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Shadow's starting the New Year off with a bang, check out his latest journal entry here!

Posted Jan 4, 2010

WARNING: RAMBLING TIRADE FROM A 37-YEAR OLD TECHNOPHOBE BELOW

Well, here we are again, another year, another decade. Optimism about the future is tempered with a nagging sense that underlying factors causing most of the misery in the world still exist. Lucky, then, that I’m a musician and not a politician.

Specifically, when it comes to the wallet, everyone’s suffering…of that there can be no doubt. And what of the financial prospects for musicians and recording artists in the years to come? Shaky, at best. Unless you’re one of the grotesque ‘Idol’-type pop disasters in the top 5, you’re looking at getting a day job or finding other sources of income. Conventional wisdom amongst my peers has been remarkably short-sided over the last decade: “Yeah, CD sales are down, but all the money is in licensing.” Not anymore. “Yeah, licensing money is down, but the video game industry is killing it.” Less so these days, according to recent data. “Well, the real money is in touring.” Really? When was the last time you saw a ‘new,’ post-record company artist headline a major music festival? At this rate, we’ll be stuck with Coldplay for decades (no offense intended).

Time for a little straight talk, from one reasonably intelligent human being to YOU, the reasonably intelligent reader. As distasteful as it may sound, the fact is that so many of our heroes: Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, The Beatles, whoever you care to name; generated much of their best art in return for financial compensation. If you take away the compensation, guess what…the art stops. For example, how many young rap artists are grinding away these days in New York, trying to get a deal? Not too many, certainly compared to the ‘80s and ‘90s. There’s no allure, no pot at the end of the rainbow. People have been asking for years now, “Where’s the next Nas, the next Jay-Z?” Be prepared to keep waiting…and for music, overall, to keep sucking. Why? Because only bottom-of-the-barrel, embarrassing pop tripe generates enough income to feed the machine. Anything unproven or risky? Nobody’s going to bankroll that kind of ‘experiment.’

Let me be clear: I love music. I love the culture of music, making music, playing music, geeking out over music from the past and present. I love old record company stories, and the characters that inhabited it. In other words, I have learned to appreciate the merchants of commerce as well as the art. If you love movies or cars, chances are you can relate to what I’m describing. What would Hollywood be without the larger-than-life, audacious personalities behind the scenes? What would cars be like if there had never been Detroit?

Gone are the recording studios (including the historically important Plant down the road from me in Sausalito), the record shops, and the music magazines. Replaced by the oh-so-cynical, oh-so-corrosive AM talk radio of the new millennium, the Internet. But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Chances are, you may have even been one of those majority who danced on the grave of the falling record companies, pointed to Radiohead giving their album away for free and said, “See, look, if they can do it, why can’t everyone else?” Slowly, I turn…

Every artist is entitled to their own price point, just as every consumer has a choice in what they purchase. Nobody puts a gun to someone’s head and says, “Hey, buy this Picasso for 20 million.” Likewise, if $9.99 is too much to spend for one of my albums, so be it, your choice. But if you’re holding your breath, waiting for me to boost my cool-quotient by giving my music away for free, it’s not going to happen. The fact is that I feel my music has value. You may disagree, and that’s fine. But I know how much energy I put into what I do, and how long it takes me to make something I’m satisfied with. Giving that away just feels wrong to me. It’s not about money per se; I can donate a large sum of money to charity and not think twice, but I won’t give my art away. I’d rather sell it to 100 people who value it as I do than give it away to 1000 who could care less. That’s MY choice.

