Mellencamp on today's music biz

March 24, 2009
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Over at the Huffington Post, John Mellencamp has gone on at length about the state of the music business today.

Some excerpts:

--"Sadly, these days, it's really a matter of 'every man for himself.' In terms of possibilities, we are but an echo of what we once were. Of course, the artist does not want to "sell out to The Man." Left with no real choice except that business model of greed and the bean counting mentality that Reagan propagated and the country embraced, there is only 'The Man' to deal with. There is no street for the music to rise up from."

--"These days, some people suggest that it is up to the artist to create avenues to sell the music of his own creation. In today's environment, is it realistic to expect someone to be a songwriter, recording artist, record company and the P.T. Barnum, so to speak, of his own career?"

--"Sing the chorus of 'I Need A Lover.' It's not the best song I ever wrote nor did it achieve more than much more than being a mid-chart hit, but nevertheless, you can sing that chorus. Now sing the chorus of even one Mariah Carey song. Nothing against Mariah, she's a brilliantly gifted vocalist, but the point here is the way that the songs were built -- mine from the ground up, hers from the top down."

--"The CD, it should be noted, was born out of greed. It was devised to prop up record sales on the expectation of people replenishing their record collections with CDs of albums they had already purchased....Sound quality was supposed to be one of the big selling points for CDs but, as we know, it wasn't very good at all. It was just another con, a get-rich-quick scheme, a monumental hoax perpetrated on the music consuming public."

Again, you can find the whole story here.

So is the music business fundamentally different than it was 30 years ago--for the talent and for the listener? Can musicians still rise up from the streets? And is there anything fundamentally wrong with musicians dealing with "the man" by selling directly or exclusively through Wal-Mart or Starbucks?

Your thoughts?
  • My first thought is that I do like songs that are singable, and I agree with Mellencamp that I don't know of many contemporary ones.

    I was at a storytelling event in a pub in Scotland a few years ago where in between two of the spoken stories, one of the Scottish artists sang a ballad with a chorus that allowed us all to chime in easily, whether we had heard it before or not. Us singing the chorus didn't take away from the beauty and artistry of the artist's voice, nor the admirable storytelling in the verses, nor did it prevent the artist getting paid. Yet it helped build community in the present moment and gave us all a little something musical to carry away with us in our hearts.

    Anyway, I like Mellencamp's idea of bulding a song from the ground up, instead of through a reality TV show formula or whatever. I don't know what supports a musician doing that now, though.

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit
  • I'm blaming the Monkees and Garth Brooks. It may be harder to get rich singing and playing music from the streets, but the music still exists. Go to any coffeeshop, even in Indianapolis, and you will hear it. Is American Idol a top down or an up-from-the-streets venue? I don't know.
  • It's Reagan's fault?? Come on, he should at least balme Bush like everyone else is for everything. Get with the times Johnny Cougar.
  • Mellencamp argues that an artist cannot be expected to be a businessperson and marketer too - and I agree – but then he rails against the very industry that has afforded him and countless other talented artists an income that, given his education and disposition otherwise, probably wouldn’t allow him to buy a couple tickets to his own show.

