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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

Hats off to you bro. I fully sympathize with everything you said from a much closer stand point than I care to be at in my own journey. Being a huge fan of all your work I find comfort in the fact that I'm not the only who feels this way.

Right here in hell, banging my tambourine away, shouting at the top my lungs, so that we may be heard as a collective. Never will I give in to the machine.

-D

I have so much respect for you Shadow and you makes some good points, unfortunatly you will never going to win this battle. Downloading music is just too easy and not even 1% of the population cares about the artist.

Also I'm pretty sure your preaching to the converted here, who else but heads would be reading your site?

And how is touring not profitable? Who says you have to be headlining a major label sponsored festival to make any cash? Last time you came to Australia tickets were $80 something for a show at Luna Park, which in my oppinion is pretty much the worst venue in Sydney and I'm sure is one of the most expensive to hire....

All in all, it's all been said before, but it's still worth saying and it is exciting to hear that some new material is on the way.

I also know that I still buy vinyl records, so that's how I get to sleep at night.

Hemetskew: Wow, talk about the pot calling the kettle black wrt awful arguments.

"Do you really think that the majority of file-sharers actually go and purchase music if they really like
an album? A bunch of the people posting below made that point; please WAKE UP to the fact that you are an extreme minority!!"

Nobody made the claim that the majority of file sharers do this, though that's what I do, and I'd certainly make the claim that's what most music lovers do. Fortunately, I don't have to just make unfounded claims, since the research supports what I'm saying:

http://www.zeropaid.com/news/87196/uk-poll-file-sharers-buy-more-music/
http://www.zeropaid.com/news/9086/canadian_govt_study_p2p_increases_cd_s...
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4718249.stm

Given that the Canadian study found no net change in the number of albums being sold, the "extreme minority" must also be making up for the rest. Maybe the minority isn't as extreme as you believe.

"File-sharing through unauthorized websites is illegal, you are stealing copyrighted material. Shadow has every right to expect to be paid for his art."

Illegal does not always translate directly to immoral, and stealing is definitely different from copyright infringement, as much as you and the RIAA would like for us to believe the opposite. And I agree that Shadow should be paid, which is why I buy his albums (well, his older albums, at least).

"How can you argue with what he is saying? He blatantly says if you're not with it, then you're
not a true fan of his, and that is how he sees it."

Nobody is arguing with what he's saying, and if what he's saying is that he doesn't want anyone to "try before they buy" by checking out MP3s, then I'll respect his wishes, but what that means for me, at least, is that I won't buy any more DJ Shadow records. The days are gone where I'll buy a record sight unseen (or unheard, as it were). If DJ Shadow isn't cool with me checking out his work before I spend my hard-earned dollars on it, well, that makes me sad, but I'll respect his wishes and save my money for an album I can confirm I'll like before I buy it.

"This comment thread is full
of pseudo-music intellectuals who follow the crowd because it's the crowd. Original thinkers and creative people, understand the man who has dedicated a lifetime to his music, and just wants to make an honest living doing what he does best."

Original thinking, like toeing the RIAA line? Good on you, original thinker. Keep it up!

I do what I do because I love music, the same as DJ Shadow. We have different convictions, but that's life.

-G

A lot of you filesharers are making some awful arguments, I hope none of you are lawyers ; ). Do you really think that the majority of file-sharers actually go and purchase music if they really like
an album? A bunch of the people posting below made that point; please WAKE UP to the fact that you are an extreme minority!! File-sharing through unauthorized websites is illegal, you are stealing copyrighted material. Shadow has every right to expect to be paid for his art.
How can you argue with what he is saying? He blatantly says if you're not with it, then you're
not a true fan of his, and that is how he sees it. So for all
of you hating: either get with the program or go jock any other DJ who isn't good enough to demand payment for his work.
Music costs tons of money and time to create, it should be paid for.
Ignore the hate Shadow, stick to your guns. This comment thread is full
of pseudo-music intellectuals who follow the crowd because it's the crowd. Original thinkers and creative people, understand the man who has dedicated a lifetime to his music, and just wants to make an honest living doing what he does best. For the artists complaning you never got your shot, and Shadow is sooo lucky to be wear he is, and he shouldn't be complaining- shut up. There's a reason you suck at music
and don't make any money doing it. Go back to your monitored box behind a 9-5 desk.
Peace and love for the new decade.
-Matt

Nice tirade!!
More or less my feelings too.....and not just about music.
Nearly in despair listening to the radio etc. and literally not hearing any music that causes my ears to prick up with anticipation of more to come.To paraphrase Jeff beck:What went wrong. I thought Rock & Roll was meant to be dangerous?

Well, I hope you read the comments at some point. Keep in mind mine is warm and mostly sad.

Josh, you're wrong in a sense with that. You should look at filesharing as a tool that gives you visibility.
I wouldn't be one of your fans hadn't I downloaded Endtroducing. I bought it afterwards, but I almost always download first because the fact that you're named Josh Davis doesn't prevent you from dropping some shitty album at some point and I don't wanna get home and discover that I wasted money. Plain and simple. Plus, for me your albums always require a good four or five listens to make me fall in love and I take that time to decide if I want to buy. I haven't bought everything you released, but many of them. Some of them twice (bought physically and on iTunes).

