May 2008

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« Copyright Revisited | Main | Compulsive Gambler »



Can't tell for sure if they ALL make more than cubicle jobs, but I think it's a little fair that we have some salary equivalence.
I mean, most "cubicle workers"(such as myself) study really hard(not necessarily my case) and have to be always craving for something more.
In the other hand, entertainers, soccer players, and musicians don't always have the proper education and yet make millions of thousands of dollars.


Should it be, then, that aspiring comic artists should be purposefully ignored for their own good? After all, very, very few ever get recognized and of those who do, very few make a living.

Should it be that we ignore talent in that person's best interest? After all, how many people with an instrument and a dream actually make it? It's really for the best if the world stops supporting these wild dreamers so that they can move on past their broken dreams and live a life of anonymous mediocrity.

Best that we not support someone especially if we think that they are "pretty good" because realistically they've got such a slim chance of making it that it's in their own best interest if we just push on, blend in, sit down, and shut up. Grunt work for grunts... Because we all have a greater chance of being unsuccessful why even bother getting up in the morning?

I want to program games for a living. I don't want a random cubicle job, I want to work my way up and strike out on my own someday. My parents have always been hesitantly supportive. On the one hand they want me to do well, on the other, they want to protect me from failure. Fuck that. Honestly, fuck it.

You live once.

If you don't at least try to do what you want to do with your life why bother living it? If you allow yourself to be protected from failure and always choose the "safe" road you just won't make it because sometimes safe is not enough.

I'm not trying to say "fuck the man" and "fuck the system" because that's stupid and childish. You need to be aware of who you are and what you are willing to do and possibly give up to follow your desired career path. You do need to be honest with yourself in terms of your ability and you need to allow for the possibility of failure. But you need to grasp for your dreams because if you don't nobody will.

Scott, you of all people should know this... Some days it might feel like real work, it is. But a man with your ability to entertain does -not- belong on the oil rigs, in a bland cubicle, behind the till at Mc Donalds.

Sure, things don't always work out and that is a shame... But it's a big world and it only stops working when you ultimately give up... Until then it's all part of the struggle for success, and when you do finally make it you take that for granted... You can look at other people struggling from above because you're already there. You've made it... But you recognize how hopelessly slim a chance it was that you made it there and so you try to protect them by doing your best to break them.

So sure, don't support that indy band you love.

It's in their best interest.

I've had my first university coop term at Electronic Arts and I'm not going to stop until I graduate and have a full time position somewhere. Sky is the limit and I'm not settling. (You may scoff, but EA treats their employees here in Canada really well... Work hard, play hard. Not for everyone, but I love it. And if I ever change my mind, I'll be reaching for a different goal. But I will never sit down.)

Just my take on things. I admire you Scott, I've bought a few of your books and they are always entertaining. Just don't let yourself lose perspective. Cynicism is easy to hide behind and it's great for humor, but don't let it creep into your personal life.


i am a full-time musician (pop music, germany). my band has gone through all this, selling music on our own, giving away music for free, and finally, major label contract with album release, and being dropped again after that first commercially unsuccessful album. there's two things i can say:

1. fans simply don't know what's really going on in a musician's life. that's part of the game. if they knew, music would lose all its glamour. so i'd be careful in asking fans about how musicians are doing. none of our fans know our band internals, much less the financial side.

2. "i listen to this band now because i downloaded a song for free" is NOT equal to "the band now has a huge audience." if mainstream media does not back you by giving you a lot of exposure, your audience will grow one by one and it will take many years to build up an audience that allows for a decent living, if at all. exponential growth is only a theory in this case.

3. we cannot make a decent living, even though we give music away for free. period. venues will book you and pay you decent money only if they are certain you will bring a lot of people. "we gave away a lot of free music" will not convince them. but "we are top 10 in the charts with our current single" certainly will (even if no one will attend). giving away your music will not get you there. sure, there may be a venue who takes the chance and realizes it's working. but you'll still have to convince every other venue in the country.

