Steve Albini on the state of the music industry

Steve Albini gave a keynote at the Face The Music conference in which he talked about the current state of the music industry. His opinion is that it’s healthy. It works very differently now than it did thirty years ago, and he talks about what those changes mean to bands and listeners and industry insiders. The Guardian has a full transcript:

In short, the internet has made it much easier to conduct the day-to-day business of being in a band and has increased the efficiency. Everything from scheduling rehearsals using online calendars, to booking tours by email, to selling merchandise and records from online stores, down to raising the funds to make a record is a new simplicity that bands of the pre-internet era would salivate over. The old system was built by the industry to serve the players inside the industry. The new system where music is shared informally and the bands have a direct relationship to the fans was built by the bands and the fans in the manner of the old underground. It skips all the intermediary steps.


The internet has facilitated the most direct and efficient, compact relationship ever between band and audience. And I do not mourn the loss of the offices of inefficiencies that died in the process. I suppose some people are out of work. But the same things happened when the automobile replaced the horse, and all the blacksmiths had to adapt, spending their time making garden gates rather than horseshoes.

When I read over these notes on the plane today I felt like I spent too much time enumerating complaints, and I don’t want to conclude without reiterating how terrific the current music environment is. I see more bands and I hear more music than ever before in my life. There are more gigs, more songs available than ever before, bands are being treated with more respect, and are more in control of their careers and destinies. I see them continuing as a constellation of enterprises: some big, some small – most small but all of them with a more immediate response from their audience and a greater chance to succeed. It is genuinely exciting.

Personally, I didn’t see a lot of live music when I was in my teens or twenties. Buying music was a big deal. (I used to have a rule: I would only buy an album if I liked at least three songs on it.) Going to a concert was a big deal. It’s only in the last few years that I started going to concerts regularly. Seeing bands I like live at small venues is just about my favourite thing ever now.