed of musician is being born, blurring the lines between creator and consumer. Bring on the new thing.

Why Our Band Uses Creative Commons Licenses (Video)

Copyright is good at protecting creative work… too good. Traditional copyright prevents people from sharing and remixing your work. But with a Creative Commons license, your fans are free to copy, share, distribute, remix or build upon your music or other creative work. It has safeguards built in to prevent others from failing to attribute you, or from commercially exploiting your work without your permission.

The Steady Decline of the Professional Musician

The professional music career is in decline.

We could start with the RIAA’s debunked statistics painting a worst-case scenario, but that only tells one side of the story.

I’d rather look at Google, the “do no evil” company and thorn in the side of the few corporations that control the majority of the US music industry.

Search terms can’t be gamed and framed the way U.S. Bureau of Labor data can… Google Trends searches are like Shakira’s hips, they don’t lie. Let’s take a look at some common terms associated with aspiring music professionals:


The search volume for music career, learn music, music business, songwriting and music sales are all noticeably down since about a decade ago. Seeing these and other terms on a downward trend paints a clear picture of a future with less professional musicians.

Who’s to blame? Depends on who pays your bills. If you’re an old school music business person, you probably blame the content-devaluing “information wants to be free” tech sector. If you’re a new school musician, you probably have a chip on your shoulder dug deep by the exploitative, self-destructing record business which is ineptly responsible for the scorched earth you have to Mad Max a music career on these days.

Before we seek blame or solutions, let’s pause for a moment to consider what this means. Back to Google Trends. What about search terms concerned with more modern, everyday music practices?


Search volume for how to remix, mashup, garageband, how to record and how to make music are on their way up. There are more “musicians”, but less of them qualify for the “professional” distinction. You might call it the “amateurization” of music. More musicians, less music careers.

This is fun, let’s take another look at the “old way” of doing things:


Yup, interest is flagging in music publishing, music job, artist management, music copyright and music law.

So there must be a huge explosion of amateur musicianship, huh?


Hmmm… less people seem to want to go the traditional route of learning guitar and song composition through formal experience in training. This would seem to jive with less musicians going pro. Also jives with all the time those damn kids play video games on their mobile phones.  They probably have a much more direct relationship to music creators, right?


Wow, crowd funding is exploding in popularity — there are clearly less careers these days built on exploitation and more facilitated through patronage. And lots of people seem to be picking up the habits of aspiring music professionals (Facebook pages, merch, albums). Perhaps we’re just in a slump, and there’s a digital music baby boom waiting to happen?

Of ourse, the situation is not as simple as I paint it here with the Google Trends graphs. For one, Google search terms are very broad in both scope and depth. If Kickstarter had an IPO, that might spike traffic, despite no correlating spike in user activity. Second, statistics can tell almost any story you want them to if you know how to frame them.

I’m not here to spew propaganda. I’m here to form solutions. Can this trend be turned around? Should we even care?

On the one hand, I believe we need more of a culture of entrepreneurship among musicians. The art/business divide is increasingly one of unsustainable, apathetic detachment from reality. It’s a cultural anachronism from a time when creative work found its utility in exploitation. Put simply, we musicians could use a little entrepreneurship with our sex, drugs and rock and roll. Everyone is creative nowadays — in a sense, creativity is getting more competitive. Those with the entrepreneurial skills have more and more opportunities for exposure than those skilled only in composition, performance or recording.

On the other hand, the music industry is growing, and while huge challenges remain (largely around copyright issues), it doesn’t seem as if the music market is in a downward trend. In fact, more people are listening to more music than ever before.

I think what’s happening is clear — we’re witnessing the dawn of a new creative class and a new type of creator-consumer.

We should continue to strive to figure out ways the old guard won’t lose all the value they invested in the music world these past few decades. But royalties — so-called “mailbox money” — are like a musician Social Security system, and just as unsustainable. Old rights owners (or their heirs) who no longer create anything are bogeying the music economy pie, leaving only tiny slices left for emerging, independent artists. This is why Spotify royalties are so low. I bet they love artists and would love to pay them, after all, they’re Swedish.

