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David Bowie on how the music industry rips off artists


David Bowie is one of the most iconic artists in music history, and not from lack of effort. Throughout his life, Bowie put in hours of musical genius and songwriting power, producing classics like ‘Heroes’, ‘Space Oddity’, ‘Modern Love’, ‘Changes’ and countless others. 

Whether you’re directly a David Bowie fan or a peripheral listener, there’s no doubt about the impact he had on the music industry and the world at large. His career took off in the 1970s, but Bowie continued to produce music until his death in 2016, which is when many maintain that things simply went to shit.

However, Bowie’s life was not without hardship, even throughout all of his success. Unfortunately, he sometimes felt exploited by the industry, as many artists can feel when they burn out or fall a little out of love with their work.

In an interview with Playboy, Bowie once stated that he felt like he’d been “not taken advantage of. Exploited”. When asked to explain further, he went on to say: “Oh, Lord, no–we made nothing. All I’ve made is an impact and a change, which, of course, is worth a lot. I keep telling myself that. The best thing to say about it all is that it’s archetypal rock ‘n’ roll business. Read the reports of the Beatles, the Stones and a lot of other big entertainers and take some kind of amalgamation of all that; it’s a pretty accurate picture of my business. John Lennon has been through it all. John told me, ‘Stick with it. Survive. You’ll really go through the grind and they’ll rip you off right and left. The key is to come out the other side.’ I said something cocky at the time like, ‘I’ve got a great manager. Everything is great. I’m a Seventies artist.’ The last time I spoke to John, I told him he was right. I’d been ripped off blind.”

The camaraderie between artists in this feeling isn’t uncommon. In fact, there are plenty of modern parallels that one can draw to this sentiment. From the way that Megan Fox often speaks of being objectified as a part of the entertainment industry to Taylor Swift’s battle for control over her own music, the music industry (as well as the overall entertainment industry) is, at the end of the day, driven by a flawed society and therefore reflects its issues.

Even though David Bowie might not have always loved the entertainment industry, it’s clear that he loved the music he made as he stuck with it decade after decade. Just like John Lennon once told him, he certainly came out on the other side, even if it took a little bit more hardship.

David Bowie is still a music legend, and his influence will continue to live on for generations. If there’s one more thing he did get right in that quote, it’s that he has made impacts and changes all throughout his career.

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