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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Comment of the Moment: Yet Another Re-Appraisal of Fork in the Road

Lots of comments on Neil Young's latest release Fork in the Road. Some love it. Some hate it.

The quick back story on our Comment of the Moment is that we've had some fairly serious disagreements with the commenter -- Pinto (or Flounder) -- over the past several months. Truth be told, we seemed to somehow mix him up with some snarky anonymous commenters which led to a little dust up.. But we moved on and agreed to disagree.

So here's Pinto (or Flounder)'s take on Yet Another Re-Appraisal of Fork in the Road:
It's funny, in retrospect, how, even though I'd been reading on the site for a long time, I initially took it for a place where critical analysis was a primary purpose and goal. Maybe because that's what Thrasher says it's for on the home page. And maybe because Thrasher's editorial stance, as evidenced by his really painstaking compilations of critical opinion, is pretty journalistically well-balanced. There's a strong pro-Neil tilt, to be sure, but it is, after all, a Neil Young web site, so what would you expect?

The comments section is a different story. It's here that the real split occurs between those who above all else revere the man and those whose primary focus is on the music. Thrasher's comments fall solidly in the first category, leading to opinions like the one that ends this column:

"But, there will always be those who can not get it, and will never get it, because they can't change their minds. Sad."

Restated this reads "It is sad that those who can't change their minds (about FITR) will never get it." What he's really saying is that Neil Young's every utterance is deserving of the utmost reverence because... well, because it's his web site and that's the way he wants it.

Those who come to the site with an honest critical approach that says maybe Neil isn't making the greatest music these days are greeted with torrents of abuse, from, at times, the host himself. (Though, to be fair, a reasonable amount of thoughtful discussion does occur amongst the rubble.)

I have no axes to grind here. Thrasher and I went back and forth a few times and agreed to a respectful (I hope, from his side) truce. I love and revere Neil's music; I am completely neutral on the question of the man himself and his personal qualities. I really don't care if he's a saint or a complete asshole. I have only ever been interested in discussing the arc of his career and possible reasons why he doesn't seem able to record songs that are as good as the ones he used to record. In the middle of a long heated exchange of opinions Thrasher explicitly agreed with this when he told me that I might have a long wait if I was expecting any more "classic" recordings from Neil.

So I continue to wonder what's happened to Neil's whatever you want to call it (and the corresponding issue of Neil's peers, Dylan, Springsteen, etc. whose career arcs seem to parallel Neil's in many ways.) To that end, the following thoughts on being a rock star in the 21st century:

Let's maybe look at Neil and his last few years from a different standpoint. As Deep Throat (the All the President's Men confidential source, not the porno movie) famously advised "Follow the money."
See, I've seen comments many times along the lines of "Well, Neil sure doesn't need the money." in justification of any number of arguments relating to his recordings, tours, charitable and public service participation, etc. My answer to that is, "How the hell do you know?" And, of course, neither do I, but if you start from the opposite perspective and ask "What if Neil does need the money?" you might end up with a different view.

Let's start the discussion with an an overview to illuminate the current state of what it might be like, economically, to be a rock star in the 21st century.

From Billboard:

This week's charts of the Top 200 show that:

The best selling album,(Rascal Flatts) sold 351,000 copies
The 10th best selling album, Lady Ga-Ga, sold 56,000
Neil Young's Fork in the Road debuted at number 19 (unknown total sales but reasonable to assume somewhat less than 30,000)


After 77 weeks, Carrie Underwood's second album has been certified for 2 million units sold
After 129 weeks Taylor Swift's first album has been certified for 3 million units sold.


In the top ten best selling albums there are zero with multi-platinum certifications.
In the 11-50th best selling albums there are four certified multi-platinum with a total of 8 million sold.
In the 51-100 best selling albums there are four multi-platinum representing 8 million sold.

In the entire top 100 there are only two albums (Taylor Swift and L'il Wayne) that have been certified for 3 million sold.

This is not an unusual week. You don't have to go back too many years to find the Top 100 studded with albums certified for 5 or 10 or 12 million units sold. And it is reasonable to assume that the other albums on those charts sold more units by far than albums in the same chart position sell today. And, while digital sales have made up some of the difference, those sales are primarily of single songs by relatively recent artists, not albums by artists like Neil Young.

So, regardless of whether or not Neil still makes bundles of bucks from sales of his back catalog, royalties, etc., the inescapable conclusion has to be that Neil's income from sales of his individual albums are way, way down from what they used to be. And human nature tells us that it is fairly difficult to make a radical change in one's standard of living once one has gotten used to a certain level of economic affluence and comfort.

