May 5, 2010

Buck 65 Saves Music

Buck 65 Saves Music

Buck 65 via


I have an idea. I’ve been sitting on it for a while. I’m not sure, but I think I have one possible solution to the whole downloading/value of music conundrum. The idea seems to be right under everyone’s nose, but I don’t think anyone has seen it yet. This is an idea I’ve been tempted to go ahead with and try myself, but I’m not really in a position to do it right now. So I thought I’d share the idea before the clouds move in…

I, like a lot of people, believe that intellectual property and especially music (like all other artforms) has value. I also know that it’s very hard to stop the dissemination of intellectual property once its in a digital form.

So, what if a song was treated like, say, a painting? What if it was sold by the artist just once at a high value? The artist gets paid up front (for once) and after that, nature takes its course.

Imagine the possibilities… If a musician sold a song to a single buyer, he or she could also include in the sale the sheet of paper the lyrics were written on, the strings from the guitar played on the song, the socks worn during the recording, hand-made artwork to go with it… The sky’s the limit!

The song leaking would then become the buyer’s problem, not the artist’s. So that buyer might simply take the glory of being the one to offer the song to the world. Or maybe the buyer could try to turn around and sell it – make the money back or maybe even make a profit. If the artist felt particularly bold, he or she could sell a chunk of the publishing to the buyer.

Wouldn’t it be risky for someone to buy work they haven’t heard, you may ask? Well, maybe. But it wouldn’t be in the artist’s interest to try to sell shitty material. Screw a buyer like this once, you’ll never get a second chance and your reputation would be ruined. But I also think a full-length album would be a safer bet/better value.

What about new, unknown artists? This plan wouldn’t work for them – at first. A new band would have to give music away for a while to prove themselves and build demand. THEN they could try selling their material.

What about the press? If a plan like this caught on, it would mean the old-fashioned music press/promo system we know now would cease to exist (which is almost the case already anyway). The press wouldn’t be used to generate hype ahead of the release of new music. It would just be used to discuss it after it began to circulate.

Who would pay lots of money for a song? Someone who wants to play a rather meaningful roll in the career of an artist they love. Or someone who thinks they can turn a profit from it (some crafty kid out there might even figure out the fool-proof plan that has eluded the labels so far). Or someone who can organize other fans to pool their money…

Think of it this way – if Radiohead announced they were selling an EP of new material on eBay and the minimum bid was set at $5,000, do you think someone in the world would buy it? For sure, right? In fact, it would probably end up going for more than that, I’d guess. And do you imagine that Radiohead fans around the world would eventually hear those recordings? One way or another, surely we would.

A plan like this would put all the power in the artists’ hands. If it caught on, all that would suffer would be things that seem to be dying right now anyway. I think we can all agree that the way things are going now can’t be stopped. This idea embraces the way things are, but takes care of the artist.

It’s just an idea. Maybe it will never happen. I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. I haven’t thought of a reason why it wouldn’t work. If you can think of one/some, let me know.

Buck (Love Letters)

31 Responses

  1. I went to Buck 65’s website hoping I could share more of my thoughts on this wonderful idea, but alas there is not anyway that you can post your reactions to his ideas and such. So I will share them here.

    If this were done, the artist would be able to make something absolutely original. Packaging, and delivery medium (1/4″ 2-track Tape, dub Plate, Cassette), as Buck65 suggested things like guitar strings and framed lyrics could be included. Fuck mass manufacturing! Fuck the ignorant consumer! It’d be all about the patrons of the arts! It could bring about a Renaissance of sorts.

    This reminds me of a conversation I had with Max Prime last summer centered around ideas that could be implemented to make the purchasing of a physical CD more enticing. One of the ideas we discussed was doing a short run of CD were each one would be packaged in a unique case made from original artwork. Or other similar things that would make purchasing music more personal and collectible.

  2. I get what Buck is getting it but it isn’t really any different that people who collect rare and limited pressings of vinyl. Just put out a vinyl lp and limit it to one pressing(hopefully making back production costs through the sale of the music) slap it on ebay see what happens. Also musicians like to be heard so I can’t see a band putting there heart and soul into something just to have some collecter buy it and slap it in a vault somewhere so nobody can hear it(which is what would happen cuz they aint sharing that shit lol), maybe just stick to limited pressings of vinyl people always buy those.

  3. All he needs to do is get the Duke of Milan to commission one of his works and get the ball rolling. Shouldn’t be too hard.

