In a recent interview with The Heavy Hooks Show (transcribed via Killer Guitar Rigs), former Guns N' Roses guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal offered a scathing critique of the current state of the music industry, painting a bleak picture of musicians' struggles and the challenges they face in today's digital landscape.
Talking about how amateur musicians are able to record and release their own music at little to no cost, he offered: "It has the good and the bad. It's what we've always dreamed of. Anybody can release their music to the entire world for nothing.”
“I guess in the old days, you had to hire a lawyer for God knows how much money because the labels don't accept unsolicited material — so it's got to come from someone — and then send it to them, then all the bullshit with that. And then if you do get signed, yeah, they'll give you a lot of money." Thal continued.
Thal further criticized the practices of record labels, arguing that label deals often favor the labels at the expense of the artists. "A label deal is basically just a loan at a 900% interest rate," he stated, emphasizing the harsh financial terms that musicians often face when signing with labels. "And if you get on tour, maybe they'll give you tour support too at a 900% interest rate, basically."
"And you go to a good studio — and when I say a good studio, I don't mean laptops, I mean the old school place with 24-track two-inch tape machines and all that stuff. And you have to have a producer who is not going to be cheap, and the studio is not cheap. So all the money that the label says they're going to give you, they give it to you, but it all goes everywhere else. Everything is very expensive."
"When you have a distributor — that the label has — if you want any visibility, you had to pay $500 a month for just one record store to put it in their little spinning thing in the front. So imagine doing that for 10,000 stores in the US."
"Musicians nowadays amount to traveling T-shirt salesmen," Thal remarked. “It’s the only thing you can do to make any money — sell t-shirts”
Thal's comments echo a growing sentiment among many musicians, who express frustration with the rampant streaming of music, the difficulty of making a living from album sales, and the increasing reliance on merchandising and touring to generate income.