I'm an amateur photographer and I want to go professional. I hang my pics in flickr. Once in a while someone will come and steal my work for some stupid test on facebook or some blog entry or whatever. I sure would love if they would give credit as I spent some time setting up my pics, and I ask them to do so, but I try to not forget that most of all they're making me some free advertising.

I also don't understand how you criticize a media that's allowing you to drop your bombs (like that blog post for instance). You're directly communicating with your fanbase, and that's amazing. I don't think artists from the 60's had that straight contact with their fans. You admit you're not really using the internet that much yet you're criticizing the quality of the information on the internet. Do you see the cracks on the ceiling you've put upon your head?

I mean sure there's a lot of garbage over the internet. Just as it is on TV and on newspapers. But it has a side effect that I love: it forces intelligent people to think, to develop a criteria, to separate what's gibberish from what's usable. Some people may go the easy way and stay tuned with the garbage, I would say the same people that listen to mass produced extra-loud questionable quality pop, the same people that will run to get their flu shots and live in panic, but this is NOT all of the people. Saying the internet is going to turn humanity into a passionless, hollowed-out society is like saying newspapers or tv or videogames will turn people into killers. People will become what they want to become. Most of the people will surely prefer to stop thinking, caring, wondering, but so what? There's still a vast spectrum of behaviours into the human race and you sure wouldn't want to live in a society where there's no diversity. It would be boring.

Take twitter. It's revolutioning the news world because it's jumping over censorship, because the news hit the world instantly without filters. Because if I see something I can say it to the world inmediately, without having to take political considerations whatsoever. It's giving power back to the people, how can it be bad?

I'm confused. You claim your right to evolve, to make different things with your art, yet you expect the music industry to turn back to the 60's and 70's. That's not gonna happen. Life means change, that's a fact. I do think that you should feel lucky you have been able to make a living with your music. Some of us will never make a living with the things we're most passionate about. Sure it would be better for you if that didn't have to change, but if you have to get a dayjob to provide... well, just do it. Don't expect me to feel that much for you when I work 9 hours a day and have only 2 days a week to dedicate to my art, when 2 out of 4 members in my fam are unemployed and the 3rd is working but unpaid since June. I mean, your situation isn't even that bad. You STILL can make your music, even with less time availability.

I've read some of the comments raising really good points here and I think you should think about them trying to let your anger out of this. Like, why you don't really tour that much for instance. I would love to see you on tour. I've tried two times but one of them I didn't have money at all (and I had to travel to see you), one of them I just missed it. I know the answer: you've grown up, you have a family now, daughters, wife. Touring is uncomfortable. Well, in real life, jobs sometimes mean we have to do things we don't really like that much. But we do because they come with the job.

Most of all what shocked me from this post is that inconsistency between your art's right to evolve and the industry's need to devolve. Josh, I'm sure you know most of the profit out in the industry is not made by the artists. That's why the ones deciding what kind of garbage is in the radio are not the listeners and that's why the industry should change. I've always admired your career because you've always looked forward, advancing with your music, always trying not to re-do something you already did. I've got into passionate fights with so called fans that moaned that you didn't copy Endtroducing with your last album. I always said I wouldn't be able to respect you as an artist had you always made the same album over and over again. And now I see you expect the music industry to remain unaltered. The Status Quo. I really don't understand, I didn't see that one coming.

Does that mean that your music should be free? Hell no. It just means that you shouldn't attack filesharing because yeah, some people may listen to your music and value it but not pay for it, but that people may be blowed out by it and talk about it with someone like me, that will download and listen and then buy. Filesharing expands your message more than you know.

You just need to move with the times with this too. Evolve in this area. Do as some people here suggest: give download codes for remix MP3 versions when people actually buy your albums, give some mp3 freebies once in a while, tweet, make yourself relevant in the new networks. There are and will be a zillion ways to get ahead in this movement. Whatever it occurs to you, just be creative and MOVE. Move with the flow. Either you're moving or left behind.

Shadow:

I just want to let you know something about filesharers. You were one of the first artists I discovered 100% online, via downloading, way back when FTP trading was the de rigeur method for spreading music around. I've subsequently purchased a second copy of Endtroducing because I wore out my first, playing it constantly and dragging it everywhere I went, and it experienced so much wear and tear that 50% of the tracks were unplayable. This is the reality of filesharing... if you create some art that people like me truly love, they go out and buy it, and buy as much as they possibly can to support the artists they love. Filesharing just exposes people like me to more artists, like you, who also deserve our support. Filesharing is like a radio where it's me, as opposed to bloated record execs, who chooses what I'm exposed to. As a music lover, I hope you can appreciate that.

Shadow...I do hope you read these comments. I would like to share with you a bit of experience in response to your frustrations...

