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

Posted Jan 4, 2010


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

Incredibly inspiring. Cant wait for the new music!

i used to play tracks from endtroducing when i dj'd at WUPX in marquette michigan. most times I had a caller or two who wondered what i had just played. the problem? marquette michigan is a long way away from any big city. and the only time i've heard you on the radio since is on the sirius xm chill station. you're dead on when you say regular radio listeners have become american idles themselves.

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." Krishnamurti

Shadow, I am not sure what pressure has been put on you to make you so empassioned. Your frustration is well-founded and I feel for you. Sometimes I sit affraid that music worth listening to will disappear. Why do I have to scratch around the internet trying to find pockets of talent like yours? What sort of corrupted system gives artists money for regurgitating the same formula but denies it to somebody who makes music as beautiful as yours?

"Be still now. I am with you."

saw you in prov. RI quite a few years back and it was one of the most significant shows of my life. keep moving ahead

no matter what decisions u make, as long as you stay true to yourself, I'll support ya Shadow!

In 1996 I bought a copy of Entroducing...solely based upon a review in Spin magazine.

In Kentucky I never had a club to go to. No one sold bootlegs to me.
I lived outside of the realm of "where the cable would run" so I didn't even have MTV until I was eighteen years old, but that was 1996 and I was moving on anyway. My only musical references came from Rolling Stone or Spin but I never trusted Rolling Stone. Spin, however, had never steered me wrong. For example, Spin had informed me of Radiohead a few years prior and also made it possible for me to "not miss" the Flaming Lips when they played the side stage for Lollapalooza 1994.

At any rate, Spin was right. As I entered college, I also entered another school. "I became a student." They quoted it as the best hip hop album ever. That couldn't be far as I knew that was "Check Your Head". Luckily the record shop...the only one I knew of within 40 miles, had an employee that apparently took Spin's word for it as well and had one copy of it for 22.00 on CD. 22 bucks, in 1996, was my defining moment on whether or not Spin was full of shit or not.

The entire album became an anthem for my life. Hip one telling me what the subway was like. I didn't have to hear about how the police are problem and profiling me...because they weren't. No one killing anyone else or getting money. (REALLY THINK ABOUT WHY "Hip Hop sucks in 96")

The album was just that feeling. That feeling that I got when I heard a record scratch for the first time. That way I felt when on my tape in my GPX, a knockoff Sony Walkman, I have "The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff" pounding out my head while I'm holding my Mom's Conway Twitty album in my hand wondering if I should try and do that record thing...and I did...and I ruined the record player. Apparently my life was/is hip-hop...and I don't have a hood.

As a result of the way you have handled your career you have remained to give me that feeling time and time again. You have retained the ability to connect with me on an artistic level. I still have a sense of reverence. The sound you create is something I am willing to wait for. It's never been that easy...until now with the get to DJ Shadow. I didn't see you live until Bonnaroo 2008...12 years after I was Entroduced...and by the way, that set completely lived up to the legend that I had constructed.

Essentially what I'm saying is I'm a big fan. This is my fan letter. You continue to inspire me. Whenever you're happy with what you've done...I can feel it and I'm happy too.

Now dig this...

In 2005 I won a Sony sponsored contest remixing a De La Soul track...(everyone should check that out)--->

Skepticism is healthy. Skepticism of the internet, and the true worth of its composite components (ads, virals, YouTube, Facebook, blogs etc) is very healthy. Some may diss the artist soapbox rant, but when it comes from such a landmark artist and when it's put as eloquently as yours was, it's worth 100 times the comments of 99% of the blogospheric Facebook herd.

I love this journal entry. The current state of music is a sad state of affairs. Most music out there is crap produced by those idol artists that you mentioned. They put in no work to get to where they are. They entered some stupid contest and got on national tv. What happened to bands/artists having to grind it out like you said. Those artists (such as yourself) it seems can appreciate their station in life much more then some obnoxious kid who got onto American Idol.

What you try to do with music is refreshing, fun, and innovative. I had never seen you in concert until I saw The Hard Sell Tour when it came to Philadelphia. That show blew my mind. Mixing and scratching across every genre of music was an amazing idea and different then anything out there. I look forward to your new music and can't wait to hear it. Like Derek and the Dominos said, "Keep on keeping on."

Well you can continue to count me as one of your fanbase!

As a fan from way back, let me say that I'm behind you 100%, Josh. Yours is a special talent and your passion bleeds through in everything that you produce.

But I'll be perfectly honest: I haven't bought an album of yours. Ever. No shit. I grab them from the 'scene' that leaks them all over the Internet because artists don't prosper off album sales, anyway.

Should you give your stuff away for free with no strings attached? No way.
But should you respect the fans who enjoy you enough to jump through the hoops to get hooked into you for free instead of going the iTunes route? Definitely. Because the paradigm has shifted and no matter how much the industry wants to believe this isn't the case, album sales are going the way of the dinosaur.

Having said that, I've bought more than my share of T's from your store here, not because they're all amazing but simply to support you since I know YOU get more money that way than if I went to Best Buy and picked up The Outsider. (And again, let's be honest: the quality of the T's and the prints is at the K-Mart level... you're banking on them, you COULD have nicer American Apparel T's or any number of smaller organic T-shirt vendors, and you could invest in proper screen printing instead of the tacky stuff you use right now that feels rigid and cracks when washed too many times).

And I will FOREVER catch you on tour when you're near me, just as I have done for years. And that includes all the music festivals I frequent, too. I like that they stick you in the smaller tents at slightly off times... I don't want to be among 80,000 people who probably don't know you and are crowding the space. Your music has always been an intimate extension of yourself, and that connection is only muted when the crowds get too large (unless they all happen to be huge fans of yours, then it's intense and awesome).

So there you have it. Some frank words right back at you. If you ever want to continue this discussion, you can find me at my username

Happy New Year--

Oh, and I picked up DJ Hero JUST because of the email you sent out to your list. It's a little heavy on Six Days remixes, but I'll take those over more Rhianna any day.