If you accept the argument that Neil's income from sales is way down (and he pretty much confirms that himself with the "My sales have tanked" line), and you make a logical deduction that Neil is maybe not too interested in downsizing his lifestyle, you ask yourself what Neil might be thinking/doing to keep the bucks arriving in a satisfactory manner.
The first approach, and most clearly obvious, is to step up the pace of his touring. This has been extensively noted, not just with Neil, but with many artists of his generation. Dylan has been on tour for about a hundred years now. Neil has been touring far more extensively than at any time in his artistic career. Springsteen reforms the E-Street Band and sells Greatest Hits exclusively at Wal-Mart after his solo recordings and tours fail to produce revenue anywhere near historic levels (and, again from Billboard, his 5-Star reviewed, Super Bowl supported Working on a Dream album sits at number 88 after 11 weeks with half a million certified sales.)

For us, the fan, it is, in one sense, wonderful. We have far more opportunities to see the man in person than was ever previously the case. In another sense, though, the constant touring doesn't leave much time for the man to sit around quietly waiting for the muse to produce new inspiration. So, we get the "direct lyrics" approach of Living with War and Fork in the Road, with songs written and recorded in, seemingly, minutes. It's quite a change from the days where albums would be assembled over months and even years and when entire albums would be trashed because they weren't quite matching where Neil's head happened to be at the moment.

But a secondary effect of the current music economy is to make it increasingly unlikely that an artist wants to take the time off from touring to record a major album. If the very top selling albums from the newest, hottest artists are only going to sell a million units or two over a couple years, why invest the time and psychic energy necessary to write and record them?

From an economic standpoint it makes a lot more sense to record a whole bunch of albums and sell them to the dedicated fan base than to spend the same amount of time recording one album that will, primarily, still only sell to the same fan base.

And, this, I think, more than anything, accounts for the current pattern of Neil's career. The topical, tossed off (and inexpensively produced) album will sell a few tens of thousands before it disappears; the gradual release of archives material will do somewhat better (I don't think it's an accident that the first volume of the archives seems imminent only after the third archive recording, Canterbury, only lasted a week on the charts); and non-stop touring will fill in the revenue gaps.

And, finally, I do not in any way mean this to be critical of the artist. A man's gotta eat. Neil has absolutely nothing left to prove to anyone. I just think that looking at the economic picture might provide a different insight into how we got to where we are.

More reaction to Neil Young's Fork in the Road.


At 4/22/2009 12:10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thrasher, hats off to you for your commitment to free speech but to me this post is complete nonsense ... and it doesn't deserve a response but it makes me nuts and so I just can't resist ... I'm sorry but anyone who has followed Neil over the years knows he's not out touring because he needs the money ... It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that you can't blow away the house night after night if you're out for cash ... it comes only from raw passion and a love of playing ... Second, FITR is a proof (as if you need one after 40 years) that the muse is no slave to the greenback ... Neil makes stuff like LWW, Greendale, and FITR because it needs to be said, and nobody can say it better ... for the most part these albums alienate a good part of the fan base (healthy attrition in my view) and would be considered a BAD business decision by any record industry executive. Touring in 2000 person theaters is also a BAD business decision even when the best tickets are $250 when he could tour stadiums and make a lot MORE $$$. Waiting on the archives for 25 years to get the perfect format, technology, ect... is a BAD business decision ... he could put out all five volumes of the Archives ('60s-present) on a crappy CD technology and make a fortune. The more I think of it Pinto, the more I realize you're full of it ... the rational for your post makes no sense ... the arguments don't hold water ... those who are quick to criticize should be scrutinized the same way and under that microscope - in the context of Neil's 40+ year career and all that's out there about him and his motivations your rationale is completely bogus and I question how you can call yourself a longtime fan and honestly come to such an illogical conclusion ... sorry to be a bit harsh but you've rehashed (and re-packaged) the same negative comments over and over ... we've been waiting for your magnum opus on why 'I Am the Ocean' is so great but it never seems to come...

Makes me reflect on the meaning of 'Walk On' which applies perfectly here -

I hear some people
been talkin' me down,
Bring up my name,
pass it 'round.
They don't mention
happy times
They do their thing,
I'll do mine.


At 4/22/2009 12:26:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pinto/Flounder's argument is complete hogwash. There are so many mis-statements and absolutely bogus facts - I thought for a moment it was some kind of joke. Pour, pour stuff.

At 4/22/2009 12:27:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an addendum, I don't revere every thing Neil does, nor do I feel he is not deserving of criticism. My comments above do not come from my being a 'fanatic'. What irks me so deeply about Pinto's post and many of his posts is that he implies that he's out to discover why, as he puts it, that Neil career is not of a satisfying enough arc for him, at least with respect to his recorded material ... BUT, the underlying premise of Pinto's writings are deeply insulting in how they depict Neil and his motivations ... for example, implying that Neil's primary motivation is money so deeply contradicts what Neil is about ... its offensive and it attempts to reframe so much of what Neil does and has done in a negative light...

