Is music going bankrupt? Successful indie artist Cat Power is the latest to go bankrupt..

The warning signs are everywhere, and everyone keeps talking about it – now the examples are starting to come in.

The unsustainable life of the musician in the modern world is starting to cause casualties.

Cat Power has had a top ten album in the USA, and played a series of sold out gigs but has had to cancel her forthcoming European tour because she is now bankrupt.

These are tough times for everyone, but the music scene is getting several extra kicks and the business where people will take music for free off the Internet, complain if bands put their music on ad,s and buy less merchandise than they did a couple of years ago is fast grinding to a halt. When Spotify pay a couple of hundred dollars a year to huge stars and even less to everyone else and most people listen to music on YouTube means a musician is getting squeezed from all angles.

Maybe the Pirate Party could step in to help or just continue to give away people’s work for nothing and still without their permission. No one is stupid enough to enter music and expect to be a millionaire but even a pretty successful artist like Cat Power declaring bankruptcy is a stark warning of the grim battles that are ahead…

Is there an answer to this? Do musicians stand back and accept that no-one values what they do any more? Is there a compromise or is it game over?

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. not sure CP is the best example here. i think there are massive problems in the industry but she’d had a huge gap between LPs and maybe expectations were set on what “the Greatest” did. i think when bands who are touring and putting out LPs every 18mnths-2years go bankrupt, then that’ll be the real death knell. makes you wonder what woulda happened had the majors not shunned digital music and the internet back in the 90s eh?

  2. It’s game over, I’m afraid.

    If you want to be a musician, you absolutely have to WANT to be a musician…xxx

  3. “Maybe the Pirate Party could step in to help or just continue to give away people’s work for nothing and still without their permission.”

    This is a misunderstanding – the pirate party, or even the owners of the pirate bay do not host any illegal content. Nor do they provide access to peoples music free of charge. It is infact, the consumer who does this. A site or organisation hosts only a digital signpost pointing peoples computers to where the information can be acquired.

    The information itself is shared by uploaders. You and I. The fans. The consumer. Do not look to shift the blame to any organisation – musical piracy is a product of music fans themselves. In the UK alone, the top torrented artist managed to average just over one upload for every member of the population – around 70 million shares. This is not the actions of a small group of the morally bankrupt. Maybe what is needed is a change to the whole market model of the music industry.

    Remember, sites like the pirate bay have been used by some enterprising groups to actively advertise and share their music for free, some groups such as Radiohead have released albums for free directly to the fans.

    Rather than taking a cheap jab at an organisation who stand for your freedom of information and privacy, maybe take a jab at her accounts firm instead, they appear to be more responsible for this story than anybody else.

    • In some ways I agree, but in other ways, what Radiohead did was cool, but also Radiohead sold millions of records so they can get away with selling their records like they did. I’m looking at the small time artist who’s working their butts and are we that cheap where we can’t buy their record for like 5 bucks. Music is important in how we live and if we keep stealing it then the music will stop cause artist will have to do something else to make money.

    • To ‘The Crab October 31, 2012 at 23:23’ So basically, if a store clerk shows the open back door of the store to a thief and lets him in he is not an accomplice in crime when the thief steals shit. Wow, interesting view you have which is utterly retarded. Pirate bay and all other torrent sites are by law accomplices in theft and crime, in stealing. This torrent and youtube stealing has got to end.

  4. Nothing has changed for the Artist/Creator in the last 100 years.
    Whilst SACEM and PRS were founded on proper reward for creators/writers they have meandered from their true objectives ,as stated in their Articles of Association and are now ultimately controlled by a select , few, Publishers.Ordinary Members rights have been eroded by a failure to address serious concerns regarding the operational deficencies ,particularly their failure to harness new technology , to ultimately benefit a fair,proper and transparent distribution of “royalties”.It would be recommended that members be elected to the Executive board and not non executive board, this would allow true representation of the Membership.Professor Hargreaves recent report, Intellectual Property Office ,Minimum Standards for Collection Societies, clearly illustrates that things are in need of serious overhaul within these organisations.Fair reward for fair use , only then will we see the majority of members of these societies,not the minority, Benefit.

