The Music Industry Takes Last Gasp

On February 22nd,Columbia Records re-signed Barbra Streisand to remain with the label.  Whether you are a Barbra Streisand fan or not, I think this effects all music lovers and musicians.  This gives Barbra the second longest running recording contract with 50 years and counting.  (Tony Bennett has the longest.)  So why is this of interest?  About 4 months ago, Barbra's manager came out with an announcement that if Columbia Records did not match what Barbra was interested in being paid for her contract, she was going out on her own - with no recording contract.  Her manager, Marty Erlichman said, "I'm not peddling Barbra."  He was, incidentally, the manager that got her the first contract with Columbia in 1963.  I am sure that Columbia backed up the money truck and dumped it at Streisand's garage door and all is well.  Right?  I say no.  In fact, I have been surprised at how little I have read about this.  My guess is, 90% of you who are reading this, don't know or like Barbra Streisand, but if you will hang with me a bit more I will explain why I think it effects all music lovers.

I am sure that Barbra sells more CD's than Mp3's.  My guess is the majority of Barbra's fans are not getting their information about Barbra from the Internet.  I can tell you that my mom owns every Barbra album and not one was bought on iTunes.  Columbia knows that; Barbra's manager knows that.  Still Barbra threatened to go out on her own and sell her music directly to her fans.  What if Columbia had let that happen?  I am sure that Barbra is a joke to Foo Fighter fans, or totally unknown to Lil Wayne fans but if she didn't need a record company why would Drake?  From the record industry side, they can not allow the artist to own their voice and make the money themselves.  The other interesting thing was that Barbra's early albums were so old, that she could have bought them up.  So Columbia would have not only lost the chance to say that they own the contracts of the longest running male and female vocalists, but they could start losing their back catalogs as well.  Now they are losing real money along with the idea that they are relevant in anyway.  I can see why at her age, Barbra would not be interested in taking on this new way of selling music.  Although, I wish she would have.  I think she should been the pioneer that she was in the 60's when she unseated the Beatles and Bob Dylan by singing Showtunes.  (She also did it to every pop star.  She is the only artist to have a number 1 Album in each decade.)

Columbia will never make the money back that they paid her from her sales.  But they will make it back by continuing to convince artists that they need record companies.   I have an artist that I really like.  Her name is Jill Sobule.  If she is known, she is known as a one hit wonder for Supermodel.  She runs her website and releases her new songs there.  I have bought so many of her mp3's right from her website.  Songs she has never released through a record company.  This is the future.  In fact our very own Red Room Podcast, comes to you through no one but us.  The future of Music and more important to me, Art is on the precipice of going back to the artist.  Will a singer make the pay check that Barbra or Paul McCartney makes? No,  but they will own their art and they will be in control of it.  And as an artist who's work is heard by a small handful, I like the sound of that.

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