I realize these are all unpopular subjects. Artists are never supposed to address their flock about such icky subjects as business and commerce. (By the way, and I hope it doesn’t sound disingenuous, but now would be a REALLY good time to express my undying THANKS for your support, which matters IMMENSELY in my ability to retain music as my primary endeavor. As a fan of others, I always used to wonder, “does this artist or group really care about whether I buy their stuff or not? Do they care that I go to their show?” YES, WE CARE!!!!! Now, more than ever). Most think that I should stop whining, grow up and embrace the Internet, become more active, tweet more, hype more, give more stuff away, etc, etc. Honestly, I’ve tried…and will keep trying. But the bottom line is that not every paradigm or system is right for everyone. We’ve all been told for years that the Internet is our Savior; it’s cool, youthful, hip, the solution to every problem, and if you aren’t joining a new networking site on a weekly basis, you’re a social pariah. Sorry…I just don’t feel that way. I’m old enough to know that when 99% of the population is marching lockstep in one direction, sometimes it’s wise to break rank and go the other way. Plus, I simply don’t like sitting in front of a computer screen all day.

I’m not saying that I don’t use the Internet on a regular basis; I do. And obviously I’m very proud of this site and its ability to support itself through the store. Honestly, I just think a large portion of the dialogue and content available online is an utter shit fest: a Pandora’s box of violence, neurosis, bad impulses, and bad intentions. It has become the “Super Horror Show” the Last Poets could never have dreamed of, like bad television on steroids and angel dust simultaneously. CL Smooth memorably called television “a schism…negative realism.” And much like the TV of the ‘60s and ‘70s, you will NEVER hear or read anything negative about the Internet ON the Internet. There’s too much money to be made, by someone somewhere (and hey, why ruffle the feathers of the goose that’s laying the golden egg, right?). 20 years from now, it will be interesting to see what hindsight reveals. I predict a flag on the time-line: when we moved closer to becoming a passionless, listless, hollowed-out society, one in which art and nature could no longer provide the psychological shock to the system required to endure another harrowing day of terror alerts and super-bugs. Music can only suggest sex and violence…the Internet provides both, full frontal and full strength, 24/7. Maximum dose.

Whatever…what will be will be. As long as I breathe, I’ll make music, love music, support music. I used to get in fights at school to defend my right to listen to rap, and I’ll fight on against any institution or prevailing thinking that seeks to dictate to me how and when the music I make is to be disseminated. If there’s 50 of you, or 100, or more out there willing to accept my right to choose, as I accept yours, then welcome aboard…you are my fan base. The rest of you that don’t, and want me to play someone else’s game…I wish you well. Let’s just leave the subject at that and call it what it is: a mutual misunderstanding.

Regardless, it’s going to be a hell of a year. I am working hard on new music, and hope to share some of it with you in the coming months (really!). I’m fully aware that there are many former fans that insist my best work is behind me. Well, respectfully, I disagree. It’s not easy walking the tightrope between artistic validity and financial solvency, but I stand behind all of the decisions I have made to date. What matters to me is that EVERYONE reading this knows that I take my career, my music, and my fans EXTREMELY SERIOUSLY. When I started in music 25 years ago, my mission was to provide an alternative, to expand the scope of choice available to music lovers like myself; and above all to demonstrate a willingness to go the extra mile and put the MAXIMUM EFFORT in EVERYTHING I DO, so that the bar continues to be raised, not lowered. Whether that manifests itself on stage, on record, or as a character in a video game, I honestly feel that I have given it my best, win or lose, and I’m proud of that. I have to believe that your continued support is a vote of confidence, which I take great comfort in as I strive to create some of my best work to date.

I may not be the best looking dude out there…I may not be the most linked-in, the most prolific, the most successful…but I’ll be god-damned if I’m not up there with the most passionate. If you agree with what I’m saying, that so much music we’re fed is utter GARBAGE that insults the intelligence, then no matter where you’re at…the States, the UK, France, Japan, Canada, Australia, wherever…we’re ALL outsiders, and we owe it to each other to band together and fight for something better. Personally, I’m loving the challenge, and when the time is right, I look forward to reconnecting with all of you.

Until then...

