Deep into his second decade of playing music for a living, frisky, political-minded East Coast punk rocker Ted Leo says he may have to retire from regular touring and recording next year because of drooping record sales.
The Lookout Records artist told
People don't think record sales matter to musicians. If you're selling less than 10,000 records, it probably doesn't matter. And if you're selling more than 100,000 records, it probably doesn't matter. But if you're selling somewhere in the middle, it can make a huge difference.
(Update, 9:33 a.m.:
Leo writes on his blog
that "there's no way we can continue forever as we have," but that he's sure he'll "never stop making music." Selling $10 CDs and touring relentlessly don't seem as feasible approaching 40 as they once did, Leo writes.)
So is this Leo waning in popularity, or the effect of an "everything is free on the Internet" mentality? It may be that Leo, like such superfamous artists
as the Backstreet Boys, is struggling from not being able to depend on record sales for solid income as they once could. Or it may be that fans just don't care to support Leo. This is a guy who sings stifling lines like "the means of production are now in the hands of the workers" on his latest album, after all.
Yet somehow I doubt the latter aspect explains it all. Leo's kind of a household name in contemporary punk and indie circles -- he gets press, he's played everywhere in the country (and puts on a fiery show), and he's well respected. Some of his records, especially 2001's The Tyranny of Distance
, manage a transcendent blend of punk anger and pop sensibility. This year's The Brutalist Bricks
wasn't his best, but it certainly was better than a lot of albums released so far in 2010. (See above video.) So here's hoping Leo figures out the money issues and keeps himself and his band the Pharmacists in the studio and on the road. [Buzz Grinder