I have been producing electronic music and sample based experiments for nearly 13 years now, based out of Chicago. I have released nearly all of it online, for free. I have several records available thru various online distribution outlets, and only as of this month will I have my first pressed cd available...Obviously this is not a money making endeavor. However, in knowing (or trying to know) what it takes to become a successful and happy artist, I've realized that the compensation is ALWAYS available...the art simply has to be GOOD ENOUGH. If a product bangs, people want it. Obviously this is why monotonous pop music will continue to prevail. It is by all common standards "good enough." What we neglect to acknowledge as seemingly progressive artists enveloped in a seemingly haggard industry, is that our struggles as other worldly thinkers will NEVER reach the pocket books of those that adhere to pop sensibilities, which is in essence, not an aesthetic, but a market. Conventional markets will not provide conventional compensation for un-conventional art forms, and trying to fit the mold, or "re-invent" the wheel will only repel interest, as the wheel simply already works just fine. It is a matter of providing something NEW, and as any artist can vouch for this paradigm, at 25 years of experimentation and production, surely you've had to ask yourself several times "what exactly am i doing?" Surely you've had mental blocks and lulls wherein your process seems utterly tired, and you simply want to try something completely new and amazing...maybe not. I don't know how you think... But I think we HAVE to feel that somewhere in the picture if we're ever going to continue to evolve as artists. This has nothing to do with the ravenous beast that is the internet. Humans aren't going to suddenly stop and smell the roses. They will continue to consume and produce the things that function as a social and economically sound lubricants. This happens to NOT be the kind of music I or perhaps yourself continues to produce...

This doesn't by ANY means, indicate that you should be giving your music away for free. Hell yes it's worth something. Hell yes you should charge what you're worth. But what exactly are you trying to say with this? Are you angry at God? The government? The industry? Are you simply not as popular as you were before? Are you losing money? If it IS about money then it IS about money. Don't pretend that you're better than money or that it's not important to you or your art because "it doesn't justify art"...or something like that. Hell yes it justifies art! It also justifies cars and screen doors and toaster ovens. It is a symbol of our devotion to an ideal. And a symbol with such power deserves respect. Again...why pop music will prevail. ALSO why Andy Warhol ruled the planet. Also why Trent Reznor or Bjork have become stadium filling musical numbers. Because they have a product that is in demand.

Of course money isn't the ONLY symbol that lends itself to an ideal. There are innumerable vehicles in place that allow us to empower each other and move forward. Though at some points we should probably just sit still...and that's okay. Just because the industry is up in arms all around you, doesn't mean you have to be. We all exist at different tiers within these versatile paradigms of art and/or commerce, and we have to be aware of where we stand...This gets harder and harder the more we become a staple within a particular industry. We don't realize how large and in charge we may be at any given moment, simply because we're now surrounded by a support group of equals, which is at the core, completely awesome and it doesn't mean we have to "lower" ourselves to the humble bottoms of the barrel simply to know what it means to LIVE, but we must stay aware. Staying aware is only relative to YOUR surroundings. There is no rulebook or right or wrong way.

And one more thing...we should never assume that we have the language to adequately describe the turbulence of our moment. Only after the moment can we say "It happened like this..." We are not your "flock" nor are we the "convention" nor are we all "outsiders." We are however human, and as humans we have absolutely no idea as to what we are talking about. Until we do, lets have as much fun as possible.

Much respect for you and your art and your vision...
-Max

In fact, i don't know if it's a debate or so, but if it is, it can be stopped now.
Cause as long as downloading from internet is prohibited, it is.
When you like something, buy it!
It's as simple as that.

I would lie if i'd say i never dl from the net, but i always tried to buy the highiest amount of Shadow albums.
This way is the only one to directly feed the artist...

MP3 WITH VINYL:
One user commented that you should give away the Mp3 with the vinyl.
I think (if you're not doing that already) that is a good idea. That's what they're doing on the punk scene here in the UK. You buy the vinyl and they give you a code so you can download the track, makes sense.

LOUDNESS WARS:
This is, as far as I'm concerned, why so much music on the radio sounds like wallpaper. They need to start allowing for music dynamics.

POP ON TV:
Rage Against the machine were Christmas number one, now you could never have happened in the past few decades, but it shows that there are people out there who appreciate good music and will pay for it. You simply don't get that many people paying just for the cause, they have to like the track to an extent. What gets me is that they barely played it on the radio? You would think they would get the message.

FILE SHARING:
There is this mindset it will last forever, when it won't.
I used to work for a networking company. Every program that wants to talk over the internet has to announce and use certain "ports", every program without exception.
Bit Torrent is one of these, as are P2P networks. If they stop those ports then file sharing stops. People who then choose to share music via the web will leave themselves wide open. They could easily close down a source just as easily as we the users are able to find them.
Trust me, compared to say 6 or 7 years ago it is infinitely more difficult to find the file you're after.

Trust me, money talks, money controls corporations, governments, moves mountains. If tomorrow they announce they are going to stop file sharing it will stop over night.

Just don't think that's going to bring back the talent of the 60's and 70's. We'll just get the pop tripe as we did before