    You can find numerous examples of talented people who never had a chance to be paid what their talent is arguably worth (just ask several unemployed race car drivers at Indy this year). Artists make music, businesses make money. If he’s so incensed with that basic truth then he should start his own label and see how easy it is to reconcile artistic freedom with the level of profitability that has given him the lifestyle he enjoys today.
  • How did Mellencamp become the Indiana music spokeperson for Indiana? How awful. Indeed he sings some powerful feel good songs of life and love - I'm just not sure he's heard the lyrics. I know he doesn't live them - he is quite an angry man. Interesting read though - especially the beginning - to see the self perjection of this Cougar - he;s really talking about himself and not others - saying that it is sad that it is every man for himself when Mellencamp was on the front lines that created this type of thinking and living. Just ask Larry Crane - or one of the many other wonderful souls that have been trampled on by him. Mellecamp has always been for himself only - now he's crying about it. Too ironic. If only he could wake up and quit the act. He was born to a well to do family that aided him is his career financially - yet he sings about getting kicked off a farm he never lived on. I need to listen to his political view like I need a hole in my head.
  • So John Mellencamp wants to cry about the music business eh...that's interesting...I remember back when he gloated about getting over on the man back in the day, squeezing them for better royalties when he was selling millions of records (which he deserved), renegotiating his contracts. Back then, he did not think it was so bad to be in that the rules have changed, and he is not a player, he wants to talk about how screwed up the business always was. He knows nothing about business. Trickle down is the only thing that does work, whether Mr. Above it all believes it or trickled down into his personal bank account, and if it hadn't, he would still be sitting on a cow patty being a baby daddy...if you're gonna talk, then walk, then quit charging 60 bucks for a cheap seat at Comseco...that goes for the Eagles too and all these other guys who want to lament how things have gone in the music business, all the while cutting deals with Wal-mart and GM, charging ridiculous prices for tickets, so they can preserve their own personal fortunes, all the while putting on this garbage front that they are such populists, standing in line to kiss the new presidents' ass...Meet the new boss, he is the same as the old boss John Cougar (Yes John, why did you change your name? I bet it was to sell records, make money) Mellencamp does not know what he is talking about More than half of government revenue come from tax dollars, and 5% of America pays 60% of those dollars...Mellencamp needs to talk about music, and leave politics out of it...he is in way over his head. And he made all of his own choices, no matter what he he has to live with that now...I bet it is tough keeping the wife in all those fancy clothes on that fixed income, isn't it Johnny Cooooooogar?

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  1. Cramer agrees...says don't buy it and sell it if you own it! Their "pay to play" cost is this issue. As long as they charge customers, they never will attain the critical mass needed to be a successful on company...Jim Cramer quote.

  2. My responses to some of the comments would include the following: 1. Our offer which included the forgiveness of debt (this is an immediate forgiveness and is not "spread over many years")represents debt that due to a reduction of interest rates in the economy arguably represents consideration together with the cash component of our offer that exceeds the $2.1 million apparently offered by another party. 2. The previous $2.1 million cash offer that was turned down by the CRC would have netted the CRC substantially less than $2.1 million. As a result even in hindsight the CRC was wise in turning down that offer. 3. With regard to "concerned Carmelite's" discussion of the previous financing Pedcor gave up $16.5 million in City debt in addition to the conveyance of the garage (appraised at $13 million)in exchange for the $22.5 million cash and debt obligations. The local media never discussed the $16.5 million in debt that we gave up which would show that we gave $29.5 million in value for the $23.5 million. 4.Pedcor would have been much happier if Brian was still operating his Deli and only made this offer as we believe that we can redevelop the building into something that will be better for the City and City Center where both Pedcor the citizens of Carmel have a large investment. Bruce Cordingley, President, Pedcor

  3. I've been looking for news on Corner Bakery, too, but there doesn't seem to be any info out there. I prefer them over Panera and Paradise so can't wait to see where they'll be!

  4. WGN actually is two channels: 1. WGN Chicago, seen only in Chicago (and parts of Canada) - this station is one of the flagship CW affiliates. 2. WGN America - a nationwide cable channel that doesn't carry any CW programming, and doesn't have local affiliates. (In addition, as WGN is owned by Tribune, just like WTTV, WTTK, and WXIN, I can't imagine they would do anything to help WISH.) In Indianapolis, CW programming is already seen on WTTV 4 and WTTK 29, and when CBS takes over those stations' main channels, the CW will move to a sub channel, such as 4.2 or 4.3 and 29.2 or 29.3. TBS is only a cable channel these days and does not affiliate with local stations. WISH could move the MyNetwork affiliation from WNDY 23 to WISH 8, but I am beginning to think they may prefer to put together their own lineup of syndicated programming instead. While much of it would be "reruns" from broadcast or cable, that's pretty much what the MyNetwork does these days anyway. So since WISH has the choice, they may want to customize their lineup by choosing programs that they feel will garner better ratings in this market.

  5. The Pedcor debt is from the CRC paying ~$23M for the Pedcor's parking garage at City Center that is apprased at $13M. Why did we pay over the top money for a private businesses parking? What did we get out of it? Pedcor got free parking for their apartment and business tenants. Pedcor now gets another building for free that taxpayers have ~$3M tied up in. This is NOT a win win for taxpayers. It is just a win for Pedcor who contributes heavily to the Friends of Jim Brainard. The campaign reports are on the Hamilton County website. Finance Images&ARG2=/Brainard, Jim