Cracker’s Dave Lowery: Artists “Shafted” By New Music Industry [VIDEO & COMMENTARY]

image from www.google.com

(UPDATE 2) David Lowery, the lead singer of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker comes close to yearning for the good old days when his platinum album netted the band some real revenue.

"I'm not suggesting that we go back there," Lowry told Andrew Keen of TechCrunch. But “it looks like the artist is getting shafted. We were waiting for the extra revenue, but it never came.”

Subscription music services like Spotify and Pandora are "bad business models" according to Lowry, who suggests that an artist would have to get more than a million plays per week to make minimum wage ($7.25/hour).


David Lowry is not just some aging rocker unable or unwilling to shift to the new paradigm. Rather, he's always been an agent provocateur, encouraging anyone who will listen to question to join him in asking the tough questions.

I don't always agree with David Lowry. In this interview, as new college professor and budding "rock economist", he could have used data more judicially. But he's right to encourage us to view the promises of the music tech and the new music industry with the same wary eye that the old one deserved.

Our future is what we make it.

Share on:


  1. Yes, an artist might have to get that many plays to make minimum wage….if that was his only revenue stream. But that is a pretty illogical assumption that is only being made because it serves his narrative.
    And if you didn’t make enough by selling your last album to pay for its production, then you’re doing something very,very wrong…at almost any level of the business.
    There are so many silly assumptions in this conversation that it’s hard to watch. His intentions are obviously good…but the arguments are wildly myopic.

  2. The cost of recording has come way down in the last decade. It is no longer necessary to go into a million dollar studio to create a good album. Why spend more when you don’t need to. What’s really going on is that bands no longer have major label promotion behind them.
    In the age of Pro Tools ( I don’t record digital at all) you can’t use recording studio data as a benchmark.

  3. Andrew Keen is insufferable for many reasons (Google him), and in this interview he’s true to form, repeatedly trying to get Lowery to be his echo chamber. Cheers to David for not playing along and instead sticking to his own talking points. However, David did keep harping on there not being data to support arguments that pirates buy more music. He must not be looking hard enough. http://lmgtfy.com/?q=pirates+buy+more+music

  4. @Rhygin records. Having operated recording studio complexes for over 20 years i can tell you that recording methodologies did not change very much from about
    1994 til now. yes the equipment improved. the equipment changed, but not the methodology. important distinction.
    since 1994 when protools and other programs became affordable there has been this pro-studio/home studio paradigm. Tracking done in a commercial studio, overdubs done in the a home or project studio, then mixed at home or back in a pro studio.
    That’s why i didn’t look at just the overall budget. I looked at the amount of time people spent on a record. you look like you own a record label? artists rarely stop till they run out of recording budget? right? it’s never quite done. People are also spending much less time in the studio. dramatically less.
    but let’s do this reducto absurdum. you are proposing that people are making the same or even more. costs of recording are falling, but yet people are spending less time recording? This is across hundreds of projects over many years. It seems pretty unlikely.
    if you use occams razor the simplest solution is that they have smaller budgets.
    plus that notion agrees with all the other data out there. overall music sales are down from 64% since 1999.

  5. Hi @Ophelia. I’ll ignore the LMGTFY snarkiness and assume that you otherwise want to have an intelligent conversation.
    First of all i’m very familiar with that study. Unfortunately it doesn’t contradict what i’m saying. Now i should know better than to argue a very nuanced point on the internet to the hordes of digeridiots-er-uh i mean digerati. That’s why i presented my argument over 1/2 hour in an academic like setting. But here I am. Let me try to briefly argue it.
    My point. It appears that ON AVERAGE the overall share of recorded music revenue going to the artist has fallen dramatically. There is tons of anecdotal and fairly scientific evidence that supports my contention. I pointed to recording studio data, recording budgets, and recording times since recording is the common expense whether you have an old style record deal or are an independent artist. for reasons argued above i say this indicates that ON AVERAGE artists are receiving less revenue.
    Now your study you site is actually pretty weird. As a mathematician it freaks me out that someone would think this proved anything. here’s why . the study simply tests a tautology. It simply says that those most engaged in music do all the things we would expect. if you are engaged enough to pirate music a lot, you are probably engaged enough buy a lot of music as well. If you aren’t very engaged in music you are not likely to pirate music nor buy music as much.
    But here is the important things. so you Ophelia are saying that people who pirate music buy more music so therefore music sales are up? But we know there are cold hard facts that this is not true. piracy was virtually non-existent in 1997. napster wasn’t even around. Now there is more piracy, a lot of piracy in fact, but music sales are down 64% since that year! by your argument music sales would be up.
    What’s sad about these discussions, is that the internet used to be a place where people discussed and learned things. Now if you say something-like i did- that contradicts the conventional internet wisdom it’s like you’ve committed a religious heresy. In fact many of the discussions I’ve had on the internet the last week it’s like arguing with religious fundamentalists. Now it just seems that people get on the internet to have their own prejudices and biases confirmed. oh and to bully and ridicule anyone that disagrees with them. Jason Lanier is right. The internet is making us stupid.

  6. US ISPs, search engines and internet ad networks make more than $600B a year. One of the major ways that they make that money is referring to and distributing “free” music without paying a dime to the content owners and creators. Recorded music is now a $6B industry, 100 times smaller than the industries that are currently profiting from crushing it. It is illegal for them to do this, but the music industry is to small to fight the ISPs and search engines. Just Google makes $44B a year and Verizon makes $120B a year. Warner Music makes $2.4B a year and lost $36m just last quarter. Music doesn’t need a new business model. ISPs and search engines need a legal business model.

  7. Lowery is not a go getter. Get off your ass and do it. I don’t want to hear you complain that you CAN’T put up songs on your own website and sell them. You can do everything yourself with out a label.

  8. Lowry is not arguing that he can’t make an album without the perks of a recording label, but for how and who profits now. Product is now controlled by mega advertising web portals to the benefit of the average listener and solo band. This might usher in the death of the fat and gloated mega rockstar group that has longevity, but maybe not. I’d like to see a discussion connecting this to the glut of reality shows and how traditional scripted content is affected. Related?
    While I’m here, check out “Jeremy Lin schools Kobe” on youtube…btw I wrote him an email to ask if i could use his image in footage. His lack of reply I took as a yes. 🙂

  9. #1: I agree with Lowery that content providers aren’t being compensated enough compared to the money Google, youtube, FB are making.
    #2: Lowery’s self-proclaimed “data” comes from conversations with musician friends? What a joke. If Lowery were on the his other end of his own ‘data’ he’d flip out (which he tends to do.
    #3: Lowery is a major league dick who surrounds himself with sychophants and has temper tantrums when people dont FULLY agree with him.

  10. Is this post a cry for help? Your post personified everything you think is wrong with the internet. Weird.

  11. Why are music sales down?
    Kids go on iTunes and download 1 or 2 singles from an album. Look at a middle or high schoolers ipod…NONE of them own full albums. Hence, the decline in music sales. Artist used to get paid for 11 songs per album…now they get paid for one or two.
    You can thank Steve Jobs for that…not the Napster kids, not the FB guys, not evil Google, not George Bush, not Halliburton, and not religious fundamentalists.
    Biggest problem for you is you’re over-the-hill and a participant in a fickle industry.
    Tautology? Love when you try and talk over our heads.

Comments are closed.