4. there may be a song we write that, for some reason, suddenly becomes very successful and everyone will download it. well, in that case, it will be very easy to get a label on the boat, negotiate a good contract, and put out a physical release with which we will make money. then it's old school again and it will open the concerts-with-good-money world to us. but without that song that hits a nerve somewhere, it's not going to happen.

so what do we do to earn money?

-we have saved money in our cubicle job from before.
-we get money from our parents to survive.
-we do studio jobs and live music jobs for bands and producers.


I am good friends with semi-amateur musicians and I can say, with some confidence, that they would much rather squeak by on paltry earnings and play than live in moderate success and have a day job.

They have no illusions about becoming famous, they just love to play.

Keyser Soze

Making a decent living as a musician in the US is next to impossible and as a general thing only a very few musicians achieve success and notoriety on any scale at all and most of them destroy themselves in the process. Of those very few only a small minority doesn't get totally hosed by the predatory record industry. I happily work in a cubicle, write, record and perform locally (within about a 100 miles) mostly on weekends. I derive about 15% or my total income from it. It helps that it's mostly a cash business.
There's a vanishingly small non-zero chance I might someday get quite famous accidently throuogh the internet and an even smaller chance I'll make money from that success excepty indirectly from performance revenue. Welcome to the 21st century music business.



LA is much like this, or at least it was in the 80s and early 90s, when my brother was a budding rock star. to play the known venues, you had to basically rent the venue, by guaranteeing a certain gate, or pay the difference. I would bet Seattle during the grunge heydey was the same. the law of demanding the supply works especially with wanna be stars because they always overestimate their drawing power, so the venue owner always wins.



You are missing a crucial point - music is property, either owned by the performer, composer, record label, or a combination of these. File sharing is stealing if not authorized by the owner, period. The argument many use to validate this theft, that non-authorized file sharing is a great promotional tool, is 1) ridiculous, and 2) not the decision of the listener to make, except through traditional economic market forces(i.e. buying power).

99.9% of the people who illegally file share would never walk out of a record store with a CD tucked in their jacket, yet it is the same offense. The difference is in the tangibility; you can't grasp bits of downloaded information and there is nothing to see or hold when you listen to a song so the perception of stealing is lessened.

Regarding 'starving musicians' - there used to be a sector of working class musicians who performed day in and day out in studios, churches, and concert halls and earned a decent living, complete with pensions and health care benefits. The 'starving musician' mentality, that they are all out to become the next U2 and should be content to play for the exposure, has pervaded the US public and has all but made this type of musician extinct. There are other reasons too - changes in technology, inept unions, shifting musical tastes - but the underlying belief that musicians should not be paid because they are choosing to follow their passion instead of taking a 'normal job' has forced many fine talents into other careers.

Paul C (45 years old)

"In yesterday’s comments I saw the names of lots of bands I never heard of."


Scott, another phenomena accounts for that and it has little to do with economics.

The more years you are over thirty, the more new bands you will not know the names of. At first this will be worrying, but once you are over forty, you won't really care about how many new bands you don't know the names of. Your tastes have already been formed and will from now on be set in ever-hardening concrete.

I'm trying to think of a scientific formulation for this law of nature, but it must be a manifestation of the inverse square rule, or something: the older you get, the more detached you become from popular youth culture.

A Weel-Known Fact, innit?


Thank you, Jason Levine
I enjoyed very much to listen to your music stream, really a lot of new songs, was listening to it all evening.
Didn't buy any song yet, my ears are kinda strange - have to listen to the song many times to start to love it :)

this is for you
an old song newly arranged like
hope a little faulty percussion won't spoil the listening(or it seems to me that because the original did not have it)

close translation and all times favourite

Around here so beautiful colours, i think i'll miss all this one day

Rudy Phelps

Of course people are fast to claim that downloading music helps them find and support smallet artists; people will generally say (and believe) anything that adds crdibility to their actions. It's stunning to see how many people have deluded themselves into thinking that internet file sharing actually helps the artists in order to justify their own habit of stealing music.

Jason Levine


Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but here are some of my favorite artists/songs from in one convenient playlist. (These are samples, not the complete songs.)


