Daily Tedium

Like A Rock

What the story of Bob Seger's decision to keep most of his albums off of music services teaches about the nature of stubbornness.

By Ernie Smith

Music executive Tim Quirk is best known for his band Too Much Joy, but his big problem these days is that there’s not enough joy—at least when it comes to the music of Bob Seger.

Last week, Quirk made a lengthy case in an NPR article as to why Seger, who is barely represented on any digital music platforms at all, should make his back catalog available on services like iTunes and Spotify. (Seger only joined the iTunes revolution in 2011, but in a very limited way.)

Part of his reasoning was that the lack of digital music was negatively affecting Seger’s visibility in the modern day—citing the example of radio play on major stations nationally. (Seger was once nearly as popular as Led Zeppelin; now he’s less popular than Queen.)

The problem is particularly pronounced because most of Seger’s albums are out of print in physical form.

Quirk pinpoints the problem to his longtime manager, Punch Andrews, who doesn’t believe digital platforms are in the artist’s interest. Andrews’ take on the issue is as such:

For years, we have been asked to bring the catalog to streaming. We have not pulled the trigger there because the rates are low; so low, in fact, that the label would not break it down and show the artist how little he would make. Bob has always been an album artist and that format has served him very well. Streaming and downloads have always favored singles artists.

In the piece, Quirk notes that Andrews was seen as holding back Seger’s growth early in his career, but for the most part, Andrews' advice has worked out for the artist, who scored a long string of hit albums in the 1970s and 1980s. So Seger, as a result, trusts his manager to be right.

Clearly, holdouts like Seger have been somewhat common in the digital era, though most haven’t held out as long as the Detroit rocker has. It makes me wonder about the nature of stubbornness when reading about situations like this one.

A quote from the late novelist and essayist James Baldwin might be more telling than Punch’s look-at-the-money answer: “Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety.”

When a person is successful for a long period of time, the tendency is to stick with what has worked in the past to shape decision-making in the future. But the ground of stability is never permanent—it changes, it falls apart, it disintegrates over time.

At some point, running against the wind just gets tiring. “Sometimes, letting go of an overly staunch position can result in greater value than you originally expected,” notes Harvard Business Review author Muriel Maignan Wilkins.

But that means turning the page.

(Photo by Rocketnewton/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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