Steve Lukather on the struggles young musicians face today: “If you don’t have a million followers on Instagram, you could write Sgt. Pepper’s and nobody’s gonna take it”
“It’s really hard for younger people to bust out wide open, like we were lucky enough to do when we were young,” the Toto guitarist says.
Image: Per Ole Hagen / Getty Images
Toto guitar legend Steve Lukather has commented on the music industry’s ever-changing landscape and the difficulties it presents to young artists looking to make it.
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In a new interview with Rock History Music, Lukather says that unlike the period in which he made his name – where a musician’s career could take off from just one song – artists nowadays have to build up a massive social media presence or risk not being seen nor heard.
“It’s really hard for younger people to bust out wide open, like we were lucky enough to do when we were young,” the guitarist says. “You could have a single, and your whole career could blossom from that.”
“The album sells, you get enough songs to go out and play for at least an hour, and build your career. Now, it’s like, if you don’t have one song and a million followers on Instagram, you could write Sgt. Pepper’s [and] nobody’s gonna take it.
“That’s backwards,” he adds. “It’s like, ‘Wait a second, what do you need a record company for if you can get that many people to listen to your stuff?’ It makes no sense. So, a different world.”
That said, Lukather admits that he, too, has “made friends with the new” – namely Spotify, which he says they have a “great deal” with.
“I like Spotify. People hate Spotify, because they have a bad deal,” says the musician. “It worked out to our advantage for once, in terms of business. So that’s been cool to everybody who’s ever been in the band.”
On the contrary, Cradle of Filth frontman Dani Filth has called out the streaming giant for its allegedly abysmal streaming payouts to artists.
Filth revealed that his band raked up between 25 and 26 million plays in 2022, only to receive a grand total of £20 – approximately $25 – in return, a figure he calls “less than an hourly work rate”.
“It’s very hard for bands at the moment,” Filth said. “But it doesn’t help when people just have this in-built idea that it’s not a privilege to get music, that music is something that should be given away free. I mean, I don’t walk into someone’s shop and just pick up – I don’t know – a pack of bananas and say, ‘Well, these grow on trees. They should be free. I’m walking out with these.’ I’d be arrested for shoplifting.”
“But it’s fine for people to download… Even before albums are out, you find fans, like, ‘Oh, I’ve got a link to it,’ and they put it up, and then instantly any sales you’re gonna get from people buying it for a surprise are out the window because they’ve already heard it and then they just move on to the next thing.”