Rodney Holder of Australia's Music Business Facts recently conducted an interview with legendary Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen. You can now listen to the chat using the audio player below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On his decision to discontinue selling physical CDs:
Yngwie: "I'll never forget when I stopped making CDs. The distribution company that we used was a big one, too; they distributed for everybody, [including] big labels. I had my own label, Rising Force Records, and made records, but had them distributed to the chains, to the retailers, but the retailers are gone — there's no physical sales anymore — so I'm not gonna make the CDs and have 'em put into trucks to go nowhere. That was just a choice that I made. And you should have seen… It was, like, they were running around with a… They were, like, on their knees, begging: 'Please, make a CD! Please.' Well, sorry. If there was a market, that's what I would do. But there isn't… In the United States, there is no record chains — there's no Tower Records, no Virgin Megastores, there's no Spec's, there's no Coconuts… Every record store and record chain has folded; they don't exist. They do not exist. And the only two outlets that would still sell CDs were Best Buy and Wal-Mart. They now have stopped selling it. There's nowhere you can go into a store and buy a CD in America. That's how it is."
On some artists' struggle with the fact that they are making money off their music, believing that it somehow diminishes its value:
Yngwie: "It's a very strange way of looking at it. Because, I mean, I don't know how [those artists] make records. But, to me, to make a record costs a lot of money — a lot of money. And a lot of blood and sweat and tears from me as well. And I have a family to feed. So I don't look at it like that. I look at it like, if I create something and somebody wants it, it's not free. Why would it be free? Free, what's that? Free. It's like going to a gas station and saying, 'Give me free gas for the car.' It's not even like that. It's different. I don't know what to compare it to. I mean, anybody that has this as their main… as their life, basically, and not working somewhere else and then making music for fun, would understand where I'm coming from. Because just the expenses to make an album is a lot of money — a lot of money. And that's just the monetary thing. And then you have all the effort and blood, sweat and tears, and soul — you're pouring your soul into this thing. [For any artists to struggle with the idea of making money off their art] is a little hypocritical, I think. Because the thing is that… If they go… Let's say they wanna go to dinner, or whatever. Are they gonna pay [for] it with their music?"
On whether there is still a place for record labels to help young bands market their music:
Yngwie: "I don't think in the traditional sense; there doesn't seem to be much use for it. But I think that now, with the YouTube thing and all that stuff, it's all a curse and a blessing [at the same time]. The blessing part of it is the fact that it's kind of a free scene, where it's not so rigid and formulated as it used to be. But the bad part is that, compared to the past when there would be, like, forty bands in town and two bands made it, and those two bands sold shitloads of records, and that, in turn, made the labels search for more bands, which, in turn, gave the incentive to kids to do what they wanna do, 'cause they wanna come to the forefront also. There was always a carrot in front of the donkey, so to speak, there all the time, and that's totally gone. Because, at the end of the day, 'Okay, I've got a video on YouTube.' So what? So do four billion other people. I remember when I was a kid, if you had your name on a piece of vinyl, man, you were, like, in the halls of Valhalla; all of sudden, you were hanging out with Odin and being at the table of the gods. You were the real deal; you weren't some guy struggling in a garage somewhere. Now it doesn't have that contrast anymore; it's just like all the same. And, to me, the magic is gone in that sense. I don't know if kids understand what I mean when I say that. But I remember when I was little, I dreamed about it. 'Cause you knew nothing about the bands, nothing about the artists [you liked], [you relied largely on] your imagination. Once you got big like that, like the [artists] you looked up to, that was a big thing. Now, I don't know if I see that…. Once again, I'm not saying there's no good bands, I'm not saying there's no good music. I know that Gene Simmons [KISS] — a friend of mine — he got misquoted not too long ago. They quoted him as saying everything sucks. That's not what he meant. He meant that the industry is gone, the money… the big wheels that were turning, with everybody putting their finger in the pie, that's gone, and that's not his opinion, it's a fact. [It's] gone."
On whether selling music digitally is a profitable business for him:
Yngwie: "It works to a point, you know. Unfortunately, that is the root of all evil right there. What happened was that when most people realized that they could get the file for no money, they said, 'I'm not gonna pay ten dollars for it.' And then those ten dollars multiplied by whatever… hundreds of thousands of titles… translated to the fact that all these people that I mentioned before that had their finger in the pie had nothing to take. And so that's why you don't see a new band every week on MTV or VH1; you don't see them there. There's no one signing bands because there's no… Nobody got signed because [the labels] wanted to be nice to them. No, they were signed because [the labels] wanted to make money from them. The labels wanted to make money. And so, when [the labels] realized that there was no revenue being [made] from [selling music anymore], they basically all folded. I mean, I still put records out on iTunes, and I think that iTunes is great. But the thing is that a lot of people would rather not [obtain music] the right way, and that hurts everything, unfortunately."