The purpose of copyright is to promote the production of creative works — how is that accomplished by giving the George Gershwin Estate millions of dollars? It may be a radical concept, but I think we need to divert some of this money into funding programs for the next generation of musicians. And we clearly need shorter copyright terms.

In any case, let’s push toward patronage and leverage the creative value in all of us to protect the independent class of musicians that represent our future. We may very well live in a world with more musicians and less professionals for a long time. But that doesn’t mean music is any better or worse off. Music is always awesome no matter how much we screw up the business side.

What is happening now is a redefinition of what a musician is (which is good because none of us can agree on a definition at the moment). We’re figuring out new ways (or rediscovering pre-phonograph ways) of doing business.

But as most fans and musicians would tell you, “Who cares about definitions and business models — turn up the music!”

Artist Growth: Great App for Musician-Entrepreneurs

artist_growth_ios1_mediumArtist Growth is a web and mobile app designed to amplify the entrepreneurial spirit of musicians everywhere. What’s next after first signing up? It’s time to customize your green, spherical avatar with a mesh cap and a pair of headphones.

Perhaps realizing that music and business are like oil and water in the minds of many musicians, Artist Growth puts the “fun” in fundamental music business practices. From customizing your avatar to creating “action tasks” around gigs and other events, the platform seeks to drive independent musicians toward the business goals necessary to flourish as a modern musical enterprise.

The Artist Growth crew is teasing a 2.0 release soon, but their current offerings are worthy of immediate attention. On the heels of this Editor’s Choice review of the app on, I decided to sign up and see what was up. After all, the green spherical avatar in the review looks exactly like me.

I instantly fell in love with the gamified UI when I started by entering an upcoming gig. After entering contact info for the other members of the band, Artist Growth prompted me to add an “action pack” to the gig, which creates a checklist of promo suggestions to get maximum attendance. It even prompted me to set a tour itinerary upon gig creation, ensuring all members of my band know when load-in, load-out, (and most importantly) dinner is.

Other highlights include useful functions to track band finances, generate set lists and schedule other tasks and appearances. These could all be easily handled outside of the app, but their inclusion shows a commendable commitment to completeness on the part of Artist Growth.

mzl.ezouirei.320x480-75While the business aids are a great mix of fun and functionality, the true asset Artist Growth has to offer is a partnership with The Indie Bible. The venerable directory of venues, press and media published for independent musicians is the backbone of the app’s “industry search” function. Splitting the U.S. up into regions, Artist Growth gives musicians the tools to comb through the nation’s music establishments and target them with promo and booking efforts.

Rounding out the checklists and directories is “AGtv”, the app’s built-in video content targeted to musician-entrepreneurs. It’s a surprisingly well-developed aspect of the Artist Growth approach, featuring “channels” of content from the leading voices in career advice for musicians. From TuneCore to Taylor Guitars to Ariel Hyatt, all the big players are represented.

I haven’t seen such a fully-integrated musician-entrepreneur app since Indie Band Manager established itself years ago as the utilitarian Swiss Army knife of self-managed musicians, allowing them to “rock both roles”.

Artist Growth is today’s über-accessible platform to draw in and develop a new generation of musician-run small businesses. The mobile and web apps are not without their kinks. However, they persevere with a slick UI and a respectable balance of functionality and ease-of-use, and I see immense promise in their pioneering platform.

The Artist Growth business model is interesting. The company is riding the wave of new apps relying on a monthly subscription fee ($5 per install) rather than a one-time download price. This makes total sense for a service designed to be ersatz manager to notoriously non-business-minded musicians. I wouldn’t be surprised if bands that dutifully complete the “action packs” see up to a hundred-fold return for their investment. Of course, there will be many suckers on the line as well, paying their monthly dues like a gym membership for a couch potato.