DJ Shadow

Shadow,
There are surely a lot of things outside the States. I'm from Nepal and the record CD cost here around $20 which means a double rate compared to your place. And honestly speaking, I have never bought a CD, rather I download a track for free. I'm not saying that all the people here download the music for free, some of them buy too. And I bet there are millions of people who hesitates to pay money for a single CD where they have a better option to download it for free!! And talking about your business collapse, then better get yourself another job to subsidies your living!! Then again, if you are doing this for the love of the music then don't expect more from this industry. headphones

In desperate need of help here people, like a junkie, like Mezz Mezzrow in jail, like Albert Ayler walking into the river. I really want Santa or one of your beautiful peep's to burn me a copy of James Blood Ulmer's Black Rock I would feel so much better about the world in general. I once owned a copy in '88 but sold the copy to Reckless on upper Haight for $20 and then lost the money mountain biking on Mt. Tam. Would money help?

Ulmerless in Chicago.

Shadow,

Sorry that I have only found and read your statement at this late point, I am a father of twins and time on my PC is limited! I totally get what you mean about how music is being devalued. Just take heart from the fact that fans like me and my wife do BUY your music and I will gladly pay the going rate for any of your future output. It's the way things should be. You get what you pay for.

I've listened to and loved your music since Endtroducing came out when I was 18 years old. I hope it gives you strength to know that my little daughter, Cara, who is only 2 and a half,absolutely LOVES your music too!!! She plays along with a toy drum whenever I put your music on and shouts "SHADOW! SHADOW!". It's for reasons like this that I am sure you make your music for. It has enriched my life for 14 years (and will for as long as I'm around) and I hope it does the same for my children and theirs too.

Keep on keepin on, Shadow.

Barry & The Campbell Family,
Glasgow, Scotland

yo everybody out there!
i just wanted to say that you r talking about one side of the problem.
so for all of u american boys who think that there is nothing else outside the u.s fuck u!i'm from athens,greece and shadow's albums here dont cost 9.99 $!they cost 21.99 euros! so i will download for free, and i wont stop doing it, cause i'm still paying for my pc,internet is too expensive and my country is broke and doesnt give a shit about us people. i have no job with 2 masters degrees,my family's money and my parents' pensions are taken away by the banks, insurance companies and the fuckin government.the next 3-4 years will be very difficult for us, as it was 12 years ago.we dont have money to put gas in our cars,and u expect us to make tha right (for u) choice and pay for music???? noway dude.i really apreciate the efforts of all artists and especially shadow,but i will not pay 20 euros so that the record companies can make money and i will try not to pay in any live concert also,so that some artists think their work is apreciated.art has nothing to do with money and dont confuse that again plz. the hip hop culture is better than this...u all talk very nice and to the point, but u r missing something...music is the most liberating form of art...dont make the wrong decisions, cause music around the world has allready been trasformed to another type of chain around our feet..and here in greece we r full of chains...we have to start getting them of...so free art in general and if u do what u do out of love,then your art will shine eventually....dont try to find enemies where there r not any.and for god's sakes man think about the misery the money u have soo longed to make
and wanna make in the future, have brought in this world...dont make your music only for people who can pay!!!!!!this is fucked up man!!! come on!!!!no disrespect shadow but take a minute and think about your fans allover the world who stole and sold weed and drugs just to here your music man..just like me...
outsider for ever

yo everybody out there!
i just wanted to say that you r talking about one side of the problem.
so for all of u american boys who think that there nothing else outside the u.s fuck u!i'm from athens,greece and shadow's albums here dont cost 9.99 $!they cost 21.99 euros! so i

Nothin to say but thanks for the music and the energy behind. CANT wait for the tour

