Everything popular is wrong: Making it in electronic music, despite democratization

Stefan Goldmann on why Web 2.0 can work for you but won’t for most, where all the money went and how working against the market consensus can be a winning strategy.

Electronic music. What we believed for a long time was that anyone with a bit of talent had a chance at a career of about ten years before eventually retiring from the circuit. Of course there are exceptions for whom this does not seem to apply. Francois Kevorkian has probably had the longest career here (unless we count Kraftwerk as part of our little world); and it’s hard to imagine techno or house without Richie Hawtin, Jeff Mills or Laurent Garnier. That’s the good news: it does not necessarily have to meet a predetermined end. On the other hand, artists emerging now face the hardest times ever to establish themselves. The lifespan between breaking through and being laid off seems to have reached a historic low point of half a year. The reasons behind this “haircut” to artistic longevity are the radically lowered barriers to participation, as well as the hectic marketplace discovering today’s new talent and abandoning yesterday’s new talent.

Let’s clarify “barriers”: in the old days of the music business, which was basically before the end of the 1970s, the main barriers to “making it in music” were studio time and access to distribution. Whoever wanted to be heard adequately needed well distributed releases. That is, having recorded material in the first place. The means for producing such recordings were so expensive that at some point only big corporations could spare the funds to pay for the required studio time and personnel. The effect of this economic barrier to resources was that a couple of hundred artists and bands gained access to an audience of millions. Once a recording was produced it enjoyed a long life in the market due to the lack of competition that otherwise would have pushed it off the store shelves. Only under these conditions did the huge, continuous investments in promotion and distribution actually make economic sense in those times and circumstances.

What a typical recording studio once looked like

This model experienced a serious challenge with the advent of the affordable 4-track recorder, which enabled home recording that could deliver marketable results for the first time ever. For instance, the whole late ’70s/early ’80s New York downtown scene can be pretty much explained by this piece of technology. Progress in affordable music equipment in the form of synthesizers, drum machines and samplers gave birth to a plethora of innovative styles in music, including hip hop, house, techno and drum ‘n’ bass. At the same time independent distribution was born, conquering channels previously serviced exclusively by major corporations. The new distributors were capable of connecting with ever smaller target groups. Fueled by enthusiasm, small businesses could survive on small quantities of product previously considered not to be worth the effort. Tango from Finland and death metal from anywhere found comfortable niches with worldwide followings.

These enabled artists and the people around them to become professionals, i.e. to make a living on the music instead of funding a hobby through an undesirable day job. That was the core economic feature of the independent music culture: no riches, but still sufficient funds to avoid wasting time on activities not related to music. Anyone busy generating income from 9 to 5 wouldn’t be able to gain the deep skills necessary to sustain a career in music and hold an audience for long. By the way, this comfortable indie-constellation was never really threatened by the majors, who only occasionally dropped by to sign away the most successful artists of any niche. Working within your own artistic preferences became a pretty comfortable thing to do back in the ’80s.

Closer to what today’s typical studio looks like. Richie Hawtin’s bedroom studio.

The next level was reached when it took nothing but a standard PC and a microphone (if required) to render an entire production. The software that emulated the previously needed pieces of gear came mostly for free thanks to piracy. Therefore, production costs practically hit zero and the record sales you needed in order to sustain a release fell almost to the cost of the manufacturing of the records themselves (with a few bucks for promotion). At that point, at least in dance music, sales figures of just around 5,000 physical units were considered a “hit,” whereas a bit earlier it would’ve required a few hundred thousand units. Many soon realized that even the expense of pressing up records or CDs was not really necessary. A digital download has no costs at all. The logical outcome was distribution that granted any piece of music total availability, with the downside of being the most inefficient way of distribution ever: what should I download when there are five billion files to choose from? Whom should I bless with my attention? Do I have any attention to spare?

Contrary to public perception, this didn’t affect the majors all that much. Their problems were mostly in their inability to maximize the advantages they already had instead of wasting resources on trying to revive an overthrown order. Soon enough it dawned on them that big artists (i.e. those with the biggest turnover) can generate reasonable income through so called 360-degree-deals, covering live gigs, publishing rights, merchandise, etc. all under the control of one company. Even the smallest labels engage in a similar policy nowadays. But the required resources to participate in the game of filling stadiums, really cashing in on movie and advertising deals today are almost exclusively in the hands of majors. Interestingly, the so called “democratization” of music production and distribution didn’t change this allocation of relevant income to the majors’ detriment at all.

The world is at your fingertips

Others fell victim to it. Absurdly, the complete disappearance of economic barriers to distribution (offering a free download doesn’t cost more than the time to upload the file) hit the wallets of the “indies” first, stripping a substantial part of their income. This mostly affected the artists and the personnel around them: designers, engineers, studio musicians, promotion and label professionals, music journalists, et al. The mass of competition they encountered meant anyone with a limited marketing budget had a difficult time surviving in the market. With the same promotional tools available to almost anyone, they lost their efficiency. The professionals listed above basically lost their income. In 2000, an average vinyl single generated a return of a couple of thousand Euros, while in 2011 the same single generates a loss of a couple of hundred Euros, even without what were formerly known as “production costs.” Anything on top, like a bigger production, a decent mastering, or proper sleeve design became factors of deepening material loss. That area of the craft gets subsequently cut off and replaced by an undiscriminating routine of two-step-distribution: “save as” and “upload to.”

Fleeing to a purely digital distribution doesn’t look that much better in general: only an established artist backed by a strong physical release experiences significant digital sales. The overwhelming majority goes by unnoticed. The average “digital only” dance single generates around 100 Euros of profit, for both artist and label, now most often being the same person. And these figures go down, too. Today a couple millions artists try to reach a few hundred people. Or like the contemporary pun puts it, “In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 people.”

Vinyl pressing plant from the days of yore

The result is a wide spread de-professionalization. If an artist regularly loses money on her efforts, she faces an economic end to her endeavors sooner or later. Being a “musician” is increasingly becoming a profession for those coming from inherited wealth or being mercantily exceptionally clever. It’s less then ever a question of the intrinsic quality of the music. What used to be done by professional enthusiasts now becomes the domain of the artists — turning them into designer, PR dude and distributor. It all subtracts from the time spent actually creating music. This puts additional pressure on the remaining professional environment. Nowadays it is increasingly harder to get hold of well executed services. Mastering, manufacturing vinyl, music PR — no one qualified enough is willing to tolerate the miserable working conditions and hilarious paychecks of these jobs for an extended time. Whoever has the chance seems to flee the music industry for something more prosperous. The error rate in manufacturing and distribution grows exponentially and actually feeds the market with ever shabbier products in content and execution.

Good luck learning to use one of these while holding a day job

There’s this die-hard belief that income, at least for the musicians (but not for the professional environment), will come from the fees for live performances instead. But how do you get live performances in the first place? Well, press helps. The problem encountered there is that the media has adapted to the state of the music industry. In electronic music that means whoever succeeds in producing two singles may find himself covered by all relevant press and booked throughout the club circuit, just to be replaced by the next “lucky fool” (a term from stock speculation) about three months later. New artists get “pumped and dumped.” What about a year old break, a production that takes longer, or time for having a baby? Two weeks without a release are perceived as a career flaw for those who had their breakthrough in the last three years. A longer shelf life in the media and on the circuit seems to be granted only to artists who started before the big flood came, which is pre-2005 approximately (if I were to spend a year on the beach, most likely I’ll be able to continue exactly where I had stopped). Or to those who buy their coverage — although that only works over a longer period of time on a five-figure budget. Most others face the high probability of approaching music as something you do between college and some dull job.

The artists’ disillusionment leads to ever lamer results in music — why bother? A single produced hastily in two hours work sells 500 units, while a delicate masterwork moves 800 (plus a bit of beer money from Beatport). These figures are in constant decline, too. The market average first pressing of a vinyl 12″ is 300 units now, which regularly indicated sales below this figure (deduct records given away as “promotion” and to friends).

Beatport’s top 100 downloads

What have we learned here? The so called “democratization” didn’t work. Everyone did believe they gained access. This access by itself is stripped of value, though, because no one cares that DJ XY from Z has that new record out. Through any available channel I get dozens of requests per day to listen to somebody’s track. That’s after a spam filter and a disclaimer that I don’t want to receive files. The result is that I don’t listen to files at all — I do buy vinyl regularly. DJ XY doesn’t get the gig. If he does by accident, that’s for the cab fare. In Berlin, with its conspicuous population of 50,000 DJs, promoters and club owners don’t have to try hard. There’s always someone who will play for free if asked. Hey, that’s free promotion for the new DJ XY record. Meanwhile in the provincial town of Z, the locals “practice” for free, so they develop the skills they’ll need to “make it” in Berlin one day. That’s where things come full circle. No proper gigs, no record sales, no income. Anyone who is not already “there” doesn’t seem to arrive anymore.

The propaganda that the future will have us all giving away music for free in order to make a living on gigs has been proven wrong by reality. Because basically everybody does exactly this and still doesn’t get booked all over (or not often enough, as with most “mid career” artists). The exception being Radiohead, of course, but only after a decade on the million-dollar budget of a major. The only profiteers here (and biggest fans of piracy and Creative Commons) are the stock holders of the Nasdaq 100. If you want to make a living on music, buy the relevant stock and live off the dividends. That’s where all the money goes that used to pay musicians and music professionals some time ago. It says a lot about the other side of “democratization,” too: the individual in search for music experiences no upside. He pays for the returns of Apple, Google, Beatport and the speaker fees of Larry Lessig and Chris Anderson by being lost in a flood of irrelevant, crappy music and the feeling that others had more fun before (hence the retro obsession in today’s music). The total de-motivation doesn’t manifest itself only in the musicians’ under achievements, but also in the annoyance of everybody else. A frustrated DJ plays lame tunes in front of people bored to tears. That’s the average event out there. Alternatively, a collective nostalgia for some era of “old days” prevails. Everyone keeps doing the same thing out of the fear that the slightest deviation from the norm will scare away the small remaining, yet patient audience who goes along because of a lack of alternatives (we dance either because we paid or because the drugs kicked in).

Nasdaq studio

Did that depress you? Now, here comes the good news: exactly because everyone seemingly performs to the lowest still acceptable standards, all you have to do as an artist is to unleash disproportional waves of creativity. Since nothing promises secure success anymore, all considerations to what “works in the marketplace” can be freely dumped and forgotten. The more out there you get, the better. It’s the only way to stand out in a totally dull environment. The advantage is, put cynically, that the old channels are jammed. Whoever tries to break through them following “proven” old ways (which usually means emulating other people’s career paths) is wasting time and energy. We can’t learn much from studying the careers of Carl Craig or Ricardo Villalobos anymore because the conditions that enabled them don’t exist any more. The channels that do work are found elsewhere and are open to those who possess endurance, individuality and substance — the values that are disappearing most rapidly now.

To an extreme extent, success in the arts is subject to random factors (we see many successful people who have no clue how they got there, how to stay there or how to repeat it). The more radically and frequently you stand out, the more often you get exposure to those factors, thus increasing the probability of channels opening up for you. That is not spamming the Internet but creating radically individual great music in the first place. Once you enter the channel, you allow more factors to work for you, since these tend to add up (path dependency). Art always had to be great (whatever that is) and move people in order to succeed, too. But now there’s that third dimension of having to create a wide gap between you and the competition, even if that’s just within one genre. If you can implement this idea in your work, the flood is not threatening at all anymore since it works against itself. “Unique” is the most valuable word in a crowded environment of generic ideas and overwhelming redundancy. Striving for this quality is also exactly what is most rewarding artistically. Besides screaming fans and free drinks, that is.

What the music buying experience used to look like

A very odd example for creating stand out events: I had that funny experience when I recorded an album for cassette last year. No one involved expected anything more than to have some fun with it. Still, I spent a lot of effort on this one, specifically on getting my head around the question why to use a cassette at all. No one else would have put more work than necessary into such an obsolete format. And just that brought in a lot of attention, which any file on Beatport, regardless how good it is, wouldn’t have done at all. And there was no free lunch involved. On the contrary, distribution was severely cut down to a very few sources. Today it’s actually so much easier again as long as you can get your head around the notion that “anything popular is wrong.” Especially in mainstream media like Germany’s Der Spiegel or UK’s BBC (in features, not the usual playlists), I’ve only been covered because of totally odd projects. For the same reason new opportunities follow, which artists who cling to functionality and marketplace consensus never encounter. I don’t play techno clubs exclusively now, but also find myself scoring a ballet, performing in museums or getting calls from classical performers for collaboration — my techno background makes me stand out in these settings as well. In return, crossover encounters of this kind add that edge to the artist’s profile which feeds back into the club scene. It’s definitely more rewarding than spamming the internet with “listen to this track” emails.

Highly individualized, lightly advertised work is way more attractive nowadays than consensus-style work, advertised to death (short, unsustainable hype is the most one can hope for there). People are starting to realize this. Many top labels stopped promoting their new singles for instance. It just appears in the shops and that’s it. It’s not unlikely that artists will increasingly lose their interest in having their output available all over and seek for a more intimate exchange with the audience. Why plaster the Internet with files? Who finds that valuable anymore? Imagine an incredible piece of music available only once — on dubplate. Or let’s consider falling back in history — music only in the presence of its creator. No release. Come to the concert. Enthusiasm will be back when you get this feeling of attending something really special. How to create this feeling for the audience is the core task of the creatives, if they deserve that name.



That said, it still takes a huge amount of time and dedication for an artist to develop a standout profile. This raises the issue of financing a career in music. Since the indies mostly lost their capacity to fund musicians, the artist’s required initial investment has become higher again. Usually people argue there will have to be some sort of day job then. As aforementioned, that would be perfectly fine if being occupied all day with something not relevant to music didn’t actively hinder you from devoting yourself to developing your artistic edge. Your mind will be occupied with other stuff instead of exploring the areas of sound where it gets deep. To be able to create stuff that outlasts two weeks, you’ll need to go full time at some point.

