There's an article in the New York Times Magazine about the producing powerhouse known as Rick Ruben. Fascinating. Obviously the title of the article is meant to be extreme, but the premise is one of getting back to good music. Something that Rick Ruben is very good a producing.
Yeah, he was the guy smart enough to let Johnny Cash be Johnny Cash in 1994, producing what is quite possibly some of the finest records ever made, and arguably some of Cash's best...he gets respect in my book for that alone.
Ladykillers load dice on me, behind my back while imitators steal me blind
Thanks for posting that, Jody. It gives me hope that there is someone out there in that end of the industry that is alive. And the article mentions Paul Potts. If anyone has not seen this incredible performer, check him out on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oxTy7KIAaA.
Fascinating article, and I love the idea of Rick Ruben as the inmate taking over the asylum. But in the end, corporations are corporations, and I just can't believe they will stand for the shaky and unpredicatable ROI the business is turning into. I think nobody knows better than Reuben that you cannot really produce a word-of-mouth "campaign"...just as you cannot fake sincerity (not very well, anyway). Word of mouth comes from the bottom up, and the audience will have to be in charge, not the labels. The subscription idea is interesting, but I think for it to work, you have to provide an incentive ...which is being the first on your block to hear the Band X single. If you can claim that in a way that gets you credits or points, you are not gonna give that away to your friends. The revenue will simply come from the kids who want to be the most cool, fastest. And they will get a cut too!
Excellent link Jody. Ruben may get more execs thinking about art values over the long-term instead of just quick profits in the short-term. Profits will remain the motive and the quickie method will continue to be the modus operandi for many companies, grabbing someone and signing them without trying to improve their art, or thinking of their potential to produce salable art over their lifetimes. The more successful Ruben is the more likely others are to adapt to his model of artist involvement, influencing the craft of their art, bringing it up to a more 'art-for-the-ages' quality. There's nothing like losing money to wake up the complacent. Some will rise to the occasion and adapt. Some won't.
There will always be another song to be written. Someone will write it. Why not you? www.garyeandrews.com
Thanks for providing the link. Some people know what works and Rick Rubin is one of them. I've always been intrigued by his choices and how he can re-invent someone. Wish he'd take me on as a project and just invent me, forget the 're' part!!
Thanks for posting a very interesting read Jody...can one man save the music industry?..well it is certainly a step in the right direction....Rick Rubin...but i feel he is only a modern day King Canute,whom the corporations are pinning their hopes on to hold back the big tide of change.The music and record industry are in meltdown,they have missed the boat,big time...they thought the golden goose was gonna keep laying the golden eggs..ie the buying public,but they now see, thru technology,the gravy train is now running on empty.Rick Rubin may have a great track record,but unless he puts in place a seismic shift in the way these corporations run their business he is doomed to failure.Like the great old studios of Hollywood,the great big names in the music business are going to head the same way...if you don't adapt and roll with it, you perish at the hands of it.The subscription idea is a step in the right direction,but it needs to be across the board,all the music giants need to get their heads and act together if they are going to survive...The "BUYING" market is still out there,but as time goes on it will shrink dramatically,i bet any projection any record company chooses to survey, will make very uncomfortable reading,and the days of the CD album,they are heading for the dustbin of history as well,and this was one of the main "earners" for these corporations...cherry picking is going to be, or is the norm,as the buying public will only buy what THEY like,as oppossed to record company's force feeding them.Rick Rubin for all his genius at re-inventing artists may be legendary,but if he manages to re-invent a whole industry....well it is one awesome task,it will take a lot more than spirituality,meditation,and holding beads in your hand...the only one disconcerning fact i read in the whole article was the reference to Paul Potts..you may have heard of him over in the USA,he won the UK version of a talent show...singing Nessun Dorma..(seemingly he reduced Rick to tears)ok the lad has a good voice..but he brought out his album here a couple of months ago...as usual got to number 1,,with all the hype surrounding the TV show...take out the winning song and you have a very mediocre set of songs...i just hope Rick doesn't use that as a benchmark,in his quest to change music...just one little add on regarding the tenticles of the music industry over here in the UK...Paul Potts was this unknown opera singer,he was a salesman for a very large mobile phone co. over here in the UK Car-Phone-Warehouse....guess who the sponsor is of the UK's X Factor...yes you guessed it ..Car -Phone-Warehouse...some things never change..............Terry Moore
GREAT article. I just got dissed in another thread for saying that radio was irrelevant. I would have linked to this article had I known about it. I also just got dissed in a different thread for saying that the music biz is to blame for the lack of quality music out there. I read this article and just found myself nodding my head over and over again.
Kudos to Columbia for bringing him onboard. The guy is a genius. He's had a huge impact on music already.
However, while I agree that a subscription model is what the music industry NEEDS, it may not be what the customers actually WANT. So far, music subscription services have been no real challenge to iTunes. People will want to own their music. At what point would people change their minds? A subscription model would have to be extremely inexpensive and extremely huge in content for people to consider it. And you'd have to be able to freely copy your files to your iPod or burn them onto a CD, with no DRM restricting you. Rubin fears that the industry might not be capable of making that change, and I believe that he is correct.
Some of the other interesting things in the article - myspace being dead, tv as being a new way of boosting sales, artists making most of their money from t-shirt sales and ticket sales at concerts.
