If Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody (1975) was a one-of-a-kind canvas painting, how much do you think it would be worth today?
Compare the following artworks:
Some Famous Canvas Paintings
- Mona Lisa (1503-1506) by Leonardo da Vinci = Valued at around USD 800 million.
- Interchange (1955) by Willem de Kooning = Sold for USD 300 million.
- Eight Elvises (1963) by Andy Warhol = Sold for USD 100 million.
- Triptych (1976) by Francis Bacon = Sold for USD 86.2 million.
- Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta (1983) by Jean-Michel Basquiat = Sold for USD 23.6 million.
- Riot (1990) by Christopher Wool = Sold for USD 29.9 million.
- Untitled (2005) by Cy Twombly = Sold for USD 46.4 million.
- Keep It Spotless (2007) by Banksy = Sold for USD 1.8 million.
- Still Life With Wedding Portrait (2015) by Kerry James Marshall = Sold for USD 5.04 million.
Some Famous "Sound Paintings" a.k.a. Songs
- Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 (1804-1808) by Ludwig van Beethoven = Free to stream/download.
- Only You (1955) by The Platters = Free to stream/download.
- It's My Party (1963) by Lesley Gore = Free to stream/download.
- Hotel California (1976) by Eagles = Free to stream/download.
- Every Breath You Take (1983) by The Police = Free to stream/download.
- Groove Is In The Heart (1990) by Deee-Lite = Free to stream/download.
- Galvanize (2005) by The Chemical Brothers = Free to stream/download.
- Paper Planes (2007) by M.I.A. = Free to stream/download.
- A Little Happiness [小幸運] (2015) by Hebe Tien = Free to stream/download.
Why the huge difference in economic value between canvas paintings and sound paintings? Art is art, right?
Blame the rent-seeking model that the music industry is rooted in?
Artist vs Artiste
To make our sound paintings economically valuable in an Age of Unlimited Free Digital Content, do we music makers need to start thinking more like artists rather than artistes?
Maybe we should all do what Wu-Tang Clan did recently:
Once Upon A Time In Shaolin (2015) by Wu-Tang Clan = Sold for USD 2 million.
In a nutshell: Wu-Tang Clan got paid USD 2 million in one lump sum for their one-of-a-kind album. How long would they have had to wait to make USD 2 million, if they just depended on the financial trickle of streaming micro-royalties, dollar downloads, sync licensing, PRO payments, live touring profits, and blockchain micropayments?
Also consider this: how many Twitter followers, YouTube views, or Spotify plays did Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan have when his sculpture Him (2001) sold for USD 17.2 million in May 2016?
How is it that a wax sculpture made in 2001 can sell for USD 17.2 million in 2016 but anyone can stream/download classic sound paintings like Bob Dylan's The Times They Are A-Changin' (1964) for free?
One-of-a-kind Artwork vs Disposable Digital Entertainment
Song = One-of-a-kind artwork = Hard to make identical copies + Not free + Limited supply = Valuable?
Song = Disposable digital entertainment = Easy to make identical copies + Free + Unlimited supply = Not Valuable?
Again: if Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody was a one-of-a-kind canvas painting, how much do you think it would be worth today? Imagine if there was only one copy of Bohemian Rhapsody in the whole wide world and it was kept in the Louvre--would you pay €15 just to "see" it?
More importantly, in an era where consumers have gotten used to streaming/downloading/pirating unlimited quantities of digital content for free (music, movies, video games, etc.)--how do we make our individual sound paintings as economically valuable as the Mona Lisa? What can we learn from the fine art and rare collectibles market?
To close out, here's a fun exercise: how much do you think the following songs would be worth right now if they were one-of-a-kind canvas paintings?:
Gangnam Style (2012) - Psy
Tightrope (2010) - Janelle Monáe
Catching The Light (2008) - Antoine Dufour
Kingyo Hanabi [金魚花火] (2004) - Ai Otsuka
Romeo (2001) - Basement Jaxx (ft. Kele Le Roc)
Tunak Tunak Tun (1998) - Daler Mehndi
Firestarter (1996) - The Prodigy
Dear Mama (1995) - 2Pac
Under The Bridge (1991) - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Enjoy The Silence (1990) - Depeche Mode
Lambada (1989) - Kaoma
Sweet Child O’ Mine (1987) - Guns N’ Roses
Pang Yau [朋友] (1985) - Alan Tam
I Want To Know What Love Is (1984) - Foreigner
99 Luftballons (1983) - Nena
Rapper's Delight (1979) - The Sugarhill Gang
I Will Survive (1978) - Gloria Gaynor
YMCA (1978) - Village People
How Deep Is Your Love (1977) - Bee Gees
If (1971) - Bread
Chain Of Fools (1967) - Aretha Franklin
Purple Haze (1967) - The Jimmy Hendrix Experience
The Girl From Ipanema (1964) - Stan Getz & João Gilberto (ft. Astrud Gilberto)
Sukiyaki [上を向いて歩こう] (1961) - Kyu Sakamoto
Getaran Jiwa (1960) - P. Ramlee
La Bamba (1958) - Ritchie Valens
Rumble (1958) - Link Wray & His Ray Men
Volare (1958) - Domenico Modugno
When I Fall In Love (1957) - Nat King Cole
Rock Around The Clock (1954) - Bill Haley & His Comets
Mambo No. 5 (1950) - Pérez Prado
La Vie En Rose (1947) - Edith Piaf
Guantanamera (1941) - Joseíto Fernández
Over The Rainbow (1939) - Judy Garland
Please Be Kind (1938) - Mildred Bailey
Zaz Zuh Zaz (1933) - Cab Calloway
Pony Blues (1929) - Charley Patton
O Sole Mio (1916) - Enrico Caruso
Post artwork: by Anonymous.