I was a little grumpy and down in the dumps about our cultural fate last week. It seems like a discussion that’s worth spending a little more time with so I thought I’d try to share some more positive thoughts – ones that shine like all of Michael Phelps’s gold medals.
Ok Ok. I know I was a little grumpy and down in the dumps about our cultural fate last week. It seems like a discussion that’s worth spending a little more time with, so I thought I’d try to share some more positive thoughts – ones that shine like all of Michael Phelp’s gold medals. The fortune teller in me is going to look into a much more optimistic crystal ball and predict a sunny future for all of us out there that want a some cheese for strumming a few guitar strings every once in awhile. But for serious, I think there are some silver linings, some holes in the clouds, some lights at the ends of some tunnels, etc. that might be worth chatting about as a community.
Here are some good things…
1. The Internet.
2. The wane of gross amounts of power and money that have previously been the property of a handful of taste makers that work at Warner Brah’s.
3. The wax of local awareness, community involvement, and the homegrown spirit.
I could see all those things meeting at a party, having a few drinks, tumbling into bed and making me a nice love child whom I would be happy to rear.
Record labels have traditionally done two things: provide publicity and physical distribution. Physical distribution, as we all know, is, well, a rough scene these days. It’s something that, at the least, can be gotten around and, at the most, is entirely unnecessary. Currently, it’s probably kicking around the middle of those two extremes, but in the near future it is entirely possible that physical distribution will be completely unnecessary. Publicity is a bit more complex. There’s no doubt that having a few work horses in an office gchatting with some top name writers on your behalf is nice. However, the Internet has made contacting everyone you need to contact not just significantly easier but entirely plausible. With an immense work ethic and an Internet gathering and distributing device you can rid, in one fell swoop, the entire need for a label infrastructure that has spread like kudzu throughout the early development of the recording industry – maybe like kudzu, it is entirely misplaced and though wildly successful, its success has ultimately caused damage.
Another beautiful thing that I think is slowly coming about is the re-energizing of local communities. Regional music scenes and their economic validity have been a thing of the past, but perhaps with the decentralization that labels bring, and with the rise in community pride (not the grocery store) we could see the return of regional music communities that would, if nothing else, allow bands to tour and not spend their inheritance.
Unfortunately, anything in regards to selling your music on the market as a product can be a downer because the laws of supply and demand will likely never again work in your favor. Though the demand will undoubtedly always be high, the supply will forevermore be unlimited and potentially free. I only bring this up because this only brightens the picture for live music. Assuming one can make the demand high, the supply is at least something controllable. Live performances cannot be burned on a CD or put on an Ipod. That said, perhaps it is live performance that will catch a little wind in its sails from the huffing and puffing of frustrated executives that are quickly realizing their own bleak situation.
Maybe that’s a more positive spin on a situation that we will see continue to change and resolve and change again in our lifetimes. I don’t know what will happen, but I think regardless of what we see happen, and what we come to value as a culture, a vital thing to remember is a point that Taylor Burton made quite eloquently in response to last weeks column…
While it is nice to make money off of your music, and make a living at something you love so dearly, is that really the reason you are doing what you’re doing? Creating music is transcendent of monetary value. To me it is more of an essential process. Something very spiritual and emotional, Money can come and go, but you can (and should) always create music, whether you’re getting paid for it or not.