Hunter S. Thompson’s Music Industry Quote: Origin & Explanation

The music industry is an exciting and exhilarating world that has produced some of the most iconic artists and songs of all time. However, behind the glitz and glamour, there lies a darker side that is often overlooked. This is where Hunter S. Thompson’s infamous music industry quote comes into play, “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.” This quote serves as a warning to aspiring musicians and those who wish to enter the industry. In this article, we will explore the origin and meaning behind this quote, and the dark reality of the music industry.

Hunter S. Thompson's Music Industry Quote

The Origin of the Quote

Hunter S. Thompson was an American journalist and author who is best known for his unique writing style and gonzo journalism. He was an outspoken critic of American politics, culture, and society. However, he was also known for his love of music, particularly rock and roll. In 1977, Thompson wrote an article for Rolling Stone magazine titled “Fear and Loathing in the Music Business.” The article was a scathing critique of the music industry and the people who ran it. It was in this article that Thompson famously wrote, “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.”

The Meaning Behind the Quote

Thompson’s quote is a brutal assessment of the music industry. It speaks to the corrupt and cutthroat nature of the business and the people who run it. The phrase “cruel and shallow money trench” refers to the music industry’s obsession with profit and the lack of regard for the artists who create the music. In the music industry, artists are often seen as commodities, and their value is based solely on their ability to generate revenue. This leads to a culture of exploitation, where artists are overworked, underpaid, and left to fend for themselves.

The second part of the quote, “a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free,” speaks to the seedy underbelly of the music industry. It is a reference to the people who run the industry, who are often seen as shady characters with dubious morals. These individuals are often more concerned with making money than supporting the artists they represent. They take advantage of artists, exploit their talents, and leave them to suffer the consequences.

The final part of the quote, “and good men die like dogs,” is perhaps the most heartbreaking. It speaks to the fact that many talented and deserving artists are overlooked and forgotten by the music industry. The industry is not interested in promoting good music or nurturing talent. It is only interested in making money, and as a result, many deserving artists are left to suffer and struggle.

Expanding on the Negative Side of the Music Business

Exploitation of Artists

One of the most significant issues in the music industry is the exploitation of artists. Many musicians sign contracts with record labels or managers that are heavily one-sided and leave the artist with little control over their own music and image. This can lead to artists being forced to compromise their artistic integrity for the sake of commercial success.

Furthermore, many artists are not fairly compensated for their work. The rise of digital streaming has made it even harder for artists to make a living from their music, as they receive only a fraction of a penny per stream.

Lack of Diversity

Another issue in the music industry is the lack of diversity, both in terms of representation and sound. While progress has been made, there is still a long way to go. Many talented artists from underrepresented communities are often overlooked, while those who do make it often have to conform to a certain image or sound to be successful.

Pressure to Conform

As mentioned earlier, the music industry places a significant emphasis on image and marketing. This can lead to artists feeling pressure to conform to a certain look or sound to be successful. This pressure can stifle creativity and lead to a homogenization of music.

Mental Health Issues

The music industry can also take a toll on the mental health of artists. The pressure to succeed, combined with long hours in the studio, constant touring, and often unpredictable income can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Unfortunately, the industry has a reputation for not providing adequate support and resources for artists struggling with mental health.

Cutthroat Competition

The music industry is also incredibly competitive, with countless aspiring musicians vying for a limited number of opportunities. This can lead to a culture of cutthroat competition, where artists are pitted against each other and pressured to be the “best.” This can lead to a toxic environment and even sabotage of other artists’ careers.

Power Imbalance

Finally, the music industry has a significant power imbalance, with record labels and executives holding most of the power and control over artists’ careers. This can lead to artists feeling powerless and vulnerable, especially if they do not have a strong support system or legal representation.


In conclusion, while the music industry may seem glamorous from the outside, there is a darker side to it that is often overlooked. Hunter S. Thompson’s famous quote about the music business speaks to the harsh realities that many artists face, including exploitation, lack of diversity, pressure to conform, mental health issues, cutthroat competition, and a significant power imbalance.

It is important for consumers and fans to be aware of these issues and to support artists who are challenging the status quo and fighting for a more equitable and just industry. It is also important for the industry itself to do better and to prioritize the well-being and success of its artists over profits and image. Only then can the music industry truly live up to its potential as a source of creativity, inspiration, and joy.

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