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?
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  • 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 business...now 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 not...it 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 says...so 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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