Even after tolerable initial periods of day job-cross-finance, those who succeed are never safe. Since the available funds (those remaining after the Nasdaqs sucked out what they could) get distributed to more and more people, even electronic music’s top and near-top level artists’ income drops rapidly. Periods of sufficient remuneration are followed by periods of economic frustration. Therefore there is a need to have sources of income that are independent from your own music’s direct returns. That is, any income that can be obtained with spending very little time on it — no day jobs allowed unless you are a grossly overpaid consultant for a few hours a month, like I am occasionally. One may consider the pros and cons (there are such) of grants and fellowships, commissions from the industry or institutions, as well as sources of passive income. The latter means that once set up, a scheme generates income without investing further time — interest, the concepts of arbitrage and leverage, or exploiting details of copyright law may serve as rather abstract examples here. How to make them work for you would be a topic of it’s own. Separating income and music in your head can be deeply rewarding. The freedom experienced in creating music to your own criteria first and even “against the market” if necessary is way more elegant than trying to squeeze as much as possible out of music that has to produce your paycheck. That is another factor contributing to an artist’s longevity in the market — having guts and principles. Get your head around it, do your homework and you’ll quickly see solutions that work for you.

Stefan Goldmann is an electronic music artist, DJ and owner of the Macro label. This article, which first ran in Silo magazine, is translated from the German.

charlie  on April 13, 2011 at 12:36 PM


discfunctional  on April 13, 2011 at 1:13 PM

Well i for one are very grateful for all creative, struggling artists out there.

Pierre-Nicolas  on April 13, 2011 at 2:50 PM

Thanks for this very interesting article.

Rob Salmon  on April 13, 2011 at 7:55 PM

great read:D!

Barry Forbes  on April 13, 2011 at 8:47 PM

I really enjoyed this and only goes to fuel that if i keep on it then anything can be achieved, at least to keep me happy…yes creativity is the key finding music that differs has always been my driving force…thank you…

Axel  on April 13, 2011 at 10:57 PM

This is exactly what I needed to read.

You see, I’m starting a label this summer (I’ll skip the name because I don’t want this comment to be a shameless promo for it) mainly because I grew sick of the music industry.

Sick of how it works, sick of seeing myself or some really great artists not getting attention at all because labels wouldn’t give a damn about music which is different from popular and lame genres or being overwhelmed with all the 14-15 years old kids trying to apply on any label possible just to release some clones of the previous songs of the said label with less quality and even at some point when I finally released, sick of seeing the label I was released to be ran by people keeping all the possible profit they were making out of my song, who says “well, you should be happy that you released on our label. Now get lost.”

I’m 21, I’ve been producing electronic music for 10 years now (yup!), I’m still in college as a senior electroacoustic music student but my fields of interest are pretty much varied. Every day and every minute of my living I’m asking myself WTF am I doing, if I can even hope to get noticed by anyone under that pile of crap and if I can even think of working and producing music full time. My plan was to basically study in Music Technology to create new instruments and maybe become a professor but the more I spend time in music, the more it feels like it’s useless.

Anyway, my point is : enough is enough. There’s so much little pearls in this ocean of crap that deserve attention. I’m gonna try to help them too now. If nobody does it, well, I’ll do something for it even if it’s a grain of sand in the ocean.

Your text helped me open my eyes on my own problems and how I should resolve it. I’m really thankful for it.

electro soundwave  on April 14, 2011 at 12:36 AM


Thefunnel  on April 14, 2011 at 2:04 AM

I really like this article and it hits on exactly the issues I’ve been mulling over since going full-time music and investing in my first vinyl-limited self release. I don’t want to stick to any one genre or formula. I’ve grown tired of the digital “revolution” and after years of near-exclusive use of Serato, I’ve spent the vast majority of my last year’s music income on vinyl and now play 50-100% vinyl sets again. I went crazy deleting freebie and pirated plug-ins and replaced them with a couple analog synths and a drum machine. It’s not for “cool” factor or bragging rights, but frankly the sheer amount of choice has become a hindrance. I know so many DJs who are so orthodox, so focused on playing “berghain” techno and dubstep

Thefunnel  on April 14, 2011 at 2:27 AM

Dammit comment was posted too early due to hitting the wrong key on my iPad, haha. Anyway, so many DJs and producers are stuck in a rut, trying to ride the formula wave and get their 15 minutes. Releasing shit digital trax on crap labels that want constant changes to the tracks to “fit” the marketplace of generic DJs instead of taking a chance and just making it happen. I value my creativity and taking a different view on stuff. I may make some more formulaic music on occasion–other times I’m trying to break out of the ordinary and do something with a twist. I do what comes, rather than forcing whats cool.

I think there is a bit of nostalgia for the 80s and 90s with my generation of mid20s to early 30s folks. We are the first generation to truly span the analog/digital divide in just about every electronic and interactive aspect of our lives. We recognize and respect analog, but embrace the convenience and “democratization” of digital. In a world with so many artificial (but hard) limitations (record wealth inequality, good paying jobs held by the old or connected, diminishing resources with growing populations,etc) we see the potential of digital to create an “infinite” source of x and y…a way for anyone to be somebody. But we did not consider endgame, and here we are, slaves to our own ideas and dreams. Ironically, and perhaps nostalgically, we yearn for the days of just a few DJs, less music selection, synths with no memory, and the massive all night raves that we saw in movies, or heard about from older friends and siblings. The breaking of the finite has led to a pile of nothing for us in a way…at first beautiful, but with age, the grass starts to look greener.

I’m sort of rambling now, as it’s a bit late, but my point is that while I appreciate what digital technology has done for us, sometimes I wish I could go back to 1995 and remember what it was like to truly Value something. Read about and excitedly wait for that new record or video game, without knowing who did what, in detail, and then once you get it, you play the shit out of it for weeks, months–years. These days I know DJs who buy 20 new tracks every time they play out! What is he point of that? Does no one play classics anymore? Does no one just get a few a month and let them simmer? Does know one bother to really know their music? And as much as I like a nice hard chugging Chris Liebing set, do we really need 2 laptops, 4 sources of tracks, 4 sources of samples, 8 layers of fx, and a fucking Maschine with more loopsand samples to truly do our jobs–or are we just assaulting the dancer with an endless stream of mindless 808/909 samples and big driving basslines? Heh, don’t take that as a techno bash, but really, how much more do we need before we just are one-upping for the sake of it? Frankly, I miss a good dj with 2-3 turntables and some damn knowledge of their records.

Bah, fuck it, I digress. Go buy my record, hits in May. No “pro” distro, hit up “aguynamedfrank” on discogs or email me thahound (at) gmail (dot) com if you want a copy: http://www.soundcloud.com/propertrax

Holotropik  on April 14, 2011 at 3:31 AM

Great read, thanks ;)

In my experience a few crew I know, myself included, have tried to step outside the norm. We don’t DJ because it was too far away from being musical and creative so we play Live Electronic music. But we have found that most peeps don’t want this because the structure is to alien from the typical DJ styles even though the music is familiar.

And no matter how often this Live style is pushed out there too many people just accept that it must sound like a DJ or it’s not right in some way. I have lost count of the amount of times I have had linters come up and request a track thinking that all the gear I am standing over is a DJ console. I have even had DJs come up and ask what model CD player the Korg ESX is!!


absolutemoron  on April 14, 2011 at 3:56 AM

This put into words with great clarity and eloquence many of my thoughts over the last few years, as well as proposing perspectives I hadn’t previously considered.

That said, despite Stefan’s efforts towards the end, it does paint a rather gloomy picture for aspiring contemporary musicians. In essence, put music out there that is original and high quality (this should be a given, although it clearly isn’t to 95% of producers) at your own expense (because only physically released music will be taken seriously by the likes of Stefan), but don’t push it too hard and hope that its quality will be enough to make it stand out from the crowd? I’m not sure how great a chance it would stand.

However, I recognise that the point of the article is to say people should avoid any blueprint, including this seemingly preferred method of his. I guess artists will have to continue to find their own way of distribution/promotion… a combination of trial, error, and good fortune I suppose will be how talented artists break through. Perhaps, twas ever thus?

Taimur Agha  on April 14, 2011 at 4:15 AM

Very well written and a great read.

Soulomon  on April 14, 2011 at 4:30 AM

Best Post Ever!

Stephen Msllinder  on April 14, 2011 at 5:15 AM

Great piece really enjoyed, Mal

conforce  on April 14, 2011 at 5:17 AM

hehe (plus a bit of beer money from Beatport).

soundslikepropaganda  on April 14, 2011 at 5:29 AM


this is nothing more than echoes of major label, distributor, retailer, propaganda campaigns about digital distribution and the modern music industry. articles like this are why there isn’t much money in electronic music or the digital era of music in general, and why things won’t change if people don’t start asking logical questions about all this.

the accessibility and ability for music to be bought is many times bigger than it was 20 years ago, the market has grown to every corner of the world with access to the internet or to a cell phone. Joe Schmo and Two Billion more people can now buy your House or Techno track, before he could not at all. The distribution avenues for Electronic Music have grown exponentially, compared to what they were 20 years ago when they were mainly local Vinyl Shops and major Retailers that also sold Vinyl. Now anyone virtually anyone with some income can buy electronic music, whether it is vinyl or a digital file.

yet here we have many trumpeters (no disrespect to Goldman as he is obviously innocent due to being fed propaganda) who are passing the message that has come down directly from those who have controlled the music industry for decades, and have cleverly and successful managed to keep that control through the lack of transparency of music sales through the internet. the untold truth is, that music is selling, more than it ever has, to more people than it ever has, through more mediums and avenues than it ever has. instead of wasting time talking about this beat up topic, find a way to figure out who is buying the music, how much they are buying, what time the bought it, where they bought it from. a real point of sale receipt system for labels and artists, accurate to the minute each transaction has been made. until you have an accurate receipt system where someone using a computer next to you has told you they just bought your song, and a minute later you have proof of it, or some random person in Chile emails you that they bought your song and you can look it up instantly, there no reason to believe any of the talk about the music industry, or whats happened to sales, or what piracy or other reasons for sales decline we’ve been told has caused, while reasons for sales increases and growth are reasonably are never discussed.

Until you have transparency in the distribution and sales of music, there is no reason to believe any of these handed down ideas and “facts” about the industry.

D'Arcangelo  on April 14, 2011 at 6:14 AM

Great article indeed.

Mike Boorman  on April 14, 2011 at 7:10 AM

An excellent read, but I think it is just a bit too one sided. I think there has been a tangible increase in democracy and that this democracy is for the greater good, i.e. because labels no longer have to worry about the overheads of pressing vinyl, they are more willing to give unknown artists a chance, and also, as the article acknowledged, the artists themselves don’t have to incur many overheads in the production process either.

Why is this for the greater good?

Because someone who is not already part of the industry, does not have to pay big money in order to give it a go.

And what’s more, the digital era has broken down another barrier; industry contacts. There was a time when broadly speaking, the industry was run by a series of cliques based in the major cities of the world. To become part of the clique, you had to be partying in the cool clubs with the cool people and buying records from the cool record shops – if you played that right, you may get some DJ gigs.

Now, wherever you live, you can build these contacts via the internet. You can get your name out there with your production. You can interact with the industry players that matter to you even if they are on the other side of the world. You do not have to be a part of a scene in a particular city in order to increase your profile. It helps, but is no longer the be all and end all.

No one seems to cite a golden era where everything in this game was in rude health – each era, each decade, had its good and bad points. When something like this evolves, there has to be a good reason for it, otherwise it wouldn’t evolve. The industry survives; it’s just a matter of who wins and who loses when it changes, and it looks to me like the established old pros have lost and the people outside of the game wanting to break in, have won.

If more people have more access to this industry, that says to me that democratisation has been a force for good.

echoclerk  on April 14, 2011 at 8:03 AM

I really don’t understand how you connect this with the stock market though? this bit kinda goes off on some weird tangent to me..

I dont’ get it at all:

“The only profiteers here (and biggest fans of piracy and Creative Commons) are the stock holders of the Nasdaq 100. If you want to make a living on music, buy the relevant stock and live off the dividends. “

Ryan  on April 14, 2011 at 8:06 AM

The market is more accessible. Yet crowded. Distribution tools have changed. Yet have opened new opportunities.

You summed up the current situation nicely: “The freedom experienced in creating music to your own criteria first and even “against the market” if necessary is way more elegant than trying to squeeze as much as possible out of music that has to produce your paycheck.”

Make music for yourself. If it’s good enough and you pursue it, I believe it will be rewarded. But ‘reward’ is subjective and isnt always a paycheck. It just depends on what you want to get out of it…

Juan  on April 14, 2011 at 8:49 AM

As close to a manifesto as I’ve read for a while. Great stuff, thank you.

sebastien  on April 14, 2011 at 9:00 AM

Good analyze on many points, but I do not agree on few bullets :

1. Cool vinyl shops are available in 5 to 10 major cities worldwide.Thanks for the others ! Internet is a good tool to spread culture in area where people do not have access to it.
2. I do not think that past and present electronic music distribution model is a fair one.
3. Berlin has created an “electronic silicon valley” + “club industry” with code, standard and marketing that are business school’s. This marketing works so well on young targets that they all want to live there and go to Berghain.
4. Do not look at the NASDAQ as responsible for something in the electronic music industry low revenues ( I am not defending them). As an exemple NI and Ableton are private german companies, owned by few guys.

kent murdick  on April 14, 2011 at 9:26 AM

Pop music is getting exactly what it deserves. As James Taylor told his son, “It’s blue collar work.” This crap is NOT an art (although a very few have come close). The music is too easy to do, and that’s the reason the competition is so intense. Those pop players who are willing to get off their butts and play the bars can make a good low middle class income.

gerrya  on April 14, 2011 at 9:58 AM

Great article. Pretty much what I’ve suspected the state of EDM to be. There is a lot of noise out there, but in a way, it makes finding that special track all the more exciting. I love ‘crate digging'(browsing the various MP3 sites) and finding a track which makes my hairs stand on end. You have to dig hard as there is so much bland to get through.

