Steve Martin Re-imagines an Independent Music Industry

Question: Can New York return to its authentic music industry roots?

Steve Martin: In some respects- yes and no, because I agree with what you’re saying in that there was like the first- the shows I used to go to way back when- there was an element of danger in a lot of ‘em- they were, you know, untraditionally sort of set up. I remember, there was like an illegal club on Avenue C I went to once- The Sin Club- that got shut down because someone was being like shot or stabbed or something- - outside- and I mean, yeah, there is- there are ways for that to come back. I know some of my artists try to like stage stuff outside of the traditional system of booking shows. Like I mean Radiohead certainly does that, Arcade Fire certainly does that, you know, I mean, why else would you play a week of shows in a church to warm up for your new record? You know? So there’s definitely- there’s definitely people who are thinking about things. The other thing that needs to happen is- and this ties into the bigger business stuff that you said we might discuss- is there’s gonna be- in my opinion- there’s going to be a massive housecleaning and dying off of a lot of the sort of people who I consider to be “playing” music business, and that goes for everybody like, you know, six and seven-figure paid CEOs who don’t sell any records, or whose skill set is obsolete in a world where radio payola and MTV spins don’t sell records anymore, and who don’t have any knowledge of any other aspect of the music business, like live performance or press or new media or the things- oh, merchandise- the things that are the bread and butter of bands’ careers now, the ones who are gonna survive. So, there’s gonna be like massive purge, and a lot of people who do sort of play at it- a lot of people who are sort of dilettante issue, don’t take it as seriously as you’re talking about, like when the Stones tried to do their thing at Altamont or other people tried to stage festivals outside of the norm, they’re not gonna be able to afford to anymore. ‘Cause they mostly do that kind of stuff playing with other people’s money- like people who are dumb enough to give ‘em that money- and you know, there’s this big sort of- it’s sort of like a surge into the future, but it also reminds me of the past, because in the past, like we’d get these great records on Indie labels and sometimes they’d be out of stock if you didn’t get there in time to buy the vinyl from like St. Marks Sounds, or whatever- because they were making stuff to supply demand, you know, and sometimes they didn’t have enough money to make ‘em, so you’d have to wait a couple months ‘til Nirvana’s Bleach came back in print, so you could get it. That same kind of thing is happening, except it’s more- obviously, it’s more available with music on the internet, but the principle, if I’m getting that across, is the same- you have to be able to sustain yourself in your own career- you can’t look to, you know, Daddy Warbucks to do it for you anymore because he’s busted- - he has no money.

Steve Martin predicts a "massive purge" in the business-as-usual record business.

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Two new studies say yes. Unfortunately, each claims a different time.

Bronx, N.Y.: NYPD officer Julissa Camacho works out at the 44th precinct gym in the Bronx, New York on April 3, 2019. (Photo by Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday via Getty Images)
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