Whether people like or hate FITR, that's purely personal taste and everyone can have their opinion and we've all been around long enough to know that you can't fall in love with every single song when the songwriter is so prolific that he fires songs out of a fire hose ... but the comments that contradict his value system, and what he stands for, and what he cares about and boil it all down to money when its so not the case ... that needs to be rebuked and it has nothing to do with being a fanatic, in this case its just calling a bluff.


At 4/22/2009 12:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In another sense, though, the constant touring doesn't leave much time for the man to sit around quietly waiting for the muse to produce new inspiration. So, we get the "direct lyrics" approach of Living with War and Fork in the Road, with songs written and recorded in, seemingly, minutes. It's quite a change from the days where albums would be assembled over months and even years..."

Its no secret that Neil wrote half of EKTIN while sick with a fever ... he wrote at least half of Harvest while touring in '71 -- listen to the banter on Massey Hall ... he wrote Mr. Soul on the back of a napkin in less than 5 minutes ... he wrote 'Ohio' in one shot after seeing the Life Mag picture, CSNY recorded it within the first 48 hours and within the first couple takes ... Prarie Wind was written and recorded within a couple days between stints in the hospital for the aneurism ... true he's been known to tinker with the album MIX and PRODUCTION and/or he keeps songs out there for years before putting them on an album but that's something altogether different ... Neil's been writing this way practically his WHOLE career.

By the way, when he says, "my sales have tanked" he's mocking the critics ... I'm amazed by how many people take it seriously as if he cares ... go back to the Shakey quote on the archives .. he said he'd get it out there, the good, the bad, and the ugly and he doesn't care how many he sells ... his main goal is to get it out there ...


At 4/22/2009 12:55:00 AM, Anonymous dr dip said...

Your go Pinto!Retort please...

I love this site!

At 4/22/2009 07:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neil doesn't care if he sells and
CDs because he knows the $$$ is in
concert sales.Why is he touring endlessly ? FOR THE MONEY !!!
How much does Neil get per show ???

If you know the answer to that,then you know whats realy behind what Neils doing.

He doesnt care if he sold 1 copy of FITR. Sounds cool when he acts like he doesnt give a damn...... but if he was suddenly to only commnad $ 25 a ticket in concert, he;d be shitting in his pants and making good records ! If only 500 people were showing up at his concerts, would he be saying " I dont care if anyone comes " ?? doubtful.

At 4/22/2009 07:29:00 AM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

Every now and then something prompts me to go back and reread the great Cameron Crowe Rolling Stone interviews. They always seem to provide a perfect perspective for the newest flavor of the moment controversy, as in the case of this blog. People very rarely change, or change their stripes. Maybe they have their lapses, and Neil is human for sure, but I’d be shocked to find out it was ever about the money. It’s about what’s happening right now- in his head, in his life, in the world around him. Is that really so hard to understand? People don’t understand something, they don’t like something, they don’t know- they freak out and start flailing about trying to make sense of something they’re not privy to. I’m not privy to anything either, but I rest my mind in the experience of what 40 years of Neil Young have given me, and it’s all about the music and the integrity. Money motive just doesn’t wash with me.

I don’t have anything more to say about the recent music- too much has been said already- other than to say that Thrasher is probably on to something by likening GD/LWW/CDII/FITR to the “ditch trilogy”, and in that event hold onto your hat for what might be coming next. Revisionism notwithstanding, I was there when it was happening, and clearly remember the gnashing of teeth in the music world over the impending demise of Neil Young, and the dismissiveness of the people who didn’t understand, who felt the need to save Neil from himself. Beyond this, Bill Shapiro of “Cypress Avenue” said it all when he likened Neil to a troubadour, someone who is compelled to perform for people. You might find someone like this playing to a local bar like as not playing to an “ocean of shaking hands”. It’s not about the money. As one blogger pointed out somewhere, heart rending and angst ridden youth produced heart rending and angst ridden music, but now having moved beyond these things, different things are producing different music- things like the deterioration of society, the degradation of the environment, war in the middle east, and the need for energy alternatives. Laced through all of it is the need for the artist, the individual, to make sense of it all and have something to say. There’s need, and it ain’t pretty.

