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1942–1944 Musicians' Strike (wikipedia.org)
63 points by samclemens on July 5, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments

It's hard to understand why to this day royalty, listening stats, and distribution payments take so long with all the technology around.

The real truth is music should really only cost about 50 cents or less per song to download, and streaming royalties should be much higher than they are now.

It's pretty crazy that the current industry has a crippling stranglehold on modern music, and that radio is still stuck on playing the very same 1990's music into infinity, but it is what it is... There is always a flood of optimistic musicians willing to give their work away for free while also spamming the entire Internet with it even if it's guaranteed to be an unsuccessful venture. The best music is not found by trusting the algorithms... It's found where no one is looking or listening... Just like the old record shop days, but now on the Internet.

This is actually the biggest axe I have to grind with spotify et al.: Even if I would naively assume their recommendation algorithm is serving me and not the big distributors they have exclusive deals with — who guarantuees me that it would stay like this in the future?

Music is too important for me to be left in the hands of some app that giveth and taketh away, that sends me onto some path that is ultimately trying to manipulating me into liking certain things based on financial interest. I like to have a collection of music and look at it, even if the company I got it from goes down the drain, or is purchased by some hedge fund. You don't have this decoupling with streaming services.

I'd rather go search myself and own a physical and/or digital record.

Agreed, but search results are manipulated by posters a lot now, totally spammed with wildly inaccurate clickbait. It's getting a lot harder to find authentic music by original creators. It wouldn't surprise me if the people making the most money off of the music content we see have nothing to do with the original music involved in posts... Sites like YouTube do pretty much nothing effective to stop it.

Spotify gives preference to big and wealthy artists like Drake and Ed Sheeran, they get more marketing and more $ per play

Why not do both? There's nothing that disallows buying records if you use a streaming service.

Oh I do both, one of those just not voluntarily as someone who does not live alone : )

> The real truth is music should really only cost about 50 cents or less per song to download

How is that a "real truth"?! Surely it "should" cost whatever a musician wants to charge for it. (Musician here)

If you'd said "In my opinion", well, that's better, but I'd disagree with your opinion. I just put out an album with 6 songs on it. I spent pretty much a year working on it. It "should really only cost" $3 or less?

On-topic: thanks for this story, I'd heard there was a "recording ban" in the early 40s but knew nothing more about it.

I think the point is not that musicians charge too much, but rather that music industry takes too much for themselves. The cost of infrastructure, amortized by the number of artists, is very low.

It's nothing new, really. People have been singing about it since Pink Floyd.

Actually since the sheet music boom of the 19th century, which is how a lot of 19th century composers made money. (There's still some money in sheet music, but not much compared to other income sources.)

What's changed over time are the economies of scale involved in distribution. Engraving, printing, distributing, and selling paper sheet music was fairly labour intensive. Pressing and distributing vinyl/CDs was also non-trivial, but the marketing leverage provided by radio made it a more profitable business.

Streaming is a low overhead business in comparison. There's some up front cost for the infrastructure and UI, and small continuing costs for hosting, but it pretty much runs itself. As a de facto monopoly there's a limited need for marketing.

Instead marketing costs have been outsourced to the artists - which is a fairly new thing.

It's often said that it's never been easier to make and sell music. In fact it's never been harder to market music. Having a home studio is irrelevant if you can't create exposure and convert it into sales.

The big record labels can do that, viral breakout artists can do it (but often not for long), but the big money still goes to artists with a mass media profile. (For example Kate Bush becoming a top seller again after placing a single on Stranger Things.)

Interesting piece of history. Thanks for sharing that.

As for "selling music" - I believe that the very concept of it is archaic, akin to "selling software". Music can be copied like software, and every attempt to treat it like physical goods is doomed to fail. In order for musicians to take back control, a movement akin to Free Software is necessary.

