Wyclef Jean
Musician / Singer / Songwriter

How has technology changed the music industry?

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Record your music in the basement, Jean says.

Wyclef Jean

Lead Fugees rapper and sometime guitarist Wyclef Jean was the first member of his group to embark on a solo career, and he proved even more ambitious and eclectic on his own. As the Fugees hung in limbo, Wyclef also became hip-hop's unofficial multicultural conscience; a seemingly omnipresent activist, he assembled or participated in numerous high-profile charity benefit shows for a variety of causes, including aid for his native Haiti.

The utopian one-world sensibility that fueled Wyclef's political consciousness also informed his recordings, which fused hip-hop with as many different styles of music as he could get his hands on (though, given his Caribbean roots, reggae was a particular favorite). In addition to his niche as hip-hop's foremost global citizen, Clef was also a noted producer and remixer who worked with an impressive array of pop, R&B, and hip-hop talent, including Whitney Houston, Santana, and Destiny's Child, among many others.


Question: How has technology changed the music industry


Jean: I mean, when I recorded the CD in the basement, we was able to sell 22 million copies because the Internet had not evolved, you know, the way that it did now. If it did, the kids would probably -- we’d probably sell 2 million copies because the kids would be able to go and download piece by piece and get all the songs. The content with all of the technology that’s out there, you get everything quicker, there’s quicker access to everything, and everything is basically free through the Internet -- I mean, from movies, to music, to whatever you want.

For a kid to actually go to the store and pick up the actual CD, they gotta feel like it’s PlayStation game coming out or something <laugh>, you know. And -- but the thing is, I say, while that’s going on, creative music always sells. So whether it’s through the technology, whether it’s through the people coming to the live concert, you know, you can’t slack on your music or your live shows because the sales that you want are not matching, because you can get those same sales with the live concerts. So what you gotta do is -- us as musicians, true musicians, we have to work four times harder because to go platinum, to go double-platinum, to go triple-platinum, you basically have to be out there half of the year promoting and travel in different parts of the world. Unlike before, it was a little easier, like you could just do the CD. And if people like it, you know, enough people will buy it because they didn’t have access to it. That’s where the technology changes.


 Question: Has the music industry been too slow to catch on?


Wyclef Jean: I think, you know, the music industry will always be relevant in the sense of, you know, you need artists, you know. And -- but of course I think that they felt like -- if the music industry knew what technology was gonna do, I think that -- with the Web and everything -- I think they would’ve adapted and bought those companies and actually made those companies part of the music industry today.


Question: How is producing artists different?


Wyclef Jean: I mean, it’s -- today it’s a little different with the artist. Back in the days we had artist development; there was a budget for artist development. So if you basically find a artist, you gotta have the money now to develop it. ‘Cause basically a label is not gonna give no money for artist development. They want their artist to come in fine-tuned and ready to go. So this is where you gotta, you know, pick and choose exactly what you wanna work on.