I’m an amateur DJ and producer and I pretty much want to stay that way. I invest 1000’s of euro into new tracks, new equipment, new software, etc, never mind all the man hours and I do it just for the fun. I could imagine going full time and hating it. I will always hate my day job, as it’s something you have to do as opposed to something that you want to do. I would hate the pressure of having to rely on income generated from gigs or releases. It would take the fun, care free and experimental aspect out of the whole thing.

Alex  on April 14, 2011 at 10:25 AM

excellent article, thanks

Leviathant  on April 14, 2011 at 10:35 AM

As something of a counterpoint, a well-sculpted electronic soundtrack for a video game (Swords and Sworcery) was released last week, both electronically and in the form of a limited pressing of 1,000 copies of 12″ vinyl – which sold out within the week. No idea how many digital sales went through, but I know that because it was released on Bandcamp, the guy who made the soundtrack received at least 85% of each sale, or if he’s reached a certain threshold, it’s making 90% of each sale. Which is far and away better than what you’d get with any record label. Not only that, he still owns the rights to the music.

This article doesn’t completely miss the mark, but it definitely stumbles, right down to the analogy to politics – what you’re witnessing is not a democratization of the music business, it’s in fact much closer to a textbook Marxist revolution. Look it up, it’s eerie. The industry isn’t dying, it’s changing. I own more vinyl now than I did right before Napster came out, but far, far fewer CDs. I remember when music stores stopped letting you listen to CDs and records before you bought them, and lamented that decision. I ended up paying for a lot of shit music just to buy a few good songs. More often than not, I felt like I was being scammed.

I’m glad to see that go. I’m glad I can directly reward artists who’s music I enjoy. Good riddance to the old model, and all the fakes and that thrived off it.

dr.nojoke  on April 14, 2011 at 10:48 AM

well, yes! let´s learn from it.
it´s not that frustrating i find.
build networks, new structures and have fun and be creative :)

parmon  on April 14, 2011 at 11:04 AM

Writing a free accessible article… what will independent print mags say to this? = ) And is it a capitalism/culture/net-critic?

I don’t see it all that negative. The world is coming more and more together. And there always was an “urban offering” meaning that there is more culture available than one can deal with. But people tend to have favorite places, labels and styles. I think this will persist. Maybe there are more of these places available. Also do humans like/need some kind of borders ( = records = ). And at the same time they like it easy : D (mp3s). Also i see, that indie music artists have growing standards, even when starting making music at home in front of an Ipad. Many start to love analogue gear and professional mastering later. AND there are still some really closed and elite selectors in the indie distribution game, kicking labels, which not produce enough releases (or artists) in a year. The new thing is: The mass of people has dozens of other ways to get their stuff and entertainment. And there are many more things competing, for instance games. It’s a heavy competition, but this is capitalism, isn’t it?

I personally know financially successfull indie artists, but it is three out of hundred. But it is possible, only is it hard to reach and has a lot to do with bookings. But to come closer to one point of yours… they are multitalented in every aspect, promo, label and connecting. And they really decided to just only do this in their life, nothing else.

Another point is, that “market success” always has to do with demand. If you do “In music” (maybe not pop) your chances are way higher to earn some money with it. An artist, who wants to live from his music should be able to change his style (and project name) every year. This point alone speaks for the separation of music (art) and market. Cheers! = )

Mrs. S2Salazar  on April 14, 2011 at 11:19 AM

Excellent piece Stefan. Gracias!!

Baobinga  on April 14, 2011 at 11:46 AM

The article nails it, and a couple of commenters have missed it: the internet has NOT democratised music. Someone mentioned the idea of the internet breaking the clique circle of having to meet the right people to get industry contacts – I would disagree. There is so much spam out there that a lot of people will only respond to emails from people they have met in person – that has become an simple filter to cut down the unmediated access that overwhelms everything.

It’s not enough to say ‘oh the internet has opened doors and now anyone can buy your music’ – that’s so obvious as to be facile. What the article explains is how those open doors have become utterly flooded with disposable rubbish, to the point that yes anyone ‘could’ buy your music, but most likely won’t, as it will have been drowned by substandard copies.

Dan Caballero  on April 14, 2011 at 12:30 PM

nicely done. basically, as much as things change, they stay the same. great art is great art and to ‘make it’ you must stand out…. of course be careful what you wish for!!

Andrea  on April 14, 2011 at 1:15 PM

Wise and clear and true!

Dustin Zahn  on April 14, 2011 at 4:07 PM

fantastic article.

krisX  on April 14, 2011 at 4:17 PM


one correction here:

“As an exemple NI and Ableton are private german companies, owned by few guys”

officially yes, but their growth policy is 100% financed by the banking industry, which essentially means that the gross of their profits go to baniking corporations in the form of interest payments. by the time they are out of debt their products might be dead in the market, thus they have just been a tool to banks, sucking out money from us.

xvt  on April 14, 2011 at 5:18 PM

There’s a lot of truth in this on a theoretical level but coming from someone that thinks cueing up 700 versions of Sacre Du Printemps is being outstandingly different seems kinda lame. You should not take a shit in the nest you helped building yourself only because your fifteen minutes of minimal fame passed by so quickly.

Steven Coyle  on April 14, 2011 at 6:11 PM

This has some really good points but certainly paints a gloomy an somewhat disparaging picture for people who aren’t constantly thinking outside the box in terms of production. Most artist’s these day aren’t stupid and know its extremely hard to make a living from making music alone,which is why many producers turn dj to boost their income. The cost of music hasn’t really fallen much for the end user either, if u buy a full release on beatport in wav format it will more than likely cost more or the same as a vinyl. Of course all the associated costs of producing the vinyl cut the profit dramatically ,so with less overheads and shouldn’t there be more money to be made? Obviously file sharing and illegal downloads majorly kill sales but for the most music lover they have no problem with paying for their music.I think its less about company’s in the past who started things than the way they are run now,electronic music is more popular than ever and there are people making serious cash with dj fee’s,corporate branding and merchandise. The digital market is still in its infancy and i’m sure there will be many changes in the future, but really who gives a fuck about the money anyways, people just wanna play/make music party and have fun. Even if u you only have your 15 minutes of fame for that track you did or have a good run for a few years, at least you did it.

Alert  on April 14, 2011 at 7:42 PM

Bravo…great assessment of the state of music.

Jack Barton  on April 14, 2011 at 7:57 PM


I agree it is hard to work a full time job and try to make a name for yourself in music. I have ended 3 relationships so I can commit as much free time into it as I can…no regrets!

Jack Barton  on April 14, 2011 at 8:17 PM

i think its more like a tighter runged ladder now. you do well on the smaller labels, if your good you get noticed and will get access to sign to slightly bigger labels, then bigger labels and so on.

Talent stil prevails man with those who love the music. and when them people start raving on about you, those who like it but are not as into start to buzz of you, and so on again.
and thats when the lables who have been smart get pushed up there ladder and make a name for themselves.

Yes, it takes much more effort to keep a profile up but it just requires brains as well as talent, thats why geeks are the cool kids now, coz they plan there moves well!

MikeD  on April 14, 2011 at 9:35 PM

Detroit and Chicago is littered with innovators who had an original idea, playing stripper bars to scrape together a few dollars while Richie Hawtin plays to 1000s every weekend.

Dj little miss naughty  on April 14, 2011 at 11:19 PM

Great article mat, really enjoyed reading it, after a very long carreer in the industry, ranging from my early years as a dance music specialist, promoter, dj, then going on to study music technology and teach as a music industry consultant…i find that unless your day job is relevant to the industry, you most definately could not make a decent living from it and progress artistically at the same time. X

tomkat  on April 15, 2011 at 1:51 AM

Eight track anyone?
thanks for this is puts some perspective on the disposable marketplace that digital has created. I am a crate digger or dinosaur of dance music history, and do not play digital though I try to hear that music, and I never really cared much for new things. But I have noticed how artists are hot for like 4 months and then practically vanish and we especially suffer here in the US, being in a market that seems to be shrinking faster than the government’s education budget.
I look for the value of music to make me happy, and I hope producers are doing things for those types of reasons, as opposed to making hits. I think that also if producers go out there and make some other types of music a la nicolas jarr or mlz. I love it when people predominantly associated with dance music make some more edgy tripped out noizy fun music, but i digress..

john  on April 15, 2011 at 2:19 AM

yeah, you win, I quit.

Anna Loog  on April 15, 2011 at 3:50 AM

Interesting piece but it also sounds a lot like moaning. Much of what he says is true but there are still electronic artists breaking through with big fanbases – Skream, Benga, Deadmuau5 etc

I don’t know why anyone bought the democratisation nonsense anyway, maybe there was an element of it initially but as soon as it becomes clear that a couple of million youtube hits may lead to a track being playlisted at radio then things surely change. I’m not sure what dark practices are in place but given it’s ‘the internet’ and that there are no shortage of nerds out there with the skill to manipulate things we see on our screen then I would be more surprised if everything that I saw online was as it appeared.

Anyway regardless of that, much of this article focuses on how it was ‘easier’ for artists in the past. From my understanding the music industry has always been tough so nothing new there, why moan about it if it is something you have chosen to do? And why moan that you may have to do some other form of work to supplement it? If you work as a musician you are self employed and it’s surely obvious this kind of work is going to be less stable and have less guarantess than if you were employed by a company.

I also see the tired old topic of vinyl come up (YAWN), yes it’s a shame but you cannot blame labels for not pressing up records if they are going to lose money on it. Therefore labels are just responding to the market and let’s face it we’ve been getting told that vinyl is redundant technology since the 80s so maybe we should be celebrating that some records still get pressed? On the flipside as a musician that was making records prior to the digital age, I am now far happier that the music I make is available for download across the entire world and for as long as I want it to remain there. When it was vinyl only you had a 1 or 2 thousand records pressed up and that was your lot.

Anyway regardless of me pulling it apart it’s a well written and well thought out piece. In short what I wanted to say is that there is still a demand for great music and artists will still break through but as artist you need to realise that you actually need to bring something to the table with your work, just making a track that sounds as good as such and such a successful producer will not suffice. So in that sense I fully agree with Stefan when he talks about guts and principles. Stay optimistic folks, I don’t see how we can afford to be any other way :)

tehk  on April 15, 2011 at 4:04 AM

amazing piece… really puts things into perspective!

Niel  on April 15, 2011 at 5:15 AM

My firm believe is that we’ll eventually move to a different model. One where good artists aren’t paid for the music they’ve made, but to a system where the public will become sponsors. They pay them to make more music in the future, based on the quality of the product in the past.

The ones that manage to master this model the fastest will tap into a new financial wealth that today is overlooked. A network of fans, a one-click payment system and an controlled sharing model (leading listeners back to your network).

Graeme Park  on April 15, 2011 at 6:57 AM

Superb piece.

Ka§par  on April 15, 2011 at 8:49 AM

impressive piece of thought from Goldmann. I’ve been saying the same thing for years now to little or no avail from most who listen… inevitably someone had to do a feature on these issues. And wonderfully written too!

Damn L.  on April 15, 2011 at 9:26 AM

All my heroes wore duct-taped shoes.

(I think the concept of lost carreer happiness causing retro waves… interesting)

dmitri sfc  on April 15, 2011 at 11:23 AM

Truth ! Now stop telling everybody ! They are going to get hip!

Wesley Dysart  on April 15, 2011 at 1:39 PM

Very well written & in-depth piece here, it’s given me a lot to think about.

Fede  on April 15, 2011 at 2:29 PM

great read, thx

Damn L.  on April 15, 2011 at 2:44 PM

“If you suffer from a lack o’ buzz record a tape! Like all dem hip trust fund kiddies do!”

With all due respect but I don’t think gimmicks like this help.

Musicians, ideally, should be unemployed, ergo: unemployment should be more lucrative. This means: the respective states can in fact help them “independent” “artists”.

Pete Heller  on April 15, 2011 at 6:08 PM

The music industry only has itself to blame for its obsessive desire to cling to a redundant business model when the writing was on the wall – it’s no use blaming Apple for seeing the opportunity the music industry refused to embrace.
Digital is like water – it follows the path of least resistance and obstructive rights management systems are the biggest barrier to the establishment of a model that might begin to improve the musician/producer’s lot. Free will always win in the current mess we have. Why criticise Creative Commons? At least they are trying to find a way past the logjam.

Nick Libetta  on April 15, 2011 at 7:31 PM

Very interesting !!!

Lola  on April 15, 2011 at 10:41 PM

“I’m 21, I’ve been producing electronic music for 10 years now (yup!)”

People were already doing that 20+ years ago, yes, as “young” as you…. *old hat*

Deadmau4  on April 16, 2011 at 1:41 AM

Wear a giant mouse mask on your head and make big cheesy dance tunes.

That should do it.

Mark  on April 16, 2011 at 7:23 AM

Good article, you do realise that concert only performances and no release can never happen apart from fueling audio-corder developement some people would certainly slap a discrimination law suit (No fee No Win) as unable to attend due to disability….

Then there is the issue of those people that will attend with PA robots that administer intimate needs… you will not be able to stop those being with the person and due to the level of logging necessary to cover legal stuff if the robot goes apeshit, logs allow to see what happened and therefore your lovely performance was recorded… The live performance world has not even thought of this yet, I chuckle when they say all recording devices are to be turned off, much as I did about the No Photos ban in sensitive places around the UK came in almost the same time as eye-fi cards.

Then there is human augmentation, you going to ban anyone one with an augmented eye from live concerts?

Make something good that stands out is the way.

John  on April 16, 2011 at 9:58 AM

“Why plaster the Internet with files? Who finds that valuable anymore? Imagine an incredible piece of music available only once — on dubplate. Or let’s consider falling back in history — music only in the presence of its creator. No release. Come to the concert. Enthusiasm will be back when you get this feeling of attending something really special. How to create this feeling for the audience is the core task of the creatives, if they deserve that name.” Absolutely bloody dead on!