Well, I believe if we're on DJ Shadow site, it means we have a specific interest in music, as, at least in France, I desperately never heard him on the radio ... at least on any big radio (but I don't listen all day to it). Not only Shadow of course, but most of the music I listen to, and even if it's not experimental underground. The problem is not to talk about unpopular subjects, just that they probably won't be read by any of the really targeted audience (horrible music thieves).
I sometimes listen to music on deezer. Don't know if it's a good thing, or if it's really profitable to musicians, at least it's an interesting model. I still think treating audience as thieves, and most of music out there as utter garbage, is really not what will draw people back to buying music, but that's just my point of view. By the way, why would people pay for utter garbage ? What do most people know about popular artists ? They live in big houses in costly areas, do jet set and win awards because they are famous. They don't sing live but in playback, give more importance to choregraphy than music, their voice is so filtered and numerically improved that it could be sung by anyone. Result is not garbage, but it's a lie, not something you want to pay for. And music has no value for them, nor has any other object or creation. It's not considered as a piece of art anymore, just an advertisement. It must be nice to listen to, and forgettable. There are credit card commercials that tell you you can buy everything, even the love of your family. Most of my beloved artists musics end up as music for commercials. I, we know it's not reality, but this is what people are fed with, more than bad music. I know people who think not buying CDs is an act of rebellion, because of the image they have of major companies. It's not only stupid, it's frightening. It's more our upside-down society the responsible for all this I think... Maybe internet opened Pandora's box, but what's in there is not new, and won't be likely to change.
Anyway I'm waiting for the new album, and will surely buy it as soon as it's available ;-)

To me its clear that from the response this has drawn from your fans that the love and appreciation for music/art is still strong... Who am i kidding its more than strong it is the lifeblood that keeps most of us afloat! And those of us lucky enough to have the passion for it will keep listening to, loving, making and buying the tunes that will provide the soundtrack to our lives. So Shadow you should sleep with a massive grin on your face knowing that millions of people all over the world have smiled, laughed, cried, felt better about themselves or been inspired because of the music you have created for yourself and us... for this we thank you! Whilst this may not line your pockets to your liking, i think if someone told you 25 years ago when you started playing around that fans would love you like your fanbase does you would have taken it?? You are always going to come up against obstacles be it record labels, downloading, the man, ignorant fans... but QUALITY art will always be sort out and loved by those with enough common sense to know it when they hear it, and yeah we are prepared to pay for it!!!

So bring on the new sht Shadow your legions are waiting. (not so patiently anymore.) :)

so you know who's killing the music industry..... its the industry itself

Since Apple granted music labels the flexibility to set individual song prices between $0.69 and $1.29 on the iTunes Music Store, growth of digital music sales has slowed, one music executive revealed Tuesday.

According to Peter Kafka at MediaMemo, Warner Music Group revealed Tuesday that it has seen digital music sales slow down since the price increase took effect in April 2009. Digital album downloads grew 5 percent in December, down from 10 percent in the September quarter and 11 percent in the June quarter. Digital revenue is slowing as well: Warner saw 8 percent growth in the holiday quarter, versus 20 percent a year before.

Warner CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. reportedly said the pricing change has been a "net positive" for Warner, but conceded that a 30 percent price increase during a recession was not the best move.

Hey Josh, I read your post and really feel for you recording artists - not !!, i have no sympathy for your predicament, i actually think you are feeling a sorry for yourself that the once lucrative recording contract business model has collapsed. If you can't make it as a recording artist alone then get yourself another job to subsidise your lifestyle you have become accustomed to. If you are doing this for the love of the music then just do it but don't bloody whine that your not going to make any money for your latest labour of love. I bought every single piece of vinyl that came from mowax and quannum / solesides you got plenty of cash out of my pocket. I think you should be more grateful for having the career you have, i would love to be in your shoes right now.... the lifestyle, the fame, the income its always the same you've made it but forgotten how you felt in the beginning when you just did it for the love of the music and just to be head was enough. I would be the happiest person alive if 1000 people just heard my music, why should it be that you all think of it as a career and you need to get paid doing it.....go and get a real job like the vast majority of folks. Your not a jobbing musician who plays in an orchestra every week and gets a fixed fee for every performance so enjoy what you have and let the internet revolution destroy the greedy, power hungry music industry to be replaced with a more meritocratic system that is fair to public and performer....to be continued