John Rzeznik, Goo Goo Dolls (Interview)

This post originally appeared in issue 11 of VultureHound Magazine.

We’re a privileged generation. Thanks to rideshare services, such as Lyft and Uber, I can get a ride downtown without having to raise my hand on the side of street or even taking out my wallet. And, thanks to media streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu, I can watch unlimited amounts of movies and TV from the comfort of my couch or on the not-so-comfortable metro ride to work. It’s safe to say that our content-hungry generation is well fed by technology. Well, except for the content creators, who continually feed our bloated bellies.

Artists, even writers, are suffering from the accessibility of the internet. And, honestly, it sucks not getting paid for something you created or helped to create. In music, the best example of this unjust silent agreement artists have entered is Spotify. The billion-dollar-valued streaming service make listening to music so accessible that you can listen to music you didn’t even pay for without an internet connection. They’ll take your monthly subscription payment and allow to you play songs endlessly, from anywhere.

But the major bummer in all of this is that the artists, who pour their blood, sweat, tears into their music, hardly see any of that, if at all. And, if they acquire any revenue from these services, it’s the smallest fraction of a cent. An industry that used to rely so heavily on record companies and music shops is now buckling under the weight of easily accessible content.

Sidebar: I need to make a confession. I pay for and use Spotify daily. I actually credit Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist for introducing me to some stellar new artists. The service is great from a user standpoint. But as a creator of content, I’ve been sent into a shame spiral, contemplating if I should end my subscription and delete the app from my phone. But when you spend hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars each year on records and going to shows like I do, trust me, the guilt fades pretty quickly.

Now, where were we? Ah, yes…

Streaming services have only amplified a battle that’s been raging since the early 2000s, and even artists as successful as the Goo Goo Dolls feel the ground quake beneath them from decreased artist income and an ever-increasing need for more music and more shows. In a space where some artists hardly see a dollar for their work, John Rzeznik acknowledges how blessed he and his band have been throughout the past three decades. He also acknowledges that you should do what you love, but value your time, or no one else will.

“You make music because you need to, it’s part of breathing or eating. We’re one of the lucky ones. There’s more music than ever and people listen to music so intensely, but the way that they get it, it’s just different and the way that record companies work, it just doesn’t fit into the new world. I think that the battle, I don’t know if they’re ever going to win the war. It certainly seems as though that the battle of how people are going to get music has been lost by the record companies.”

Having sold more than 12 million records, performed in nearly every country and received Grammy nominations, and a new album, Boxes due out this May, Rzeznik still feels the effects of the music industry’s battle for compensation. The Goo Goo Dolls frontman remembers when CDs and two-year tours helped to pay his bills in order to live a comfortable life.

“It would be nice to get an equitable share of the all money that’s being made. I mean, these companies that are online are being valued for billions of dollars and the artists don’t see any of it. Nothing. It’s maddening to people. It’s maddening to artists who are like ‘Well, can we at least get a piece?’ It’s a content-driven business and if there’s not content, there’s no business, so you better keep the people who supply the content happy. They just don’t do that.”

Despite the industry’s struggles to win a war that’s gone on for far too long, he’s openly optimistic that the issue will hit a “critical mass” and eventually artists, even writers, will be properly compensated for their work. “Hopefully I will be long retired at that point. It will come around, what artists are worth.”

Lucky for us GGD fans, Rzeznik still tours for long periods of time, Chicago and London being his top two favorite cities to play. He’s also acutely aware of their fan base. “It’s weird, we have more female fans in the US and more male fans in the UK”, Rzeznik explains. But gender aside, if 1998’s Dizzy Up The Girl didn’t make you completely fall in love with the band, or even Rzeznik individually, then I’m not really sure how I can help you.

Ironically (but not surprisingly) ‘Iris’ is the GGD’s most played song on Spotify with over one million plays.

When asked about the theme of their upcoming album, Boxes, Rzeznik says that themes aren’t usually planned and that they “tend to reveal themselves once the album is finished”. But he mentions that this album is largely about change and growth, which is pretty apparent in the recently released single ‘So Alive’, an energetic pop-rock anthem that is sure to hit radio airwaves.

Though Rzeznik has been writing music for nearly 30 years and has been honoured with the Songwriters Hall of Fame Hal Starlight Award, he still comes across incredibly humble. But, like any music veteran, he offers some sage advice to young artists, saying that one of the most crucial parts of the writing process is to just let go of your ego. He should know. After years of playing the defense when it came to the writing process, Rzeznik finally allowed himself to open up and share the process with others, which he believes makes this upcoming album really stand out.

Rzeznik mentions that, even though Dizzy Up The Girl has cast a long-lasting shadow on the success of his and the band’s career, his current infatuation is with their new album. And, whether you stream Boxes on Spotify or pick up a physical format on May 6th, the Goo Goo Dolls, and all other creators, will continue to put their blood, sweat, and tears into their music because, according to Rzeznik, “it’s just what you do”.

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