I’ll be on the lookout for Artist Growth 2.0’s relaunch — their $10/mo. “integrated” pricing plan looks incredibly competitive as a mass-market, more accessible TopSpin-style offering. In the meantime, I greatly encourage musicians to check out their iOS app and give the 30-day free trial a shot.

Don’t Panic: Young People Still Love Music, Just Differently

There is a growing, panicked chorus of voices in the music blogosphere asking the question, “Are young people tuning out of music?

Let’s all take a deep breath and relax, folks. Young people still love music, they just have a different relationship to it than us. We need to stop framing generational relationships to music as “worse” or “better” than ours. In fact, we need need to stop this whole “young people” talk — it’s making us look old and out of date.

The all-too-familiar argument behind this imaginary desertion of music by today’s youth could not sound less crotchety. “These kids walking around in a bubble with their over-compressed MP3s on their crappy earbud headphones! Back in my day we listened to records or the radio all night! Now they just play video games! They don’t pay for music, they don’t respect artist, they don’t even care who wrote the damn song, they just want to listen and forget it!” Even Flea has whined: “MP3s suck. It’s just a shadow of the music.” I thought Flea was cool!

The problem is that the older generations can’t help but view youth culture with a comparative lens. Once you make that mistake, your analysis is done for. Want to know how MTV dominated youth culture in the 90s? They literally turned teens’ bedrooms inside and out to assume their identity and then programmed accordingly. They got inside the teenage mind. You’ll never get into the teenage mind by holding on to anachronisms like big production budgets and adulation of musical “genius”. Skrillex songs and Eagles songs are apples and oranges.

Instead of gettin’ cantankerous with it in our old age, why don’t we see youth culture for what it really is? In fact, “youth culture” is inadequate because youth is culture in the sense that the younger generation drives cultural change.

The truth has been obscured by bitter anecdotes of musicians and fans who preferred the culture built by a music industry based on corruption and exploitation (just sayin‘!) When one sees youth culture for what it really is, there is actually more to be optimistic for in music than ever before:

  • The Semiotic JukeboxSemiotic democracy in action. Today’s listeners create their own meaning from art. They’re not lining up at the trough to be fed a product. Unlike previous generations of passive consumers, today’s listeners need to participate in the creation, production and performance of the music themselves. See mashups, dubstep, remixes, crowd funding, social networks. It’s a boon for personal expression. They want to participate in culture, not just consume it. They are living proof that the fulfillment gained in expressing oneself through music is a greater incentive than any copyright-granted market monopoly. This is why they reject copyright — it now serves cross-purpose to democratized creativity.
  • Lo-Fi Listening – A lot of people consider the home studio revolution the biggest driver of democratization in the music business. But “in the box” production wasn’t a playing field-leveling powerhouse until listener’s ears adjusted to the over-compressed earbuds. Add in computer speakers and used car stereos to their college debt-riddled existence and you’ve got enough questionable audio fidelity to make Neil Young admit that rock and roll actually is dead because it sounds so crappy. Or does it? In reality, young people have adapted to listen to and enjoy music at varying levels of audio quality and still enjoy it. “Legitimate” digital downloads are improving in fidelity as compression technology advances… and would you look at that, digital download sales have been on the up and up for a while. Today’s listeners haven’t lost their appreciation for hi-fi… they’ve just adapted to a world of constantly varying fidelity. It’s admirable.
  • Quantity over Quality – The youth of today prefer access to all music — good and bad — over access to a sliver of “really good” music (as judged by market consensus and manufactured popularity). Older generations were born and raised to adulate musicians as creative geniuses. This is a cultural construct from the American Romantic period. Ever wonder why the Chinese have “free-spirited” IP attitudes? They never had a Romantic period! They still appreciate that Everything is a Remix and it’s not just the author but also the shoulders of the giants the author stands on that is the wellspring of creativity. Thus, the old way of having a really small selection of the “best” music is inadequate. They are willing to sacrifice the upper percentile of quality for the benefit of all other percentiles, and their sacrifice should be commended. They will be their own judges of quality, thank you very much.
  • The Decline of Professionalism or the Rise of the Amateur? – This is the big one. You can look at it either way — but either way, it’s hard to argue against the trend toward fewer professional musicians and more amateurs. When equal temperament and music notation met the printing press and the industrial production of the piano, amateur music exploded — so there is a good past precedent for such “amateurization” in the wake of transformative technology. The big difference is that back then, the pros benefitted from the overall interest in music — these were generally amateur performers who still needed compositions. Today, the “amateurization” trend not only includes composition and performance but recording as well. The career musician — rare to begin with — is now a dying breed. Again, that can be a good thing or a bad thing to you, but ultimately, it just is. I for one think it’s a good thing because the purpose of music is social bonding, not generating wealth.

