This week, Slate finally found the answer to the music industry's money woes. How the heck can anybody make money as a musician these days? Simple! Be Dave Matthews!
Analysts and executives have long lamented that the music industry is dying. That is not quite true—it is the record business that is clearly done for, and in its place, touring stands as the top moneymaker for many industry participants. The Dave Matthews Band lives to tour, making them not just popular, but very, very profitable.
The article then charts the DMB's years of consistent touring and ridiculous revenues, only to peter out with a mention of the band's upcoming 2011 concert hiatus. That leaves author Annie Lowrey's original point hanging in the air—that this "humble" rock band bucks the modern music industry odds of making dough.
But by rolling out all those impressive numbers, Lowrey affirms a sad truth in modern music: that sustainable, small-fry touring concerns have never been more fleeting.
If the Dave Matthews Band formed in the mid-'00s instead of the early '90s, then rose up this year as a breakout sensation, how might they fare? A tough hypothetical, maybe, but Spin's recent piece on 2010's "Little Big Bands" gets close to the answer. Take the article's chunk about upstarts Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. When it makes the case that the band is a known entity, the resulting list is a drag:
Aw-shucks sing-along "Home" was used in an NFL commercial; the gospel-tinged "40 Day Dream" showed up on NBC's Chuck and HBO's Hung; the aptly named "Janglin'" soundtracked a Ford Fiesta ad.
No MTV. No radio chart positions. Not even a mention of a push by college or Internet radio stations. National music media has become so fractured, sometimes the best a modern rock band can do is shill for the right sponsor at the right time.