Neil Young Joins Elvis Costello: “Pirate My Music”

Oh to live on Sugar Mountain, with the barkers, the colored balloons, and the music pirates replacing the music labels. You can’t be twenty on Sugar Mountain, unless you’re ready for business change.

And my youngest son, just a couple of years away from being twenty and hoping to work in music management as I mentioned in this piece on Louis CK and changes in the media business, had best be paying attention.

Neil Young, a musician who over a career spanning nearly fifty years had been portrayed as everything from cranky and crotchety to progressives and forward thinking, gets it. Mr. Young has come out and said—I’m not kidding—Piracy is the New Radio.

Elvis Costello acknowledged that his fans were downloading his music, and stopped just short of encouraging it. But Neil Young isn’t stopping with just a <wink wink>.

Historically, as this piece points out, there was a time when music labels and the musicians they steal from shill for thought that radio was a form of stealing music. But remember, music labels make way more money from recordings than the artists who produce them earn. It wasn’t the artists who were complaining so much as the labels.

Now, with there being very little reason for music labels to exist, and the tension between music labels and musicians having escalated to new levels because of digital media, Neil Young has recast the argument.

Music Piracy is the New Radio.

The point behind this, one must imagine Mr. Young understands, isn’t about finding someone new to vilify for how difficult business change is to manage, but to be honest: artists don’t earn much from their music; the money is in concerts and merchandising. So why waste energy fighting the music distribution channel that makes it possible to sell all those concert tickets and tee shirts?

Neil Young gets it.

Sure, like anyone, Young would rather get paid than give his work away. It’s a truth in the music business, the movie business, and for book authors. But Neil is smart enough to see that as coopetition spreads and business models change, it makes way more sense to embrace that change than to fight it.

Need help managing your business change? Drop a line!