Jazzyspoon  on April 16, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Great article. ““Unique” is the most valuable word in a crowded environment of generic ideas and overwhelming redundancy. Striving for this quality is also exactly what is most rewarding artistically.” That pretty much sums my experiences in music up. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Cthulhu  on April 16, 2011 at 12:46 PM

Meh. So much energy spent on a damp squib. No offence meant, but I guess it illustrates your own words (“grossly overpaid consultant for a few hours a month, like I am occasionally”).

Kris Halewski  on April 16, 2011 at 2:10 PM

What about making music just for pleasure and to express yourself? Music is the last thing that should be done for money or fame.

Alex McGowan  on April 16, 2011 at 2:21 PM

Put into words what we’re all dealing with! Very good thinking!! Now listen to my tracks! ;-)

reSet  on April 16, 2011 at 3:49 PM

Good reading! thank you for translating this article! I like the present situation of the industry because it forces us to be more creative. Big up to all! and dont’t give up on your dreams!

StrangeCat  on April 16, 2011 at 5:31 PM

Sound Cloud allows everyone to post there music and share that means there is an over abundance of crap! In all styles!

Love the article dude it was to true

But everyone stay positive^_-

Morrison  on April 16, 2011 at 8:42 PM

Did anyone else find this to be completely and utterly depressing? What’s the point indeed. Make a song. Or read a book. Or take a dump. Or don’t. Who the F cares?

Christian  on April 17, 2011 at 8:51 AM

This is a great article, very informative, good analysis of trends that occured over the past 10 years that I was noticing, but was way better at being affected by than actually finding a solution for!

I found the end a bit of a disappointment though, yet I’m sure some stories just don’t have happy endings. I think the last paragraphs about “separating income and music in your head” seem to retreat back to the author’s original thesis, that “Being a ‘musician’ is increasingly becoming a profession for those coming from inherited wealth or being mercantily exceptionally clever.”

It’s easy, when you got established before all these changes happened, to offer up something like

“herefore there is a need to have sources of income that are independent from your own music’s direct returns. That is, any income that can be obtained with spending very little time on it. One may consider the pros and cons (there are such) of grants and fellowships, commissions from the industry or institutions, as well as sources of passive income…”

And then try living it! Yeah, the food stamps helped. And taking advantage of the generous camping policies of the Forest Service was a great way to cut back on my spending. But now I find in the small trailer I live in the circut breakers keep flipping if I try running the whole studio at once- even with the heat off!

Eventually life just keeps bitch slapping you with car payments, higher insurance premiums, health care bills, etc… and get tired of being broke forever. There are better charities I can devote my energies too than downloading fans!

milan  on April 17, 2011 at 10:59 AM

The pure truth, thank’s for the great read!

Stefan Goldmann  on April 17, 2011 at 11:23 AM

Thank you all for the wonderful feedback, criticism and encouragement! Really my pleasure to be part of this discussion!

A few things I’d like to elaborate on, since they seem to create some controversy (always a good sign):

I really don’t critisize Apple, Google etc for anything. In fact I advertise buying ISP stocks. Their whole PR is awesome since it turned millions of people into unpaid advertisers for their services, generating annual revenue with unprecedented growths and creating billions of $ of shareholder and investor value. Lessig and Anderson are geniuses in selling this to the public, exploiting (and deepening) the legal and economic insecurities and misconceptions that prevail. The public is slightly less genius obviously (because that stuff is NOT free – you, the consumer, pay for the tech and the services, and the advertisements you see on the net all day. And I wouldn’t bet the price you pay is really a bargain, looking at the deteriorating quality of the content and its handling you get for your $).

So my piece is really not about or against “the internet” – it is about what to do as an artist in that environment. That might go to the length of taking stuff off the net, but does not have to. There are still guys who manage to have “free” content on the net to work in their favour (a bit). It’s just an option, not a necessity.

At the end of the day what the public values most: Experiencing outstanding music. As for us artists, it’s our job to try to create that experience. And we will have to consider which measures will get us there. Clinging to yesterday’s truths (esthetically and commercially) will not do that anymore. That’s what it all boils down to.

All the best,

stacy  on April 17, 2011 at 11:34 AM

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Pytzek  on April 17, 2011 at 2:36 PM

Well, after reading the article i can just say that Stefan sound really frustrated. Also he sound like an echo of major music industrie which can’t and wont take changes. Internet is here and music business is not the same. World is changing.
And some of people (like Stefan) can’t agree with changes. Its remained me on story before 100 years when vinyl was invented. Same storie & same fears was told by musicians and they forbid vinyl as they was afraid for they jobs…
This article it the same… technology and internet are reason why “real” musician loosing they jobs & money…
After reading this article i had feeling like i was read some conservative Bush government…
P.s. Im owner of vinyl label called Burek(which sell just fine) and also i lead a club in Zagreb with friends…We are in music business for 15 years and i can said 80% of things in this article are bullshit

P.p.s. Stefan…you should learn little bit more about Creative Commons before you write in negative tone about it …
Also you can stick your copyright law in ass..


Mario Kolonic aka Pytzek

JamesVickers  on April 17, 2011 at 3:09 PM

At some point we have all been part of everything we hate about the EDM scene.

Off topic, to everyone who attempted to be critical on the “piece”… Fuck off… LOL you look so very silly.

Yurinator  on April 17, 2011 at 4:43 PM

@Pytzek: That vinyl label of yours really looks like a whole lot of music industry experience you have:


10 seconds to land  on April 17, 2011 at 5:06 PM

We have gone through exactly that as described, our daytime jobs are supporting our passion- music. If you are passionate, regardless of the hurdles, new and old, you will find ways to produce great music! times have changed, thats why there’s no new u2!

temperowka  on April 17, 2011 at 5:09 PM

I really needed to read on this outcome. I was thinking for a long time, what is going on really in the music production since I suspended in 2001. The coming back is impossible from the very beginning. But this is a great opinion what to do exactly, if you feel talented and creative enough to live on through your music works. I do not expect already any pay back of my investments and spent days and hours during the night on my production. I express my best in my music, and I try to do without being famous at all.

Spencer Thomas  on April 17, 2011 at 10:34 PM

Fairly thorough history of the modern music industry. Don’t agree with every word, but good overall.

One thing I’d like to add is that for many, probably /most/ artists, the days of art (only) for a living are done. We’ve moved (back to, in some cases) a world of day jobs, writing soundtracks, songs as loss leaders for the physical merchandise (which actually has an element of scarcity), and lots more “micro-celebs” as opposed to just a few “mega-celebs.” If you’re in this for the money first (and don’t know better) you’ll probably be in for a shock. On net, this is *may* good for art, but not necessarily for the pocketbook of most artists. Everyone needs to start adjusting to this reality.

The other thing that still needs a great deal of work is giving people ways to sort through the massive amount of music out there; recommendation and categorization systems are the beginning, but still need a serious amount of work to be useful. Randomization-type systems have some promise as well for giving people exposure to things that they may not even be aware of/think they might not like stylistically. This entire area of research (and implementation) is definitely still in its infancy.

Finally, the “good news” part of the article was very encouraging. Thanks for that.

RuBoy  on April 17, 2011 at 11:55 PM

Good to see someone put down in words what is really the (unfortunately rather depressing) truth for so many talented musicians out there, a very well written article!

I’m not sure I can agree though that it would only take to stand out from the crowd in order to get somewhere as I believe it’s unfortunately not enough anymore; sure, it might help but having a quality and uniqueness was probably more applicable in the past compared to these days, especially since the day of the A&R is coming to an end. Let’s face it; being a full-time musician these days is mostly for the inherited/already rich or those who have the right contacts.
Like some of the comments suggest above I, too, believe that it has become harder to get noticed by the cliques that run the industry. In the past whether it was by sending off music on a CD by post or music through e-mail (obviously during the short period in time e-mailing existed before file-sharing & spamming became a popular practice), the chances were actually far greater to get noticed, or at least get a response back without having to hunt these people down in person for feedback. In order to even get in touch with anyone at all you had to work hard to get a postal address or an email address, but at least whenever you did the person on the other end would actually (not always, but much more often compared to now) give your material a chance. The flood of emails of today has just eliminated any chance of getting your voice heard. And the truth is that you still need to be in with these cliques really to stand a chance, no matter how good and original your music is (due to saturation, that is).

I can’t say I have a better solution to the problem compared to the one Stefan is offering, I just don’t think there really is one yet.
Internet, for better or worse, is obviously here to stay so not much to do about that. That doesn’t mean it’s not tiresome hearing people constantly trying to defend opinions such as “musicians should stop complaining about not making money from selling music as now they make it off gigs instead”.
It’s just that people were doing gigs before as well and the majority of musicians still struggled back then (although getting paid for selling music obviously made it easier). And yes, the live scene might have become more profitable during the past few years, but it only really applies to the very top; the “smaller fish” actually suffer more than ever at present due to lack of gigs. Like Stefan writes, it’s cheaper to book someone else who’d play for just the cab fare and why, as a promoter, wouldn’t you now that the market is so saturated that most producers go by unnoticed.
It’s rather funny how the truth from the outside is so convenient in order to keep on downloading for free (and if their source of income doesn’t involve any aspect of the music scene, why shouldn’t it be?) whilst within the scene all you hear about is how the big majority are struggling, badly.
This opinion always comes from people who in reality never have been able to come up with any real justified arguments why music should be free.
I know the article wasn’t about people downloading music for free and my point wasn’t that either but it’s hard not to mention seeing as it’s really the source of the issue.
The way I see it, the average music consumers of today consist out of: 70% who download music for free/only use streaming sources which more or less give the artist little to none in compensation, 20% who claim to “gladly pay to support their favourite artists” but in reality also just download the music for free and lastly 10% that actually do pay and support. Sadly, I think 10% is far too big an estimate.

dylan  on April 18, 2011 at 9:13 AM

hmm, good article, except i dont see any speakers or keyboard or anything in the second (more modern) studio picture.. It doesnt look like a studio at all.

littlewhiteearbuds  on April 18, 2011 at 9:19 AM

That’s a good point, Dylan. Apparently that was (at one time) Richie Hawtin’s workspace. You’ll have to ask him for his playback strategies.

Hylke  on April 18, 2011 at 5:24 PM

Very good read thank you.

I just bumped into this graph.


cl  on April 19, 2011 at 4:10 AM

if you read some of the comments then you realize that most people did not understand it…they still want to open another label and another and another…if these “pearls” you talk about dont find any of the 10 billion labels around than its not good enough to be released!

Yurinator  on April 19, 2011 at 7:58 AM

getting your guiness book entry on being the person that opened the most labels might be a strategy though.

Pytzek  on April 19, 2011 at 10:56 AM


Man…im in music longer then you can think. My vinyl label is young and is sell good! i dont need to sell 100 000 copies . I do that coz i love that!
Also im sick of this “purist” stories.
Reading Goldmann i feel like only “elite & chosen ones ” can make & release the music.
I agree that a lot of shit is out. But its a free world. And music is nothing then personal question of taste & esthetic !!!
So who is he to say whats good & whats bad, who is good musician and who is bad, who should release music or who not?

Ok…people dosent sell 150 000 copy’s…So what?
Ok..people make music on crapy equipment…So what?

Its a choice of freedom! And If you want to have label and if you want to release the music..just go!

Tucky  on April 19, 2011 at 12:47 PM

Music is an art, not an industry.

Anon  on April 19, 2011 at 4:45 PM

Buy the right records. Play them at the right time to the right people. Watch the drugs kick in. Great night. That’s all that matters.

Anon  on April 19, 2011 at 5:35 PM

Play the right records at the right time to the right people on the right drugs.


Cam  on April 19, 2011 at 8:03 PM

“Separating income and music in your head can be deeply rewarding.” Of course it is! That is why artists should not expect to make money from their recordings. Music made without a commercial incentive or expectation is real music. That is why digital music stores are so full of crap – anything’s worth a shot when there’s even a small chance of renumeration!

People who believe that they should be entitled to make a living solely off their music are kidding themselves. Frankly, there are heaps of talented artists out there and not enough money to support them all. To boot, a truly miniscule proportion of these artists are capable of producing a continuous stream of high quality work. This is why the concept of labelling someone an “artist” is silly – it pigeonholes people who could be doing something productive (even if menial) with their lives after that initial burst of creativity vanishes, which it almost always does.

Do your best to make good music when you’re feeling it. Because when in a truly artistic frame of mind, money and success shouldn’t enter the equation. Do it to please yourself, and if you manage to please some others who show some gratitude, even luckier you!

Cinimod  on April 20, 2011 at 4:08 AM

The democracy wished for and granted to the consumer has become the last nail in the coffin for the producer. Everybody has stolen on the internet, some to massive extents, others trying hard to stop. The depressing thing is facing the fact that human nature is essentially deceitful, greedy and selfish, and that any new development in technology will be misused by the people to their own benefit. But this is not true of everyone, just some of the uber obsessed ‘fans’.
The desire of these enthusiasts in these music scenes is to have things upfront, so tracks will be ripped from radio shows, re-edited to be jingle free and uploaded within minutes of transmission. This was the only currency a DJ/producer had to set themselves apart from the wannabees, but as soon as they give it to ANYONE to promote other than played on an unrecorded live performance, people WILL steal it and distribute it THEMSELVES. Die hards, hobbyists and wannabees used to keep independant producers afloat, but now have the means to get their hands on their god’s goodies instantly. That is the democracy they sought for so many years, their way in, a chance to have access to all the upfront stuff and wow a crowd with it, knocking dead the king with a cheering bunch of revelers all hailing the new one. The means justifies the end, they have supported this producer for so long, why not steal from him a little to help them along on their road to stardom, and living the dream of giving up the day job?
If you want to make any kind of living, you can not rely on the support of your scene and it’s kingmakers. You are immediately confined to the the reach of their fanbase. ‘Normal’ unobsessive people will ocassionally buy music that they catch, hear and like in their ‘normal’ lives, which doesn’t include trawling forums and playlists for new or obscure music. They neither care nor have the time.
Talent, no committments, luck of meeting the right people at the right time and you have a chance to get in. When you are in, aim higher than impressing the main player in your sub genre of your niche. Think bigger, differently and with your heart and soul and people will notice your creations. Look up Kutiman’s THRUyou project on youtube; an accomplished but fairly underground breaky hip hop producer had an original idea and smashed it with over a million views, and will hopefully be getting offered some interesting things to work and a bit of cash over the next few years from it.
There is hope and good people are still out there. The old cliche of wheat and chaff rings true, and their is no greater democracy than that.