I’ll let the following Crowe excerpts say the rest:

“Every one of my records, to me, is like an ongoing autobiography. I can't write the same book very time. There are artists that can. They put out three or four albums every year and everything fucking sounds the same. That's great. Somebody's trying to communicate to a lot of people and give them the kind of music that they know they want to hear. That isn't my trip. My trip is to express what's on my mind.“

“I don't want to feel like people expect me to be a certain way. Nobody expected Time Fades Away and I'm not sorry I put it out. I didn't need the money, I didn't need the fame. You gotta keep changing. Shirts, old ladies, whatever. I'd rather keep changing and lose a lot of people along the way. If that's the price, I'll pay it. I don't give a shit if my audience is a hundred or a hundred million. It doesn't make any difference to me. I'm convinced that what sells and what I do are two completely different things. If they meet, it's coincidence. I just appreciate the freedom to put out an album like Tonight's the Night if I want to.”

“One afternoon during a tour several years ago, Young sat in his manager's hotel room. The phone kept ringing, tour crew members bustled in an out... and through it all, Young sat on the bed with his son Zeke, peacefully watching the news.

The broadcast was interrupted by an emergency bulletin. Pat Nixon had suffered a stroke, an announcer said over a filmed report of the sad and beaten Richard Nixon tearily moving through the hospital's revolving doors. After a time, Young got up and disappeared into his bus in the parking lot. Onstage several hours later, Young played the song he had written…“ (Campaigner)

"People don't understand sometimes," he says, looking down at a pencil he's toying with, "how I can come in and go out so fast, how I can be there and want to do something and then when it's over, for me it's over. To other people it's just a beginning. Sometimes that's hard for people to take. I can see how that would be. I just don't like to stay in one place very long. I move around, I keep doing different things . . ." He looks up. "Just different things."

It must be difficult, I wonder, to decide which impulses to follow.

"I only follow the ones I get," says Young. "And if it makes me laugh... I know it's a good one. Basically I've had a really good time, even though my songs have mostly expressed the down side. I like that there's a lot of humor in rock & roll now. A lot of people take me so seriously. They don't know what to do with me not taking myself so seriously anymore.“

"I've got a job to do," Young had said at his ranch… I've got to just tear down whatever has happened to me and build something new. You can only have it for so long before you don't have it anymore. You become an old-timer... which... I could be... I don't know.

"After all, it's just me and Frank Sinatra left on Reprise Records."

Does anybody doubt that Neil is laughing and having fun right now, or that something’s getting torn down in the process? Is it just too much to handle that the same man employing the same method that in the past produced something “musically pleasing”, is now producing music that is not “melodic” enough or “lyrically complex” enough? I think it’s time for everyone to take a chill pill, and give the guy a break. After all, it has to be pretty lonely sometimes now that Frank is gone.

Greg M

At 4/22/2009 08:51:00 AM, Anonymous dr dip said...

Greg, that is a good comment, backed up with Neil quotes along with your own slant.....Yep Neil in a nutshell...and his comments still hold true to this very day...this very 'muse..this very concert...this very Neil!

At 4/22/2009 09:23:00 AM, Anonymous SONY said...

Greg. That's excellent.
You not only took the words out of my mouth, but the thoughts out of my brain. Dan, you nailed it too.

The Who said Long Live Rock, I say Long Live NEIL YOUNG

At 4/22/2009 09:52:00 AM, Blogger Pinto (or Flounder) said...

OK - thanks Thrasher for the opportunity to have a rational discussion about this whole issue. I don't think it's easy being an aging rock star in the 21st century and I don't think it's easy being a fan of an aging rock star in the 21st century. Thus the angst.

I really do appreciate the comments - they deserve a response. To start here's a follow-up email I sent to Thrasher after I sent the thoughts contained in this post:

Most of the comments I've made over the last few weeks have been in the nature of trying to figure out for myself why Neil has taken this approach to his career. Mostly I was looking in the metaphysical realm, thinking about his muse and artistic inspiration. I forgot the most common truth, that the simplest explanation is almost always the best and looking at it from that aspect, it made a lot of things more clear if you looked at it in terms of, not only Neil, but his peers, and how they must be reacting to an economic picture where much of what they produce is immediately stolen and circulated world-wide without any income returning to the source.
Imagine you're a kid, basically, in the seventies and all of a sudden you have bushels of money flowing in. You buy a house and then another house and cars and you hire people and support hangers-on. You charter planes to get wherever you're going; you spend enormous amounts of time in the studio getting things just right. You have kids that grow up and you adopt causes to support and the money keeps flowing in, and out, and the stuff accumulates and the lifestyle expands and then, years later, the cash flow isn't quite as healthy, but the stuff is still there and needs support, and then the cash flow really starts to fade and stuff is still there and still needs support.
So what do you do? Get rid of stuff, or find different ways to increase the cash?
I realize that this is all speculation. What isn't speculation is :
-clearly sales of recorded music have drastically declined, and
-your peers are doing some of the same things you're doing (massive touring, catalog and live recordings and re-releases, etc.)