  5. It’s certainly NOT game over – ask Amanda Palmer and also…. The Rolling Stones. People were very quick to jump on The Stones for their ticket prices but in fact Mick Jagger is well worth listening to on the subject of musicians and monetizing. Any one who heard him speaking on 6Music several months back or in some recent interviews might be interested. He himself admits that The Stones rode the wave of a particularly lucrative time for musicians part luck, part subsequent design – a time that yes, is disapearing and may not be sustainable in it’s old forms.
    The era when the STones formed there was no fixed idea that you would make loads of money creating music, in act quite the opposite. They formed out of a love for the blues and playing it and discovered that they then had the knack to pen a memorable tune or six, not because they thought that 50 years later they would be millionaires on the back of it.
    Without knowing the details, it’s difficult to say specifically where Cat Power might have gone wrong – if indeed going bankrupt is gone wrong in her case, don’t know. However the financial model of recent decades of record labels subsidising tours and marketing might be disappearing. Musicians should make music/art for themselves, find an audience, connect directly with that audience and work out their own method of monetizing it. Social media, connecting directly with venues, DIY, find a mentor/backer. Crowd sourcing – all these things become important.
    One thing is sure, the music world is changing and sorry if this is contentious but becoming a musician has to get back to being a talent and a passion and not necessarily an immediate career path.
    Back to The Stones and those four shows. For those to happen the Stones have been putting the work in, rehearsing for 5 weeks in Paris , reassambling a tour machine, getting great production ready, hiring/re-hiring a lot of people to make it work. Getting the show from the USA to London – costs a fortune.
    Mick’s arguament is that whatever the initial ticket price, secondary selling would mean that those tickets would appear for high prices anyway on Ebay etc. Apart from Alimony Ron they certainly don’t appear to need the money – they are just pricing them and their music to market forces – it’s not as if the tickets have gone unsold.
    Whether you are Cat Power, The Rolling Stones or Amanda Palmer, the question is always going to be what does the artist think their music is worth and what is an audience/consumer willing to pay for it?

  6. This only means the old way is over. An old hippy once said to me ‘the best music is free’ meaning it came from the heart not the wallet. If you go on tour and entertain an audience you can make a living wage and you don’t have to work in a factory or shitty office. I have no sympathy for anyone who thinks that they should be able to live the highlife on the royalties of a hit for the rest of their lives. The promo/promoter etc hangers on will be out of a job and the same number will be employed in the new distribution methods.
    Have a look through MOJO or record collector and there are enormous numbers of new releases by new artists every month. So they don’t get a mansion on the hill but it looks pretty healthy to me

  7. I don’t think any musician is asking for a mansion on the hill and I don’t think every musician is asking for lots of money. I think they are just asking to be able to eat and maybe get somewhere to live, because the last time I looked you could not walk into a food shop and get all your food for free because ‘an old hippy once told me it should be for free maaan’. The attitudes of people are so pathetic on this matter. And as for the Pirate Pary they are just thieves. They take people’s art and give it away for nothing and then claim some kind of spurious fighting for you rights clause! They are funded by Ads on their site and claim they are taking on ‘the man’. In reality the old method was better, at least the majors paid the bands some money so they could survive. In the 21st century the big companies like the Pirate Party pretend to be rebels and expect bands to give away costly recordings for nothing, expect them to tour for free and expect them to not give their music away to Ads or films…an utterly stupid situation.

  8. GAME OVER!! In terms of the old traditional Music Industry system/model. Simply put….How can an Industry that no longer has a product to sell survive????? On what???? On revenue from where???? These are the facts and they can’t be refuted! Major record labels are practically bankrupt….FACT….it’s just that no one will say it, but I’m convinced that we’ll see the first big domino fall by 2016, and the rest will follow shortly thereafter…. FACT….Artist have product, old and new, that CAN’T be sold as consumers now see little or no value in a digital music file!!! ….FACT….most Bands/Artist can’t afford to tour or make steady income playing live because DJ’S own most of the Club stages regardless of genre (can anyone say Pay 2 Play?)….FACT….most musicians have no financial means of footing the cost to record, distribute, and market a record independently…..FACT….the enormous yet rarely discussed issue of ‘Content Overload’ is destroying the capabilities of a band’s power to successfully expose themselves worldwide…..even if spending thousands in marketing/promoting……light off a sparkler at the entry door of the Empire State building and few more than the doorman will see it…….same sparkler at the top, and millions will see it from miles away! In closing, even if your music is amazing….if it’s not being heard via radio or live, and it’s not being purchased, it’s game over in the traditional sense. But if $$$ is the reason you make the music, you should have never gotten into the business. If you were made to do this, you’ll find a way to stay the course because rest assured, this impending tsunami will weed out the weak from the strong, the genuine from the imposters…..httpss://


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