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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

Happy new year everyone!!
In Shadow i sincerely trust.

"The fact is that I feel my music has value."

Of course it does, but it seems financial incentive takes precedence before artistic value. Giving music away for free doesn't equal worthlessness. You'd actually be better off giving it away, since more people would experience your music, but if not getting whatever amount you do is more important to you, so be it.

" 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."

Good for you, but then I have to ask, why even write this entry? You sent up a false dichotomy; it's an easy thing to do, but it's not what actually happens. Maybe you feel those who download your music don't appreciate it, but it's far from the truth. Some might, but then again, no one knows. Others can love it.

But it does come down to money; you seem to be implying with your article, that without sales, you wouldn't continue your art. That's a sad situation. Which is more important? Maybe it's a symptom of something bigger, and downloading just gets the anger because it's a hot topic.

Afternoon, and first off, your work has been a constant inspiration, respect on your produce fella.
Some good points raised from a number of people concerning the evolution (some may say DEvolution) of the music industry, indeed alot of the creative industries.
As a solo musician, singer,producer myself I have been grafting away for years and have probably made more money for charitable causes using my sounds than I ever have for myself....(Some of my downloads contributed to some non disclosed part of a cow and a well).
This is something I was very happy about but always felt would be rectified at some point, the financial karma of musicianship would come to those who wait.
Not sooo sure now.
Now I've never had dreams of being your Pop tart X wak number 1 crooner, just wanted enough crumbs to support oneself and continue being creative, thats the holy grail as far as I and many other creatives are concerned.
Now in no ways am I comparing me with Shadow but I DO understand the standpoint of passion in creativity, and thats something we as artists have no real control over, it bleeds from pores, its like breathing, its not a conscious decision or choice, it just happens.
However if people then desire to own my produce, damn skippy they should pay something towards the effort and time required to create it, simple.
I will always offer freebies from time to time and other perks to my small band of followers however.
I do honestly believe people will always pay for quality, yeah we're in a different world but many people from our generation Shad still enjoy the buzz of buying, holding and embracing physical cd's, records etc the sleeves and inlay artwork, the WHOLE product.
I personally dont like the impersonality of simply clicking a button and downloading some bytes of info as an mp3, ESPECIALLY when your robbing off the artist you claim to 'like' and support.
I used to love the whole feeling of 'getting to know' an artist/band through sight, touch and ear, multi sensual enjoyment, and the fact they got some pennies meant they were more likely to tour, near me, thus more reasons to pay.
Thats personal, and not to say however I wont embrace said downloading technologies when (hopefully) selling my sounds.
I'm waffling some....The way I see it is that there are 2 main differences between the Shadows and the PoodlePop numbnuts running amok in the charts.
Shadows camp, (and I include myself in that) are all about putting in the graft, years if needed to hone, create and ultimately make an income (albeit modest) out of our passion and actual skill.
The rest fall into the 'make me famous for famous sake' catergory for doing pretty much nothing other than turn up, sing/mime and then soak up all the prepubescant download sales.
As a result, quality WILL always sell, I have faith, its the difference betweeen a full roast dinner or a dodgy burger, one leaves you feeling satisfied and full for hours, the other is a throw away snack that fulfills a service.
I own albums from YEARS ago which I purchased and STILL listen to regularly (such as your own) which are quality sonic sustenance, alot of newer more throwaway tunes are literally that, you listen to em for a bit but they have no staying power.
In some ways mate your lucky you are where you are with your career while these changes occur, cos believe you me, there ARE actually alot of not just rappers but musos, producers and creatives in general looking for the grail of financial renumeration.
Alot wont find it and thats both kinda scary, depressing and soul destroying to a point.
Speaking personally, as I say, I honestly believe good music and unique sounds will always shine through, and that enough people will pay for said quality IF they are exposed to it.
I feel confident to keep on keeping on, and as for you Shad bro, sure you'll have no worries in that department fella.
As for the blaggers n ripoff merchants, they'll ALWAYS be there and will always look for something for nothing, thats life unfortunately regardless of how they get it, robbery, mugging, downloads, shoplifting etc.

As I say, respect for your sounds and what you do Mr Shadow sir.
Peace and heres to making a crumb or two in the 2010.

Hey Funky J: "live somewhere better..."
Australia is a backwater swamp with race riots. No thanks.

Coming from someone who sells ringtones this is certainly a silly rant. How is that technophobe? What, do you hate digital watches too?

What's the matter, "DJ HERO" didn't do so well? Noone wants to buy a fake turntable that costs $120 when we could buy an XBOX for $200.

We know you work hard, thats why we're here.

Atleast you read our letters. Atleast I'm not the only one who believes that we need to share your music for free like http://www.djztrip.com/downloads.html
for instance..

We will never go back to the days of standing in line to pay for a plastic CD with little-to-no album art. Sorry. That is more "marching lockstep in one direction" than embracing the current state of music sharing available. freeedom!

We will never stop going to "live" $how$, no matter how fake;
according to "Bombrider"'s personal account, DJ Shadow is faker than "Public Enemy"...

Even a "DJ Hero" is a glorified music thief. Share what you've stolen so skillfully. DJ's are control freaks. By definition, the best DJs are mega control freaks and it makes them highly skillful at their art. But it also brings out this ugly, selfish side, like a teen who hordes a rare EP or comic book and won't share. Share. Get off your high horse.

We know you paid dues, thats why we're here still..

