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About the Value of Music
Summer is here. The sun is pressing violently on the groaning roof beams, dust is trickling out of ant holes, and the air lies like syrup on the earth. The only place where it's actually bearable is in the basement, and that's very beneficial for our creativity. No later than noon we are in the rehearsal room and what should we do there but make music. We layer sounds on top of each other, shape, tweak and decorate until we suddenly find ourselves sitting there completely overwhelmed. It's not easy to get to that point, but sometimes we succeed and then we wallow in the deceptive certainty of having created something of value.
But we also debate a lot these days, especially in the evenings when the air has cooled down from the thunderstorm and Ava comes home from her internship. After the dream of being signed to a record company has been dashed for the time being, we will probably continue to release our music by ourselves. And of course the question arises, how it is still possible to earn at least a little money with music these days.
Somehow it's absurd. Our most successful song so far is fæːlɐ and it's been listened to over 10,000 times on Spotify. To me, that actually feels like quite a lot. It's a nice thought that ten thousand times someone has been happy about something we've done. Ava calculated that we probably get paid about 30 euros by Spotify for that. That's not even enough to go out for pizza once. Maybe that's not so bad. We didn't start this band to get rich. We just do what we love. Maybe it's okay not to get paid.
But still - the more we look into it, the more the feeling solidifies that something is fundamentally wrong. Let me try to explain: I don't know about you guys, but for me, there are very different kinds of music that I like for different reasons and that I listen to in very different ways. Some is good to burble in the background while cooking or writing. Because it doesn't disturb and creates a good atmosphere. Other music I soak up with my whole soul. It can make me cry, grin or dance, can turn resignation into hope and dejection into bittersweet melancholy. I can't listen to that kind of music all the time because it has such a strong effect on me. But I know that at the right moment it can change everything.
At the same time, music is also produced in very different ways. You can compose and record a simple piano piece in three or four hours that will work great in one of the countless relaxation playlists. But there is also music like ours, for which several people lock themselves in the rehearsal room for weeks or months, questioning every note, every syllable and every sound again and again, in order to hopefully create a work of art in the end that deserves this name. The music that is created in this way is often not that pleasing at first glance. You have to listen to it a few times to decipher it. But then it can have that extreme effect I talked about above.
But in the current system, all these different songs are always worth the same 0.3 cents. Even 2 minutes of rain sounds are compensated exactly the same. Is that really fair? And doesn't it create incentives to produce more and more generic assembly line music? If Jin would just record her piano improvisations, she could easily release an album a day. And probably make a lot more money with it than we do with our sweat-and-tears songs.
My point is not to complain. And I don't have a solution to the problem either. It's all complicated. But it can't stay the way it is. Of all the money that streaming services generate, almost all of it goes to a few big corporations, a handful of pop stars, and an armada of ghostwriters and assembly line producers. For all the heart and soul musicians out there, only a few crumbs remain. And if artificial intelligences get seriously involved in this game in the near future, this imbalance will become even more drastic. Because then you won't be able to make an album of chill piano music or lofi beats in a week or a day, but in a single minute. What will music be worth then?
Does anyone of you have an idea how to solve this dilemma? We are at a bit of a loss.