Instead of acting out of fear, let’s endeavor to understand youth culture, keep calm, and carry on.

Sweden Blows U.S. Away with its National Music Scene

ABBA-Album-Covers-1-750x758I was reading about a new IFPI report on digital music and how 1 in 5 U.S. music consumers now subscribes to a music streaming service. Man, we are really slow to get this whole future of music thing.

The article says “Of course the number is off the charts in Sweden,” and sure enough, a whopping 48% of Swedes are using some sort of music subscription service. But I couldn’t understand why the article said “of course”, as if it was supposed to be self-evident to me that Sweden would lead the world in streaming music.

As your typical xenophobic US citizen, I revered Sweden as a clean, pacifist, rich and equal society full of well-cultured, well-educated citizens. But I wondered, why are their music fans so evolved?

My first stop was the Swedish popular music Wikipedia page. With a population of around 9.5 million (just a million over New York City), its hits-per-capita has been through the roof since the 70s. ABBA, Europe, Roxette, Neneh Cherry, Rednex (OK, could have done without that one), Robyn, Basshunter, Nina Persson, The Cardigans, Ace of Base, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Avicii, Meshuggah, In Flames, Opeth… the quantity is matched by diversity. This isn’t even to mention Swedish producers like Denniz Pop and Max Martin who have written some of the biggest hits for U.S. artists in the past couple decades.

Is it something in the cool, crisp, refreshing Swedish mountain spring water?

Well, it was time to hit the offical Sweden Wikipedia page. I quickly found some more clues:

  • About 85% of the population live in urban areas.
  • Sweden has the world’s eighth highest per capita income.
  • The country is ranked as the second most competitive in the world by the World Economic Forum.
  • Sweden is one of the world’s most equal countries in terms of income.

Money and urban living certainly add up to heavy music consumption, but let’s dig deeper into the Music subhead:

  • Sweden has a prominent choral music tradition, deriving in part from the cultural importance of Swedish folk songs. In fact, out of a population of 9.5 million, it is estimated that five to size hundred thousand people sing in choirs.

Wow, so 15% of Sweden’s population sings in a choir. What do 15% of American citizens do?

OK, well, that’s depressing. Looks like the so-called “cultural leaders” of the world’s IP economy could learn a thing or two about music culture from the Swedes.

I Googled a little deeper and came across a 2010 article asking “What’s the Matter with Sweden? Wait, there’s something wrong? It starts:

“The first time the Knife got money from the Swedish Arts Council was in 2001… The electro-pop duo received 45,000 Swedish kronor (SEK), or about $6,327 — ‘pretty standard for albums back then'”

Wait, what? The Swedish government gave an eletro-pop band $6K to record an album? Can you imagine what Southern Republicans would say if the Bush administration gave Gwar $6K?

Reading down the article, one quickly realizes Pitchfork was just pulling a hipster fake out on you, and there really isn’t anything wrong with Sweden. Everything looks right.

