The Crisis Has Been Cancelled
There’s music, and then there’s music business, or the music industry. The industry, or business of music, along with its marketing, tends to distort our picture of what music is, and the importance it holds for all of us as human beings. Historically, as new technologies have developed, from the printing press, to radio, to the gramophone, to the internet, habits of music consumption have also been affected, and naturally, the means for monetization of music have adapted accordingly.
There is no crisis in music, but merely a shift in commoditization (and commodification) practices of recorded music which leave some reeling, and some rubbing their hands. The common statement “people no longer value music” is simply untrue. We, all of us, value music to the extent that the amount of recorded music (i.e. vinyl albums, CD’s, mp3’s, and streams) being consumed, and the diversity of music sources, i.e. both the amount of individuals producing music, and the available formats, modes, and channels of distribution have never been greater in the history of humankind. And if we the people can consume something, anything, for free or almost free, that’s what we will do, and soon, given the current ubiquity of music, that’s what all of us will be doing. If we’re not doing it already.
There are no fads, no trends, no what’s hip, cool, phat, sick, dope, yada yada, and what’s not. Those are merely manipulative economic forces at work, the musical equivalent of click bait and fake news. Strip away the sex, image, bling, or whatever else is attached, and all there is, is music.
That, by and large, is a simplified representation of the current state of affairs within one economically powerful sector of the music business known as the recording industry. The recording industry supports an entire infrastructure of people, myself included, whose livelihoods as we’ve known them either partially or fully depend(ed) upon upholding status quo within the sector. No matter how much we music creators fight for various rights to which we have become accustomed, “a change is gonna come.” (Thank you, Sam Cooke)
None of this has anything to do with the art form known as Music. When I think of what the word “music” represents, I think of the creation of music, the performance of music, the emotional connection and shared meaning brought about by music, music’s ability to heal and sooth, inspire to aspire, incite to movement, action, and ultimately, change and transformation. Just look at the past 60–70 (or more) years: Jazz brought about social change, as did rock ’n’ roll, soul, and most recently in the 90’s, hip hop affected the entire world, with credit due to a novel, original mix of jazz, soul, and rock samples.
And right now, we’re in a state of flux. We are in between the last big thing, and the next big thing. The current thing is largely about exploiting the artist-audience connection in order to build a brand that can sell cologne, sneakers, champagne, tequila, clothing, cosmetics, or whatever else can offset decreasing revenues from recorded music sales. The next big thing, whatever that means, (imaginably some combination of music genre fusion and AR/VR delivery platform) will not, and never has, emerged from the mainstream or current status quo, it will come creeping up from somewhere completely unexpected, like hip hop from the streets of urbania. But again, none of this has anything to do with music.
People are starving for musical authenticity
Music can blow people’s minds. Any kind of music: soft, loud, aggressive, gentle, simple, complex, dense, transparent, whatever. Music, period. There are no fads, no trends, no what’s hip, cool, phat, sick, dope, yada yada, and what’s not. Those are merely manipulative economic forces at work, the musical equivalent of click bait and fake news. Strip away the sex, image, bling, or whatever else is attached, and all there is, is music.
As a music creator and performer, I know this: People, the audience, are literally starving for musical authenticity, and they are willing to stretch their expectations, imaginations, habits, beliefs, convictions and much, much more, to grasp and hang onto that which speaks truthfully to their mind, body, and soul. I suspect this has always been the case throughout time, or at least until MTV. Especially during these times of transition, there is little rational argument for holding back or playing it safe with regard to any form of creative musical expression capable of such powerful human connection.
If ever there was a time to “give the people what they didn’t know they wanted”, this is it. In reality, one note, charged with artistry, intent, and purpose, can change a life, forever. Whether performing live, composing, or producing music in the studio, those are the notes I’m looking for, the notes with meaning.