Black Collar Workers



SpotifyCentury Media

Yesterday’s post decrying Century Media’s decision to pull out of Spotify seemed to ruffle a few feathers at Century, so much so that today they’ve decided not only to issue an official response but to write me a personal email! Since this is MetalSucks and we delight in this sort of back-and-forth (and we always like to give the targets of our ire an open forum to respond), I’m going to go through Century’s email and dismantle their arguments one-by-one. Here we go:

Here is a reply from the suits at Century Media on the genius post from Vince at Metal Sucks on why we should be giving away our artist’s music for free on Spotify.

Spotify pays artists. Regardless, I understand that Spotify’s rates are very low; I’m not disputing that.

What I am arguing is that the music industry model of the past 60 years or so — the model in which artists record music then sell that music for a high price — is dead. I’ve argued this many, many times on this site before: music has been overpriced for the past six decades or so simply because manufacturing and distribution have been tightly controlled and unavailable to the masses. With those gates opened, it’s an entirely different ballgame. Recorded music is no longer a viable income option; it is time to accept this fact on move on to another business model.

If you look back in history, musicians (artists of any kind, really) didn’t get rich: they didn’t collect salaries, certainly didn’t get royalties from music sold. They got by on commissioned pieces, residencies, and live performances, but for the most part they created music because they loved to do so; many of them problably had other jobs to make ends meet. What we’re experiencing now is a “correction” of sorts, a correction of the overly inflated musician lifestyle (and supporting industry) the past few decades have afforded us. I liken this to the “correction” the U.S. housing market suffered in 2008 when people suddenly realized, “Hey, wait a minute… all those brand new [ugly] houses aren’t really worth that much after all.” As such, the industry needs to adapt. Everyone needs to get used to making less money. And yes, I totally include myself in that last statement.

The bottom line: any item or service is only worth what people think it’s worth. “Worth” and “value” are nebulous terms that ultimately lie in the eye of the beholder. More on this in a moment.

We always appreciate any help and advice from the community on how to navigate these challenging times, where more and more people feel that free music is a birthright.

Now Vince  tells us “it’s all about the long term not the short term, you dummies”.

Well, that is great news Vince. Our problem is that staff and bands expect payment for recording and rent short term and when I tell them not to worry about the reality of their lives, but to suck it up because somebody will pay them long term, they are not amused.

From now on I tell them not worry about gas and groceries and go and eat at Vince’s house.

I don’t know about you, but all the guys in bands that I personally know (including bands signed to Century Media and plenty of other labels) all get day jobs when they come home from a tour. Come to think of it, I don’t know a single metal musician that survives only on revenue generated from his band’s music. And that is totally ok with the musicians; they understand that the “dream” isn’t a reality. It’s so commonplace at this point that it really isn’t a surprise… it’s just accepted that if you want to make music you’re going to have to do something else to make ends meet. In some cases tours will break even, in some cases turn a profit, in some cases band members will willingly put in a bit of their own money to finance a tour. And you know what? They keep making music anyway! Because they love it! And they would still do it even if no money was at stake! Same goes for the hundreds of “industry” folks that operate on a DIY basis. I’d wager that taking money out of the equation entirely would actually improve the overall quality of music because we’d have less kids in it for the booze/drugs/bitches… but I digress. 

By the way, touring bands are welcome to stop into the Vince Division of the MS Mansion anytime for a nice home-cooked meal of the Ramen Noodles the blogging lifestyle affords me!

I also invite Vince to come work for CM for free, we will expose you to a well of information and music, learn from you how to really run a company and maybe you even have a mate or two who can play music people want to listen to and gives that to us for free or 360 style as well. All the trust fund babies think like that and if you require a salary for the short term I would have to quote my mate Vince:

Well, sucks for them, but frankly not my problem.

Guys, the realities of the music business are way above the polemics of a kid who probably never had to run a company before in his life.

I run MetalSucks, together with my partner Axl, thank you very much; neither of us has worked a day job for roughly two years, and by that measure I’d say we’re a fairly successful company. I have also spent many years working at record labels, both major and independent, a management company and a booking agency before I ever even started blogging. So I’d say I’m quite familiar with how the business works and quite familiar with how to run a company. But it’s cute that you tried to insult me that way! 

Part of my ability to run this company, of course, has to do with the ads placed here by Century Media and several other record companies, concert promoters, etc. For that I am grateful. Running a successful metal blog was not something I ever thought I could do or even wanted to do, until that fateful night Axl and I decided to see what would happen if we launched a crappy WordPress blog and started funneling our thoughts onto the Internet. I look at it this way: this has been an incredible, incredible ride! But some day it is going to end, and that will be ok. If it ends because all the labels go under and all of our ad dollars disappear, I suppose that’s the natural course of history and I’ll just do something that’s actually useful with my life like become a teacher. I don’t live a lush or fancy lifestyle right now and could certainly be earning more if I’d stayed at the major label, but I get by ok, and most importantly I love what I do. 

But I don’t actually believe all the labels are going to go under, because I firmly believe that all the labels (including Century, as one of the biggest metal labels in the world) are going to wise up, turn into Management houses that also invest in bands (unlike current managers), and right the ship. The industry will definitely find a way… that “way” will just not have sales of recorded music as a part of it because ever-changing technology dictates so.

We are asking you a simple question: Does Music have value for you?

If your answer is YES, then please be prepared to acknowledge the fact that the people who bring this music to you, do this full time and need to eat and sleep somewhere  – short term.

