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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

Allo, me again....

Was thinking some more on this subject during a bout of insomnia and felt like putting finger to key again...

I've found as an Unsigned Independant artist that sometimes it is neccersary to dangle a carrot or two in order to cement yourself in a listeners psyche.
The concept being that if they genuinely appreciate your sound and produce they'll return for more and won't mind paying.(Drug dealers use the same method but I believe my sounds are less harmful, although hopefully as addicitive).
This method is required to lock people in on an artist in an increasingly packed industry and providing incentives is especially prevelant on the Internet generations of today.
The internet's impact on musicians like myself is double edged, never before has it been sooo easy to connect with 'fans' and listeners yet by the same fact, never before has it been so difficult to actually 'get heard' due to the woods and trees scenario OR actually get anything for you work.
Even a comment or sign of appreciation can be considered 'payment' in my book but theres no doubt the ease of the internet has bred (not all but alot) a wealth of users who require instant gratification, something for nothing and offer little in return...even 20secs of their time.
The internet is deluged and swamped with, without wanting to be overly harsh, alot of bland, contrived, pop wannabe noodling pish.
The fact is that anyone with a computer and abit of time can make a tune, bang it on the web and add to the clutter without neccersarily bringing anything of merit to the table (or ear) but thats in no way to say that there arent AMAZING artists out there making AWESOME noises.
I've met and collaborated with some incredible talents whom I would never have met without the benefit of the internet and there in lies a creative beauty, collaborations have never been easier and with the wealth of talent out there (myself inc) it's never been easier to make sounds SO new and intruiging that people WANT to pay for it.
Times have and are still changing and in order to benefit from that fact you have to think outside the box with a cottage industry head on.

In terms of sales, recessions dont help of course but the one thing good you do have going for you is your already establised bruvva Shadow, if you put something out, people listen.
Your base is there and has been established through your hardwork and quality, I've no doubt if their feeling the produce they'll see you right, got no doubt.
Your newer sounds have not been bad by any means, there just not (sorry to harp on) Endtroducing which was incredible or Private Press/Unkle stuff and unfort takes time for people to accept change ESPECIALLY when it's a fanbase who feel to a certain extent YOUR sound is Theirs.
As for the games market, I'm not having a go but DJ Hero aint my cup of tea, and thats YOUR fault for inspiring me all those years ago to make music rather than 'playing' making music.
As for the average punter it was never imo gonna rival the guitar based ones cos most people wanna be a rock god, EVEN alot of Dj's, once again imo...unfortunate but true.
Put yourself in the shoes of artists who are only now releasing their first tunes, daunting, banging head on a brickwall comes to mind.
Giving ups not an option however, cos as I say, even a comment from someone on the other side of the world feeling you sounds IS payment to a degree.
Aint gonna pay the bills but gives you the hunger to try and do so.
I honestly believe that if I can get my sounds to even 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000001% of the planets ears and they all bought a tune for 1p I'd have enough to live on, keep producing, and that'd be me WELL happy, gotta bit of work ahead though lol.
Keep being creative, Stay true to you, dig out some new talents on internet and work with em, keep inspiring yourself and the fanbase will follow...
Look forward to putting some new sounds of yours in my ears in the new year:)

Come on kids you know vynils got soul, theres nowt like finding summat in a shop that you didnt set out to find that knox you for 6, googling for tracks doesn't compare

Dear Shadow, as a younger fan i cant help but admit that i am part of the "filesharing generation" and im not gonna a lie in saying that i doing partake in illegal filesharing, blog downloads and torrent downloading myself. However, much of this is due to the fact the filesharing is actually EASIER and QUICKER to do than buying music, a lot of which is harder to find from a legitimate source. I do accept that filesharing is wrong and that i should support the artists, and i buy vinyl. To buy a pressed piece of that sexy black plastic costs me six times as much as it does to buy a single track, so therefore, i feel that im paying 5 other tracks i have sourced illegally, per se? Instead of attacking filesharing why not work in co-operation with it? I bought beck's modern guilt LP on 12inch the other day and was happy to find that with the record, i also received a download code for a free 320 version of the album in mp3 format. And i can promise you, if ive bought someone's single on vinyl i WILL NOT pay for it online.

