The glamorous lifeCredit
Here’s a writeup of the panel that brought me to SXSW. As you might expect, the Butler brothers from Arcade Fire are really well-spoken and interesting; basically, I’m pretty sure they could do my job, whereas there’s no way I could do theirs.
There was also an interesting discussion with Tatiana Simonian of Nielsen about the role of data-driven decisions by record companies. She and I agreed that while the data on what audiences are drawn to are highly imperfect, the gut feelings of executives are often worse, so that on balance the data make for better music. My parallel is with the news business; the most-emailed list is a deeply flawed metric, but still a very useful corrective to the inside-baseball instincts of long-time newspaper people.
I was glad to have direct confirmation of what I said, drawing on work by Marie Connolly and Alan Krueger: for the artists, it has always been about live performance, not record royalties. Yes, there have been a few exceptions — the Beatles, Michael Jackson — but it’s the norm. One questioner from the audience raised doubts, but Will Butler silenced them, telling us that AF makes about as much from one European festival as it does in all royalties from a record.
And boy, is music a tough life. I took the picture above on my phone. It’s Alvvays, who released their first album to critical acclaim, totally filled their venues at SXSW (this was my second try — the first time I couldn’t get in). And there they are, crawling around on the stage trying to get their cables plugged into the right places.
I think about how easy I had it — my very first teaching job paid the equivalent of about $60,000 in today’s dollars — and am deeply thankful that so many wonderful talents love music enough to stick it out and enrich our lives.
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