You still have to do the al­bum biz be­fore you get the golden key

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - OPINION -

Dr dre’s last al­bum was re­leased in 1999. Thir­teen years on, he is named as the best paid “mu­si­cian” of 2012, hav­ing earned $110 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Forbes mag­a­zine. And he didn’t make that money from tour­ing. At No 2 on the list is Roger Wa­ters. His last al­bum was re­leased 20 years ago. Wel­come to the chang­ing of the guard.

Ear­lier this year, Noel Gal­lagher said: “What is fas­ci­nat­ing is that there was a way of mak­ing money and sell­ing records that got hap­pened upon in the ’60s and it worked for 30-odd years. Then all of a sud­den, in un­der a decade, it’s gone, never to re­turn.”

Gal­lagher pre­dicted that “rock star­dom will die be­cause no­body will make enough money any more to be rock stars. Ev­ery­body will be job­bing mu­si­cians. The mu­sic busi­ness we signed into does not ex­ist any­more.”

Con­sider: Adele had the best­selling al­bum in the world in 2012 – it sold mega-mil­lions and is still do­ing so – but when it comes to the Forbes rich list for this year, she can only limp in at No 22.

Gal­lagher is cor­rect in that there never will be any more mu­sic mega-mil­lion­aires. At least not from sales of al­bums. You can still make money, as Dre and Wa­ters ($88 mil­lion in 2012) have, by own­ing a lu­cra­tive head­phone busi­ness (Dre’s Beats) or tour­ing an al­bum that is 33 years old (Wa­ters’s The Wall).

It’s lit­tle won­der that the best a mu­sic tal­ent show win­ner th­ese days can hope for is some crappy TV pre­sent­ing job. Or that record la­bels of­ten give up on a band af­ter barely one al­bum. The fig­ures just don’t add up any­more.

The great thing about Dr Dre be­ing the high­est paid mu­si­cian in the world is that he an­nounced his re­tire­ment more than two years ago: “As far as me go­ing into the mic booth, that shit is over. I’m get­ting older, I’m al­ways go­ing to tal­ent scout and try to find new artists to work with – but yes, that’s it.”

There is still talk of Dre’s Detox al­bum, aka the Chi­nese Democ­racy of rap. but he’s been work­ing on that since 2001 and there’s no re­lease sched­uled.

But even with Dre and Roger Wa­ters at the top of the Forbes list and Adele way down at No 22 telling us all we need to know about mu­sic­nomics in the present era, there re­mains the salu­tary fact that the main rea­son Dre has made so much money is be­cause his name gives his busi­ness a cer­tain ca­chet. And he got that name from his al­bum re­leases, both with NWA and as a solo artist. Sim­i­larly, Wa­ters con­tinue to rake it in be­cause of what he achieved over a se­ries of al­bums with Pink Floyd. And the same goes for ev­ery other act on the Forbes list.

Yes, en­dorse­ments, cloth­ing lines, spon­sor­ship deals, ¤100-plus tick­ets on never-end­ing world tours and Las Ve­gas res­i­den­cies may be the way to make real money in to­day’s mu­sic world, but you only get that golden key once you’ve done it al­bum-wise. Af­ter all, if you’re paying £300 for a pair of Beats head­phones, you want some­thing great to lis­ten to through them.

And Santa, if you’re read­ing this: the Beats Stu­dio High Def­i­ni­tion (in black) look very nice. bboyd@irish­times.com

Dr Dre: the Beats go on

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