This morning, a story in Rolling Stone circulated quoting The Who frontman Roger Daltrey as saying he “can’t see [a new Who album] ever happening.” He laid blame squarely on the internet.
Daltrey said he and guitarist Pete Townshend have discussed the possibility of making a follow-up to 2006’s Endless Wire, but as it stands he can’t see it happening.
“There’s no record industry anymore. Why would I make a record? he implored. “I would have to pay to make a record. There’s no royalties so I can’t see that ever happening. There’s no record business. How do you get the money to make the records? I don’t know. I’m certainly not going to pay money to give my music away free. I can’t afford to do that. I’ve got other things I could waste the money on.”
Peter Himmelman, a noted musican and facebook friend I met at SxSW many years ago, had this to say:
Look, I just made a new record and even so, I’ve asked myself over and over, ‘why?’ Why would I pay to create music for people to download for free?
Now, to be fair, I did do another Kickstarter campaign, but even with the success we had with it, it’ll only pay for half the record, not to mention all the giveaways I’ve gotta send out. The answer I came up with is neither wise nor profound. It’s simply that making records is a fun thing to do with my money, like taking an expensive fishing trip with your friends.
Roger Daltrey’s basically a working class guy, he’s old school and he articulates the problem of Internet piracy (does anyone even call it that anymore) so well, especially when he says, “You get 50k likes and you think you’re getting somewhere.”
He’s right, it’s total bullshit, a total ego trip at that level, and nothing more. It’s harder and harder for anyone to make a living doing anything these days, particularly in the arts. But while pointing to the Internet as “cause” might get you a chit for being – correct; unfortunately, it won’t get you much more. Like the saddle-maker who mourns the advent of the Model T, the more time you spend in incredulity asking, ‘how did this happen,’ the more time out of your life you waste.
The issue isn’t how to damn the Internet, that’d be like damning the sky – it’s here to stay. The issue is how to keep progressing, how to keep reinventing oneself.
As much as I love the Who, I’ve gotta ask myself, is it possible that the reason there are no more Who recordings more about the lack of their creative fecundity than the foibles of the Internet? I’m pretty sure Pete didn’t pick up the guitar as a kid ’cause he thought he was gonna make some bank.
In some ways, (and here I must reach toward the philosophical – that’s how bad things are!), the Internet has purified music-making. It’s brought us back to the days of our youth, when we sat in our basements listening to records, copping licks, writing songs, and dreaming our rock and roll dreams.
It wasn’t until much later, when we had mortgages and our kid’s tuitions to pay that we looked to music to fill our coffers.
Now thanks to the Internet it’s just us and our will – or lack thereof – to continue to create.
You make an album because you must, because you’re an artist who has a need to express themselves.
The social contract the artist accepts that if their art is loved, they will gain some reward. Some of that reward may be legal tender, some won’t be.
The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for album musicians is a relatively modern invention, due to a temporary fluke in technology that prevented people from freely spreading ideas (do you think bards of the middle ages had an easy way to prevent people from humming their tunes without permission or royalties?).
Music is one of the great number of creative endeavors that has been commoditized by the wonders of modern technology. Is it more than a little unfair you can’t live and die by your words as lucratively as you used to be able to 30+ years ago? Is it fair that $5 is now a fair price for a piece of commissioned art? Perhaps it’s not fair, but it is what it is. The truth is, though, for every Daltrey we’re robbed of, we’re provided a thousand more artists who create not because there’s fame and fortune in it for them, but because they must.