Above: The Recording Industry Association of America is comprised of the world’s biggest record labels.
Musician and recording engineer Steve Albini lays his teeth into the music recording industry in his now famous rant “The Problem With Music”. Originally published in The Baffler in 1993, the article breaks down the expenses and income of an up-and-coming band signed to a major record label, and demonstrates how industry contracts are designed to rob musical talent in favour of superflous managerial types – “producers,” “distributors,” etc. Written in 1993, the numbers Albini provides are long outdated – the contract type, however, is still standard within both the recording industry and the film industry. In the wake of SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, and other invasive copyright initiatives, Albini’s argument is another nail in the coffin of dying, money-hungry entertainment giants: piracy only robs those who rob the producers of culture.
The Problem With Music
by Steve Albini
Whenever I talk to a band who are about to sign with a major label, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends, some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine a faceless industry lackey at the other end, holding a fountain pen and a contract waiting to be signed.
Nobody can see what’s printed on the contract. It’s too far away, and besides, the shit stench is making everybody’s eyes water. The lackey shouts to everybody that the first one to swim the trench gets to sign the contract. Everybody dives in the trench and they struggle furiously to get to the other end. Two people arrive simultaneously and begin wrestling furiously, clawing each other and dunking each other under the shit. Eventually, one of them capitulates, and there’s only one contestant left. He reaches for the pen, but the Lackey says, “Actually, I think you need a little more development. Swim it again, please. Backstroke.”
And he does, of course.Click to Keep Reading . . .