LONDON - Punk godfather Iggy Pop on Monday urged young performers to relax about industry changes and set their financial expectations low, saying that music was never meant to make money.
The hard-charging US singer, who captured the punk era's energy with 1977's album and song "Lust for Life," made his first foray into scholarship as he delivered an annual BBC lecture named for late DJ legend John Peel.
As streaming services heighten artists' complaints that they cannot earn a living, the 67-year-old said that such concerns were nothing new, and that he has seen throughout his career that the industry will always put profit over artists.
"If I had to depend on what I actually get from sales, I'd be tending bar between sets," Iggy Pop said in his plainspoken Midwestern accent in a lecture full of casual asides and biting one-liners.
"Personally, I don't worry too much about how much I get paid for any given thing, because I never expected much in the first place and the whole industry has become bloated in its expectations," he told a live audience at a radio festival in Salford near Manchester.
The frontman of Iggy and the Stooges, famous at concerts for working his bare chest into a flowing sweat, said that musicians should remember that they have a "dream job" by entertaining the public.
"If you're an entertainer, your god is the public. They'll take care of you somehow," he said. "But while you're waiting for god to show up, try to find a good entertainment lawyer." Iggy Pop said that music had largely become a "patronage system" in which someone else - including filmmakers or advertisers - were paying musicians for their tunes.
"If I want to make money, well, how about selling car insurance? At least I'm honest - it's an ad, and that's all it is," he said.
Preserving non-Western artists
Musicians and labels, for all their disagreements, have generally united in seeking to end outright piracy.
Iggy Pop, while opposing theft, said that the entertainment world was misguided in its "general atmosphere of resentment" towards fans who seek free access.
"I think that prosecuting some college kid because she or he shared a file is a lot like sending somebody to Australia a couple hundred years ago for poaching his lordship's rabbit," he said.
"That's what it must seem like to poor people who just want to watch a crappy movie for free after they've been working themselves to death all day," he said.
Instead, Iggy Pop said that independent labels played a vital role in producing "new talent outside the Mickey Mouse club." Iggy Pop in particular praised Peter Gabriel for 25 years ago starting Real World Records, which gives commercial space to artists outside their home regions, saying that such global musicians had the most to lose from the mainstream music industry.
"Music was never a for-profit enterprise. The best forms were developed as a kind of job in the community. 'Yeah, I'm a musician and I'm going to skip doing the dishes or taking the trash out' - it was more like that.
"And it's not surprising at all that the greatest singers and players come from parts of the world where everybody is broke and the old ways are getting paved over," he said.