I think you've taken this article from a slightly confused perspective, its not about the money but people dont pay for it then you wont produce...bit of a juxtaposition dont you think? After bitching and moaning about the stress on musicians wallets, perhaps you need to remember that consumers are in the same boat, and if you expect me to buy and record then pay for an mp3 you can GET TO FUCK!

Andrew/

I first heard DJ Shadow when a friend played me a bit of Endtroducing, I was in love ever since. I've only seen one of Shadow's gigs, in the early noughties in Brixton, UK - I was suffering from Appendicitis at the time, but that wouldn't stop me from seeing the Shadow ;)

I bemoan the state of the music industry today, teenagers and younger just don't understand the concept that they should pay for music, they don't see file sharing as stealing, they think all music should at least be available to stream for free online. It is a sad sad state of affairs and what Shadow writes is true, X-Factor and Pop Idol and the like are the sorry mirrors that the music industry holds up to itself to make a profit, and they can't see how ugly the reflection is that stares back...

I wish things where different, but sadly they aren't. I just hope the loyal fans who are replying to this post are enough to encourage Shadow to keep making the wonderful music he does....

wow. a lot of people here seem to get all touchy when someone (even if it is the artist himself) criticizes on file sharing and downloading music from the Internet for free. why on earth should DJ Shadow accept is simply because "that's the way it works today"?

it is true that file sharing makes it easy for people to get access to a huge diversity of music. it is true that it conveniently replaces the narrow playlist of the local radio station. it is also true that for some people it replaces the need of buying any records. active filesharers may spend more money on music than before but people in general spend less. I don't know how the "active filesharer" is defined here but as we all know statistics can easily be tweaked to give the desired result.

if you want to know if a Shadow record is worth $9.99, go to the artists website, go to last.fm, go to any other place where you can hear the music without physically owning it. listen to the music and if you like it, go and buy it.

I don't think file sharing should be forbidden by law or restricted by the internet service provider. I don't want to live in a police state and preventing file sharing wouldn't be possible anyway. I am talking about the personal choice between ripping off music versus consuming it the way the artist hopes for.

I think the artists need to make money on the records. sure there is money in touring, but we already have a slew of artists regularly putting out a shitty meaningless album and following it up with a massive tour: madonna, slayer, iron maiden, rolling stones and so forth. is that really what people want? some artists are more geared towards producing records rather than live shows - I don't want to refuse those artists the income and appreciation they deserve.

I feel the people accusing Shadow of being an old bitter man or a dictator or whatever just felt a sting in their conscience. even if it is technically possible to get all the music in the world for free, doesn't make it right. if you're active file sharer and eventually buy the music you like, go ahead. if you just don't want to pay for anything you may be a music lover but you're also a thief.

Dear Josh,
A friend reminded me of your line from Scratch where you speak upon all these artists that you were diggin for and that none of those artists have careers and so forth. While nostalgic and reminiscent, I can not bear to deny the resemblence and direction you seem to be going. You have alienated a gigantic fan base. Me included. I was beyond an avid fan. You are unaccepting of a paradigm shift that you have absolutely no power over and think that there is a problem. Days of making a 12" of uncleared samples of other people's blood, sweat and tears are long gone. The game has changed. I just don't understand how a working and very successful musician and businessman such as yourself can seem so jaded and unthoughtful and so fusking insolent.

You seem to be talking out of both sides of your mouth. You believe music sucks right now? Why? Pay attention. There is some of the most interesting, introspective and enlightening music coming out. Yes, it's true it isn't Isaac Hayes or David Axelrod, but open your eyes, ears and mind. I am sorry there is not a "new" Jay-Z or Biggie. There are plenty of people occupying worthwhile spaces on the racks and websites that deserve it. Brother Ali, who bridges the gaps between Chuck D, Freeway and Atmosphere. MGMT who capture psychedelic and tongue in cheek lyrics. M83. Blu. These New Puritans. La Roux. Blakroc. The Dead Weathers. Diplo. Flying Lotus. Glitch Mob.I could name a continuous list of great and new artists. I am not saying all these people are the next DJ Shadow or James Brown or Q-Tip, but these are viable new(er) artists that are challenging and changing music. Puting their soul into music to move you, me and everybody in between. They inspire me the way that Entroducing did.