I'm very sensitive to the point that it may appear that all of this is an attempt, somehow, to tear Neil down. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just like to know why things happen and I think that realizing that maybe Neil is making these kinds of records because it's what he needs to do to keep being able to support projects like Farm-Aid and LinkVolt makes him at once more human and more admirable.

Long may he run.

And that summarizes how I feel about the state of Neil, circa 2009. I simply think you can't dismiss the radical change in recording and release pattern and non-stop touring that has occurred in the last few years without at least wondering if it has to do with cash flow more than art. (and to the comments about my having sung this song too many times, they're simply wrong. As I addressed earlier and as is clearly evident from prior posts, I started wondering about Neil's less than classic recording pattern in terms of his muse and/or artistic fatigue. The economic thoughts came recently and were expanded because they seem to fit the facts a lot better than any talk of fatigue.)

Consider a couple excerpts from a recent post by Shittyhorse, one of the more impassioned Neil fans on the site, during the last FITR discussion:

"...unlike Dylan, the Stones and EVERYONE ELSE hasn’t sold any song...ever...we all know that’s the easiest way an artist can make HUGE profit...but he doesn't...why? At 63 Neil would rather tour A LOT then sell a tune. I'm sure Cinnamon Girl could sell a lot of Jeans and Rockn'in the Freeworld would make a great Coke Ad. But he doesn’t."

Sorry, Shitty, but you're kind of making my point here. Neil pretty much boxed himself into a corner when he proudly sang "ain't singin for Pepsi" and won (disgracefully, for sure) his only major award ever for the video. After that there is no way that he can accept the kind of sponsorship deals other artists have used to boost revenue while maintaining his critical integrity and thus, as you say,he tours - a lot.

Finally, from the same Shittyhorse post:

"Guys, Fork in the Road is just another record"

This may be the single saddest comment yet made in this (re)evaluation of late-period Neil, because it's exactly the truth. FITR is just another record. I don't discount Neil's philosophical stance here, but there is a long, long road from "Bruce Berry was a working man" to "Johnny Magic has a way with metal."

I'm pretty sure that, a few weeks from now when Green Day drops "21st Century Breakdown", we're going to get to see once again what happens when a serious artist takes several years to compose a masterpiece. I don't think anyone is going to listen, regardless of whether they love or hate the band, and say it's "just another record."

At 4/22/2009 10:08:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because it's over for you
Don't mean it's over for me
It's a victory for the heart
Every time the music starts
So please don't kill the machine
Don't kill the machine
Don't kill the machine.

At 4/22/2009 10:08:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

pinto and dr.dip,
both you guys rock and I enjoy coming into tw and seeing that you have posted..
greg on the other hand is a different story.
neil has so much money but he must charge these high ticket prices,
shame on him and during these rough economic times..yikes

At 4/22/2009 11:34:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

4/22/2009 06:06:00 AM,

Perhaps its counter intuitive but the best artists do what they do rather than focus on what will sell ... there is a whole industry -- called pop music -- that caters to the perceived desires of the public ... and its hard not to argue that pop music's beauty is at best skin deep and most pop artist's careers last about 5 years at best ... the singer songwriter is altogether a different animal, Neil is a supreme example ... the money is a bonus, and a by-product, of being an exceptional artist ... you know the artists who are doing it for the money -- they are one one's doing oldies tours every 5 years and booking stadiums and selling tons of T-shirts and not putting out any new music ... someone making new music, movies, touring all over the world in smallish arenas is doing it because they love it and that's why they're so good ... trust me there are easier ways for Neil Young to make money than playing Massey Hall again ... Honestly I'm surprised anyone could argue otherwise with a straight face...

At 4/22/2009 12:34:00 PM, Blogger Pinto (or Flounder) said...

"trust me there are easier ways for Neil Young to make money than playing Massey Hall again ."

Like what?
Oh yeah, maybe FITR Raw.

"Touring in 2000 person theaters is also a BAD business decision even when the best tickets are $250 when he could tour stadiums and make a lot MORE $$$."

Dude, Neil sold 29,000 copies of FITR last week. If every one of them bought a ticket to a stadium show, you'd have... well, you'd have a hell of a lot of empty seats is what you'd have.

I'm fairly good-natured about this whole debate... live and let live after all, but that doesn't mean ignoring stupid comments. I never brought up the whole ticket price issue, but it wouldn't take too much digging through back threads to read a whole lot of comments excoriating Neil for his prices. Further to the issue, very clearly the original intent for the archives was to force buyers to re-purchase Fillmore and Massey Hall. Who else has ever done anything quite that greedy? Now it looks like you're going to be able to get the individual discs without having to shell out for stuff you've already bought, but you still can't get the whole package without double-dipping. So spare me the Neil doesn't give a shit about money crap.

