Mu­si­cians’ strug­gle for sur­vival

Danny Michel shines light on chal­lenges fac­ing mod­ern artists in the Spo­tify era

StarMetro Edmonton - - THE KIT - Joel Ru­bi­noff

Pic­ture the clas­sic rock star of the 1970s: deca­dent, de­fi­ant, swathed in scarves, liv­ing a life of op­u­lent splen­dour. Mick Jag­ger. El­ton John. Steven Tyler.

Now pic­ture the clas­sic rock star of the 2010s: des­ti­tute, de­feated, liv­ing in a van, work­ing part-time as a Wal­mart greeter, un­able to raise money to get their teeth fixed.

That’s the harsh re­al­ity Kitch­ener’s Danny Michel de­scribes in a Face­book post that re­cently went vi­ral, draw­ing al­most 6,000 shares, 1,000 com­ments and spark­ing a heated cross-coun­try dis­cus­sion about the vi­a­bil­ity of mu­sic as a pro­fes­sion in the “pen­nies per play” Spo­tify era.

Not­ing that he him­self does OK, the 48-year-old singer­song­writer wrote that “Every­where I go mu­si­cians are qui­etly talk­ing about one thing: how to sur­vive,” in a post that painted a dire por­trait of an artis­tic pop­u­la­tion in cri­sis.

“I’ve never wor­ried about it my­self un­til 2018. What I can tell you is my al­bum sales have held steady for the last decade un­til drop­ping by 95% this year due to mu­sic stream­ing ser­vices.”

What’s no­table about Michel’s post — which negates the image of the en­ti­tled whin­ing pop star — is its cool, calm equa­nim­ity.

In a dis­pas­sion­ate, mat­terof-fact way, he shines a light on the ca­reer Ar­maged­don fac­ing mu­si­cians who don’t churn out pre­fab Top 40 pablum and can no longer rely on record com­pany roy­al­ties to bankroll their ca­reers.

“No one needs to feel sorry for me,” he con­tin­ues. “This is what I do. And I’m not scold­ing any­one or sug­gest­ing peo­ple stop us­ing these ser­vices. I don’t know what the an­swer is. But I hope mu­si­cians speak up about what’s re­ally hap­pen­ing.”

They have. And by yank­ing back the cur­tain on the in­dus­try’s

worst-kept se­cret — that indie mu­si­cians may be about to go the way of the dodo and dial-up in­ter­net — the per­son­able rab­ble rouser has sparked a mu­si­cal #MeToo move­ment, giv­ing voice to an ex­ploited pop­u­la­tion whose non­sing­ing voices have been rou­tinely ig­nored.

“It’s re­veal­ing and con­cern­ing,” Michel wrote in a fol­lowup. “I’m also get­ting con­stant per­sonal notes from mu­si­cians (many you know) shar­ing their sto­ries. Truth­fully, they’re heart break­ing. Some strug­gling to pay rent, buy food or see a den­tist. It’s worse than I

sus­pected. And al­ways hid­den.”

Not any­more. In the 10 days since Michel posted his Re­quiem to My Life’s Calling es­say, a tor­rent of both sym­pa­thy and dis­con­tent has flooded in, along with much head-scratch­ing over pos­si­ble so­lu­tions.

“The most hope­ful sign is how many peo­ple are say­ing they had no idea this is how it worked and are un­happy,” emailed Michel.

“Most mu­sic fans are ask­ing what is the best way to sup­port an artist they like. It’s very hope­ful. Peo­ple want to do the right thing.”


Danny Michel has heard from many mu­si­cians strug­gling to sur­vive in the age of mu­sic stream­ing ser­vices.

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