Would You Like Fries With Your Oil Change, Ma’am?

…imagine that Exxon thought that they were in the “petroleum business”, since petroleum is the resource they work with. And so imagine that Exxon eventually gets to a place where there are so many petroleum extractors bringing petroleum to the petroleum business that the price falls drastically. What would the Exxon people do? Well of course they would all learn suggestive selling, and you’d walk into a fast food restaurant and the Exxon people behind the counter would say “Would you like fries with that?”

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Here’s the thing.

The thing is that musicians have no clue what business they’re really in. I have yet to meet a musician that understands the market demand that music supplies; the consumer desire that music fulfills.

And that explains a lot about what we have going on today, where musicians believe that music is undervalued by consumers. But it’s not. If it was undervalued it wouldn’t be everywhere in the marketplace. Everywhere you turn there’s music, and you can bet your sweet bippy that someone somewhere is capitalizing upon that in America.

And musicians know this of course. They complain about it. They are well aware that this vague, miasmic thing called “the music business” is making gobs of money from their music. And musicians do not like that. And I understand.

Here’s an analogy I came up with earlier this fall. We all know that Exxon is quite good at extracting a resource from the ground. That resource is petroleum. And we know that Exxon is very good at crafting this resource into certain forms that consumers desire – gasoline, motor oil, diesel fuel, home heating oils, etc.

But imagine that Exxon did not know what business they were really in. Imagine that Exxon thought that they are in the “petroleum business”, since petroleum is the resource they work with. This is analogous to musicians thinking that they are in the music business since music is their resource. And so imagine that Exxon eventually gets to a place where there are so many petroleum extractors bringing petroleum to the petroleum business that the price falls drastically. That’s Economics 101 – if demand grows very slowly or remains about the same or declines, and supply rises and rises and rises, then prices fall.

So, further imagine that Exxon really wants to be noticed, and really wants to be a petroleum star, so they begin giving their petroleum away for free in hopes of getting noticed. You know, musicians call it exposure. One of the funniest things I’ve heard from a musician who misunderstood what I was saying in a presentation in Atlanta a few years ago, thought I was telling the group to do things for free so they would get exposure. And he said to me, in a very defiant tone, “You can die from exposure.” And the group laughed and laughed, and so did I, albeit not for the same reason. But that’s another story…

So Exxon is giving away all of this resource that they have worked for years to develop and craft, and they watch while the petroleum business rakes in gobs and gobs of money from their petroleum, and they get a mere pittance, if that. What would the Exxon people do?

Well of course they would learn suggestive selling, and you’d walk into a fast food restaurant and the Exxon people behind the counter would say “Would you like fries with that?” And they’d keep on digging up petroleum and doing things with it, in hopes of getting their break one day, but their main source of income would be from the day job they hate – perhaps even from two jobs they hate.

Musicians should be able to relate to this. Because this is precisely what musicians are doing, in droves. Hordes. And it really sucks because musicians have been gifted, at birth, with their natural resource. They don’t even have to dig it out of the ground, or cut it down with a chainsaw, or grow it in a field before they can take it to market. It just flows out of them. They can’t stop it, which is why it is so frustrating to not know what to do with it in a lucrative, rewarding life sense.

I mean, sure, they have to craft it before they take it to market – they have to develop and refine the resource, and that is work in a sense. The labor of love sense. But for crying out loud, musicians are blessed with one of the most highly utilized resources in the American marketplace, and they give it away to other people who understand its true value. Then they bitch. And starve. And learn suggestive selling…

Herein lies the key. Musicians, most of them, simply do not understand the true value of music. And since they do not understand they have a very naïve notion that the valuation problem is with consumers in the marketplace. So you get what we have today, and have had for eons – musicians who want everyone else to change. They want consumers to pay up because “Dammit, music is valuable, and you should pay me. Dammit.”

Well, music is valuable. And it should be glaringly obvious that American consumers value it and pay lots and lots of money for it, year in and year out; decade in and decade out. I mean, music is everywhere. You can’t get away from it. It’s in stores and on tv shows and on the radio and on elevators and beaming down from satellites and…. Need I go on?

It’s clearly of great value or it would not permeate the market as it does. The “music business” sells music to just about every single aspect of the $18 trillion American economy.

Because the “music business” has a much more clear idea of the demand that music supplies. And of course they don’t tell you. It’s proprietary knowledge. “Figure it out, sucker…” That’s where they’re coming from. And as long as musicians buy into the illusion that music is not valued by American consumers, the “music business” will happily take their resource for free, sit and cry into a beer with them about how bad things are, and then drive home in their Benz chuckling.

Well, the true value of music is, quite simply, what I teach. I don’t really teach it, I just remind musicians. Because they know what it is, at some cellular level, and I have remembered and crafted a very rewarding musical life around this ‘remembering’.

And sometimes I’m pretty certain I am the only one in America who knows. The only one on the musician’s side of the “music business” I mean. It’s a scary, giddy sort of sensation at times, being in this position. But it’s fun. Mostly…

So I’m writing about it, and a couple years ago I put together a very simple, easily grasped program for musicians interested in evolving with an evolving marketplace. BnW Alice Oval cropped I’m not sure how many that encompasses, because so many seem to want to stay stuck in that place where the rest of the world needs to change – and damn well ought to – to make the musicians happy; to honor their true value.

Which has some validity, I suppose, except in the marketplace. In the marketplace that’s bullshit. People don’t buy too much stuff because they feel sorry for the purveyor. They buy stuff that they value.

That, dear musician friends, is Economics 101, and you know it. Because that is precisely what you buy – stuff that you value enough to pay for.

So, when and if you and your professional cohorts would like a little insight, drop me a line. Alice and I would love to meet you and talk to you, and help you build rewarding, lucrative professional careers wherein your art comes first – wherein you put the music first, relentlessly and without apology, then stand astounded as the money follows.

Until next time…

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