“The opinion of most of the musicians I have met is that the music business sucks. This is because the music business sucks.” — Robert Fripp.
A few days back, in the course of my thoughts on realistic ambitions and such, I mentioned that I figured out (with some parental help) that I was highly unlikely to be a rock and roll star. I don’t really have the talent, I didn’t have the right look, and I wasn’t that interested in the kind of music that most people wanted to buy — stuff I thought of more as sonic wallpaper, rather than stuff to listen to and make part of your life the way the music I love is part of mine. And rather than letting this crush me into despond, I’ve taken it as liberating over the years. If I liked what a band I was in did, I stayed with it. If I didn’t like it — as was the case with a band I was in with the Mad Dog — I could (and did) walk away. When I’ve played, I’ve done it because I was playing stuff I cared about. I was — and am — an amateur, in the sense of the word’s root, which means love. I don’t make my living at it, although I suspect it is a necessary part of my life.
This means that my connection to the business end of the music business is tangential — a bystander’s perspective, although I have friends in “the industry.” All the same, I’ve seen and heard enough of it over the years to recognize the truth of what Fripp says in the epigraph. And on that subject, I’d like to point you to the story of Ryan Peters, who does hip-hop under the name Spose. You’ll notice the AllMusic bio I linked mentions his independent hit, and concludes by saying he signed with a major label — Universal — in early 2010.
There’s a reason it concludes there; the label dropped him eleven months later, and never released his album. Spose tells his story at (of all places) Cracked.com. His story has a relatively happy ending — he seems content, and still does his thing and makes a living. All the same, his story is an object lesson both in how the industry works and why it seems to produce so little worth hearing. Check it out.