Stop Expecting Music From Musicians

Why you should care

Because musicians have to make a living too.

You are part of an angry mob.

You might not realize it, but you, your friends, your family and everyone you know are all mob affiliates, armed with short attention spans ready to riot whenever your favorite artist decides they’re not dropping a song this week.

Don’t believe me? Just look at how Rihanna has been treated since her last studio album, Anti, in 2016.

In October, Rihanna released a self-titled “visual autobiography” weighing 15 pounds and standing over 16 inches tall, with more than 1,000 exclusive photos of her personal and professional life. And how did people react? They demanded an album. In the spring of this year, Rihanna became the first woman to create a brand for LVMH Moët Hennessy–Louis Vuitton and the first Black woman to lead a major luxury fashion house with Fenty Maison, a Paris-based line she founded with LVHM. And how did people react? They demanded an album. Last year, she unveiled her Savage X Fenty line, and in 2017, Fenty Beauty, which went on to raise $100 million in its first 40 days. Yet again, an album was requested.

Rihanna is the wealthiest woman in music, steadily expanding her business portfolio and is on her way to becoming a mogul. And yet? People are demanding an album.

I offer another solution: Stop expecting music from musicians.

You may not claim allegiance to Rihanna’s Navy — the name of her fanatic following — or even like her music (which I’m totally judging you for if that’s the case). But we all are victims of and subject to this new expectancy culture in music.

Audio-One founder David Frangioni, who’s worked with giants like Aerosmith, Kiss and Ozzy Osbourne, says that contrary to our anxiety-stricken thirst for more, it’s never been a more amazing time to be a music fan toy.

“When I was starting out and playing music in the ’70s as a little kid, I had to wait sometimes a week to catch some kind of music I wanted to see on some television show, and a lot of times it would be a prime-time special where the artist would play for three and a half minutes. And in the whole year, that was the only time I could see the artist,” Frangioni explains.

But to the mob demanding more tunes week in and week out, it’s admittedly not entirely your fault. Thanks to streaming, music is being released at speeds like never before. The amount of global music has increased roughly sevenfold, according to a 2018 Wall Street Journal report. As a result, artists are releasing music much faster to catch up. This has not only given us quantity but immediacy, which, in turn, has conditioned us into believing we’re supposed to be getting music all the time.

What fans and consumers of music do not understand, however, is that although streaming now represents approximately 80 percent of the music industry’s overall revenue, artists hardly see any of that.

Between all the streaming giants, Napster pays out the highest per stream at $0.019, meaning an artist would need a smash hit to see any revenue. Labels and streaming platforms see cash long before artists do.

It’s a large reason why pop giant Taylor Swift parted ways with her label of 13 years to sign with Republic and Universal Music Group in November 2018. For Swift, it was not only about owning her masters but ensuring the earnings her label makes from selling its Spotify holdings would be shared with artists, as well as making payouts non-recoupable.

The thing is that every musician who has a following doesn’t have that kind of backing and can’t get a deal like Swift’s, especially underground and independent artists. As a result, leveraging visibility is the only sensible thing artists can do, specifically in the hip-hop space, which is as influential now as it’s ever been.

When you see A$AP Rocky in a Loewe’s spring campaign, Vince Staples starring in his own television show or Ice Cube start a basketball league, you’re seeing the power of music and the savvy of musicians at work.

Your favorite singer, rapper or band is more than a musician — they’re creative, multitalented artists and entrepreneurs who, through music, found ways to break into other passions.

“Music is the quickest way into showbiz,” says Zach Bellas, an American singer-songwriter, producer and founder of the independent recording label SMB Records. He was quoting 1970s music and movie executive legend David Geffen.

“Songs can move quickly and it can change who’s paying attention to you in an instant,” Bellas adds. “At the end of the day, it’s gathering attention to you so that they can pay attention to anything you do, and music is the best way to start that.”

When we start looking at musicians as people and not machines mandated to crank out hits, maybe, just maybe, we’ll appreciate someone like Rihanna expanding her business portfolio, instead of hounding her for yet another album … like an angry mob.

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