• The Baker Says
  • Posts
  • I realized that no-one in the Music Business knows what they're doing: Part 2

I realized that no-one in the Music Business knows what they're doing: Part 2

Almost five years ago, I shook the music industry with an interview about how messed up the music business is. Since then, things have only gotten worse for artists. Here’s why…

Before you go on, I wanted to let you know that this article is quite long.

It's long because what I've written here for you is very significant.

It's especially significant if you care deeply about music and the amazing artists who create it.

As you read ahead, you'll learn about:

  • The big machine and how it doesn't care about artists.

  • How the so-called brand new music industry is making things much worse, not better.

  • How I've personally set myself a mission that I truly believe will make the world a better place for all of us.

It's been a little over fourteen years since I entered the music industry.

My goal was to find a way to connect with people across the globe towards making a positive impact on their lives and it was my belief that I could do this through the medium of music.

The logic behind my idea was simple: music is an integral part of humanity, so much so that it ranks right up there with our other essential requirements such as food, water and love—it's something we revere deeply.

No matter the age or background, music resonates in people universally.

Making a positive wave in the music industry, would mean making a positive wave in the world itself.

As I write this, my first post on this platform, my conviction in this concept is stronger than it's ever been.

Although the path to success won't be easy, I've devoted years of experience in this domain to both comprehend how it functions and construct a more effective way.

I demonstrated this more effective way when I took UK alt rock band The Hunna, from being unknown with zero fans, to becoming one of the fastest growing artists when they played to 10,000 people in London, a little over two years from starting.

The opportunity within the music industry today is one that looks very different, than many believed to be the case fourteen years ago.

The music streaming revolution has led to unprecedented growth - previously there had been year-on-year decline since the emergence of the internet in the late 90s and prevalence of platforms like Napster and the Pirate Bay in the early 2000s.

This incredible growth, coupled with the projections by most all financial forecasts such as Goldman Sachs (projecting the music business will more than double in size by 2030) that the golden era of recorded music is firmly ahead of us, has lead me to a belief that my now clearly defined mission, is not only possible, but the demand for it is immense.

I say this, not from a place of just believing it so, but due to the fact that I have personally undertaken over five thousand 1-1 one video calls with artists and people who work with artists over the past three to four years.

I did this crazy number of video calls as a way to create connections at scale - with the people who really matter in this game - and to assess the overall feeling that artists have of the existing music industry directly, how they'd receive the big vision I have and as a way to truly understand their needs.

My intention is to surface level highlight just how screwed up I think the music industry is and over the coming days and weeks, I'll be doing deeper dives into some of the grievances I have.

For those of you who do not know me and for those of you who do, I've been here before.

In March 2018, I did a now infamous interview with the biggest B2B publication in the industry, Music Business Worldwide - aptly titled, as this same article is: 'I realized that nobody in the music business knows what they are doing!'

This headline was so compelling it caused the article to go viral, hence, my decision to reuse it again now as a way to tell people who read it, that I'm well and truly ready to kick on and to those of you who are just discovering, to feel compelled that you need to read on and share.

This interview caused such a stir, that it triggered a chain of events that ultimately led to the 'powers that be', attempt to take me out and in the process destroy the 'better way' that threatens their very existence.

If you don't know much about the music business, you might still have heard some horror stories spoken by artists such as Prince and his fight with Warner Bros. Records for a fairer and more equitable deal, or how TLC famously sold fourteen million albums in one year making their label 100s of $millions in the process and TLC themselves: absolutely nothing.

These are the brave artists who dared to speak out - there are many more who never have and likely never will, because the unfortunate truth is that there is no viable alternative.

The current situation is this: if you want to make a global impact as an artist, you have no choice but to plug-in to the machine and hope you survive.

When I first entered the music industry, little did I know that it was full of unethical players: record labels, artist managers, lawyers, agents, business managers and promoters (and others!).

Unethical because the creators themselves, the artists, are the lowest on the chain of priority when it comes to being remunerated.

Further, it was an industry that was fragmented, disjointed and utter chaos by design.

By design, as a mechanism for power, control and exploitation at every level imaginable.

The focus was on vanity metrics, with little regard for people themselves.

There was a sole desire for fast-paced success, with the word 'patience' not one you'd associate with the music business.

As I studied the deep dark depths of the machine, I realized that it doesn't want to change and as such it will do everything possible to avoid it.

In the days of year-on-year recorded music business decline, the machine refused to change the fundamentals of the model, and instead the infamous 360 deal was created.

In principle, being 360 makes a lot of sense—executed properly it would result in massive efficiency gains, a fragmented music business becoming a joined up one and in turn bringing about incremental gains that benefits everyone.

Unfortunately, this is not what 360 meant to the machine - it was simply: we're making less, so we're going to make up for that by taking more from the artist, without adding any additional value whatsoever.

The most alarming thing to me was that as time went by and I met more and more people, it seemed like no-one in the industry actually knew what they were doing.

It felt more like everyone was just following someone else's lead and worse, they were petrified of making a mistake or putting forward ideas that could make a big and positive difference.

These are of course generalized comments, but, even when it was clear that people were brilliant at what they did, they were stifled by the system itself.

The culture was one of fear and one where the safest game was to do nothing, say nothing and quietly attach to the wins and do everything possible to disassociate with the losses.

