William McCarthy, formerly the lead singer of Augustines, took to Facebook on Saturday to lay out his view on the music industry, and why its disinterest and mismanagement of artists had led to the three-piece, as well as other bands, calling things a day.
Writing in reaction to a debate on the Augustines Facebook Fan Page, McCarthy talked about his plans for the future now that Augustines have wrapped up their final tour, and spent time to finally put into words what fans had speculated was the case:
People have suggested bad management, Spotify, illegal downloading and streaming as reasons we folded and let me tell you this is not far from the truth. At all.
He went on to describe how, after putting together a solo tour on a shoestring, he was left having netted only $1400 once all costs were accounted for — less than 6% of the amount he grossed during the tour, and far below the amount that needs to be made in order for an artist to be able to sustain their career.
McCarthy also called out the people selling fake, “poorly designed Augustines merch” without permission from the band, as well as the artist who designed the poster for his solo tour, who has “been selling the poster all year online without notifying [McCarthy] or [getting his] permission.”
He ends the piece with a clarion call: to find a fix for the music industry and for artistic endeavours in general.
Anyone that wants to spout off their knee-jerk reaction and hot air towards “well nobody said it’d be easy” or “getting smarter” please take a deep breath first. I have a big heart, I am no dummy but this landscape is nearly impossible. And the first thing that’s gotta change is the public perception that artists are not smart or that the industry is toxic. These cases do exist but what I’m trying to explain to you my friends, is that the world has just gotten more difficult for artists and it’s not going to stop if we don’t figure something out.
It’s been clear for a long time that the music industry is a particularly hard place for artists right now, and that there needs to be a new way found for the funding of music. Some artists — notably Amanda Palmer and Pomplamoose have turned to crowdfunding site Patreon as a means of gathering funding directly from their fans and supporters.
Perhaps in time, this will become the norm for musicians — no longer relying on the monolithic record labels and their trickle-down economics, instead connecting directly with their fans and using those fans’ willingness to fund art as a means to drive forward the creation of new records.
In part, Are We Alive? exists exactly because of bands like Augustines: hugely successful in terms of fanbase, critical acclaim and appreciation of the listening masses, but unable to survive due to the harsh realities of an industry entirely geared towards generating wealth for music execs based on a decades-old business model.
We can only hope that the solution comes soon, and that artists who would otherwise have had to give up can find a way to survive.