Sure, it takes a tax rate around 50% of GDP (it’s closer to 28% in the US), but it adds up to tens of millions of dollars in arts and music funding. We’ve got the National Endowment for the Arts, but try getting a grant out of them for your electro-pop band.

Could it be that simple? Could Sweden’s secret be public funding of the arts?

Copyright Reform Movement Grows Up: Khanna Takes the Lead

A scant two months in, 2013 has already been a sobering year for the copyright reform movement. The suicide of one of our leaders, Aaron Swartz, shocked and outraged us. It brought old icons back into the fray and incited a growing legal and political thrust to action that is playing out as we speak.

Derek Khanna.
Derek Khanna.

One of the key players is Derek Khanna, the tip of the spear in a new copyright reform advocacy group called Fix Copyright. Khanna is the GOP “rising star” who was fired for a controversial copyright memo that I wrote about back in November of last year.

For the crime of pointing out a new way forward through Republican opposition to the casual granting of market monopolies (makes a lot of ideological sense), Khanna was unceremoniously fired from his post at the Republican Study committee. We’re pretty sure he’s not sweating that situation anymore, seeing as he just authored a White House petition signed by 114,000 U.S. citizens — the first to qualify for the new rules of consideration (the threshold is 100,000 votes).

The proposition? Mobile phone users should be free to unlock their cell phones. Simple enough, right? But a recent decision by the Library of Congress — perhaps under lobbying pressure — made the practice essentially illegal.

Once the petition reached critical mass, the Obama administration agreed with Khanna and the 114,000+ citizens who cried out against the possibility they could go to jail for unlocking their cell phone.

The exciting thing is that this is just the beginning. Khanna has already pledged to take the fight further.

Khanna is a unique figure in the endeavor to transform intellectual property policy into a force for the greater good. His up-and-coming political stature is a rare commodity within the oft-geeky, insular culture of copyright reform. This is an exciting time for those optimistic for a rethinking of copyright that values cultural and social welfare concerns over a strictly labor- and personality-based view of intellectual property’s purpose.

Copyright Reform Necessary to Protect the Consumer-Creator


Free song sharing is this generation’s VCR.

Twenty years from now everyone in the music industry will look back at the plummeting price of access to recordings and shake our heads much the same way the movie industry looks back at its attempts to outlaw the VCR. How could anyone rationally think otherwise? And yet the entertainment industry has been chipping away at the legal underpinnings of fair use established by the US Supreme Court just under 30 years ago.

In Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. — otherwise known as the “Betamax case” — the Court narrowly ruled in favor of the greater good.

Justices Marshall, Powell, and Rehnquist joined Blackmun in dissenting, completely ignoring welfare-based theories of copyright. These justices were siding with the MPAA’s view that any leeway given to copyright infringement, even personal copying for private use, undermined the whole system of copyright.

It’s not that they were wrong in their assessment. VCRs did undermine copyright in the sense that fair use enabled people to make tens of millions of copies of copyrighted material. But nothing happens in a vacuum. Consumers were so busy “undermining” the copyright, they developed a voracious appetite for films and TV shows, and the movie and television industries positively exploded.

The same thing is happening in so-called music piracy, it’s just happening incredibly slowly because the music industry is still for the most part fighting free access to music.

Certainly, creators need to be compensated for their labor. Copyright exists to provide this incentive to work, ensuring creative works get made. It also exists to protect our personhood — our identity as defined by our creative expressions. Copyright should prevent our labor from being unjustly exploited, and our identity from being stolen.

For many, this is where copyright ends because they are only thinking about themselves (it’s something of an American pastime.) They ought to stop and think for a moment, because there are an estimated 315,613,999 other folks in this country alone who deserve consideration.

Copyright is not just about protecting your individual right (or, more commonly, a corporation’s right) to profit from or be fairly represented in the exploitation of their works. It’s about the greater good, a concept that trumps any individual concern. We tend to overvalue our own creative endeavors because the labor and personhood considerations of creativity distort our perception. Our value is high because we worked hard and infused our work with something of personal essence.

