The Sound of Change

Spanish

After 25 years of having music as my only source of income, there is nothing more assertive and disturbing, than to try and apply the ‘Glass half full/half empty’ concept to the current state of the music industry. Recently, my close friend (and CP founder) Nathan West asked me for my perspective using this all too familiar adage and I found myself at a loss for words, unable to utter a reply. What I can say though, is that I am a survivor of music, for music and because of music. Simply put, music is more than a passion project for me, it’s my livelihood.

Since I first started, the music business has certainly undergone a lot of changes but of late, it seems that the rules of the game are evolving and changing faster than I can grow my beard. Over the past few months, I’ve had countless conversations with colleagues about how to survive as a musician in 2016… the overall consensus: It’s tough out there! Regardless, like so many professionals around me, I find myself incapable of throwing in the towel and giving up. And it’s not just because we all love music, it’s because we believe in the power of music to create common ground and unity, both of which are key ingredients to make a better world for future generations and ourselves. Then again, maybe it’s just plain stubbornness.

Maybe I was naïve, but I wanted to be a part of music that would touch people’s hearts and hopefully make a difference.

10 years ago I moved to Los Angeles, California driving a beat up car across country high on hope, pumped with dreams and driven by a relentless will to work hard and ‘make it happen’. I was broke but life was good, full of prospect and opportunity. The challenge to make a living as a music producer/recording engineer in the City of Angels was exciting –if not daunting- and once I found that first job, it was game on! Hours were long, paychecks were short, but the experience and learning were too valuable to quantify. Maybe I was naïve, but I wanted to be a part of music that would touch people’s hearts and hopefully make a difference. There was a strong sense of purpose that justified and far out-weighed the sacrifices, like being away from my family or basically, not having a life outside of the recording studio.

Since then, I’ve built a solid career and have had the honor to work and collaborate with some of the most talented in the business. Some of whom are considered legends. Artists like Melissa Etheridge, Korn and Engelbert Humperdinck (with whom I sang a duet while warming up for a recording session); producers like Walter Afanasieff, Danja and Richard Gibbs; musicians like Carl Verheyen, Simon Phillips, Chad Wackerman, Jimmy Johnson; mixers and engineers like Marcella Araica, Czaba Petocz (RIP)… all of them great human beings that have taught me so much, and with whom I’ve shared very special times with in the recording studio. Time and Time again, I’ve been humbled by their sheer brilliance, I have witnessed and documented so many magical moments and have had the chance to create music with people I love and respect. For that, I’m truly grateful and I take none of it for granted.

Throughout the years, I’ve experienced the happiness of having my own studio and the pain of closing it down, the rush of feeling part of something special and the disappointment of not meeting my own expectations.  I’ve enjoyed a new guitar just to turn around and sell it a month later because I was short in rent money…but after all is said and done, music has fed my body and spirit for this long and once again opens up new opportunities.

The advent of new technologies and specifically digital streaming has put a chokehold on the main source of revenue for recording artists and with it on everyone involved in the record-making process: artists, songwriters, musicians, engineers, arrangers, producers, mixers, mastering engineers…you get the picture. But this is not because of the technology itself, but the lack of proper regulation in its practical applications. Like every musician, I am on both ends of the business: a creator and a consumer.

As a consumer, I can’t help to love it; it allows me to listen to all my favorite artists and discover new ones. It is convenient, practical and exciting. As someone who works on the creative side it has put my career on the line and I know I am not alone in this conundrum.

I don’t think we should backpedal and expect people to buy CD’s again but it is urgent to regulate royalty rates for streaming in a way that allows music to be a sustainable business for all participants, not only for tech giant stockholders. We all know the business model is changing to adjust to new habits of consumption but we can’t allow greed to highjack the process. Let’s figure out a new way of doing business that allows everyone involved to be fairly compensated for their work.

Pick your problem, share your solution…

Here at Create Change we are all about solutions based media.  As the Director of Music Operations, taking part in helping to find a solution is always at the forefront of my mind.  So I’ve decided in the weeks ahead to open up pandora’s box and invite some amazing musicians, composers, producers, engineers, mixers into my studio, to share their own thoughts and point of view on this ongoing dilemma. I will ask each of my distinguished guests to each pick a problem they see within the music industry and then explain how they would go about solving it. My hope is to spark an ongoing conversation that will eventually lead to a brighter future for the Music business.

In a World where creativity is as strong as ever, we are forgetting the value of our own work, but if we all put our heads together we stand a chance on making things work. If you have a different idea or point of view, please share it with us. If there’s another problem in the music industry that you want to talk about, please let us know. If you know someone who could shed some light into these issues, get us in touch. I hope the flow of ideas will help keep the glass half full. Let the conversation begin…

—J.C.