At 4/22/2009 12:56:00 PM, Blogger Pinto (or Flounder) said...

Ok - going to do my own follow-up, because I got a little more annoyed in the last post than I originally intended. I just find mindless comments like the ones I cited to be irritating in the extreme.

Look - I never said, or implied, that Neil is ONLY in it for the money. I just think it makes things we've discussed easier to understand when you factor in the economics.

And, in fairness, Neil has not taken a few of the more obvious routes to riches (so far, at least) - no remastered classics (hello Bob and Mick and Bruce, even though they do sound a lot better)
-no covers albums (hello again Bruce and Johnny Cougar - I'd include Dylan but it's hardly fair to continue to flog him for Self Portrait after all these years, is it?)
-no reforming previous groups (hello Eagles & Fleetwood Mac) I don't count the last CSNY tour/live album. No one could possibly have assumed that after Living with War, cooked and raw, that there would be much dough in a live version.

And finally (you should be so lucky), what the hell is wrong with trying to make money? Let's say that Neil is touring a lot and putting out a bunch of stuff to make a lot of money? So what? If you don't like it, don't buy tickets or albums. But stop pretending that making a living is not a factor in how someone lives their life.

At 4/22/2009 01:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


green days sucks balls. let me repeat that....GREEN DAY SUCKS BALLS!!! you should not even mention them on this, a neil young tribute, site.

they can polish that turd of a new record all they want, but it's still a turd. just another shitty record from a bunch of spoiled "punks".


At 4/22/2009 02:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the topic of $$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

Why is it that others are charging $ 10-15 per disc for Blu-ray and Neil is charging like $ 30 per disc ?

He is not the only artist releasing music on Blu-ray, but if your read Thrasherswheat, you'd think Neil invented Blu-ray !

At 4/22/2009 03:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


"Dude, Neil sold 29,000 copies of FITR last week"

You missed the point completely and contradicted yourself in the process ... first, Neil just did an arena tour ('ie' MSG) with audiences of 15-25k people ... the tour before that 'ie' theatre tour the numbers were about 20% of that (2-5k people). When was the last time you saw the Stones, or Madonna, or Billy Joel, or whomever go on an extensive tour of small venues (maybe the early 1960s before they were famous). Do the math -- 5x more people per venue means 5x more revenues ... these are very big numbers ... lets walk through an example -- if he plays a 3,000 person venue and average ticket prices are $150 the revenue is $450k ... if he plays at a venue that has 15,000 people revenue per show goes to $2.25mm ... the difference is $1.8mm per show .. multiply it by a 25 stop tour and you get a difference of $45mm ... Neil during the theare tour was fond of saying that playing in such intimate places was his reward for years of playing in stadiums, fairgrounds, ect... (at a cost of $45mm in revenue I might add -- hard to say he's primarily driven by making money, no?)

When I wrote:
"trust me there are easier ways for Neil Young to make money than playing Massey Hall again ."

Your responded:
"Like what?
Oh yeah, maybe FITR Raw."

duh ... I'm talking about making an extra $1.8mm per show easily ... I disagree that he couldn't fill stadiums, all he needs is a couple warm up acts and a good marketing campaign and he'd probably gross $150mm but that's besides the point .... just compare the threatre tour to the recent arena tour.

"Dude, Neil sold 29,000 copies of FITR last week. If every one of them bought a ticket to a stadium show, you'd have... well, you'd have a hell of a lot of empty seats is what you'd have."

I'm sorry but the logic here is ridiculuous ... your logic assumes that since Neil sold only 29,000 copies of FITR, therefore that only 29,000 people would see him live in concert ... hard not to admit that's kinds dumb logic ... one has no connection to the other ... he just sold probably 350,000 tickets in his '08 fall tour ... according to you maybe that implies he should have sold 350,000copies of Fork ...

In terms of FITR sales the low number reinforces the fact that he isn't making albums for money ... what do you think the artist makes per album? $1? $2? Do the math ... $2 * 29,000 = 58,000 Something tells me Neil Young didn't make FITR to gross $58,000 ... just like he didn't play in theatres with a profit maximization mentality ...

"I'm fairly good-natured about this whole debate... live and let live after all, but that doesn't mean ignoring stupid comments."

At least we've found a point we can agree on.

"Further to the issue, very clearly the original intent for the archives was to force buyers to re-purchase Fillmore and Massey Hall. Who else has ever done anything quite that greedy? Now it looks like you're going to be able to get the individual discs without having to shell out for stuff you've already bought, but you still can't get the whole package without double-dipping. So spare me the Neil doesn't give a shit about money crap."

