Spoon survives and thrives in the new music economy


Like so many industries the music business has been dramatically transformed by the digital revolution the top-selling album of 1999 the Backstreet Boys millenium sold more than 30 million copies around the world last year’s number one the greatest showmen motion picture cast recording sold just 3.5 million while musicians are making far less from direct sales of their music There are other ways for successful artists to make a living news our weekends Christopher Booker has the story Even if you have not set foot in a record store in 20 years, you haven’t barely heard the music of spoon in commercials On television In movies Or maybe even during presidential candidate Pete Buddha judges debate warm-up Few bands have navigated the profound digital disruption of the music industry quite as well as spoon Their story is a testament to the new realities of what it means to be a successful band Founded in 1993 by singer and songwriter Brit, Daniel and drummer Jim Eno Spoon story almost stopped as it was starting The band was famously dropped by Elektra Records in 1998 But rather than calling it quits they kept going recording on their own without a label once a week I would call my manager and lawyer and say anybody want to put out that record and They’re like know what why don’t you think about changing the band name or you know? Starting a new band and so it really probably made more sense for us to start over but in hindsight It didn’t merge records an independent label based in Durham, North Carolina Released girls can tell in 2001 it sold more copies than both their previous records combined What followed has been a near 20-year run of commercial success and critical acclaimed But spoons path was markedly different than that of those who have come before 1999 the year after the band was dropped was the high-water mark of the music industry of old Adjusted for inflation. It made nearly 22 billion dollars in retail revenue last year. It was just under 10 billion The story is familiar by now the advent of digital technology everything from Napster iTunes Spotify and Pandora Changed the economic landscape of music. The word is out that there’s not really a lot of money made on making records anymore There’s money made at the very very top, you know But it’s not it’s certainly not the same thing as when we started Radio has changed as well Consolidation and the closure of college radio stations have decreased the number of avenues for independent artists like spoon to make it on the airwaves So Daniel says the band had to think differently about how to forge a career. There was not that Avenue for exposure and and we weren’t getting paid a lot of money and so someone wanted to give us $5,000 to put a song in a TV show that’s seems like a good deal While spoons licensing list is as lengthy as the end credits of a feature film It’s reflective of a broader shift in attitudes towards licensing music, but it’s not as if spoon forged entirely new ground This Rice Krispies jingle from the early 60s comes by way of a very young Rolling Stones Still there was once a fierce debate about whether it was okay for a serious musician to license their music this way Lou Reed was widely criticized for allowing walk on the wild side to be used in this mid-80s honda scooter campaign Hey don’t settle for walk But a quick dive into YouTube reveals Reid was far from alone and many more have at one time or another licensed their music for advertisements television and movies something that was famously criticized by Neil Young in his 1988 song this notes for you His song released right around the time George Paul and Ringo were suing Nike over its use of the Beatle song revolution Saying Paul McCartney explained his position in this 1989 interview. We never did do commercials with the Beatles We had lots of big offers From soft drinks companies, you know to do stuff obviously, but we always thought now it kind of spoils It just takes that little edge off it This feeling did not extend to McCartney’s solo work he teamed up with visa just a year later to promote his world tour and Recently, he allowed his song great day to be used in an advertisement for a credit card. Enjoy I have to face the truth Daniel says despite the wide use of spoons material. It has not impacted the band’s approach Was there an initial conversation about where your music goes and what it’s licensed to? Oh, yeah, we we got to approve every one of them You know, we don’t write the songs for those uses the album still means something that is a moment and you will never Be able to write songs exactly like you did during that moment when that album was made when we first started it out I was writing songs – – that’ll go over well in bars You know and so when we started spoon that was sort of like that was the big goal Get that weekend gig at a better place Spoon spent the past summer on the road supporting the release of their greatest hits album everything hits at once Proof enough that in the new music economy while money from licensing is nice. It’s the gigs that pay the bills What advice do you give fans that are 20 years younger? Every now and then I will get an artist that says how did you do what you do? And I usually tell them to do it for yourself to do it locally to make To make and be in your own scene and then other things will come to you

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