But while the price of creative work may be set by individual, society at large will ultimately judge its value. This is why record labels have to fix prices — to override the more reasonable value judgement of consumers by exploiting their control over music access. In a truly free market, the value of music remains high and climbs even higher while the value of access to music approaches utility levels (think Spotify) if not zero. The music industry is fighting the devaluing of access to music rather than the music itself. On the contrary, there is now more music being produced per year than ever before — more bad music to be sure, but much more good as well.

Copyright is supposed to ensure the needs of the greater good are met by stimulating individuals to contribute to that greater good. We recognize that having a market in which one’s creative works have value is a strong driver of individual contributions. But we must also recognize the purpose of copyright is to “promote the Progress” of the public and culture as a whole. In the case of labor and personhood, copyright is the art of balancing the individual need for monopoly protection with the public need to access creative works.

We need to stop looking at this like one creator is producing work for 315,613,999 consumers. It’s the 21st century. One creator is producing work for 315,613,999 other creators.

This culture in which everyone participates as both consumer and creator was still a ways off back in 1984 when the Betamax case was decided. Interestingly, dissenting Justice Blackmun unwittingly predicted a future in which the line between creator and consumer would not be so clear:

“Fair use may be found when a work is used ‘for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching… scholarship, or research.’ …other examples may be found in the case law. Each of these uses, however, reflects a common theme: each is a productive use, resulting in some added benefit to the public beyond that produced by the first author’s work…”

In particular, this quote reminds me of the concept of “semiotic democracy“, a phrase first coined by John Fiske in 1987. In studying television culture, Fiske observed that “rather than being passive couch potatoes that absorbed information in an unmediated way, viewers actually gave their own meanings to the shows they watched that often differed substantially from the meaning intended by the show’s producer.”

This concept finds its legal context in addressing the growing creative, participatory role in culture that consumers are beginning to enjoy. In other words, we must start treating every consumer as a potential creator. This is not to say we need to mandate everyone make a cultural contribution, but only that we need to respect use and sharing of creative works as a potentially creative act, and one that cannot be reduced to mere product consumption because that was the intent of the producer.

Again, the market assigns value and meaning to creative works independent of intent. Increasingly, a big part of that value is in source material or inspiration for a new creative act.

Most of us in the 80s (those of us who were around, anyway) didn’t use our VCR creatively. I knew I was the exception when I sat in front of the TV recording little snippets of commercials and shows until I had an avant-garde remix of bizarrely juxtaposed images. Without YouTube, I had no distribution network (and few friends at the time) and did this purely for personal enjoyment.

I might not have seemed so out of place in today’s culture. Some of the most popular videos on YouTube are remixes of existing clips (much more entertaining than my VCR art). Dubstep and mashups have turned unlicensed sampling into the music of a generation. Even consumption is collaborative, with fans forming their opinions collectively through social networks. Welcome to the world of the consumer-creator.

It’s really not such a long way from creating our own meanings for TV shows in our heads to producing an expression of those unique meanings. We’ve been doing the former since the days of the VCR and earlier, but only recently have the means for creativity grown ubiquitous.

What does a world in which everyone’s a creator mean for copyright? It should mean reform.

We can’t do away with financial incentives to stimulate creative labor, but we have to reassess if a virtually perpetual market monopoly is bringing a chainsaw to a knife fight. There is much about current copyright term length and a narrowing definition of fair use that works against a culture of creativity. We need to allow consumer-creators to freely remix our individual works into new works if culture is to progress. (Creative Commons leads the charge in this arena, and you can find dozens of books promoting the idea of making fair use fairer.)

We should continue to protect the author’s personhood and the “essence” they contribute to their works. But we’re overdue to reconsider the roles of attribution and identity in a culture that is transcending our psychological hang-ups around copying as the core of creativity. (Marcus Boon’s In Praise of Copying is a great start.)

