Welcome to the Bungle

Fourteen years to make an album is too long.

Now the rumors are out there again that Guns N’ Roses is ready to finally put the finishing touches on what will probably be called “Chinese Democracy”. That Axl Rose is nothing if not a spoiled brat – an aging spoiled brat.

Talented spoiled brat.


Now, in the hands of Front Line Management, Guns N’ Roses may actually have a distribution deal with a big box retailer such as Best Buy or Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart produced the blockbuster sales figures for the Eagles “Long Road Out of Eden” recently in their exclusive deal.

For some reason these groups – and I like them both, don’t get me wrong – are slobbering all over themselves playing record label.

Front Line’s Irving Azoff has record label in his DNA and he likes these big box distribution deals. Guns N’ Roses' label is Interscope and no one really knows at this point who is negotiating what for the band.

I’ve kind of had it with Live Nation signing big acts for big money and Don Henley leading his angry jihad against radio.

These are not solutions for a declining music industry.


No solution.

What’s good for Madonna and Jay-Z has nothing at all to do with how vibrant the music industry will be in the days to come – and right now things are pretty gloomy.

What's good for The Eagles and Guns N' Roses is good for -- well, The Eagles and Guns N' Roses. And that's okay.

The labels can blame radio (for not paying performance rights taxes) and consumers (for wanting to access music from bit torrent sites), but the real enemy is within – the artists and their handlers.

Hey, the labels are what they are. We can’t make them Mother Teresa – they never were anything more than businessmen who manufactured things. First vinyl. Then plastic. No wonder the digital world is so alien to them.

But the music industry has no future without lots of new music being released from more genres and exposed in all kinds of places. Not just radio (which has lost its clout) but by giving it away and feeding the monster – the desire by this next generation that it can’t get enough music.

Free music.

This is a good thing.

But you’d never know it by listening to the labels piss and moan.

And you wouldn’t know it by the way artists, their “management” and other parties are proceeding.

With all due respect to Wal-Mart and Best-Buy, it isn’t enough for them to sell music on an exclusive basis. They are too smart not to understand this fine point which is why CDs – even The Eagles most recent one – is what retailers call a loss leader.

How appropriate? Music as a loss leader to get consumers into Wal-Mart and Best Buy so that they can buy other items that provide these two giant retailers with an actual profit.

You'll note that Wal-Mart is actually cutting back its CD titles available for sale in their physical stores.

It’s time to wake-up and smell the irony.

1. To have a vibrant music industry, many genres of music must be exposed and developed. Just working a few acts for radio (where the record buying public is less available to hear them) or in sweetheart retailer deals like the ones Guns N’ Roses plans will not work.

2. Artists need to get back to making music (with all due respect to Trent Reznor and others).

3. If the record industry is salivating over Guns N’ Roses finally releasing an album – how pathetic is that? If they wait any longer, some moron will come up with a retailing deal at nursing homes.

4. There is no getting around the main point that record labels must become distributors of their own music – they must do it.

5. Giving away free tracks online or through bit torrent sites like Limewire is tantamount to what airplay on radio used to be – free promotion!

6. iTunes is not the solution to any music industry problem – it is only a distribution channel – and in terms of profits, a minor one at that. Selling songs for 99 cents a pop is nice for Apple, but it isn't the future of the music industry.

7. Suing consumers is a waste of time and money for the labels. Spend the money on developing acts.

8. Back off trying to get the radio performance tax exemption lifted. It doesn’t matter. Radio has lost the next generation and soon will not be able to sell your music anyway. Make friends with radio, though, because my belief is that the smart operators will enter the Internet streaming and mobile content business and you’re going to want them to be your friends then.

So, welcome to the jungle.

No, not the one Axl sings about in the outstanding Guns N’ Roses song of the same name.

The jungle I’m referring to is the one created by the labels, artists and managers who are now suffering from a crisis of their own making.

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