It cost about a minimum of $50,000 to $100,000 to have a new master recorded,  promoted, manufactured  and  distributed internationally on a proper scale. Try to remember this when you think it’s cool to steal music. We feel we are bringing value to a community of music lovers who are willing to pay for that music. As long as people do, we will be able to continue doing that. If the majority  of the new entitlement generation feel that  we should do it for free, I can tell you, you will be listening to a lot less new music in the future.

Don’t give me the old tired “music lover” guilt trip… that argument holds no water because it isn’t about me. I love music, value everything that goes into producing it and getting it out to the masses (which I know first-hand from the years I spent working at labels), and do not advocate stealing music. I’m not sure where you read that I advocated stealing music, because I definitely did not say that… where is that coming from?

Here’s the thing about “value:” it’s a very, very, very sticky word. Value is in the eye of the beholder: something is only as valuable as people think it is. If I spend $100,000 on an arts and crafts project that’s near and dear to my heart made entirely out of found materials, garbage, scraps, whatever the fuck… is it “worth” $100,000? To me, yes. To someone else, its value might be closer to $1. Likewise if Madonna takes a shit, tries to sell it on eBay and someone decides to pay $100,000 for it, is it worth that $100,000? Well, yeah, I guess it is. My point: value is entirely subjective and has nothing to do with the cost of what goes into making something.

It’s not about “entitlement:” it’s about reality. People say that recorded music is not worth what it once was. Therefore, that is true. This is how “value” works.

I also don’t buy the bit that we will “be listening to a lot less new music in the future.” We get something like 50 emails a day (maybe more?) from unsigned bands the world over who record entire albums by themselves at little to no cost on their home computers using Garageband. Shockingly, a lot of these recordings sound really, really good — close to as good as or even equally as good as “pro” recordings. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Technology is cheap; distribution, via the Internet, is basically free. I totally understand and appreciate all that goes into marketing, PR, etc etc — all the things a label brings to the table — and those things absolutely help develop a band. But as far as no new music coming out, I absolutely don’t buy that argument because I know first-hand it is not true. 

We all tried to tell artists, managers and lawyers that the band should give us their work for free. Guess what they said?  “Well if Vince and his mates do not want to pay for it, that sucks, but quite frankly it’s not our problem!”

You know what? It is their problem, it is our problem and it is your problem as well.

I am sorry you grew up in a world where the media and your parents told you that music is free.

It is not! You have been lied to.

No one told me that music is free. I believe it has value. Just not the same value as it once had. Like I said above: the world has dictated that music is not worth what it used to be worth. No sense in fighting this, because “value” cannot be fought: buyers determine value, not sellers.

Rather than bitch and moan about it, take responsibilities for your lives , add value to the metal community and ask yourself: Whose side am I on?

Feel free to ask the 30,000 people (and still growing) who visit MetalSucks every day whether we’ve added any value to the metal community and whose side we’re on. Just because I argue that music isn’t as valuable as it used to be (which it clearly isn’t) doesn’t mean I don’t support metal. I’m just calling it like I see it, in an honest and true fashion. Spotify has proved that the value of music has changed, in no uncertain terms: millions of people agree that unlimited streaming music is worth exactly $10/month. This is not up for debate: it is fact. That is the value of music right now since that is what music consumers have decided. Spotify are not the bad guys here… they’re just responding to the market!

Decide for yourselves if you want to give all you have away for free, do it if you want to, but do not tell other people they should, too.

There are still some real fans out there who appreciate the artist’s work and are happy to contribute to it. These are the people we all work for – not the Vince’s of this world. Sorry mate.

While I believe that recorded music’s value has drastically dropped over the last decade, I believe other sources of a band’s income still have a very high value: live shows and merchandise among them. This is why I advocate a transition from the traditional “record label” model of selling music to an all-encompassing “360 deal.” I hate the term “360 deal” because it carries negative connotations when really it is in fact the exact same thing as a management deal. No one scoffs at managers for taking their 15% or 20%. Why is that? Labels need to become managers and participate in every facet — and income stream — of a band’s career. As managers, you will need to step up and invest money into bands, something that managers do not traditionally do. Label and manager becomes one. I know for a fact that you guys at Century are already doing this with your new management division… so you’re moving in the right direction! Fighting Spotify, a service that will expose your artists to the masses so you can reap the benefits of other income streams, is not the answer.


The  Suits From CM

Closing statement: If you’re in a band, you should love Spotify because all the new people it exposes to your music will become fans, pay to come to a show, pay to buy a t-shirt, and hey, at least you get some money from streaming as opposed to stealing (by the way: by pulling out of Spotify you are actually incentivizing people to steal!). If you’re a label, you should love Spotify because you will soon have all your bands in management-like deals (there is no way around this) and you, too, will benefit when a fan who discovered a band on Spotify pays to go to a show and pays to buy a t-shirt. Everyone wins. If not right this moment, definitely in a couple of years. Taking your artists off Spotify is bad for business, plain and simple. Your bands need this exposure, now more than ever. Call up your label’s bands and ask them: what do they think of Century pulling their music from Spotify? I bet the vast majority are pissed.

Seriously, Suits from CM, thanks for taking the time to write your response. When Axl and I came up with the stoned idea for MetalSucks five years ago it was completely inconceivable that we’d ever be interacting with the owner of any record label, let alone Century Media.

Vince Neilstein

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