Radiohead was successful with BandCamp "pay what you want" approach. Perhaps if there was a P2P music sharing platform with microtransaction support (ala GNU Taler) where people could post their music and collect money directly from their listeners, then music could become somewhat profitable for the musicians again.

Of course, they won't get huge money, but maybe the very idea of a "rockstar" is obsolete, and based on corporations selling the same kind of music to the whole world. Bones (the rapper) has been releasing his music for free for the last decade or so, and earns enough money through tours to have a big house with a pool and not to have to work.

I somewhat think of the example with Radiohead as being an exception though. While they aren't one of the top ten bands of the past 25 years in terms of popularity, they are probably one of the top ten in terms of critical acclaim. People would pay what they wanted to for Mozart. They wouldn't for Salieri.

I'd argue that if some music doesn't bring enough pleasure for people to want to support the artist, then that music shouldn't be pair for at all. Seems to me like a much better alternative to the status quo of music industry manufacturing "artists", forcing them upon people through mass media, and extracting money whatever way they can.

> maybe the very idea of a "rockstar" is obsolete

I think the idea of a "rockstar" will still continue. Just how they make their money is different.

In pre-recording times musicians made money through direct appearance or a patron.

Recordings come along and money is made on the duplication. Digital comes along and duplication is not an impressive feat anymore.

So I think money will be made on the appearances again.

I am curious about patrons though, will they be a thing again?

Musicians setting their own individual pricing is far too complex for modern royalty systems to manage. Because of the dynamics of the royalty system, a huge overhaul would need to occur before that is possible on a large scale, it tragic that it hasn't been in process yet, but the system is old and resistant to change because it serves the wealthy "just fine" already.

I like to think that lowe pricing would encourage the purchase of music again. Streaming has taken over I believe BECAUSE of the current high price of downloading music, which is still close to the price of music when it was sold in physical formats. Switching to digital was primarily enticing because it was meant to lower cost of music, but that didn't take effect.

BandCamp allows musicians to set their own prices on their products, and they facilitate artists in selling physical media still, but the traffic and user experience on that site is nowhere near the quality that major competitors portray on a regular basis.

The main problem I have is that so many artists I know, that people would think are successful, are not making significant profit, while platforms and the major artists they push above everyone else, are significantly overpaid in comparison to harder working (and often just as talented) artists.

Never let a businessman control art.

Or engineering. Or the environment.

Or pretty much anything? Clearly they have a role in society but once they gain dominance things go for the worse.

It's the "complete control" that is the issue.

There’s a song who’s lyrics I suggest you look up. No point to be made, I bet you’d just vibe with it.


God Roosevelt's quote is ridiculous. "Because you love democracy you should do what we tell you too, even if harms you."

And fun to hear they considered this strike something that might hurt the war effort. Soldiers won't fight to old Sinatra sings after all.

Regarding the birth of Bebop, there are live recordings from after-hours sessions at Minton's jazz club of Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Christian among others (some available on archive.org). They're really the only record of the transition from Swing's riff-based solos to the longer lines of Bebop. Definitely worth seeking out if want to see what it was like in the early 40s.

Did you mean these?

https://archive.org/details/tntvillage_483933 Monk

https://archive.org/details/tntvillage_484094 Dizzy

I'm finding it a little hard to work out which tracks are Minton's!

I was looking for Charlie Christian and found this: https://archive.org/details/78_charlies-choice-part-1_charli... It's part of series of 78s cut live at Minton's.

I also have an LP somewhere that supposedly was recorded by someone in the audience with a recorder in their lap. It includes Charlie, Monk, and Teddy Hill's band. The cuts are longer since they're not limited by what fits on one side of a 78. You can find them on eBay and other places.

Interesting, thanks. I imagined the guitar solo with Lester Young's sound and it sounds pretty much exactly like Lester. I can't hear much bebop really. Sounds great though!

edit: from Christian's wikipedia page "Christian stated he wanted his guitar to sound like a tenor saxophone." Wow, died age 25.


Interesting that the big band era may have lasted longer without the strike.

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