This statment contradicts itself ... Fans have complained about him NOT releasing archive stuff early so he released some classics ... then they complained about having to buy it twice (even though it will be re-issued on BD which is far superior) ... he's now doing a la carte to satisfy fans ... this is the opposite of greedy ... I guess you never got the memo, the archives have never been about money and he'll never break even on it no matter how much he charges ... do the math and you'll see.

Finally, your last post seems to back track a bit ... the issue here was never if Neil likes money or not, most people appreciate the benefits of money and I'm sure Neil does too. The issue is whether Neil's artistic decisions and priories -- 'ie' recorded music, touring, ect... is driven by the motivation to make money or by other factors -- 'ie' the muse, artistic expression, expressing what he's feeling and
thinking, speaking out about social issues, the love of playing, ect...

That record sales across the industry have declined is a fact ... you assertion that Neil's artistic decions are driven by greed are what's totally bogus here.

At 4/22/2009 05:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would appear that Neil has achieved part of what he desired - "there's a fork in the road ahead - I don't know which way I'm going turn"

Could be talking about his fan base.

Could be about listening to his introverted muse/camping out in studio for six months (Pinto); or getting out on the road, living in the real world, letting the world be his muse (Greg).

All in all, I think this is all too serious. It is just rock and roll - and cookie cutters do not apply.

Kepp on rockin' in the free (downloadable ) world !


At 4/23/2009 12:08:00 AM, Anonymous AK said...

took fitr on a road trip to kalispell to see if it could sway me to the true believer side.


4 good songs on the album. the rest is filler at best. during "cough up the bucks" my wife gave me a nasty look and said, "this song sucks!". if this is someone's idea of a good road trip album i'd hate to see what was on tap for the rest of the ride. i'd probably be tempted to jump out at high speed.

fitr is still much better than that PIECE OF CRAP titled "prairie wind". and before any of you start crying again--if you think broken arrow sucks i think you're just as dumb as you think i am for hating pw.

At 4/23/2009 09:40:00 AM, Blogger Pinto (or Flounder) said...

One more comment and then I'm more than satisfied that issues have been raised for consideration and it's time to move on (for me).

The whole point of this train of thought was to pose the idea, in counterpoint to many comments in which people flatly state, without any basis in fact, that "Neil doesn't need the money." and, by inference, that all his decisions in regard to his career are solely driven by artistic concerns, that Neil may actually, like the rest of us, be somewhat motivated to maximize his income.

One of the wonderful things about Internet conversation like this is its almost absolute meritocracy. I could be a fourteen year old kid or a fifty-seven year old businessman and it doesn't matter. My opinions rise or fall on the strength of their reasoning and expression. In this discussion I would note, however, that some depth of knowledge may be valuable. In other words, if you're someone who thinks a thousand dollars is a lot of money, you may not be equipped to deal with an economic reality in which a million dollars is needed to pay this month's bills.

None of us are deep enough into the economics of being a rock star to be able to actually determine whether, or to what degree, Neil's decisions are determined by the need for cash. I think the evidence is pretty clear that all the aging rock acts are changing their recording and touring patterns in reaction to an era in which album sales have drastically declined. It doesn't take a lot of thought to figure that this must be related to keeping up the standard of living to which they're accustomed. Does anyone really believe that, in his sixties, Neil has suddenly discovered a new love for incessant touring?

Whatever, it doesn't really matter other than, to go back to the beginning, to maybe explain why we're getting Prairie Wind instead of Comes a Time or Fork in the Road instead of Zuma.

I'll close my part of this discussion by referring once again to the interviews with both Neil and Springsteen in which they said that they wrote a whole bunch of songs just prior to recording Prairie Wind and Working on a Dream. I don't care if Neil has recorded other albums with songs he wrote recently. These instances, in both cases, were ones where artistic decisions were clearly driven by economic concerns. They needed to make an album and they needed songs and so they wrote a whole bunch of them and sat down and cranked out the album. And I think it shows. I think Prairie Wind was mediocre; ditto Chrome Dreams, Magic and Working on a Dream. I think ripping off guitar strings at the end of A Day in the Life is inspiration, the first time, and a day on the job the second through fiftieth times.

I'll be looking forward to reading and participating in the archive threads, but not from this perspective. I've said what I have to say. Take it or leave it, but thanks to Thrasher for his courtesy and patience and thanks to all who gave impassioned responses.


At 4/23/2009 09:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think pinto has a point about the changing dynamics of the music industry. I think, however, his assumption that Neil or Dylan tour more now because they need the money is absurd.

I think they do it because in addition to being performers not ready to retire (would we even speculate as to why a very wealthy businessman or professional continues to work in his 60s despite being rich?).

That's not to say they don't do it out of need. I'd submit that the need is not financial though. It's many interelated needs: the need to prove they can still do it; the need to garner attention and praise; the need for the feeling thay get from performing, etc.

