I recently watched a movie called “Under the Silver Lake” (it’s an OK movie, could have been better). One of it’s storylines was about one guy writing hit songs for hundreds of different artists. The main character in the movie broke into this musicians mansion. There, he discovered that many of his favorite hit-bands had songs over many decades, had been written by this one musician. Most of the “artists” were nothing but exchangeable shells.
If after the movie, someone said “Wow…imagine if that were true!”
I’d say: “It is”.
Well, OK, it’s not just one guy, but much fewer people than it seems. These few people, make 99% of the music you hear on the radio. I’ll provide just one example here.
Have you heard of the musician Karl Martin Sandberg? No? How is it possible that you don’t know the musician with the most produced hit music tracks in human History? Sandberg is a guy from Sweden. He’s produced and written music of
and many more.
We often hear the question “why does all the music on the radio sound the same?”. Well, there’s the answer. It’s produced by this one Swedish dude somewhere in a basement in Stockholm. What a remarkable artist that is, but hardly anyone knows him! Even though he’s been doing it across several generations of music-listeners, since 1985!
From this one example, you understand how only a handful of people are responsible for most of the popular music output.
You can find this kind of monopolization in other industries too – Amazon has a 64% market share in book selling and a 67% market share in eBook selling. That’s enormous power over what the world does and does not read (this power was recently felt when Amazon started banning books by authors skeptical of the Covid-Religion). Google has a 92% market share in Search Engines. Their market control is not the result of innocent free-market-dynamics, but of Government-ties.
Many artists have little license over “their” music once they go mainstream. Britney Spears is a good example of this, she doesn’t even have license over her own life. A team of lawyers and “handlers” are in control of her life and she just lost a court case where she sought to regain control of it.
Through the magic of PR, their lives look glamorous and amazing, but it isn’t always. Some big league music producers say: “I’ll make you famous. In exchange, you relinquish your will and do whatever I say.”
This is why, in my work, I keep talking about “Success without strings attached”, being your own Boss and creating your own reality. Either you create your own dream or you will be used to create the dreams of others.
Of course not all music producers and record companies are like this. Some are marvelous and support independent artists who wish to express their creativity. It’s up to each artist to choose the people they work with, wisely. Every contract you enter, comes with new opportunities and obligations. That’s true of any line of work. Some people who are starry-eyed, forget to read the small print.
Fortunately, the Internet has made it a little easier for independent artists to get their music heard, their paintings seen and their books read and we are moving toward a better world where more and more people can speak to an audience directly.