Ron Thal sees the future of music

Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal delves into technology, consumer demands and distribution and sees the way forward for musicians in an altered future

Reported by Eric MacKinnon
Published: April 12, 2011. © Rock AAA.

Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal reckons the balance of power has swung from record labels to artists and there has never been a better time to be a musician and he believes the secret to success lies in offering fans something different.

Thal admits he thinks carefully about the best way to release his own music but he says CD sales have plummeted as technology has advanced.

In another RockAAA exclusive Bumblefoot explained:

“I’ve been preaching that gospel since the 90s – labels can’t survive without bands, but bands can survive without labels, so why would you want to sell your soul to the entity that needs you more than you need it?

“Especially now when anyone can have worldwide distribution. You can do it all as simple as with a account and a Facebook page. The internet has levelled the playing field, we’ve all been given the same size gun. The only that separates us now is how well you shoot.

“The album used to be the nucleus, now the parts have shifted – the music is still important but the personal connection is more central.

“CD sales have declined due to technology mostly, there’s more convenient ways to get your music and faster bandwidth is allowing for better quality. Although nothing beats having something real in your hands, something with printed art, something that opens, something like Led Zep III with the spinning wheel, Sticky Fingers with the zipper, Magical Mystery Tour with the booklet. Now those things come separate from the music, as merch, for those who want them. We have more options today, that’s why CD sales have declined.”

The guitarist says the secret to halting the decline of record sales is just to make better albums.

He continued:

“Make better albums or stop making albums. Maybe just release songs while touring – release a new song before each leg of a tour and play it during that leg, and every leg will be fresh, with a constant simmer of new music.

“Just thinking out loud . . . some day I’ll be off the stage, bones too brittle and hair too white – at that point I’ll do my best to help other bands do their thing, and put creative juices towards finding the best ways to get their music to their fans – give the people what they want.

“When I was making plans to release a song-a-month throughout 2011 I asked, ‘What do you want and how do you want it?’

“We shared a lot of ideas, I listened. For each song, you have a choice of hi-res formats, plus an instrumental version. For guitar players I made a Player Pack for each song that has a full transcription of the lead guitar parts – notation, TAB, picking, fingers, a ‘backing track’ mix to play along to and a ‘boosted lead guitar’ mix to use as an audio guide with the transcription.

“I made a Producer Pack that has all the mix stems of the song – 24-bit/48k Stereo WAVs of each part of the song, one of the drums, one of the bass, the rhythm guitar, lead guitar, vocals, backing vocals, whatever’s in the song.

“You load the stems into your multi-track software and play with the mix, make your own, hear each track by itself and hear the nuances of each part that was played and sung… options.

“Bands already have lots of choices – we’ve already got vinyl, CDs, DVDs, audio files, video files, streaming – and listeners have more choices – physical embodiment of the music, downloaded files of music and art and video, streaming services.

“My prediction for what’s next? Independent music-in-the-cloud services, where fans can subscribe and get all your music, art, and whatever else, anywhere, any time, without having to download and own a file. Unless you want to own a file. Or a CD. Options.”

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