'This is probably a dumb question but - are there actually cubicles with the file cabinet full of drugs etc.?'

sure, lab benches are full of all kinds of chemicals


Scott, I've often wondered why you would put your thoughts out in public. Sometimes you're lauded but other times ridiculed. I guess I didn't understand because I'm not "artistic." But commenter "madmarleyboro29" (at 9:11pm) explained it to me... that attention-getting is the be-all and end-all to the artist. Doesn't matter so much whether it is good or bad attention. So... I finally "get" the whole impetus behind this fascinating blog that I look at every day!


does Stacey's have live music?

Jeremy Wolff

Have a look at and to read about Jonathan Coulton's success moving from a cubicle-worker to song-writer, singer, and performer.

I don't get the impression that he is necessarily getting rich, but he sounds like he is happy, and making a living doing what he wants to do.


Missed the point a bit here Scotty old boy. I would imagine the average musician would slit his wrists rather than get a cubicle job, so it doesn't matter that they could earn more typing random phrases on a keyboard in boxtown. The point is they are their own boss, working at something that most would consider a hobby or a recreation, and probably getting more sex than they can handle. I doubt they mind that they have to live on tapwater and potato chips.
Come to think of it, that sex part doesn't sound half bad. Where do I sign up?


Comparing Cubical dwelling with earning a living doing what you love is absurd.


An American consultant was at a pier in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow-fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied only a little while.

The consultant then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The fisherman said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked the Mexican how he spent the rest of his time.

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The American consultant scoffed, “I am business consultant and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and, with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution.

“You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American consultant replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then, senor?” asked the fisherman.

The consultant laughed, and said, “That’s the best part! When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public. You’ll become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions, senor?” replied the Mexican. “Then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

Peter Paul

A few comments to your post.

I like the idea of not encouraging mediocre artist to perform so they will actually get a real job. I see this as a win-win scenario. The artist will be financially better off and society will have less bad music.

“It seems to me that economic forces would eventually drive the value of musicians – even good ones – down to a very low level” At first this will seem this way. The more musicians you can choose from the less you’ll have to pay them to perform. This argument will only hold if all artists are equally good. If all new entering artist are rubbish it will actually increase the value of the all ready good existing artists. The new entering artist will increase the artist pool but in percents decrease the amount of good artists. Therefore increasing the value of good artists. This effect can already be seen in the consumer products industry. The increase of cheap but poor quality Chinese consumer products first decreased the value of a particular consumer product (as you mentioned before). But the consumer finds out after using the product that they are of poor quality. Now the consumer wants good quality products and go back to the traditional brands. As a result the traditional brands are starting to ask premium prices (what they didn’t in the past).

The example of a venue owner is a poor one. As a venue owner you don’t decide which bands should play, the audience (the market) does. Especially when the market is full of artists. The artists that will be picked by the audience are the once with the best marketing. Now let the internet be a good cheap way to promote yourself as an artist.

The point that I’m missing in your post is that artist (even big ones) don’t make much money from record deals. Artists make money from endorsing, merchandising and performing. This makes a record company a very expensive marketing tool. Economically speaking, artists are better off using different means of marketing to promote themselves, hence the internet


Internet made us to prefer free music, pics or films, but that does not means 0 benefit, publicity can pay the creator for each free download if you make your web wisely.
And that only one example of how maybe the answer is changing those "basic supply and demand" laws.
(Sorry for my english, I'm spanish).


Would be great it you could check out my site to help on this road to freedom.


Nobody has the "RIGHT" to make a living doing just whatever they want, If there are starving alternative bands who just cant make a living...then perhaps they should seek "alternative" employment.


There are so many more IT workers than there used to be. Does that create oversupply? No, because the demand has grown to meet it.
I suppose the question would be, Are music audiences just being redistributed over more small bands, or is it getting more people out of the house to see live music?

I'll go see a live band every week or so, because they're small bands that only cost $5-$20 entry. If it was only U2 and the spice girls who were touring (apart from the fact i'm not a fan of either band), I wouldn't see as much live music.

Paul Moore

Every musician I ever met has a day job. Even artists need to eat.


Rock stars (should) die young. Also only US citizens need jobs for health care.



Try swapping the word "musician" for "cartoonist" and read your scribble again...

Does that answer your question?

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