No physical medium required at the customer interface. A wide selection of songs available for instant listening. Music choices made by the user, not some corporation or station manager - a quite correct description of a streaming service. However, it's a business started in 1939 by Seattle inventor Ken Shyvers. Ted Gioia goes back in time.

Heart at young
January 31, 2022

Ted Gioia: Is old music killing new music?

Give Sons of Kemet a chance

"Old songs now represent 70 percent of the U.S. music market... But the news gets worse: The new-music market is actually shrinking. All the growth in the market is coming from old songs... Those who make a living from new music—especially that endangered species known as the working musician—should look at these figures with fear and trembling" - music writer Ted Gioia writes about the status of new music in the Atlantic.

"Songs created Silicon Valley. Without music, it wouldn’t exist. In each key area of technology—semiconductors, storage, handheld devices, video displays, test equipment, etc.—funds to launch and grow the tech titans came from the entertainment industry, and especially the music business... No, you won’t hear that story told inside the fortresses of Google or Facebook or Apple. They battle with Hollywood studios and major labels nowadays, fighting over customers, copyrights, legislation, royalty payments, and many other matters" - music writer Ted Gioia points out in his great post.

Music writer Ted Gioia tries to see into the future, here are some of his predictions:

Record labels will gradually lose both the ability and desire to develop new artists. They will focus increasingly on their old catalog and archival materials.

More new artists will get their big break from web platforms... So I wouldn’t be surprised if a whole new platform emerges during the next decade—an interface that makes it fun and exciting for music fans to hear new music.

Listeners will have favorite new songs, but not know (or care) about the name of the artist.

Musician incomes will continue to shrink, but some young musicians will still earn large sums of money by being influencers.

Dead musicians will start showing up everywhere—via holograms, biopics, deepfake vocals, and other technology-driven interfaces.

Get ready for A-Pop from Africa, I-Pop from India or Indonesia, and a whole host of competing sounds and styles from Latin America, China, Eastern Europe, etc.

Peter Buffett and Cellist Michael Kott

Ted Gioia looks back at the case of Peter Buffett, son of legendary investor Warren Buffett who had given his son some shares in Berkshire Hathaway, and at age 19 Peter wanted to raise money so he could prepare at leisure for a music career. To cover expenses, he sold his entire stock holdings for $123,000 - shares that would now be worth $275 million. “It was understood that I should expect nothing more” he later wrote in his memoir 'Life is What You Make It'.

180 seconds of fame
September 21, 2021

Ted Gioia: Are three-minute songs bad for music?

In the latest installment in a series of unscripted videos in which Ted Gioia addresses key matters related to music and society, the music writer discusses the record industry's longstanding preference for three-minute songs, and explores the impact of this on our experiences of music.

"The first songs to express personal emotions and individual aspirations appeared more than 3,000 years ago in Deir el-Medina, a village on the west bank of the Nile. By seeming coincidence this was also the location of the first successful labor protest in history, when artisans launched a sit-down strike that forced 'management' - Ramesses III in this instance - to increase grain rations. Is it just by chance that a major musical innovation and a historic expansion in human rights took place in the very same (and tiny) community?" - music writer Ted Gioia asks in his great article about the connection of art and activism.

"Jazz has somehow rediscovered its roots as populist music, embarking on a new and unscripted dialogue with mainstream culture. To some extent, jazz has even turned into a kind of talisman for forward-looking sounds in commercial music" - jazz music writer Ted Gioia writes in the third edition of his great book 'The History of Jazz', out now. "Artists as different from each other as Kamasi Washington, Esperanza Spalding, Shabaka Hutchings, and Robert Glasper have shown that they can draw on the full range of current-day song styles without losing their jazz roots, and attract a young crossover audience who are energized and excited by this give-and-take".

Music writer Ted Gioia read about the idea by a Norwegian company to build a doomsday vault to preserve the world’s most important music recordings, stored on an especially durable optical film. Gioia has a related business idea: "I suspect there’s demand for digital platforms that make a similar promise. The business I’m envisioning would use blockchain technology to ensure that a song could never be deleted from the Internet".

The jazz music writer shared a passionate piece about how one wrong turn changed the destiny of a big jazz label Columbia Records was until one sad day in 1973 when they let go Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Keith Jarrett, and Bill Evans in what is now known as “Great Columbia Jazz Purge”. "With the right leadership, the label might have held on to a roster of the greatest musicians in jazz, with all the bragging rights that entails, and made money from their recordings for decades to come. The sad fact is: Columbia could still do this, if it understood jazz the way Manfred Eicher and a few other visionaries do".

What's a band to do?
June 16, 2021

Ted Gioia: How can artists use NFTs?

NFTs for music won’t really take off until (1) income streams are attached to the token, or (2) the owner’s name is commemorated (and displayed prominently) in a sufficiently elitist master-of-the-world manner - music writer Ted Gioia offers his opinions on NFTs, and raises some possibilities:

  1. A band could sell shares in its music, with potential for spinning off ownership of individual musicians as separate tokens
  2. Artists could do mergers
  3. Artists would be free to issue new shares
  4. When artists run into career problems, they could turn to their powerful billionaire owners for help in resolving them
  5. Fans would have endless opportunities for demonstrating their loyalty
  6. Artists would face the complex financial trade-offs

American jazz critic and music historian Ted Gioia explores the extraordinary life of Charles Kellogg. He started out as a nature singer - Kellogg first performed as a vaudeville performer imitating bird songs (listen to him on Bandcamp), his concerts for bears followed, but his most unusual feat was his ability to extinguish fire with music.

A great text by the American jazz critic and music historian Ted Gioia about how he worked as a fixer in the 1990s. He looks back into an episode from China where he had to find an "honest broker" - "true brokers, intermediaries between others. They aren’t going to participate in your deal, no matter what it is. They are go-betweens, really. But do not underestimate the power of this kind of brokerage. Whatever you need—a loan, a building permit, political influence, a place to land a private jet, whatever—they will introduce you to the right people and steer you away from the sharks. And they do this for a very simple reason: their prestige is enhanced by making these connections. In many cases, they don’t even want to be paid. Or let me put that differently—you repay them by becoming a trusted contact for them in future dealings". A great read!

"I embarked on an in-depth self-education process to learn about the larger history of music as a change agent in human history" music writer Ted Gioia in a Music Journalism Insider interview. He continues: "My latest book, 'Music: A Subversive History', is a culmination of that effort. It encompasses my early work of jazz and African-American music, but aims at something larger—really, nothing less than exposing the inner workings of songs as a source of power and enchantment in our societies and day-to-day lives. That’s really what drives me and motivates me nowadays: music as a change agent".