  4. This idea just sounds a lot like a looser version of the major label game. Someone buys the rights to your music and releases it. The difference is whether you get paid up front for it or not… And considering the major labels can’t get this model to work, I’d be surprised to find too many big money players that would be willing to put down a big chunk of money for something like this… You might get a few who would be interested but they’d be looking to buy the special package from people like Michael Jackson or whatever… And as Chris Plus pointed out, I bet most would put it in a vault and only play it for their friends, or maybe have special “screenings/listening parties” for the music. I mean, if I paid $5000 for an album, there’s no way I’m putting it out there in any form that will make it possible for people to bootleg and own the same music I have for nothing… Sure, I’d get the guitar strings, the dirty socks, but that’s it.

    Frankly, something like this would work only in the sense of what others have suggested as one-off vinyl, or special releases of the album that might include all the bonuses. Why not release the album as usual but sell limited copies with all the extras like guitar strings, dirty socks, etc… Like, maybe you could make one copy available at a super high price that also includes all of the samples that were used or something, which would allow the person buying to possibly concoct their own version of the album…

    Anyway, it’s a good start to an idea but I don’t think it would work for the majority of musicians.

    The problem with Buck’s analogy to art is that most art can’t be bootlegged online as easily. It’s possible to buy a painting and make prints that you sell, but it doesn’t work the same way with music. Once you buy that master and release the first “print” (ie album) you don’t have long to wait until it is available online.

  5. “This idea just sounds a lot like a looser version of the major label game.”

    That is exactly what crossed my mine when I was reading it. It also crossed my mind that like most original art, the “good stuff” is almost exclusively owned by the extremely wealthy. This is not an approach to music I could see myself backing as I would almost certainly miss out on music from my favourite artists for the simple fact that I am not the wealthiest fan. I think limited edition colour or other types of special vinyl would be a better approach. For example, no doubt Buck 65 could sell 500 nicely packaged records at 30 bucks a pop, while at the same time selling mp3’s on itunes and cd’s in stores and online. To me it seems like a better business model to reach more fans than to limit your fan base.

    Ceschi just released his limited (25) “Postcard Package” vinyl records and they sold out before I could get a copy. I’m sure if he released 100 more they would have no problem selling. I would drop 100 easily for this nice little package.. I’m know if Buck did something similar he could easily sell a few hundred at an inflated price and any true fan would not mind supporting something this artistic and unique.

    I know as a fan I definately want to support my favourite artists but breaking the bank to be the only person in the world to “own” some music doesn’t appeal to me one bit. Spending a little cash to be one of only a few in the entire world to own a nice piece of vinyl is extremely intriguing.

  6. I agree with Big Rove and Doogie Howitzer here.

    I was at Ameoba’s San Francisco location recently and bought Edan’s Echo Party Mix LP Why I am mentioning this is because the record sleves are all individual designed and hand done by Edan himself. They had three copies in stock, so I was able to choose between the three, which cover design I liked the best. It was fun as a consumer deciding which one I liked best.

    Also worth mentioning for creative packacging or something different is Nomar Slevik’s Welcome to Fuckland. It is a beutifully packaged 7″ gate fold that has the full length cd and booklet inserted into the opposite side of the fold as the 7″. This is the best packaging and merger of formats I have ever seen.

    I think it is creative ventures like this that will sustain sales/interest especially for the colector types. But who am I kidding these types of things are limited to between 500-1000 copies worldwide and it is tough to make a living from such a niche market.

    1. Yo that Echo Party record is hot, I’m just choked that Slinky Music in Toronto only had one copy when I was there, so I couldn’t CHOOSE which one to buy. Initiatives like this are what will keep people interested in doing more than just downloading. Buck65’s diatribe is an intriguing notion – if you dwell in the happy magical land of glippy-gloops. Nuff folk have spotted its inherent flaws. Press vinyl, buy vinyl.

    2. I ordered my Echo Party LP on the internet from Stones Throw, so i didn’t get to choose, but i actually think I prefer the surprise factor of buying it that way.

      Edan’s definitely not the fist to do something like this, but right now it seems very timely and the kind of thing people are looking for. I hope more labels start doing things like this. Just add that extra thousand dollar difference between full-colour printed jackets and plain-white ones onto the art budget for the record and let designers/artists figure it out. Costs the label pretty much the same, and they end up with a much more appealing product.

  7. Worst idea ever. Who the fuck is going to share a record they paid 5k for? This would do nothing but put music in the hands of greedy fucks or rich bastards. No one would hear anything. Stupid idea. Nevermind a Radiohead record bought for $50k.

  8. So if I sell a song to a private collector can I still perform it live? Can I re-record it and sell it again? Can I record a cover of another song and sell that?