Stefan Goldmann  on April 20, 2011 at 2:49 PM

“That is why artists should not expect to make money from their recordings. Music made without a commercial incentive or expectation is real music.”

That’s a true-ism, I believe. In an underground scenario (and in most mainstream scenarios, too) you can’t plan financial success. Really. Even majors claim only 5% of their output ever hits BIG money. That’s why you shouldn’t “expect”. Still, if you come up with something great and contribute to society that way, you should be rewarded like any other dude out there, too. It often doesn’t happen. That’s why I encourage even great musicians to have their plan B, and that shouldn’t involve hours working at the gas station (a waste for society in 2 directions: less great art, and 1 job less available for someone else who might need it more or have more love for it).

But still, are there “too many talented” musicians? In any genre, I hardly find more than 1 really talented new artist a year, capable of producing more than 2 great records or creating great leaps forward even just once in a “career.”

Call it elitist, but 99% of the electronic music out there generically repeats the remaining 1%. My whole point is to think about how to be part of that 1%. More likely to happen when you go where few have been, no? Remuneration in that sphere is way easier to obtain (though not always… see above).

If you want to be in that other 99%, my blessings with what ever makes you happy.


Hrishi Mittal  on April 21, 2011 at 5:45 AM

What do you think of the earbits model where artists pay for airtime? – http://www.earbits.com/play/#/faqs/artist

HockeyBias.com  on April 21, 2011 at 8:43 AM

Superb. This dovetails nicely with Jaron Lanier’s book ‘You are not a gadget’. http://www.amazon.com/You-Are-Not-Gadget-Manifesto/dp/0307269647

amiszh  on April 21, 2011 at 9:02 AM

Lovely long way of saying “create less unoriginal crap and maybe you’ll even make money, not to mention you’ll be enjoying yourself so much more”. Good, timeless advice.

Dan Voell  on April 21, 2011 at 9:07 AM

Great Article! THE OLD RULES DON’T APPLY. I ran into a situation with a very talented artist who even when presented with a better option then the status quo wanted to approach the status quo because it’s what he was taught in school and what the last generation did. YOU ARE IN A NEW MARKET. Look at other business models (software/finance) as a means to build your music career, own your product, and get it out there. The internet jumped between you and your fans and said you had to go through it. Not True.

ALXander  on April 21, 2011 at 9:13 AM

It is not often that someone has the balls to say it like it is. Fantastic article, I hope people learn from it, highly unlikely.

I make artful electronic music which often includes an actual recorded electric instrument, if you could use my skill at some point or if you want to do a random collab send me a hey

I sound like this

Nick Taylor  on April 21, 2011 at 9:16 AM

From a guitarier sort of background…

… agreed you’ve got to do it full-time. You’ve got to be fully immersed in the culture.

We had a (how you say?) kicking scene in London in the 90s – without making money selling records. How? We didn’t pay rent. We all (or most of us) lived in squats, on the dole. Made a bit of money here and there driving vans or doing the odd night at a bar.

But… the thing that really made a difference was not “making money” but “killing expenses” – ie: landlords.

Adam I.  on April 21, 2011 at 10:25 AM

This makes me think of one of my favorite acts from the past five or six years: M83. Granted they date back a little bit further than that, but they don’t sound like anything else.

Another one that is a stand-out to me is someone named Laurel Halo (google it and download her 4-single EP). Again, she sounds like nothing else.

Jack  on April 21, 2011 at 4:46 PM

The word “democracy” has fallen on hard times. Both the base post, and several comments, used it in the same way, meaning “anyone can do whatever they want.” But that is not what the world means. Democracy actually means “everyone gets together to decide to do the same thing.” The first concept actually has a different name; it’s “anarchy.” “Democracy” is “everyone has a voice in building a consensus.” “Anarchy” is “everyone follows their own whim.”

Music was largely anarchic until the twentieth century. Sure, there were rock stars like Mozart and Beethoven, but most people never heard them, or only once in a lifetime. Music was “what cousin Bob does with that mandolin.” Anarchic music is still music. We still dance, we still sing along, eat and drink and chat and mate to it. But it’s not commercial. If you want commercial music (which is necessary for music to be financially profitable to anyone), you need actual “democracy.”

Bob  on April 21, 2011 at 5:40 PM

Thanks for an insightful piece. I’ve been thinking about the problem lately and it seems like the content creators are being raked over the coals by Big Search, Big Hardware and Big Piracy. It’s kind of sad when I look at Apple and think that they’re sort of a savior because they actually help the creators make some cash and then take 30% for doing pretty much nothing. But even Apple can play the part of Big Hardware because every hardware company knows that you’re not going to buy a new MP3 player that holds 5000 songs if you’re really going to have to spend $5000 to fill it up.

I wish I had better ideas.

mrG  on April 21, 2011 at 8:58 PM

A delightful read, but let’s try this: Pablo Picasso said, “Art is just another way of keeping a diary”

If this is so, then the way to garner attention is not simply to out-do the oddity of your last LOLCats post, but to be an interesting diarist, to be someone who actually has something to say that is interesting to a degree that you really want to know what that person is going to say next. So you hang on the releases, and through that person, you discover others who are also following these ideas and in there you have a community, a network. Given a network, all sorts of commerce-like things can happen; given a large enough network, it starts to feedback and self-inspire itself, and given a still larger network, sales people will get interested in piggy-backing on it (which is not always, if ever, a Good Thing)

But the key concept here is being an interesting diarist, in having something to say next that expands on what you had to say before, and leads to a direction. Beethoven didn’t just dream up nifty sounds that were “neater” than the last, he had a system, he was on a quest, he had a THEORY of where music HAD to go, and each and every composition (outside of commissions for money) was a further exploration into that space, each new symphony was the logical successor to the prior, building from the learning experience, going forward.

Mahler then picked up from Beethoven, and kept running, another interesting musical ‘diarist'; Schoenberg then did the same, and Cage ditto. Each was moving in a direction, applying themselves to exploring where this music HAD to go, carrying things to their logical conclusion. It wasn’t about spandex and wigs and arriving in a cocoon ;)

So it behooves the artist to become interesting FIRST, and THEN make music based on that foundation so as to prove their point. To some extent the ear-candy people are doing this too, only the theory they are applying towards is sales and persons in the club, which is nonetheless a quest and a scientific endeavour.

I would just, myself, hope to find diarists with something a tad more interesting to say :)

Dr. Colossus  on April 22, 2011 at 5:37 AM

Thanks for that thats a really good article. I’m going to re-post that. I’ve pretty much always been saying pretty similar things.

As regards artistic originality / novelty, anyone you can see doing anything original was there at least 6 months before you. You try catching up with their fresh new style you will always be playing catch-up. You try jumping on the “next big thing” you will always be out of date. It makes more sense just to do your own thing.

The paradigm I view music on the internet from is like gigging in the 60’s You play to different areas (of the internet) and grow in reputation. You may sell a bit of merch along the way (mp3’s) but its only chump change.

You only make some money to live off if you ever get taken up by the mainstream media (and don’t sign all your singles over in shitty contracts to shitty labels). Thats sort of like being signed in the old times.

You need to sell about 4000 mp3 albums a year to be comfy off from this game (taking into account fallow) and thats only going to happen with mainstream media. Even then that feels like a lot of mp3 albums to sell. At my listeners to sale ratio that it something like at least 40,000 listeners to get 4000 legal downloads. Thing is there is a global market so a shitload more money to be made if the crest of the wave can be broken.

filastine  on April 24, 2011 at 5:52 PM

There isn’t a word out of place here.

Zoe Amateur  on April 25, 2011 at 9:29 PM

Не that has an ill name is half hanged.

Cinimod  on April 26, 2011 at 9:33 AM

If a democracy is the even distribution of informed choice and giving the people a voice(the choice being to pay for music or not)then the people have voted with their feet.
90% don’t care the artists get nothing and steal.
10% have a conscience and pay.
Outlook for the future as a generation grows up NEVER having payed for music in it’s life = bleak. That 10% WILL die out or diminish in time. It may not be for another 50 years, but they will. How on earth can it be combated?
It can’t, you are dealing with human nature, which like water seeks the path of least resistance. And in that sense it isn’t democracy, it is revolution. The people truly have the power to access an endless developing universe of knowledge now, and how do they predominantly use it? Watching porn or stealing music and film. Well there’s progress. Make entertainment free and the people will never stop entertaining themselves. When do they find the time to truly learn or develop as a race? They don’t.
I sense a trap. Get out, now!

Cindy Gallop  on April 27, 2011 at 2:51 PM

Stefan – great post.

Something is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it.

What we are willing to pay depends on the emotional value it has for us.

Music is one of the most emotional experiences known to mankind.

The music industry has completely lost sight of that fact in its attempt to keep the top-down model going by focusing on purely rational (they think) ways of making money.

The music industry business models of the future belong to those who understand the emotional value of music and how to leverage that in a way that makes sense for musicians and fans alike.

And also to those who understand the truth of the Alan Kay quote:

‘In order to predict the future, you have to invent it.’

Cindy Gallop

Thomas  on April 27, 2011 at 5:55 PM

one of the best comments/advice ive heard in this field came from Markus Schulz.. he said “THE DAY YOU START MAKING MUSIC FOR YOURSELF IS THE DAY YOUR CAREER WILL TAKE OFF”

Beebos  on April 29, 2011 at 1:11 AM

Excellent article! Making electronic music now is really depressing compared to 10 years ago or so…I just wish people would realise the effect it has when they download illegal mp3s instead of buying their music.

This article echoes one Tweeted by Chris Anderson a while back –


Daniel Masson  on April 29, 2011 at 5:55 PM

Excellent !!

thissen3000  on April 30, 2011 at 1:55 PM

du bist ein kleiner neidischer scheisser

Andrew Thomas  on May 1, 2011 at 6:23 AM

I couldn’t agree less with this article, Mr. Dinosaur. Music is effectively free to make, free to distribute, and should be free for all. With production costs effectively zero, music is finally being produced by people who make music for pleasure – not because they see the pound signs at the end of it. There’s nothing worse than careerist bands who just want to get into music to get “signed” and hope to make money. Free digital distribution is finally killing of the obscenely wealthy pop star, and killing-off the major labels which have cheated their artists for so many years. It’s fantastic.

Enough about getting into music to make money. Making music should not be a job – being a doctor, or a builder, that’s a job. Music is a fantastic joyful hobby though. People paint pictures for pleasure, not to get rich. People should make music for pleasure, not to get rich. MUSIC IS NOT ABOUT MAKING MONEY, IT IS ABOUT MAKING MUSIC.

Andrew Thomas  on May 1, 2011 at 6:27 AM

Oh, and there’s no such thing as “stealing music”. Downloading a file, giving a file to a friend, is not “stealing”, no matter how many people tell you it is. You can steal a physical object, it is not possible to steal abstract information by copying it. You are copying information. You are not denying the original owner of that information anything – they still have their original copy. It is distributing information at zero cost. Nobody loses. Do not listen to the thought police who tell you copying a file from one disc to another is stealing. IT IS NOT STEALING. MAKE MUSIC FREE.

Annonymous  on May 2, 2011 at 11:32 AM

Good article, but that isn’t Hawtin’s studio…

That’s where he checks email, does business as usual.

His studio looks NOTHING like that.

Had to make this point, sorry…

Creedah  on May 2, 2011 at 12:00 PM

This is all true and it is depressing, there are other factors concering technology companies vs. record labels; studying the business has taught me a few other things. Originality is extremely hard because true inspiration doesnt just happen on its own. Most people who produce their own material are influeneced by their favorite artists; this can be both helpful and a curse as the more you try to sound like them the better you’ll become at producing but the problem with it is the fact there are going to thousands of otehr people with teh exact same motive as you. A good place to start would be to try to fuse genres together, grooves, basslines and textures to try to create an innovative personalized sound, then provided with alot of time and critisism the progression of the sound will increase untill it eitehr arrives and a totally radical destination or just withers back toward square one. Good luck to all teh upcoming producers and artists. The public doesnt know how lucky they are to have you!

sean  on May 6, 2011 at 11:33 AM

this article is valuable to anyone who values making money in music –and anyone who does that probably makes run-of-the-mill music anyway. the classic electronic tracks that initiated genres and revolutionized industries were not bent on making money, however, and rather on making music.

motz workman  on May 6, 2011 at 6:48 PM

This is a very insightful article. As we have been learning about this at college I thought I would post a couple of my own views on this issue. First of all I think that the music industry has always been a hard thing to crack into. But what really needs to happen is to say no and not support mass digital distributors like iTunes and beat port. ITunes are renowned to be one of the most popular download sites for music. Taking a hefty chunk of the artist’s talent at a figure of about 40% of every single/album sold. They have almost become the Tesco of the music world and completely monopolized the market. If you really want to see passionate and talented up and coming artists, the best idea is to buy hard physical product rather than digitally downloading. First of all, ITunes and the like are not promoters; they are simply showcasing the artists work and have no interest on pushing out anything. They rely solely on the purchaser knowing exactly what they want. (Which usually and sadly comes to the conclusion of musical commodities like Justin bieber and lady ga ga due to these being the most accessible to the wider audience.) This in turn makes the music industry stagnant because there is no money being pumped into it forcing good producers/artists to take up a day job which pushes music aside and makes it more of a bedroom hobby rather than a full time music career. (On the contrary, music labels are promoters that literally push artists out there and even give them a wage to live on so music can become their day job. The point I am trying to get to is that digital downloads are destroying real creative music out there by taking over all record company’s (which are promoters) Also, if physical product was purchased, the artist would see a significant rise of cash to every unit sold compared to that of digital downloads. This therefore would be fueling a proper music career for that artist evidently creating better music for you!

gabriel  on May 6, 2011 at 8:11 PM

music is what it is we all do it as a way 2 express those eternal emotions that dont transend with babylonan words hehehehehe laugh n cry coZ u only get one go

Stefan Goldmann  on May 8, 2011 at 5:29 PM

Amazingly few comments dwell on a view like this (I always assumed that was a mass phenomenon):

“this article is valuable to anyone who values making money in music –and anyone who does that probably makes run-of-the-mill music anyway.”