Does Joe Paterno coach in his 80s because he needs the money? Does Warren Buffett need the money as he pushes 80?

No, they do what they do because it defines who they are.

Pinto's stats about the recording aspect of the industry having declined in sales and profitability actually disproves his point. Since all the younger acts are selling less recordings than did comparable acts of the previous generation they will likely never make the kind of money (adjusted for inflation) that was made in the past. But, they still make records and they still tour.

Would everyone today young and old probably prefer making more money as opposed to less money? Sure, but people driven to sing, play, write, record will still do it. It's who they are. Both the young and the old have to adapt to the changing financial realities. It's obviously way easier for people worth 10s of millions of dollars to do it than young people worth a small fraction of that.

I don't think Neil's new music reaches the heights of much of his old music but I don't see any plausible reason to suggest that's because he puts less effort now into writing and recording because it is less lucrative or because less people will hear it.

At this stage is he a "better" live performer than he is songwriter and record maker? I'd say yes, and, to be presumptuous, he probably would too. But, does that have anything to do with the relative profitability of the endeavors? I see no basis for that accusation.

--Not Above Sucpicion

At 4/23/2009 10:13:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

pinto, with no due respect you are full of shit. neil wrote the prairie wind songs so fast because he thought he might FUCKING DIE. you remember that whole aneurysm thing?

and, yes, i believe that neil is ultimately touring for the fun of it. and because he can. the dude is almost 64, he knows that he can't continue rocking forever, so he's enjoying it. i mean, look at his looks like shit, it's too long, he's rocking the skullet at this point, but he still lets it all hang out. because it's fun. because it's rock and roll. sure, he could get a haircut, slap on a hat, and look a million times better (especially on those unforgiving big screens) but he's having fun, rocking out and blowing people's minds. you got a problem with that, you fourteen year old kid?


At 4/23/2009 11:10:00 AM, Blogger Pinto (or Flounder) said...

NAG - well of course the flip side of the internet meritocracy is that you can be a complete asshole and remain anonymous.


At 4/23/2009 12:10:00 PM, Anonymous Mookie said...

Here's the real pattern in Neil's career - he simply puts out an entire album of an idea or experimental genre when one or two songs in that vein would suffice. Think back to albums such as "Trans", "Landing on Water", "Are You Passionate?" or even "Living With War", there are some great songs on them but their creativity is dulled by the inclusion of similar sounding songs that do not hold up as well. If you took Neil's albums from the '80s, for example, and made four or five great ones from the material, they would be instant classics. Just a thought............

At 4/23/2009 12:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neil definatley enjoy playing live..... no doubt..... but why all this touring ? Bottom line is $$$.

"would we even speculate as to why a very wealthy businessman or professional continues to work in his 60s despite being rich?"

Well,if neil is 63 years old,he doesnt know what the future holds.
Lets say he can perform live and make good $ until he's 68 years old( just as an example).Now lets say Neil lives to be 92 years old.What will he do for 24 years to make $ to maintain his comfortable lifestyle ? NOTHING ! He knows he neeeds to make it now and squirrell it away for the future.
Bottom line is he's touring alot for the $.Charging high ticket prices to make ALOT of $.

At 4/23/2009 03:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok, sure, i'm an asshole pinto. you heard it here second. kudos. but you're still full of shit if you think "prairie wind" was about the money.

sure, neil's into making money. but have any of you been on a stage looking out at thousands of your screaming, adoring fans? yeah, me either, but i bet it's fucking intoxicating. probably the kind of thing you could get used to.


At 4/23/2009 04:21:00 PM, Anonymous dr dip said...

Look, I've sat back and read with interest the arguments and debates on both sides of Neil's alledged wealth and financial requirements..
but as Neil seems quite private, it would all be just speculation.
Anyways who gives a stuff if Neil is a multi or on the bones of his arse..his an artist,his 64.and his still deliverin'...whether you open the parcel or not is purely personal.just remember one thing..

Whatever Neil takes on be it extensive current touring..lincvolt projects,computerised model trains, Bridge School,farm aid and probably a myriad of other little ventures that are probably not well publicised, he does so with a passion and a commitment that no one can deny..sure, he's gunna rub up his optimal and optional fan's the wrong way sometimes, and not everybody is going to be happy or impressed with his decisions.. but hey, he's still rockin..hasn't burnt out or faded away..Isn't that an inspiration within itself!!

OOPS, Thrasher's pullin' on the chain...seeya.

luv drip

At 4/23/2009 11:51:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

Its not really speculation if you look at Neil's long term record and read what's he's said and look at what he's done ... its not driven by money... the whole suggestion by pinto got (deservedly) torn to shreds.


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