Why We Should Be Happy the Music Industry Killed Itself
Dan Zanes is a Grammy-winning family musician. A former member of the band the The Del Fuegos, he has gone on to redefine children's music with an "unsanitized, unpasteurized, [and] organically even" mode of composition. In 2009, he won the Independent Music Award, and has collaborated with Lou Reed, Sheryl Crow, Suzanne Vega and numerous others on his albums. He lives in Brooklyn.
Question: How has the music industry changed since the 1980s?
Dan Zanes: Well it seems like in the early ‘80s the idea, the whole idea was to find yourself a label and be on it and it seemed like when I was in a group called The Del Fuegos and we all… We had one label that we wanted to be on and that was Slash Records. That was where the Blaster and Los Lobos and X and Rank and File and The Violent Femmes, they were all on that label and we just that was kind of the more high octane American music and that’s where we ended up, so there was a music industry. Now I don’t know. You know now after making five records for other labels I was completely convinced that… And when I started doing the family music I decided at the very beginning that I would start my own label because I had made five CDs for other labels and didn’t own anything. I had no rights to any of the music, so other than the music publishing, so I thought well that doesn’t seem right does it? Why don’t I just start my own label and now the technology has changed and you can really do it this way, so it’s… You know I think the music industry may have killed itself in a way and but it makes incredible opportunities for the smaller operations, so my label we’ve put out ten CDs and this is our tenth year. You know we’ve been going really strong for ten years and figuring out alternative ways to do it and you know I couldn’t imagine what… that I would still be able to keep going if I had signed with a label to do this family music. I don’t think it would have been… I don’t think anyone would have hung in there for ten CDs. It just doesn’t happen that way anymore except for a handful of people, but I like to think that maybe I’m in the toy industry rather than the music industry.
As the monoliths of the music industry slowly fade into obsolescence, a new framework, in which one escapes the odd predicament of not owning a word of what one has written, is taking hold—all to the musician’s delight.
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