The “Bad Romance” of Musicians and Silicon Valley : Happy Valentines Day

You’ve heard this story before, or actually – you’ve seen the movie. This is like a John Hughes film the 80s. You know the ones about High School Romance. The plot lines from these movies remind us a lot of the bad romance between Silicon Valley and Musicians over the last decade or so.

You’ve heard this one before…Before the internet musicians had a largely dysfunctional but not entirely bad relationship with record labels, like the self obsessed jock. Labels would wine and dine artists, buy them gifts, lure them back to the fancy label HQ and fawn all over them. This love affair would usually continue through the making of the record and up and until the album was released. After that, the honeymoon period would be over and disagreements over money and creative issues would start to surface. Eventually, artists would become increasingly dissatisfied with their partner and the dirty laundry would become public. Labels would be accused of taking the artist for granted, not giving them enough attention and be unresponsive to their needs.

Then one day, the Silicon Valley drives up the school in a shiny new Ferrari convertible, music blasting, well dressed and charming. Silicon Valley says all the right things to artists, “labels are bad news, they don’t appreciate you.” Artists are wooed by the possibilities of their wind blowing in the air in the passenger seat of the Ferrari on their way to a better future. Silicon Valley tells the artists that not only do they not need the labels, but Silicon Valley will empower the artist to be truly independent. The artist, enamored with this world of possibility and opportunity joins hand in hand with Silicon Valley. And all seems well, for a while…

Over time the artist seems to notice that things are not really getting better. Silicon Valley becomes less available to the artist and less responsive than the label. Making maters worse, Silicon Valley insists the artists path to freedom is self reliance, and Silicon Valley refuses to support the artist unless the artist is willing to do more work from themselves.

The artist starts to reflect on the relationship with the label. The label paid for dinners, bought them gifts, and offered support. Silicon Valley made a lot of promises but never actually delivered. Silicon Valley had become more demanding, and refuses to communicate with the artist in any way other than barking orders and suggesting that the artist use their primary asset to make money on their own, unless they want to give up their new found freedom.

As the plot develops we see that Silicon Valley’s wealth has been earned by going from town to town and helping artists join the worlds oldest profession for “personal empowerment.” Of course, Silicon Valley connects the artists to customers and controls the flow of revenue to the artist. If the artist protests, Silicon Valley gets very angry and berates and bullies the artists with insults and threats of poverty.

The artist reflects on what Silicon Valley “freedom” really is and decides to speak up and speak out to help other artists break free of the exploitation they have experienced. As the Prom approaches the label and the artist make fleeting eye contact passing in the hallway. In the end the artist, having had the experience of being with both the label and Silicon Valley arrives at the prom empowered, with other artists, and hopeful for a better future.