An Open Letter To Peter Kafka (Or The Gangster Rappers Guide To The New Music Future)


I don’t go to church, (I try to stay out of God’s way) but my mind was still forced into a mind-numbing Hell when I happened to find an article by Peter Kafka that claims “Big Music”(his words, not mine) is far from dead.

Having written the obituary for Major Music Labels years ago (at least in my head) I thought I would skip my Monday morning meditation session to explain the world to Mr. Kafka.

You’re invited to look in.


Dear Mr. Kafka-

On Oct.12 someone mistaking posted at Silicone Valley Insider that the Radiohead ‘sale’ of their record digitally directly to fans, did not spell the end of the major labels and that there was still some type of life left in them. Since I know you could not be that stupid to think that ‘Big Music’ still had life in it I thought I would warn you about this malicious use of your ‘brand’ on the internet.

The writer of that article obviously failed to realize the truth about Big Music.

Big Music is not in the music business.

They are actually in the distribution, marketing (and loansharking) businesses.

All of those businesses have been utterly changed by the internet throwing their entire model into disarray.

Record companies made huge profits acting as a middleman between artists and consumers. They would put the music on a media cheaply (i.e., CDs,tapes, 8-tracks, vinyl) and sell it at an enormous markup giving the artist a minuscule cut of the proceedings.

Artists had no choice but to accept it because there were few other ways to get your music to a large audience. ‘Big Music’ dominated distribution centers (i.e. record stores and chains) paying for shelf space forcing almost all the independent distributors out of the game.

Big Music’s other forte was it’s marketing muscle, though BM charged the artists for the privilege, it had the marketing muscle to get your song on the radio in major markets, and to get your music video played on MTV and/or other video outlets throughout the world.

Unfortunately for Big Music, marketing isn’t about Big anymore. Kids don’t listen to the radio anymore, and even watch videos on television even less.

All of Big Music’s advantages have been taken away.

radiohead download

The Radiohead event is significant because it shows a major commercial artist ignoring the machine. It was the piece of straw that now has every significant artists questioning the value of their contracts. I don’t have to tell you about Trent Reznor and other artists and their decisions to destroy all ties to the majors.

A lot of people say that the reason these these artists can do this is because of the promotion and work done by the majors.

I’m sure you realize that, of course, is bullshit.

A fairly successful commercial artist reminded me yesterday how many rappers became millionaires before Big Music even heard of them by doing things on their own.

Drug dealers would invest 10k in a rapper to record and print up CDs. They would sell those CDs on the streets for 8 bucks and make sometimes up to 10 times their money. When the smarter ones realized that the music game was a bigger moneymaker than the drug game with no chance of going to jail they got into it full force.

Hence the rise of gangster rap.

Big Music didn’t get involved in the genre until after people like Ice Cube, Jay-Z and Master P had already generated millions of dollars.


The idea that Big Music can survive the fact that media distribution is virtually a commodity and that marketing is in an upheaval is a joke.

You don’t have to read Toffler or tarots to know that.

It’s much too little, too late, even if they were to put all there efforts into it now.

They were on life-support when they started licencing distribution to Steve Jobs and others. Radiohead is just a stab in an already rotting corpse.

Sorry this email went so long because I’m sure you already know that stuff.

I can even say more but like I said, you wouldn’t be stupid enough to think otherwise.

If you do find out who has stolen your identity have them read Umair to get abetter  understanding of what’s going on in media and someone like Noah Brier to understand the marketing stuff. Oh, and they can read my blog for pictures of hot chicks.

And I also suggest you try Lifelock so that identity theft doesn’t happen to you again.

No one loves you more,


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10 Comments on “An Open Letter To Peter Kafka (Or The Gangster Rappers Guide To The New Music Future)”

  1. David L Says:

    I rue the day I disagree with you! 🙂

  2. range Says:

    The days of the big record contracts are nearing to an end. What will the future hold for artists? More control over what happens to their products.

  3. Charlene Says:

    Interesting take. But you said nothing about publishing. I wonder why?

  4. I think the other significant thing that happens with this is a rooting-out of people on all sides who are in it for reasons other than the making of music, period.

    Fame is smaller, money is smaller, but more people get to have it–provided they’re willing to get out there and hoof it. Play in person. Speak in person.

    As someone who’s lived big(gish) and lived small(ish), I’m happy with the emerging paradigm. Not sure where I fit in yet, but at least I can see it happening!

  5. So now I understand the rise of 50 Cent. Thanks!

  6. chartreuse Says:

    David-I love writing open letters. It feels sooo Jerry Springerish.

    Range- Control scares some people. Really.

    Charlene-most (smart) artists own their own publishing.

    Communicatrix (or my favorite pants supplier next to the local Gap!), you make a very good point.

    ChristopherTracyFan- The movie where your name came from sucks! 🙂

  7. Robert Bruce Says:

    Loansharking. Love it.

    Post Request: A vast, historical look into how those rappers did it. Blow by blow (I could Goog it, I know, but I’m lazy and I’d miss out on your cursing).

  8. […] Clearly the music business has been on everyone’s mind lately. Between Radiohead going with pay-what-you-want and the slew of announcements that followed, it’s been a hot topic. So, in a move that should surprise no one at all, I’m going to throw my two cents in the ring (inspired in part by Chartreuse calling me out). […]

  9. chartreuse Says:

    All this time running from the music business and I still end up taking requests… 🙂
    Glad to hear from you Robert!

  10. Robert Bruce Says:

    At least I’m not yelling at you for the old hits 😉

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