It's funny, I am seeing some awesome similarities between your attitude with the attitude of the sampled artists of the 90s. Some of them weren't accepting of the music and considered it blasphemous for producers of the 90's to reuse. Some even called it worse, they called it theft. Some of them were very cool and open. I remember meeting Monty Stark and was so inspired and open and appreciative of new music. But you did try and make music that was different nonetheless. Challenging how music is made.

It's situations like this that you wish an artist didn't write or talk and THEY JUST MADE MUSIC. Please. Make music that moves me.Sample, don't sample. I don't care. Challenge me. Surprise me. Do what you love and it will shine through. If a major label won't release it with samples, do you need them? You are still a force to be wreckoned with. You are blessed and have more opportunity than I can fully quantify. I feel as if I have made some challenging and beautiful music comparable to what any other successful artist has put out but have not made the jump into a greater realm. I wish I had 10% of the opportunity that you had, I would be a rich, humble and satiated man. I continue to invest time, effort and money into what I love. You have a base of knowledge and resources far greater than I can imagine. Yes, there are some amazing artists out there who let their music go for free. Watch and learn from the likes of Trent Reznor. He has worked the game to a T and still makes amazing music. They are lucky enough to have fans who are willing to support them come rain sleet or recession. You have done well. You don't have to be one of those artists, but if you don't want to do so, you may not want to keep yabbering about it. Your use of YOUR site to voice YOUR opinions is precisely what makes the internet amazing. Don't complain. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Be smarter. Be quicker. Be creative. Or don't and go away ungraceful and reminiscent of James Brown in the 80's. Others don't have the voice you have. In this case, chances are, I wish they did. They would probably say someting most of us can use. Inspiration.

Don't come off as disgruntled and the old guy on the block yelling get off my lawn.

I am reminded of one of Rev Run's recent Daily Words of Wisdom that he sends out everyday: "Everyone is old who stops learning, whether your(sic) 20 or 80!". Think about it and understand it, the clock on the wall reads a quarter past midnight...
Signed,
A fan...

also...
um
"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"
why not do that now as well?
then you most likely wouldn't have the bitch issue you have now 25 years of making music that lover's are looking for alternatives to.
ya?

well...
what is with these "indie" artists and their entitlement bullshit
like music is some grand good great that needs to keep its status quo proper
does shadow think money is more fluid for consumers?
are consumers supposed to purchase product within and for the paradigms of artists, entertainers and performers?
or by their own measures and standards?
these folk come off as sour old men whose boyhood dream can not now be realized because they weren't aware and intuitive enough to see the world change as they grew up and then act accordingly and congruently
your consumers did and are!

now they want to bitch and cry that "times ain't what they used to be"
bitchin bout the internet like "it" is the problem
"...you will NEVER hear or read anything negative about the Internet ON the Internet.There’s too much money to be made..."
LOL
hey smart guy, in your blog i did just read something negative about the internet on the internet
and why not quit yer bitchin and make money with the damn thing!?!?
WTF? shadow!
this is some weird it ain't 25 years ago boo-hoo shit
i don't get it

at least he's not one of those dumb asses equating shitty compressed lesser quality copies of selected and specific parts or their products as the same thing and calling folk who pre-judge and sample such first thieves

let me start by sayin that entroducing changed my life and made me who i am today(professional dj)......with that being said i have hard time reading all this..... for such an educated digger to say that "so much of what were fed is utter GARBAGE" are you saying that the majority of music these days is garbage???????? come on man...that is just not right!!! this is an AMAZING time in music and anyone who says it isnt is obviosouly not DIGGIN hard enuf(and yes i mean diggin on the WEB!!..and yes i know its been said before but there is still a ton of money in video games as well as touring....no dj hero probably didnt get you the royalty checks you were expecting but thats because people dont like it .. why dont people like it is a whole notha post upon post but the fact remains , there is still a ton of money in MOST video games..as far as touring djs are askin an arm and a leg for gigs gettin sponsorships, commercials, starting clothing lines etc.....sounds like you need a new agent which has also bn discussed somewhere in these comments....look at A Trak who im sure also looked up to you tremendously...he is constantly touring, yes, headlining festivals, selling fools gold mp3s like crazy, touring more, selling merch etc...did he sell out? hell to the naw....He made himself RELEVANT... and yes he tweets and has facebook pages and blogs and blogs and blogs....i wonder the correlation?????

To fall in love, With the things you do
Don't sell yourself, To fall in love
With those things you do.