Honestly I wish you had a little more faith in your fanbase. You shouldn't assume everyone here is "down", but your attitude that we all listen to garbage (the band or the noun) and that we all worship the internet is insulting and embarassing. Get a grip. We're your fans:
We all have contributed to your success, the fact that we even know what a "DJ Shadow" is, should be a personal success for the artist. Instead he's all sour about the music industry which he entered from the sidelines as an outsider, a revolutionary, and is now a whiny dictator...

You are f'n king of the DJ's, act like it..

PS. BUBBLES; Thanks for the free music! You rock!

DJ Shadow I signed up just to comment. I thought this was a great post, some parts of it particularly beautiful -- like the Outside bit and the music as value and whatnot. But anyways, the only disagreement I can find with your post is that I am young, and really am still trying to find my first legit job. I really don't have any money at all to be spending on music, or video games, or tv, or internet or really anything, so if I can get away with not for any of those, I'm going to try. When I get older and actually have some money, I'll buy music all the time.

It isn't anything personal to you. I've downloaded two of your albums, but I have bought one of them on Vinyl (which when shipping came into the cost came to 20 bucks~, which is what two $9.99 albums would be anyways, regardless --). I know people have ridiculous amounts of illegal downloaded music, but what I think most artists think is that its because people don't care to pay a certain amount for their hard work. When, for the youth, I really think its just that you only have so much money to spend if anything at all. It isn't a personal opinion or lack there of one, of the the artist.

You need a new agent man. There's no reason why many, many festivals, events, shows, etc won't book you on your talent and the crowd would bring. Fix up.

Also, The Outsider was an entire departure from your previous work. People will buy things, have faith in that and crack on with what you do.

My dad bought me Preemptive Strike before I was old enough to buy it for myself. He spent almost $20 at the record store that his childhood friend (from Purcell, OK) owned at 23rd & Classen in Oklahoma City. It was one of the greatest things he ever bought for me. That CD opened me up to your world of music. Since then, your music has been with me through every stage of my life prior, good times and bad. Was it worth $20? Absolutely.

Now, music is free. Regardless of its worth, it is available for $0.00, and instantly. The ugly truth is this: When someone of any income is given the choice between $9.99 and FREE, they'll choose FREE almost every time. Not by any stretch of logic or idealism is it fair. Artists of your generation have the unique proposition of having started your careers when it cost the consumer $$, and now, living out the rest of your careers trying to sell something that is instantly available, for free. A Hard Sell indeed.

I too, am fearful of the direction that music may be taking. I miss record stores. I miss spending hours going through stacks and painfully deciding which volumes I would take home. I miss physical copies of records, tapes, and CDs. I'm sure you miss being payed what is your rightful fee for producing such amazing work. Essentially, it's strange and frightening to imagine a future where music will not be sold to the coming generations the way it was sold to us. It was great, the whole thing. Even overpriced CDs.

Now that I download music for free, I hear the same amount of music in a month as what used to take me a year. But I listen to far less. I toil in front of two screens, meticulously organizing this archive of music that I hope to someday be able to listen to in its entirety and spread out upon the ears of my peers. What was once an all-encompassing experience that started with a trip to the record store, is now a solitary, selfish one. But that's just most of the time. What's great is that now I've got this huge archive to pull from. It costs me the price of my computer and monthly broadband bill to have anything I would ever care to listen to at my fingertips. Nevermind whether or not its fair. Regardless of the hoarding described above, this has enriched my life to a great extent, not to mention improved my DJ sets.

We just have to realize that things aren't going to be the way they were. This art, and the industry that feeds off of it are at a turning point in their developmental history. US being the producers and consumers, have control over what happens with this thing and where it goes. The problem is, know one knows what to do about it.

Shads,

I respect your post, but I think it obviously comes from a place of financial frustration. I do not mean to be rude, but your most recent effort, "The Outsider" didn't quite have what some of your earlier work had. I felt it was very weak in comparison, and I gave it a LOT of listens to.

I imagine you're sick to death of hearing about your early days - I would be too if I were you - but if you're being fair on the issue of sales, if your fans are telling you that they aren't into your new efforts, and brand new fans aren't lining up to buy the album either, how can you be surprised that sales are down?

In addition to this, and I say this with a lot of love for you, the last time I saw you live, your set was plagued with technical problems, and when you finished with Organ Donor, you left the stage, and the exact same version of the song that you had just played for us "live" played again with nobody on stage. Oops. It killed the "live" aspect of seeing you live, and you probably further alienated yourself from the fans that were there.

Every artist suffers from the fact that your connection with the audience is tenuous. Lose them once and it's hard to get them back.

The fans are everything. You're the artist, do what you want - that's your privilege, it's YOUR music. But - don't expect us to open our wallets just because you're DJ Shadow.

I know that you already touched on this point in your article but I felt it was worthwhile clarifying from a fans point of view. You being "prolific", "linked-in" etc is all bullshit. You're one of the most respected artists in the world. If you put out a killer album and tour hard, you'll experience the renaissance us oldschool fans are waiting for.

b

Sounds like you are bitter. "I... See More’m fully aware that there are many former fans that insist my best work is behind me." - I guess that describes how I feel about DJ Shadow. I'm not a "former fan". I am a fan of his earlier music. He defends his right to go in new directions as "artistic integrity", but that has a definition that is different for every artist. If you believe "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" then there must be some truth to the many like myself who found DJ Shadow's earlier work to be more beautiful, even more artistic. It seems DJ Shadow is preoccupied with earning an income. May I humbly suggest he revisit his roots and produce an album that is a worthy follow-up to the groundbreaking "Endtroducing". If he did that, I think his blogs and his bank account would take a turn for the positive.