During a recent guitar clinic, Steel Panther guitarist Satchel talked about the current state of the music world, touching on the impact made by tech companies in the past decade or so. He said:
“One thing I think is bitchin’ about if you’re a guitar player in this day and age… When I was a kid, I had like a four-track and that was like all that you can get – a four-track cassette player.
“And if you wanted to jam, you had to like, make your own backing tracks. And it was a pain in the fucking ass. *points at a guy in the audience* This guy knows, he’s old as shit. He’s like, ‘Fuck man, I spent half of my childhood makin’ backin’ tracks. Had three backin’ tracks and never graduated from high school.’
“So now you can go on like YouTube and there’s 18 million backing tracks. And if you don’t like any, you just fast-forward to the next one. And you can sit there and practice lead guitar all fuckin’ day long and you’d never have to make backing tracks.
“So you can become this really great lead guitar player and then go out and not make any money at it. Because it’s very hard to make any money being a lead guitar player in this day and age. I mean, it’s cool to practice lead guitar, I fuckin’ love playing lead guitar, it’s a very cathartic, fun thing to do.
“Also, I remember being a kid and I went to G.I.T. [The Guitar Institute of Technology at Hollywood’s Musician’s Institute]. I was a teenager, I showed up and there was literally 800 guitar players. And I went, ‘Holy shit… *pauses for a couple of seconds* This is gonna suck.’ And they’re all really good.
“I realized that if you wanted to separate yourself from all the guys who play good lead guitar, you have to write shit that’s cool. Because most of the guys were in bands and most of the guys had bands that nobody wanted to see because they had shitty songs. That’s when I started to really get into writing, when I was a teenager – like, 16-17 years old. Fortunately, I got some gigging. I played with Halford for a little while and did some of that shit.
“But I was really into songwriting. And now, of course, if you are a songwriter, it’s fucked. I could rant about how Spotify has destroyed all the future earnings of all the musicians for the rest of all time. And it’s true.
“Tech companies came in and they… Before, it was the big record companies that were just fucking the musicians. *mimics sexual intercourse* ‘Oh, I’m fucking you! Now I’m taking all your royalties.’
“And the tech companies came in and they bent the record companies over and started fucking the record companies.’ *mimics sexual intercourse again* And they just took the record companies and threw them out of the way and then they started fucking the artists directly. And it’s great.
“So now the tech companies get to fuck the artists. And the fans get to fuck the artists too. It’s awesome. Like, everybody fucks the artists. The artists are just whores and they go out there and do shit like this for free. It’s awesome.
“But it’s cool because if you really dig music and you dig writing songs, you’re gonna keep on writing songs and keep on doing it anyway and just fuckin’ keep on rockin’.
“But I think that because there’s no real music… Like, you used to be able to sell a million records and buy a house. And now people get literally a billion streams on their song and they get enough to buy a fuckin’ Venti-size coffee. That’s all they get.
“I think it takes the incentive away from people to write songs a little bit. But the guys that really dig writing songs and really enjoy it are gonna do it anyway. Guys and girls, not to be sexist. Sorry! Pussy Melter…
“But yes, the songwriting is a craft. I wonder and I worry about the future of songwriting. Like, what’s gonna happen? Are people just gonna say, ‘Fuck this, I’m gonna go make an app and become a millionaire.’?
“But the songwriting is like my favorite thing to do. Once I realized I was never gonna be Paul Gilbert on the guitar, I was like, ‘Shit, I’m just gonna write as many good songs that I can.’
“And fortunately for me, like, even Steel Panther started as a cover band. And we found that we had this fucking amazing chemistry as a group of guys. And when you’re a musician and you practice, you can practice your balls off for a decade and become really, really good at your instrument and then have no vehicle to do anything with it.
“You can even become a great songwriter and nobody’s gonna listen to you. But, if you can find a group of dudes that has chemistry… That’s like the thing. And if you can find that, it’s really important to nurture it and keep that band.
“Tell me, how many bands do we all know, you can find this band and go ‘God, it’s my fuckin’ favorite band! Wait, they broke up? What?’ Your favorite band breaks up and… I mean, Ratt is on tour with like one original guy or something. I can’t go see that. I wanna see like, the band that I love. So it’s very hard to keep your band together because there’s a lot of shit that happens.
“Right now, our fuckin’ bass player is in sex rehab. So that’s shit that happens, but if you can find a group of guys that you enjoy playing with, that you have chemistry with…
“For us, that’s what it was. I was already a songwriter and I really wanted to find this band that was really like, ‘Oh man, we’re packing venues out just doing cover songs and doing them well.
“It was like, ‘Shit, if I could write some awesome songs for this band, it could be really good. That’s sort of how Steel Panther came about, started releasing records. And now it’s really fun because we go out and…
“My goal was always if I could just write the dirtiest fucking lyrics in the world and go out and watch like, a 19-year-old girl sings all those lyrics back to me – that to me is a definition of success. And it happens now, it’s really fuckin’ cool.
“Still don’t make money out of it, but it’s pretty cool.”