It is a very interesting time for the music industry. We are on the brink of a huge change. What can we do about it? Well, like Jodie said in a different thread, work on making better music. And keep watching that wacky music industry to see what happens!
I don't think Richeird was dissed. It's legitimate to feel radio is irrelevant. But it's still a very powerful medium and it can't be discounted yet. I bet Ruben understands that. There's really only one thing that can save the industry - great songs. I could link to another article that shows how Hollywood movie studios turned around a dying industry this year by listening to consumers desires for certain entertainment - better movies.
The idea they attempted to push in the NYTM article is that great content will spread - as it should. The trouble is that so much effort was spent pushing icebergs of not so great content crowned by a decent single (over and over again). The machinery got gunked up. It will take time to clean it and great material will win. That's the power behind Rick Ruben, he has/is a great barometer for music and certain artists that make it.
Notice there was mention of a particular song that Rick liked, then when he heard more of that same artist, it wasn't up to par. Which means Rick would send him back to the writing room to create more until said artist got it as a complete package.
There is a lot of music created today where the "musician" or "writer" throws it out there on the first draft and spends no time honing it. That's hit or miss. Whereas if an artist can spend some time and effort with a song, crafting it, testing it, molding it, testing it, etc... It's very likely that every song could resonate. At the very least, with spending time with a song and bouncing it off other ears you'll know when to throw it away or keep it.
In the progression of my own material, I used to write it and not go back to tweak, nor bounce it off others. It was average material at best. Currently I spend a lot more time going over songs with a fine tooth comb. Tweaking melodies, refining the words, making sure it will work by playing the demos for people and getting reactions, then going back and making more adjustments until I'm happy.
Some of the people I co-write with are starting to get annoyed with me because of the process I now use. They want a song to be called finished and I keep pushing them for greatness. The result is, more quality less quantity.
I certainly hope that Rick Ruben can infuse that Zen of the song back into the industry. Alas, Columbia is one label, under another parent label and there are others out there that could use the same transformation.
Ruben has been hired because he has a midas touch, not to save the industry. It really is no different than a brokerage house hiring someone to manage a fund that has a track record of producing 20-30% returns year after year. The guy is a genius, and I wish it were true that he was on a course to save the industry. Others will follow what he does because he is successful. The majors in the industry are a decade behind in their ways of thinking on how to market music in today's world. They have been in the trying to catch up with technology mode for years now instead of being ahead of the curve. That is what closed Tower records, etc. This media driven world has made mince meat out of the old success formulas and guys like Ruben are hard to come by. There's some more out there, and that's why we see so many producer's having bigger and often better contracts than the artists. Of course writing great music and a diverse network always gives us our best shot. Guys like Ruben are healthy for the industry, but saving it, na, I have my doubts there. Making a positive impact is all one guy can hope to do. Thanks for posting the article Jody, it's a good read..
Say just what you feel and make it rhyme...(Walt Aldridge)
Haven't had a chance to read the whole piece, but I've been a fan of Rubin's since the Beastie's first record... I guess if I was a big label circling the drain, Rick Rubin's the guy to put my money into.
Interesting article, though I really didn't read much about how he plans on saving the industry -- other than having some kind of subscription service. If that's the best idea he's come up with.....it seems like a plan doomed to failure.
The most heartening thing about the article for me is that Sony has chosen to put a music guy in the driver's seat as opposed to some Harvard MBA. The bean counters seem to be in charge of pretty much all the art outlets - record companies, radio, television, movies. And as a result, we get a lot of lowest-common-denominator crap, molded by market research surveys. Hopefully, with Rubin in charge, good music will win. Keep thinking, Rick.
I agree a universally successful, large scale replacement of CD, subscription service would have to be non-DRM, allowing download to IPODS, burning to CD's, etc. And would have to include everything.
You know, I just don't know if the math adds up. If the subscription is say $15 a month, you lock out all the people who buy a CD once or twice a year. There are many of those people, and they are who really extend and prolong sales of a platinum CD into multi-platinum, for example. And then on the other hand, you have people like me, who spend far MORE than $15 a month on music (taken over a year's time). In fact, using the 80/20 principal (I just learned this from CDBABY), where 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers, I am probably one of the 20%.
So pricing at $15 a month loses income from your best customers, and it loses income from casual customers. And I don't think you could go much higher than $15 a month. Even though with someone like me, it may still save me money at $20, $25, $30 a month, it's a mental thing. It would take a massive shift in people's thinking to pay that much a month for music. And then you also have the whole thing that music is lots of time an impulse buy. Pre-paying for it via subscription again takes a big shift in thinking...
Now if you start with the premise that the big monopoly profits are in the past (destroyed by technology and the inability to control copyright), and therefore the best way to capture some income is with the CONVENIENCE of a subscription service (which is really all you are paying for, you can get the content for free via illegal downloading and CD copying from friends, etc. - that's the whole problem), then maybe those issues are not so much a problem. To accept that the monopoly profits are in the past is a big change in thinking for the labels too...
Well as of today, there is now the ability to purchase music wirelessly from iTunes to the brand new iPod Touch. Certainly a step in the direction of easy to obtain music as long as you're in WiFi hotspot.
A subscription model could work for some people. I don't think it will work for everyone. But if it's priced right it certainly can work. Look at TV and movies. A vast amount of people in America pay for cable TV. They're subscribing to content. I'm sure a lot of them still purchase DVDs of TV shows and Movies. While I'm not part of that model, I can see how it works for a lot of people.