    How about attending a concert from a band whose songs are all privately owned? Will they play their hit songs? Are there hit songs anymore in this business model?

    I think musicians make music to communicate and have people hear their work, not to sell to maximize revenue. This is the opposite of that theory, I guess. I don’t know why painters paint, what their motivation is, but I know most musicians want to be heard by as many people as possible.

    1. I believe it would all depend on the contract and bill of sale. I don’t think this idea is really that new, but rather at bit like the way things were done in classical era’s (and still do). You used to have rich patrons (lords, royalty, and the church) commissioning composers to create works. The general public still has opportunities to hear the works performed, but the patrons name becomes associated with the work as well.

      Is this idea much different from beatmakers slanging beats? Some will lease an MC a beat, or give them an option to get an exclusive beat for more money. The MC then turns around and does what they do. The music still reaches peoples ears.

  9. I got nothing to add to this except McEnroe and namar slevic are awesome rappers.

  10. i’m sure he proposes this idea in a light-hearted tone. there’s no way music can be sold like a painting. an “original” painting can be verified, and separated from the copies and replicas. the very nature of music reproduction prevents it from being sold in the same way. each duplicate of the music product is just as “authentic” as the “original”. i’m sure there’s some high-tech way to find out which is the original in music, but it doesn’t matter. the value of music does not exist in the physical realm. other than the prestige and demand created by artists/labels, the actual price of a physical cd stays the same. buck’s idea would work if the essence of music can be translated into a physical manifestation- like a painting, or a first edition novel.

    i think a more realistic solution is to just step up to the challenges of the evolving industry. this is nothing new. vinyls > tapes > cds > mp3s. some rise, some fall, but the process continues. of course, the whole piracy/devaluing of digital music/intellectual property completely changes the dynamics of things, but i think it’s for the best in the long-run. i’m sympathetic to the plight of creative and hard-working artists, but at the same time, if they are able to adapt- they will be successful. for the first time ever, the music consumer has gained more power and are now playing on an even field. stakes are higher for the music-makers, as well it should be. in this climate, the rightful credit due will finally go out to those who actually deserve it.

  11. for 5Gs. i wouldn’t want guitar strings, socks and an ep. for that amount charged an artist could put together a ‘once in a lifetime’ type of ‘product’. like a private performance. 10 people max. with a meet and greet, let em see the creative process, maybe put them on a record playing a tamborine or something, and generally just hang out. if i had 5Gs, i would pay for something that memorable, and i’m sure others would as well. of course, that would only work if the artist is established. and it would require for them to step outside of the traditional ‘artist’ roles. but if that’s what it takes to get compensated, why not. it’s about time to step outside of the music box.

  12. Devils advocate…
    In order for this to work you would have to be content with not releasing your shit until somebody forks up $5000. I don’t think that kind of mind state could be bread into an independent artist. Highly unlikely. I could see this working for Prince, or artists that go gold in the states, but it’s hard to imagine Canadian hip hop benefiting from this.

  13. not so long ago a musician was a person who had no other option or goal in life then to make music. he travelled around, from town to town, performing where/whenever he could, passing around his hat afterwards, in the hope for some change to pay for a bed an a meal. if he was good, he got more opportunities to play, more people wanted to see him, and he therefor got more money. if his shit got “copied” it was all the better, so long as he gave the best performance, he was allright. up to this day I still don’t understand why we are so intertwined with the “modern” way of doing business, when an artist has the one thing he can have total control over all the while in his backpocket: the freedom of doing/making whatever he wants. I’m sorry, but if we keep on seeking answers on trying to fit it all within the current “market place”, we are seeking wrong.

    choose to be an artist: choose to be free : choose to do what you want : choose to make money if you want to : or choose to earn a bed an a meal and sleep on it…..

    1. How does a modern day musician have the freedom to choose to make money? It’s the modern day music fan that’s making the choice for them, and they are overwhelmingly choosing to take the route of not compensating the artist.

      The true artist will still create, but their freedom to do so is being severely compromised because they are now having to spend the majority of their time working in unrelated fields in order to finance their creative endeavors.

      This in my opinion is not freedom, but rather enslavement. Artist’s are being forced to limit their creativity as a result of the choices being made by the ignorant consumer.

    2. “..he travelled around, from town to town, performing where/whenever he could, passing around his hat afterwards, in the hope for some change to pay for a bed an a meal.”

      actually, that sounds like a long time ago. it sounds like you’re describing musicians from the medieval/renaissance era. artists and musicians are not isolated from the world. as much as we want to put them on a holy platform as prophets, sages, and soothsayers, there’s always the bottom-line. humans need to eat. art and money have been married since day one. well.. a polygamous marriage. money is also married to everything else in our world. adjusting to the “modern” market is not “seeking wrong”.