Finally, and most importantly, we need to push back against laws that clearly favor neither the individual nor the greater good. Lobbying and litigation have become the tools used by entertainment industry elite to stifle this new culture of the consumer-creator. Often passed of as acts to protect creativity, the industry is really only interested in driving consumption. Corporations like to keep creativity at an easily co-opted and exploited level.

If we can keep the corporations in check, one day, passive consumption will be taboo and participatory creation status quo. It’s what’s already going on in our heads. To keep culture locked up just so large corporations can profit (be they record labels or tech companies) is the opposite of copyright’s charter to promote progress. As the creator-to-consumer ratio changes, so too must the law.

What’s Important To Musicians? Analyzing Reddit for Insight

Reddit may boast the largest community of amateur and professional musicians on the web. Its thriving WeAreTheMusicMakers “subreddit” thread had 55,321 subscribers at the time of this writing.

I’m not going to explain to you how reddit or crowd sourcing works, but suffice to say the conversation going on is lively and enriching for any type of musician. So what are all these music makers talking about?

I scanned the last month of WeAreTheMusicMakers posts to gain some insight on what’s important to the community. I would have liked a larger sample size of posts but reddit’s archives stop after one month. However, the community itself is a huge sample size, and I was able to see a few trends emerge. Here’s the data I ended up with after counting and categorizing each post that received 30 or more upvotes:


Tips, techniques and resources for digital recording, mixing and mastering represented nearly a quarter of the most popular posts. While it’s true anyone with a laptop can produce a great-sounding record these days, it still takes a considerable amount of skill and experience to properly record, mix and master. Many of the most popular posts were links to free resources to learn the ins and outs of digital recording, followed by information on the hottest plugins for “in the box” recording.

The next most popular category was career advice. Clearly there is a lot to talk about here with the big changes happening in the music world. It seems the WeAreTheMusicMakers crowd tends toward the amateur end of the spectrum — musicians that have been playing for a while and are looking for advice on how to begin establishing a career. Luckily there’s a good number of professional musicians in the fray to provide quality advice.

Along that same line, there were robust discussions of the music industry in general — mostly around unfair, exploitative business practices we’ve become too familiar with. But there were also a few posts that looked to gain lessons from the industry success of other artists.

Also popular were requests for specific feedback on non-career issues. These were usually creative ideas about new websites or resources for musicians, and the posters got an enthusiastic response.

Anyone who’s hung with musicians knows they can’t shut up about gear, and the prevalence of gear porn and gear advice among the most popular posts was unsurprising.

The rest of the most popular posts focused on humor, inspiration and commentary on miscellaneous issues important to musicians. There were also appearances by music apps, exhibition videos, requests for collaboration and allegations of copyright infringement.

While these insights may seem self-evident, to me they powerfully illustrate how musicians are taking their fates into their own hands. And that’s a really, really good thing. The odds and benefits of winning the major label lottery are disappearing more and more each day. We’re replacing the old, corrupt system of exploitation with a new do-it-yourself, direct-to-fan attitude.

Digital recording has made every musician a producer. We’re now culturally cool with a lower-fidelity standard of audio quality. We may never individually learn how to make recordings shine in the way an expert mixing engineer can — but as long as we can make the music we hear in our heads, the tradeoff in fidelity is more than worth it. Old folks like Neil Young and Flea might complain we’re a generation of overly-compressed, earbud-isolated kids who don’t know what we’re missing, but it’s clearly the old folks who are missing the point.

Likewise, artists are taking on management and marketing roles for themselves. Again, most of us can’t create amazing music and manage ourselves to six-figure salaries at the same time. But we’re trying because we realize that the first step to “making it” is taking an entrepreneurial attitude and realizing we’re managing a small business. It’s exciting to see that realization dawning after decades of musicians pathetically waiting to be “discovered”, creating great music that dies in obscurity.

I’ll continue to keep my ear to the WeAreTheMusicMakers thread, and even try and get a conversation or two going myself.