“Making music should not be a job. MUSIC IS NOT ABOUT MAKING MONEY, IT IS ABOUT MAKING MUSIC.” (well, in any case some ISP stocks make wonderful returns here)

Still, it is worth dealing with this kind of view (interestingly, it never comes from anyone actually DOING music on an above-“first steps” level – if it was of any value, it should have at least a minority support from just some reknown musicians?). It is obvious nonsense to link “music done as a profession” with a majors / pop star wealth / commercial interest perspective. Pop stars have always been a tiny fraction of the musicians’ community.

There are millions of “professional” musicians on the globe that do what they love (or are capable of) in the first place and don’t even know what a major is. I’m talking about music being the only perspective (besides sports) for gifted individuals to escape obscene poverty in 3rd world countries or class poverty in 2nd and 1st world countries. It is more accessible and realistic than becoming a doctor or engineer. And we increasingly see electronic music offering such possibilities, too (well, until recently). Think of Brazil or South Africa. Or of Detroit back in the day.

I bet anyone who voiced the “music is a hobby and shouldn’t generate any income” oppinion:

A) is middle class & male
B) owns a mac
C) never had to rely solely on his own work (whatsoever) to make a living (i.e. having parents with sufficient funds to support them through college or on whatever other leisure things they do in their sufficient leisure time before they take on one of these nice paying jobs in their respective societies)

We should take it for what it is: it is an ideology for people who have no clue what they are talking about. They have never invested any effort in learning anything in music beyond selecting the presets from the menu of some software they downloaded from a Russian server (go ahead – I support that since I found a Native Instruments ad on a website that offered a free download of my music). Of course, at this level of experience, it seems nonsense to them to make money from that – and I agree 100%.

Still, this view is uninformed (mildly put) since it is only applicable to one very narrow way of creating music. Other (actually: most) music takes time. A classical violinist HAS to practive 5-9 hours a day. There is no day job option. Arguably even in electronic music, millions of people have benefited culturally from the music developed by gifted musicians. Some tracks might have been created on a lazy afternoon (and the house classics have earned a loooot of money), others took weeks or months to produce.

Go out and listen to some music other than the generic stuff you filled your harddrive with. If someone didn’t spend years to develop what your internet friends emulate with their presets, you wouldn’t even know electronic music exists. Rest assured that people like Carl Craig, Richie Hawtin, Ricardo Villalobos, Jeff Mills, Larry Heard and even Deadmau5 have invested years of their lives to develop what their fans love them for. And no one of them is on a major (except Deadmau5). If it was their hobby you would have never heard of any of them though. And I couldn’t care less if someone releases on a major or an indie. Miles Davis was on a major. Bach was on the majors of his baroque era (money from the church & some feudal ruler – without these people wouldn’t have listened to his stuff for the last 300 years).

I’m fine, thanks, but you never know the background of people. Assuming that music should be something only middle class kids can afford to do (as their “hobby”), while everyone else is happily invited to stay wherever the social ladder put them … well, judge for yourself what such worldview is worth.


matt allaby  on May 9, 2011 at 8:12 PM

Very well thought out and considered piece. props.

Started-DJING-in-1979  on May 10, 2011 at 6:12 AM

“Once a recording was produced it enjoyed a long life in the market due to the lack of competition that otherwise would have pushed it off the store shelves.”

True, but the raise of independent radios in early 80’s (here in Europe) contributed a lot to shorten average life span of these recordings, simply because people become tired of hearing them 24 times a day.

the cute belieber  on May 12, 2011 at 1:47 PM

awww, deadmau5 in third, c’mon U can reach the first place
deadmau5 forever <3<3<3<3<3<3

pd: it's not progressive house, is electro house

newnumbertwo  on May 18, 2011 at 11:28 AM

All the talk about day jobs and creating reminds me of a Bukowski poem:

air and light and time and space

“–you know, I’ve either had a family, a job,
something has always been in the
but now
I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
the light.
for the first time in my life I’m going to have
a place and the time to

no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your body blown
you’re going to create blind
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire.

baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses

Egoless  on May 19, 2011 at 8:56 PM

What a true & depressing article…

Egoless  on May 19, 2011 at 9:12 PM

Those people stating that music should be free are completely missing the fact that that making music is a time consuming activity. And time is money… There are bills & rents to pay, food to eat, supporting your family, children etc… The day doesn’t last for 48 hours, so you can have a day job and have enough time to practice, produce and make a breathtaking piece of music!!!

deelarke  on May 20, 2011 at 12:23 PM

A well written, but unobjective article. I can’t believe that the wider public are so lazy they dont want to go out and find whatever music they love, and from personal experience I have found that great music repositories (Resident Advisor, XLR8R, KMag etc) as well as print media (Wire magazine etc) give you fantastic insight into independent music, pointing people in the right direction and making them think for themselves.
However tough it is out there, the main reason for making music should be a love of making music, not to try and compete with established artists. Go and make some music.

Ole  on May 21, 2011 at 5:36 AM

Wonderful. Got my hopes up! Been thinking along the same lines.

Thank you!

BlackBit  on May 23, 2011 at 2:54 AM

@newnumbertwo [from Wiki] “In 1969 Bukowski accepted an offer from Black Sparrow Press publisher John Martin and quit his post office job to dedicate himself to full-time writing…As he explained in a letter at the time, ‘I have one of two choices — stay in the post office and go crazy … or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve.’… Bukowski published almost all of his subsequent major works with Black Sparrow Press.”

Denying the economic realities of making music hurts everyone in the long run. Unfortunately, it’s the music business’s responsibility to come up with a solution (one that does not involve artificial scarcity), not the consumer’s. Give us all the tracks we want. Let us customize it how we want. Give us great fucking sound quality. We know you have the tools to do it. Bundle it up in a wonderful e x p e r i e n c e, sound & vision. And we’ll pay dearly. You can have your cushy tour busses back, your money for rent/drugs/sweet analogue gear. You can have it all back. That’s a promise. Love, The Consumers/Pirates

P.S. pre-Nasdaq music scene, we miss you. -Older Pirates

P.P.S. If you keep offering $0.99 per VBR mp3 downloaded in our drab music database, we’ll keep stealing until there is no more music industry.

Damien  on May 24, 2011 at 5:43 PM

Andrew Thomas is an idiot and almost certainly middle class

I’m sick of cheaply made shite by people that don’t devote their full energy into music, one of the reasons for this is that they aren’t making money from it

People who say that money doesn’t matter obviously have never had to worry about money

Shane  on May 25, 2011 at 9:07 AM

I don’t understand why it is so awful to have music as a hobby. Something to pursue in your spare time. The self absorbed whingeing from people sulking about the fact they could have been a contender if only they had been around 15 years ago is laughable. I run a small label with my friend – admittedly moved away from the dancefloor these days but think same rules apply – we have day jobs and thoroughly enjoy the fact it is a part time occupation. In fact I would say our quality control is higher as a result of having limited time to put into the label and the fact we are not chasing some stupid tour off the back of a few tracks.

When people go on about the injustice of the music industry and how hard done by they are – what they really mean is they are not getting the attention they feel they deserve – the attention this generation takes as theirs by right. It looks so easy to be famous these days – I’m almost there – if I could only just get over the line there will be a banquet for my ego! If you are truly original and talented your music will get noticed believe me. There may be a lot of music released but there are just as many dedicated music obsessives trawling the releases each week trying to pick out and spot the exceptional work. How about worrying about upping your game? I have absolutely no doubt that the majority of people who are moaning about the situation are in all probability the same people who release average generic throwaway material but their ego just won’t let them see this because obviously their work is special. I mean it has to be – they made it! Stop worrying about getting attention – Up your game guys and gals – stand out and I promise you will have the privilege of other people listening to your music.

Josh Bestgen  on May 25, 2011 at 9:02 PM

Fucking brilliant. I love this. It’s how I’ve felt for so long. Very well written and relevant. Thank you.

raiseshand  on May 26, 2011 at 1:59 AM

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Just a question about the sales figures below: Are these anecdotal (from talking to other producers/labels DJs)or are you quoting from somewhere? Independent sales are so difficult to track.

“In 2000, an average vinyl single generated a return of a couple of thousand Euros, while in 2011 the same single generates a loss of a couple of hundred Euros, even without what were formerly known as “production costs.”

sergej  on May 29, 2011 at 3:42 PM

Problem is that u get 1000 same tracks on digital shops everyday ~ and how we call thoswe people artists? And expect they live from their music? article mention that we could not analyse richie biz paths, but this is not area of research we need – what he done? he inovate, had a passion, had a balls. we have to look on this things. To comain that djs play for free or drop the price its.missed point. His job is to entertain people on the dance floor, and we all now that one who has passion will do it.much better then one who is better paid. Speaking from bussiness perspective – if artist choose path that they do anything by themselfs, they has to take responsibilities for that biz venture. And every business should have mission – and “my music biz ltd” with mission “sell more” sucks. Simply cause of such a democracy we have miss match between demand and supply. Raves are deadth, clubs are declining while supply of new music is huge and not inovative. But still we have good models which are working well and making money in all parts of the industry. So lets look positive and keep the faith in what we choose as our life profession. Its not easy. But who say that was easy ever and it should be easy. Respect and love from zagreb

Stefan Goldmann  on May 30, 2011 at 2:43 PM

@raiseshand: Regarding sales figures, many are summed up from several “anecdotes”, obviously where no real statistics are available – I have been speaking for years to people with access to real numbers at key points: distribution, promotion, booking, publishing, manufacturing, etc. Add my experience as a label manager and consultant (I get to see dozens of contracts and the average terms people find acceptable tell a lot about how it is out there).

I can give you a few statistics:

– The average 12″ vinyl single by one of the world’s biggest “professional level labels only” dance distributors sell below 300 units. That is, the “best seller” sells something like 2000 units (which used to be the lower average some years ago). Some of the most famous labels you know sell something like 500 units (which used to sell 4000 on the average).

– The biggest manufacturing broker in Germany says 95% of their orders for new singles by labels are for 300 units (it makes no sense to press less, unless you go for ultra limited). Labels will use at least 50 copies for promotion (DJs, retailers, press), so 95% of labels hardly find more that 250 people worldwide to buy a copy. That boils down to something like: 40 in Japan, 50 in Germany, 30 UK, 10 USA, 2 Belgium…

– Digital releases: I stopped tracking the numbers. At some point it was 48000 new tracks a week in dance music only. Only a bunch of these a year makes a killing out there (“Barbra Streisand”), the rest takes in anything from $0 – $2000. More often closer to $0.

Many of you have made a point in saying: too many people think they “deserve” an income, gigs and fame from the music they do – while they don’t stand out enough. I agree 100% and that’s the point I was trying to make with “Everything popular is wrong.”

Recently I was asked by a journalist: doesn’t an artist isolate even more by being as different as possible from anything else? NO! Think about it: Name me any artist reknown for what he does on a “famous” level for 10 years+ (and you can go back to the Beatles with this). My point is, you have to go even crazier. And that is the fun part about it. Earlier on, you could be 2nd or 25th in a genre and could survive. That is not true anymore. You have to be THE BEST in what you do, and that is only possible if you open a new category (can be as lame as “slowhouse”). People don’t have the attention span to follow any “me too” artists (see the statistics above for an idea why that is so). You’ll be around for the fad and then you’ll be gone. And that’s ok. You have to love it and build it from zero. Than you truly have a chance to have a nice time with music – and people can have a nice time with your music. It’s inspiring for all involved and it’s a good time to start while still most people go the “me too” route.

classified  on June 5, 2011 at 2:12 PM

Really liked the article, one point though, production tools are much more accessible, easier and more powerful to use than before… probably if it was so “easy” to compose with a program such as Ableton before, there would be more Sashas and Jeff Mills around..

Add to that online education and digital labels and you have the right recipe for democratization.

My critique to the new “electronic” is the total lack of respect for melodies and harmony by some tech heads, who virtually spend their whole time learning Ableton tricks and forget the essentials…


Jon  on June 21, 2011 at 5:55 PM

brillant, every sentiment was bang on — just sad that although its easier for truly unique and great music to shine amongst a background of shit, a system of support to generate such talent seems to be completely fucked.

Jorge Socarras  on August 1, 2011 at 10:25 AM

You’ve thought this out so thoroughly, logically and justly that the complex inter-relationships elucidated seem self-evident – a testament to your abilities, as I don’t actually recall anyone else quite doing so.

nubian mindz  on August 5, 2011 at 12:03 PM

A very good read. The future is exciting as the old model of the music business is disentegrating rapidly and the new possibilities are vast. He who dares wins is my new motto!

Philip Arbon  on August 17, 2011 at 11:53 PM

Look up Devin Townsend, he managed to make it completely on his own. His following grows and looks to be surprised or amazed by him as opposed to looking to him for a certain formula.

Over the years he has reigned in on the nuances of modern production (over-compression, little dynamics) and really allowed the music to shine. Though his genre is Metal, his music now has huge dynamics, among other things unique to his music alone (in metal at least).

It is true however, he will never be popular, but he makes a good enough living, through hard work and persistence, he made it.

Just an example, that it can be done, its just different these days, for better AND for worse!

tychonaut  on August 19, 2011 at 5:12 AM

Every music dies, right?

“Techno/House” has had a good 20 year run. That’s longer than a lot of styles. Look at funk, early rock and roll, Motown, modern metal… what do you expect?