Losses where the blame game will inevitably see heads rolling.

Oh yes... losses.

The big machine doesn't care about losses.

For the big machine, it really doesn't matter, because the music business is set up to ensure that wins are so big, they make up for all of the losses.

The artists who win, pay for all of those who do not - only the artist who wins, very rarely wins big.

As with many of the things I'm talking about here, one paragraph can be expanded to become an entire book, but you get the idea.

What I discovered was horrifying and quite frankly I wanted nothing to do with it.

This is a brief summary of fourteen years of being in and around the music business, building independently, being in bed with indies directly and with the major labels.

I’ve been using the word ‘was’ lots here, but the reality is that it is the same now as it was back then.

On this journey, as I said previously, I developed a better way and proved it to work beyond any doubt. Even so - the 'powers that be' tried hard to take me out.

It didn't work.

Instead, I wrote a book titled 'Zero to Record Breaker: How a Baker Built the Fastest Growing Alternative Rock Band in UK History', which to date has sold over thirty thousand copies globally and has been read by hundreds of thousands of people.

I refrained from mentioning until now, in my previous life, I was a baker, and as you might have noticed I've called this platform 'The Baker Says'.

The Baker is the nickname given to me from Lyor Cohen, one of the most successful modern day music business executives and currently the global head of YouTube Music.

Here's what he said in my Music Business Worldwide interview:

"The Baker, as I call Carl, is someone who is not ‘stuck on stupid’ by legacy practices, but instead thinks in ways that work today.

Direct-to-consumer is his passion; The Baker is undeterred in helping The Hunna find and cultivate their voice and fans.” - Lyor Cohen - Global Head of Music, Google & YouTube

I've included this quote from Lyor, purely to highlight that there was real momentum behind The Hunna and the work I was doing in my music company High Time, only for it to all come crashing down just a few months after my infamous interview.

I have no doubt whatsoever that had we continued our work together, the band would have been playing in arenas on a global scale, instead 10,000 people in London has turned to 1,000, and 12,000+ week 1 sales of new albums in the UK has turned into just 100s.

At every level, the numbers are now drastically down.

A situation sold to the band as the grass being greener on the other side, led to them making a decision that would ultimately cause the band more damage than it would for me.

The powers that be did all they could to discredit me, even commissioning an unknown blogger to write untruths and allegations that were so false, that those involved redacted their names to avoid being sued.

I must add, it provides me with no pleasure to see the band's demise.

I worked with them for two years in development and tirelessly fought to break them first in the UK, and beyond for three years straight, investing my own money and taking on personal debt in the process.

So here we are today, with the music business still fundamentally broken and even more short sighted than ever.

The big machine is making more money than ever due to the fact that they own the history of music.

Why should they go all out to invest in amazing new talent and create cultural diversity by backing artists that are 'risky', when they can just promote everything they already own?

It's a subject for another article, but this is short-sighted on so many levels, but one big one is that the history of music has an expiration date.

That's to say that many of the copyrights that the big machine owns are coming to a place where they'll expire, at which point it's a free for all and the money printing they're currently enjoying will slow down.

They do have a get out of jail card, in that, for the most part, any new music company that moves and shows reasonable growth, finds it hard to resist the big check being waved in front of them - as was the case recently when SONY acquired AWAL (originally Artists Without A Label and very much anti the big machine).

In most instances, it's not even a question of being able to say ‘no’, because the majority of the time these new music companies already sold their souls to the devil in the form of accepting Venture Capital (VC) funding (e.g. AWAL!).

Such a move means the inevitable year 5, 6 or 7 exit is coming and the only benefactor who can afford such a transaction is the big machine.

Before I move on to talk more about my mission and even more importantly how I plan to make it happen, let me finish up this section with a brief mention of another villain of the modern music business: TikTok.

I discovered Substack and indeed I was inspired to create my own, through the wonderful writing of and the brilliant article below:

I digress. TikTok, the place where a viral jingle can get an artist signed quickly, despite there being no evidence that the artist themselves have any real chance of long term success.

TikTok, the place where even artists who have a huge following, have sold millions of albums and even generated a billion or more streams, are being forced to have a 'viral moment' in order to have their music released by the machine - case in point, Halsey among many others.

The big machine has decided to ignore the fact that these artists already have big audiences.

Ignore that they are proven in the market place.

Ignore that they already have fans who support the art they create with their hard earned money.

The big machine ignores these factors in favor of taking a vote from the peanut gallery — people who invariably suffer with shiny object syndrome in a digital form —as the primary method of decision-making on whether the art an artist is creating is worthy of release.

This is short-term thinking at an extreme level and it's a truly sad state of affairs, that despite the fact that the big machine is making more money than ever before, the music business has got to a place where it really no longer cares about artist development.

As you might figure, I'm a big believer that in every seemingly terrible situation, there is always a silver lining.

Such silver linings bring about huge opportunities and now I'm going to talk about why I truly believe the conditions are perfectly set for me to be able to fulfill the original objective I had fourteen years ago.

Before I do that, let me talk about one final thing.

Subscribe to keep reading

This content is free, but you must be subscribed to The Baker Says to continue reading.

Already a subscriber?Sign In.Not now


or to participate.