  14. I think the point A Thomas made still stands though. Recorded music hasn’t been around all that long in the bigger scheme of music over all. Before recorded music musicians made their money by touring around, playing music for people. Recorded music changed that, although we are starting to see a return to the importance of touring and playing live. Use recorded music as a promotional tool to make fans and get them out to the live gigs and buying merchandise like shirts, underwear, ball caps, whatever… They can bootleg your music but they can’t bootleg your live show. (well, they can put it up on YouTube or whatever, but it’s not really the same thing).

    And it should be noted that anyone opting to be an artist has to realize that it will never be a big money-making endeavour for most, whether you choose painting, photography or music as your outlet.

    1. i partly agree with thomas as well-mainly the ideal of an artist’s freedom/control over the product. what i disagree with is “up to this day I still don’t understand why we are so intertwined with the “modern” way of doing business..”. modernity is intertwined with technological advancements. the “new marketplace” should be embraced (and altered accordingly), not ignored by music makers.

      “before recorded” music would be the 19th century. how big is the scheme are we talking about? of course, anything before the 20th century, making money with music was only through performances simply from the lack of technology. i agree that the “best” product an artist could provide is a live performance. all the same, the world is changing, and approaches to this music business need to change as well.

    2. It’s not really accurate to say that before advent of recording technology musicians only made their money from playing live. Classical composers used to make most of their money from publishing rights (sheet music), or being commissioned by patrons and royalty to compose specific pieces (similar in nature to Bucks suggestion). Also the advent of recording brought music closer to sculpture and painting, and as a result countless classics have been created that would not have otherwise.

      The biggest problem with the argument that musicians need to simply embrace digital piracy as a promotional tool and get paid from playing live shows is that it completely ignores modern day composers. 99% of what I will potentially create music wise has no realistic way of being “performed live”. What are people who are mainly composers to do? There are many that will never play an instrument proficeintly but will compose amazing music.

      I should make it clear, I have never made any money from music and don’t feel any sort of entitlement about it, but I do believe that the current digital culture needs gain a more solid moral center (we need a good Digital Jesus). The rights and wishes of the original artists need to be at least acknowledged and hopefully respected by the public for whom the art was created.

      I don’t think the solution is going to be found in the music industry, nor are we going to find solutions by looking at other capitalistic methods of trying to sell art as products. This is a problem that in my eyes stems from consumerism, and consumerist culture.

      I agree whole heartely with the major sentiment of this conversation in that digital releases have little to no actual value. The real value is in physical media and preferably in limited run analog media (Vinyl and Tapes).

  15. I think the major problem is there are too many musicians. The industry is saturated, especially hip hop. Making money is a privilage and not everybody is invited to do so. To quote the teacher KRS ONE “Get a job”.

  16. @ The Messenger

    Modern day composers are making money, tons of it. Some people are just so much better than everybody else at doing certain things that they get money thrown at them.

  17. I always had this idea that we could have “rhyme tasting”. we could open up rhyme bars in cool locations. people could come in and sample different songs and then at the end of the night make purchases. we could all get dressed up in those nice suit jackets and wear nice shirts with no ties. eat cheeses and stuff.

  18. it’s a stupid idea. what would be much better is if a download or streaming service like spotify or soulseek was the sole form of getting music, and had every musician on it – but to hear stuff you have to pay a flat license fee, maybe something like $10 a month. this is the way television works in the UK and you don’t see starving program makers lining the gutters with cups in hand. problems with this system of course are that the site would have to have EVERYTHING on it… spotify right now is useless unless you want to hear mainstream music. something like a last fm sort of site, but one that lets you choose whatever you want to listen to and gives royalties to the artist on each listen. that way musicians make money and fans don’t get ripped off – which is the only reason why the music industry is in such a mess right now. albums cost too much. people whinge too much about not being able to sell stuff then put out weak records. almost all the best albums of the last two years have been free downloads. charging people for music individually is ridiculous, it just means people are more and more careful about what they check out and don’t take risks. since being able to download stuff, i’ve checked out loads of artists i simply wouldn’t have been able to afford the investment in before and never would have listened to or been inspired by to write my own music. keeping art for the rich is capitalism at its worst. poor people need to hear music too, so why should we be blamed for ruining the music industry? the system is totally screwed and needs replacing. until then, i’ll be giving away everything i do free and putting out better records than the people who try and charge me for like three good songs among 12.