Used to be lots of venues for playing live music. “Bands” got together and had many opportunities to play and mature as musicians. The big stars of the 80’s were the ones who had grown up in a completely different musical environment than we have today. I flipped around the radio in the 80’s and I could hear Sting, Genesis, Rush, Kate Bush, Lionel Richie, Billy Joel, Prince.. like them or not, these were artists with breadth and staying power forged by years of playing in a variety of venues and working with other top-game musicians.

Now kids go from a few years in their bedrooms to “big names”.

I’m supposed to regard “The XX” as some kind of musical geniuses? Please.

When was the last time you heard a really great drummer in a modern act? Or guitarist? Or bassist? I mean really great, not just getting close to emulating a forgotten hero of the past. And don’t even get me started on singing.

I think along with the democratization of music in the 80’s/90’s you also had a backlash against “virtuosity” which was considered to be an overindulgent symptom of “old music”. After punk, no-wave, grunge.. really looking like you are “trying to be good” was considered uncool. Wanking. Just chug away on those 8th notes and sing like you just woke up and everything will be fine. Or put down a kick snare and hat and you’ll be good. Don’t worry about learning an instrument and all that that brings. Just learn your DAW and you are an artist. I think those people used to be called “engineers”, and they were different from “musicians”. Now you are expected to be both, so each skill is half developed.

I ramble… but video truly killed the radio star.

Sam Roake  on August 23, 2011 at 5:52 AM

this was an education! Thanks.

Bios  on September 9, 2011 at 5:13 PM

ok.. but WHEN WILL YOU LISTEN TO MY TRACK?? :)) thanks for this article tho, gave me a giant push.

Yadgyu  on September 17, 2011 at 7:55 PM

Honestly, I love this whole digital music revolution. Music is free. Music equipment is free. What the heck is the problem with you guys?

The truth is that 99.999% of you would never be successful at a music career anyway. Just have fun and leave the music to the professionals.

Tony  on October 26, 2011 at 11:48 PM

Unreal Article.

So great!

Thank you for sharing…

If there is anything I took from this it’s that if I continue working hard on my music and standing out in the marketplace, I will be rewarded.

On the surface this article might seem depressing to aspiring musicians like myself, but in truth, after deeper analysis, it is incredibly motivational.

That may just be my nature however…

Thanks again!,
Sound Remedy

hans kulisch  on November 14, 2011 at 9:53 AM

hi great read, definitely spot on concerning originality… most mainstream be it underground mainstream or mainstreammainstream is following not leading. people have to much fears to stand out or break rules. its always following rules and the general atmosphere in neoliberal societies is not really helping …. but maybe….it was more or less always like this 99% is crap the rest is good. today we only have more crap but also more good things, because the whole lot was getting bigger…. try to be the one percent……hansk

Todd Mariana  on November 16, 2011 at 4:32 PM

I’ve got a day job and I cut records as a side business on a VMS70 which is pictured in this article. If you are a producer or have a band and want to put out a vinyl release please visit my web site http://www.deepgroovesmastering.com. We can do pressed vinyl jobs as small as 100 copies and as large as 5,000. We can also cut one-off records or “Dubs” for dj’s and producers. Check us out! We are keeping vinyl alive for future generations.

Micky  on November 24, 2011 at 9:30 AM

Hey, this is not an one to one translation.

In the german text some parts are missing, you added them only in the english version. Are these additions done or authorisized by the author?

One example:

German text:
“Die maßgeblichen Mittel, um große Summen in den Bereichen Stadionbeschallung, Werbe- und Filmmusik abzusahnen, haben nach wie vor Majors in der Hand und daran ändert bisher keine vermeintliche „Demokratisierung“ etwas.”

English transaltion:
“covering live gigs, publishing rights, merchandise, etc. all under the control of one company. Even the smallest labels engage in a similar policy nowadays.”

Its quite different …

littlewhiteearbuds  on November 24, 2011 at 1:11 PM

That’s true, Mickey: Stefan updated the article during the translation to be as relevant as possible. Rest assured everything has been done with his permission and guidance.

Stefan Goldmann  on November 28, 2011 at 7:37 AM


the passage you quote is still in there, just below the one you quote:

“But the required resources to participate in the game of filling stadiums, really cashing in on movie and advertising deals today are almost exclusively in the hands of majors. Interestingly, the so called “democratization” of music production and distribution didn’t change this allocation of relevant income to the majors’ detriment at all.”

Paula  on December 2, 2011 at 7:44 PM

What an amazing take on the current state of the industry. This certainly opened my eyes to the saturated market artists are currently competing in.

It’s long been my thought that new tracks are two-a-penny now with seemingly no control over quality in some of the major download stores.

One particular artist who commands great attention with his music but keeps the tracks away from download stores until months after they’ve gone viral is Avicii – I think his people are doing something right here. It’s too easy to get your hands on everyone elses music!

Andrew Perry  on December 10, 2011 at 8:28 PM

Does anybody see this happening on Hyper dub with Burial and his sporadic releases, ever-growing in popularity?

Andrew Perry  on December 10, 2011 at 8:29 PM

Burial? Hyper Dub much?

Andrew Perry  on December 10, 2011 at 8:49 PM

One other thing, and i have thought this for a few years. It feels like there are TOO MANY people trying TOO HARD to be DIFFERENT that everything ends up sounding the same.

I dont know if that makes sense to anyone.

Its late!

unders  on December 12, 2011 at 10:31 PM

great piece. inspiring wise words

emmanuel  on December 13, 2011 at 4:42 PM

I knew that stefan was a smart boy, but this is awesome.
Really love this words, this pure reality.

For everyone out there with guts show something out!
focus on music, this is the only reason why everything that we really love exists.

Simone  on February 24, 2012 at 9:04 AM

Really liked this article, this pure reality.
I agree with you Stefan.

Searching...  on February 24, 2012 at 9:54 PM

Just what I’ve been looking for. This theory is deep and glad to see someone put it into words. The apparent democratization of music is creating an unprecedented level of false hopes, and whole new industries on these hopes. Just read today that musical instrument sales are highest ever, and it’s certainly not the pro stuff that’s causing the upsurge.

I think of all of this as the disappearance of the middle class. Maybe even the beginnings of fuedalism. What I see as happening to music has lots of parallels to what is happening here in the US with big banks taking advantage of the general population. Both music and economy seem to hinge lately on lack of options. This lack of options allows for the minimum acceptable quality aspect. And after people become used to it, this minimum starts to become a gold standard, simply since there’s nothing else to compare it to. This is a very terrible thing to happen to something like music.

To read your article is an inspiration. I see the current system soon hitting the threshold where it becomes oppression, both for the average hard working citizen and also the motivated musician. An article with the undertone of “do your own thing” like the one here instilled a revolutionairy spirit. I think this spirit will catch on more and more as things get worse before better. But no doubt, this is the beginning of revolution.

whiteb0x  on March 15, 2012 at 7:37 PM

there is nothing left for electronic music – make a progressive song – it will sound like deadmau5, make a dubstep song – it will sound like skrillex. thank them and their management.

Me  on April 3, 2012 at 11:08 PM

Wall of text, did not read.

Victor T  on April 11, 2012 at 11:38 PM

Very good article Stephan! I think the message here is very simple, and you putting it down in writing I think makes it somehow easier to for people thinking in partaking in the art learn in a few minutes what took many good people many hours/days if not years to learn. These are in my opinion the fundamentals of everything art but reading it alone won’t do the trick, you have to understand it, which many people with an incline for music might or not know they know. In short very good advice on the less glamorous side of making music that you kindly share with I believe now to be quite a substantial “mass”. :) good read. But I will finish by saying that I you are to do music this will be great advice, you don’t learn music, its within you, either you have or not, its not because you know to play the guitar, or you’re know how to use logic, ableton, pro tools, seratos and traitors that it means one will be successful, you have to love it and that sometimes leads you to be willing to sacrifice many good things for it. For jc’s sake have a go, but the front man of the New York Dolls said this one and ill never forget:

“The people ment to be doing it, will do it, all the others sooner or later will go off and do whatever they were supposed to do in the first place”

So do it, have a go, have fun and see where it takes you, but also THINK! Don’t try to run before you can walk because you’ll end up with a nasty injury and nobody likes to see waiting rooms in hospitals full of stupid little kids that threw themselves of a roof because they thought they could fly, it’s pathetic! :P



Hugo  on May 3, 2012 at 6:25 PM

Great article indeed, despite some strange shortcuts with the NASDAQ thing.

Why can’t we read this kind of thing anywhere in the music press ?
Isn’t it the role of a music journalist to write such articles (instead of promoting their own definition of being cool) ?

narrow road to the deep north  on June 4, 2012 at 3:38 AM

I have a solution. Retire early like me so you don’t need to make money from music. You can just please yourself and maybe that way you may just please a few others. Seems to me all the kids are desperately looking backwards anyway. My generation (50s) has heard a vast amount of music and some of us still burn with creativity. Maybe as the demographic shifts the old guys may just have something more interesting to offer.

Justin Weisberg  on August 21, 2012 at 5:23 AM

Thank you. I feel I was ment to read this. Good to see my past 4 years of thoughts laid out so perfectly.

Danny D  on August 24, 2012 at 2:55 PM

What a terrible article.

Peter  on August 31, 2012 at 4:14 AM

It’s a shame there are virtually no barriers to releasing music anymore. Any talentless twat can release an mp3 and I’ve seen the most awful trash top the sales charts at websites such as TrackItDown etc.

We can be only glad that there’s too much good music from the past to be able to listen to in a life time, because the stuff on the radio, on MTV, and on mp3 sales portals is 90% crap. What do we do about it? Nothing, except escape in the realms of vintage vinyls, ranging from classical music from Deutsche Grammophon to late ’90s to early 2000s trance and hard trance (in my case – or any other genre you prefer whatever it may be).

The only upside of this democratisation process is that it has become a challenge again to find out the few GOOD tunes that are released, even though it’s frustrating going through tons of shitty tracks, the rewards in terms of satisfaction are higher than ever.

Suchitra  on September 20, 2012 at 10:14 PM

Read it early this morning and now feel I can face all the trials of being a trained musician in today’s music scenario! Very good piece of writing, well thought-out and illuminating! Thank you!

Orpheo  on September 29, 2012 at 5:22 AM

Time to stop whining mate. How did musicians make money before the advent of recording? Also: if you feel destined to be a musician, you’ll do it even if it means working in a factory to pay the bills.

Kelly  on November 20, 2012 at 3:03 AM

This is amazing. Totally SHOCKING. My world view shifted while reading this article.

Andy H  on November 23, 2012 at 11:31 AM

I’m sorry, but don’t tell me Ewan Pearson isn’t middle-class.

Andy H  on November 23, 2012 at 11:40 AM

If a lot of people can competently do something, then why would anyone think they have the right to get rich or famous from it?

Andy H  on November 27, 2012 at 4:13 AM

“I ain’t in this thing to make a buck.”

– Chez Damier (circa 2009)

Ricciardo  on February 5, 2013 at 6:34 AM

I really liked the article, i think its absolutly right…

and i totaly agree with the end of it, why put everything on the web? why release it? it would be much better to a producer to only have his own tracks in exclusive and not share them, it would at least make his live performance much more wanted…

this is exacly the direction i am going, i share my music on social networks, and thats it, no releasing, the fans may cry whatever they want, if they want to ear it, watch the live perfomance or ear a stream… but the original high quality conent is mine, and i am not sharing… its a pitty that all the other artists dont think like me… they are greedy, they want the spotlight, they want the atention and becuase of that, they knock everyone door trying to caught listners, and thats exacly the problem… its the people, its not the fact that software´s made the music more acessible and now talents can be found more easly, the problem as in anything, its all about people…

just at soundcloud, its the perfect example of that, people behaviour on it, its sometimes the most hipocrite possible, loading the same tracks again more than once every week, just to have more feedback, just to be eared more times,

is like the “look at me, look at me” sindrome, instead of carring about making the music they want dont give a fuck about what people thinks about it

and thats exacly my thing, i dont give a fuck about what people think, i just make the music i like and let the foking door open to anyone who enjoy it to ear it, and in a matter of pride i even refuse to promote my stuff, because thats really lame…

when stuff its good, people like it, enf of story, sometimes MAJOR HIT´s, make them self famouse because they are good or special at their own way, and that´s how it should work, foking humans mess everyting up with their greediness and need of atention… fake DJ´s, wanna be producers, so muc foking people pretending to be something not because they enjoy an art enough, but because they want the benefits of it… and thats really what turns everything bad and depressing…

i believe in the future music (electronic at least) it will be like painting is today, a hobby, no one will care, people will be making tunes for them selfs, no will ear them besides them selfs, and thats it, i can live with that…

but still its a pitty that things dont go as they should just because of a greedy thousand of people with lack of talent who take the spotlight to the very one talented lost as a grit of sand on a beach…

Slim  on February 10, 2013 at 9:12 AM

yes, same goes, on facebook.

can some one says something difference than just scream

OUT NOW OUT NOW, or support by super man batman and spiderman.

just saying

Rosski  on February 15, 2013 at 4:37 AM

Spot on, and really useful article, thankyou.

Nate  on March 20, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Grants, fellowships, and commissions, eh? Not a bad idea. I don’t know how I could make passive income right now but I’ll keep that in the back of my head.

I find this deeply inspiring since I tend to make music that isn’t necessarily following what is popular. This makes me feel like its okay to do that and maybe even what I SHOULD be doing.

I found this article on reddit and I am now following Stefan’s soundcloud.

Broni  on April 20, 2013 at 9:51 PM

I agree with everything you have written here. But there is something that you only touched upon. Dance culture is still one that is largely associated with substance abuse, and as such inherits all the associated problems. The denial of a problem in the first place. The unwillingness to speak out, the impact on creativity, and just plain lowered standards is just a tip of the iceberg. Who cares if the dj isn’t utilizing all that digital media is capable of providing? Too many people off their faces to be bothered with expectations. These are textbook problems and wont disappear until electonica disconnects itself from the substance problem.

