Monday, January 07, 2008

David Byrne Looks Into the Future of the Music Business

Unlike David Brooks, who was so out of his element and in over his head on music that I called him an Ultra-Moron, I have always thought that David Byrne was one of the smartest guys on the contemporary music scene, and I am, of course, a huge Talhing Heads fan. It's almost a crime that these guys share the same first name and initials.

In my Fisking of Brooks, I mentioned that technology has freed contemporary musicians from the monopoly and tyranny of the major labels and commercial radio - and how this development is a very, very good thing for musicians and music fans alike - so it's nice to see that Byrne and I are basically on the same wavelength about the subject. Byrne has put a lot more thought into the subject than I have though, and his article, "Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists - and Megastars" that he wrote for WIRED is positively brilliant.

I'm not quite geekazoidal enough to be a regular reader of WIRED, so I'm a little late to this party, but Byrnes 6 Distribution Models versus artist control are essentials every musician should be aware of.

As you can see, the closer to the right side of the scale you get, the greater control the artist has - and the higher the percentage of profit the artist makes - but as you move left, the companies take more and more control. The old fashioned Standard Deal is what everybody was after in my younger years - the "Recording Contract" - but this basically puts the record company in the driver's seat... and pretty much screws the artist much of the time.

What today's climate and technology allows - with every Tom, Dick, and Harry having a version of Pro Tools on even laptops now - is for the artist to move farther to the right on this scale, and therefore maintain more control and receive a higher percentage of the profits.

Me being a niche-free solo artist, I'm currently all the way at the right end of the scale. Basically, I record everything direct - no microphones - into my Mac using Pro Tools 7 LE and an M-Box, scrub the heads and tails of the tracks, set the timing between tracks, burn a master CD, submit that, my artwork and liner notes to a CD manufacturer, and receive my finished product. Finished CD's cost me just over $1.00 each (!), I can sell them at my gigs cheap, and I get most of the profit. Of course, I don't sell a gazillion CD's, but that's not the point: I don't need no steenking record company to do my thing, and I have 100% control. Twenty years ago, this would have been impossible, and it gets easier and less expensive every year now.

Of course, I'm just three years along in getting back into the game after several years of doing other things, so I wouldn't mind moving to a manufacturing and distribution deal at some point - and, I can see that happening within the next two years - but I'd never want to go any further to the left than a profit sharing deal, and that only in the case that I am touring regularly, and the figures make it look worthwhile.

See how much better this is for musicians than the old draconian studio/radio virtual monopoly? Today, any musician or band can start small all by themselves and move as little or as far to the left as they wish, or as makes sense for them. Also, fans of niche markets or small time musicians have many more choices, and they are more easily obtainable.

You should read the whole thing, of course, because Byrne's penetrating insights ought to be a real eye opener for any aspiring musician. His stories of being royally screwed in "the good old days" are also chock full of lessons in WTF to avoid. Oh, and listen to the interview audio clips too.

Great stuff!

I have decided that, to me, this is the most beautiful girl in the history of... well, just about everything. Being an esthetic perfectionist, when I come across anything - be it music, art, literature, or a girl's face - that strikes me as sublimely beautiful, I try to analyze it to see why I find it so compelling.

Lot's of guys describe themselves as leg men, butt men, or breast men - and I can certainly appreciate a hot bod with great, er... assets - but I have always been in love with female faces. When I was a very little kid I can remember leafing through mom's Sears and J.C. Penny catalogs just enraptured by the faces of all the pretty models. Whenever mom would ask why I was looking at wonen's clothing (Or underwear!), I'd just say I wasn't, that I was looking for the toys. LOL!

Anyway, I find hers to be the most supernaturally pluperfect face I've ever come across.

This is the best picture I could find with her hair away from her face, and it allowed me to take some measurements and analyze the proportions. First of all, if you draw a line from her chin to the peak of her hair, it goes almost dead center through the middle of her lips, and the tip of her nose: She exhibits almost perfect symmetry along the vertical axis.

Then, if you draw a straight line through the pupils of her eyes, it is at an almost perfect 90 degree angle with the vertical axis, so she also has a stupefying degree of symmetry along the horizontal axis, but there's much more. That horizontal line also goes to virtually the same point of each ear. Further, each eye is the same distance from the vertical axis, as it is from each ear. The pupils of her eyes are also the same distance from the vertical axis as they are from the sides of her head. This is nothing short of amazing: This girl's face has almost perfect symmetry in every direction.

She's in bright sunlight, so you can tell she's trying not to squint and is being only partially successful, but if her eyes were wide open, the combined surface area of them would match the surface area of her lips almost perfectly as well. The width of each eye (Again, if they were fully opened) also matches the width of her nose!

Finally, if you draw two angled lines - one from the bottom of each ear to the bottom of her nose, and the other from the top of each ear to the bridge of her nose, they are nearly parallel, so her ears are almost exactly the same height as her nose is (I kinda had to guess about her left ear - the one on the viewer's right - of course).

I've always rolled my eyes whenever some guy has called any girl a goddess, but in this case she is so far beyond just perfect, that I think she's a goddess.

Oh, and ladies, you can have fun with this as well. If I were you, I'd probably start with someone like Dolph Lundgren.


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