David McLean  on May 23, 2013 at 3:33 AM

I thought this was a very good article, and i do agree with much that was said in it.

Personally. i would still be pretty optimistic about the future for the following reason:

We have to remember that, it is not just the music industry that is changing. It is the WHOLE WORLD! The internet and digital technology has changed so much about our lives, and will continue to do so going forward in ways we can’t even imagine right now.

My point is – you might be surprised what happens with respect to music, and peoples attitudes to the people who make the music, in the future. Maybe much won’t change in the next few years or so, but longer term i think there’s a real chance that many people might evaluate the way they consume the arts, and how much they are actively supporting it etc.

So if you are now making music to try and get rich and famous quickly, sure chances are you’re heading for big disappointment. But if you simply love making dance music, and you would be happy doing it all your life for free, then you might be surprised what opportunities come your way in the future, if you are good enough and you have total commitment and dedication to what you do.

seb  on May 25, 2013 at 11:18 AM

how can that be richie hawtin’s studio? no monitors, not even headphones. unless he’s an alien that plugs his brain directly into the usb port i don’t see how that could be his studio.

terry denby aka crazie horse  on June 25, 2013 at 8:44 PM

i’m that arty i dont even make music never mind release, sterling write up

Some Guy  on July 14, 2013 at 8:59 AM

Someone with that much money would also pay people to write articles like this one to discourage more producers. ;)

You do state facts but the EDM industry has been growing 20% value every year and is expanding to different parts of the world so i hope there will be more opportunities and more money to go around to new producers.

The Use  on July 17, 2013 at 9:50 AM

This is awesome. I love it. Just more reasons to bring forth whatever your imagination brings to you and not to question it too much, or dismiss it as being “too weird” Rock (techno?) On !


Beth Cassidy  on August 23, 2013 at 5:46 AM

Fantastic piece of writing – I’m currently finishing an MA in Interdisciplinary Arts, and as a musician as well, my art practice has been focused very much in this area, trying to understand it better, and trying to make the ethical decision as to what the next step is….
If you haven’t already, I suggest reading Jaron Lanier’s ‘You are not a Gadget’- although largely based on Science, he is a musician as well, and so he discuss parellels between the two, mostly to do with downloading..
He says, “someday I hope there will be a genuinely universal system along the lines proposed by Ted Nelson. I believe most people would embrace a social contract in which ‘bits’ [he is meaning any creative endeavour we find on the internet, including Youtube posts] would have VALUE instead of being free.
Everyone would have easy access to everyone else’s creative bits at reasonable prices – and everyone would get paid for their bits.
This arrangement would celebrate personhood in full, because personal expression would be valued.”

Thanks for a great read, and I fully agree!!

Hayden  on September 2, 2013 at 1:40 AM

This is why I use music production as a hobby, not as a career.

ian  on November 27, 2013 at 3:20 PM

Your wrong, this is just paving the way for more outstanding music. There will always be a Top 100 artists out there, and even if everyone is a producer this list will still be there. Work harder than anyone, don’t listen to the BS about creativity… its about making it second nature

Tyler Rolie  on December 13, 2013 at 3:48 PM

please look my song blinded from meaning. definitely unique. no sound cloud account needed and you dont have to drop a like if you dont wanna. i just ask you listen. and amazing article. i am 18 and couldnt understand why everybody likes the 80’s and 90’s theme so much but this really put all music into perspective.

Patrick  on March 2, 2014 at 11:13 AM

Totally agree with everything stated here. I’ve been saying for years that oversaturating the market (not just in music, but every aspect of the arts–as a writer, this same concept applies to the publishing industry) has made it harder to get the general public to trust something they’ve never heard of, because there are so many people out there now who they’ve never heard of who market themselves as “the next big thing.” Which can be a sign of free fall in the industry, but can also be a motivating factor for people who are creative enough and willing to put in enough work making quality product that stands out in the pack. In other words, the oversaturation means there’s a lot of competition, and for somebody who really loves their craft and is confident in their talent, competition is always a good thing.

Dilpreet bhatia  on May 21, 2014 at 2:49 AM

Well thats an insightful article. Lots of things to ponder upon as a musician

Almark  on July 22, 2014 at 6:04 PM

Someone led me to this post because I’ve been having a terrible time even gaining simple exposure, and here it is 2014, 3 years after this post, and I have to say, so much has changed, some for the better, most of the worst. It’s become very hard to raise above the dross of bad music. I appreciated this post, I’ve never read something so insightful to the Electronic indie soloist before, it was a breath of fresh air, I thought it was my music that was lacking, no it’s the mass of ‘everyone else is doing it’ Sure I could have survived in the underground during the late 80s but i’m 37 and didn’t release my music to the net until 2010 “oops.” This article has helped me, it’s like some Guru to the apprentice, thank you. I was making music long before I released it, 1998, but it’s good to know that I’m not alone, even if I do Electronic/Abstract, the game has changed..

Doni  on February 21, 2015 at 12:31 AM

All true enough, but I believe the biggest point is that people should be making music because they truly can do nothing else but be an artist. That’s the real problem. People are fucking posing, copying other “successful” tracks instead of making their own original ones. Record labels are guilty of the same thing in reverse, only signing tracks that fit their ever narrowing niche.


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Sunday Reading, sans rhyme, sans reason « zunguzungu  on April 24, 2011 at 9:43 AM

[…] Baym rethinks the music industry and little white earbuds on how everything popular is wrong (making it in electronic music […]

Dr. Luke is a biter! - Future Producers forums  on April 25, 2011 at 4:12 PM

[…] endurance, individuality and substance — the values that are disappearing most rapidly now. http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/fe…mocratization/ Last edited by Aykey; 7 Hours Ago at 06:00 […]

Everything popular is wrong: Making it in electronic music, despite democratization – Little White Earbuds «  on April 25, 2011 at 5:44 PM

[…] Everything popular is wrong: Making it in electronic music, despite democratization – Little White…. […]

Little White Earbuds article |  on April 25, 2011 at 6:06 PM

[…] read it here Comments (0) […]

Interesting Article | James' Blog  on April 29, 2011 at 9:01 PM

[…] Here‘s a link to an interesting article covering the state of the music industry today. Interesting read. […]

DJing and the Death of the Grand Tour « fresh static :: olaf quintessa  on May 5, 2011 at 9:04 AM

[…] the dancefloor is a priceless skill that can’t be overestimated. But electronic music is already saturated with DJs and producers that barely stray from the orthodox. There is a lot of room for DJs to explore new settings, try new formulas, rip up the mainstream […]

Good Production Won’t Save You – A Manifesto / Rant « musicnews247  on May 7, 2011 at 3:05 AM

[…] it’s one that has been brewing for a while now, and it ties in nicely with a lot of what this article brings up (well worth […]

New Music Digest: Spring 2011 – jesolobeachparty.com  on May 8, 2011 at 8:34 PM

[…] Everything popular is wrong: Making it in electronic music, despite democratization is a tremendously good read. A bit myopic, perhaps, but it captures the electronic music industry zeitgeist better than just about anything else I have seen. […]

Manifeste pour la beauté d’un mixage bâclé | Substance-M.net  on May 18, 2011 at 7:42 AM

[…] pense que vous avez plus ou moins tous jetés un oeil à cet article publié sur Little White Ear Buds: une réflexion de Stefan Goldman sur le Web 2.0, la […]

Twitted by damokeeffe  on May 19, 2011 at 6:25 AM

[…] This post was Twitted by damokeeffe […]

Monday Musings: Exciting Times In Music & The Week’s News Roundup « Oliver Arditi  on May 27, 2011 at 3:45 PM

[…] http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/feature/everything-popular-is-wrong-making-it-in-electronic-music-… This is an extremely interesting and articulate article on just these factors, looking at dance music in Germany. I take issue with its apparent assumption that we’ve arrived at the endpoint, but it has to be said that electronic dance music leads the field in its engagement with the new technological context. I especially like the conclusion, that you may as well be creative and original. […]

Democratization = concentration of pwer into the hands of an ever dwindling elite « Another Catastrophe  on June 1, 2011 at 5:11 AM

[…] piece on how the “democratizing” effects of the internet are anything but. Of course this just refers to the producers of […]

neurocode » Blog Archive » Why artists are doomed  on June 19, 2011 at 5:17 PM

[…] Here is an English version […]

Stefan Goldmann on Berlin & the music business  on August 18, 2011 at 10:39 AM

[…] I recently went with AllSaints to Berlin to record our first ever Basement Sessions in Berlin (including Aérea Negrot and Gold Panda) and it occurred to me if there was one person I unequivocally had to speak to it was Stefan Goldmann. Aside from being a well-known techno and house producer with releases on the likes of Classic, Innervisions and Perlon, Stefan is also something of a polemist and industry futurist. I became aware of this side of his oeuvre after I recently read his brilliant article on the electronic music business, which is something everyone involved on any level should read; it’s eye-openingly (scary) brilliant. Check it here. […]

Everything popular is wrong: Making it in electronic music, despite democratization | Little White Earbuds | Chris Lundquist  on November 13, 2011 at 6:27 AM

[…] Everything popular is wrong: Making it in electronic music, despite democratization | Little White E…. Tweet […]

Quality Is Overrated: The Mechanics of Excellence In Music Pt. 1 | Little White Earbuds  on November 16, 2011 at 11:32 AM

[…] IndustriesThe FuturistQuality Is Overrated: The Mechanics of Excellence In Music Pt. 1In “Everything Popular Is Wrong,” Stefan Goldmann claimed that the more artists deviate from the known and established, the better […]

Quality Is Overrated: The Mechanics of Excellence In Music Pt. 2 | Little White Earbuds  on November 18, 2011 at 11:01 AM

[…] IndustriesThe FuturistQuality Is Overrated: The Mechanics of Excellence In Music Pt. 2In “Everything Popular Is Wrong,” Stefan Goldmann claimed that the more artists deviate from the known and established, the better […]

The Music Industry: How Everything Is Changing Yet Nothing Is Happening | The Vly House  on January 14, 2012 at 5:26 PM

[…] [14] Goldmann, Stefan. Little White Earbuds, “Everything popular is wrong: Making it in electronic music, despite democratization.” Last modified April 13th, 2011. http://www.littlewhiteearbuds.com/feature/everything-popular-is-wrong-making-it-in-electronic-music-…. […]

QUALITY IS OVERRATED – Stephan Goldman «  on January 24, 2012 at 12:03 PM

[…] “Everything Popular Is Wrong,” Stefan Goldmann claimed that the more artists deviate from the known and established, the better […]

11. Ads That Embrace Electronic Music « How to Survive 2012  on February 19, 2012 at 8:37 PM

[…] olds.  Electronic music has created a large movement for teens and young adults.  It’s a multi-million dollar industry that has created a culture for youth all over the world.  Although the music is at the heart of […]

A problem. « jameseshumate  on April 20, 2012 at 5:08 PM

[…] for a while but then faded right before getting enough attention to gain mainstream acceptance. As Stefan Goldmann puts it, “New artists get “pumped and dumped.” Deadmau5 and Skrillex seemed to have […]

music | Pearltrees  on September 21, 2012 at 12:45 AM

[…] < sisericm Get flash to fully experience Pearltrees Everything popular is wrong: Making it in electronic music, despite democratization | Little White E… <i>Stefan Goldmann on why Web 2.0 can work for you but won’t for most, where all the money […]

whippleworld » Blog Archive » too much music business  on January 7, 2013 at 12:01 PM

[…] the genre to most benefit from the digital democratization of music. It’s a long article but worth reading. He says the tangible results have been a wide spread de-professionalization of […]

SA MUSIC's FUTURE: FOR THOSE WHO MAKE MUSIC - Muse Online  on March 12, 2013 at 4:01 AM

[…] to German-Bulgarian electronic DJ, Stefan Goldmann (source: Silo Magazine), “a factor contributing to an artist’s longevity in the market [is] having guts and […]

Emerging Electronic Musicians of Sri Lanka | TUNED MASS  on April 8, 2013 at 8:01 AM

[…] ever since Les Paul devised the 4-track recorder, Charanjit Singh picked up the 303 and Al Gore invented the internet, the Map has been […]

Everything popular is wrong: Making it in elect...  on January 19, 2014 at 4:31 PM

[…]   […]

The Walking Dead: Technology, Spotify, and the Demise of Desire | Patrick Anderson Jr. | welcome to rehab  on March 7, 2014 at 10:37 AM

[…] a point Stefan Goldmann makes in his Little White Earbuds article, when he states that “what used to be done by professional […]

Musiques undergrounds | Pearltrees  on April 12, 2014 at 5:39 AM

[…] Everything popular is wrong: Making it in electronic music, despite democratization […]

Market Place – Quick Systems In Dubstep For 2012  on September 16, 2014 at 1:39 AM

[…] influence of dubstep can also be pervading others of electronic music it is usually heard in drum ‘n’ bass and others. In a modest town called Croydon, the […]

Learning to Evolve: A Manifesto of Reinvention | Architects + Heroes Records  on December 29, 2014 at 5:05 PM

[…] and a feeling that the digital ecosystem in which we live had become a convoluted wasteland of sub-par content and intrusive tracking. We needed to take a break, to reassess where we were going. Where we landed […]

Cyclic Defrost: Stefan Goldmann – Parameter (Macro Recordings)  on April 22, 2015 at 6:03 AM

[…] reading Stefan Goldmann’s diatribe for Little White Earbuds against the current woeful state of the music industry I’ve had enormous respect for the […]

Offtopic – „Quality Is Overrated“ | frohfroh – we like electronic music from leipzig  on June 15, 2015 at 3:41 PM

[…] Everything popular is wrong: Making it in electronic music, despite democratization Quality Is Overrated: The Mechanics of Excellence In Music Quality Is Overrated Pt. 2 […]

Goodbye from Little White Earbuds – Little White Earbuds  on October 5, 2015 at 12:03 AM

[…] Everything Popular Is Wrong: Making It In Electronic Music Despite Democratization […]

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