So you want to be in a rock band?: The state of music in a digital world
When The Police have to cancel tour dates due to poor ticket sales and Bon Jovi holds the top position on the weekly Soundscan charts for the number one selling new release with a mere 7,000 discs, its safe to say that the music industry is in quite a pickle. While the record companies are quick to point the finger at the escalating rate of illegal downloads as the primary cause of their dismay, there's truly more going on here than meets the eye. If I can offer you, my fellow aspiring artists, one piece of solid advice, it's this: Go indie, or go home. Before I begin providing you with steps on how to attain a successful status as an independent musician, I feel it is essential to evaluate the current climate of today's music industry.
With the recent closing of the Sam of the Record Man retail store chain, and the now defunct (once mighty) Castle Records, obviously credence must be given to the fact that illegal downloading is affecting retail sales in a major way. For that matter, the music industry, as we once knew it, is scrambling to invent new technologies in order to battle piracy, when truly, it would be a much wiser idea to accept the fact that things have changed and that they will never be as they once were. Instead of challenging the movement towards digital, I'd argue they'd be better off embracing it, because one thing is for certain: The youth generation, the force driving this movement, is only getting larger and more powerful.
However, we all knew this day would come. Not to get political, but this situation, to me, is reminiscent of when Bush completely ignored the signs indicating the imminent threat of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans, acted mystified by the event, and then once it was too late, tried to pick up the pieces acting as though everything could quickly retain normalcy by affixing a band-aid. Well, I hate to break it to Bush, and the traditionalist label owners still clutching tightly to their memories of vinyl, big hair and sold-out concerts, but change is unavoidable, and as Darwin put it, “Only the strongest, and those able to adapt to their new environment(s) will survive.”
How did this all get so out of hand in the first place? Why is it that music lovers are no longer willing to pay for what was once a precious commodity? Simply put, because it's not worth it.
As a musician, and a music consumer, I have the unique perspective of seeing both sides of the argument. While I don't agree with stealing (that's what piracy is folks, whether you want to admit it to yourselves, or not), I also am sympathetic to the needs of the music consumer, and I'll be honest with you, I haven't bought a new album in about 10 years. Why, you ask? Because the quality, talent, and songwriting of our modern-day so-called “artists” does not even register in the minor leagues compared to what the musicians of the past were required to deliver. But don't be so quick to blame the artists themselves. It's not as though the potential for genuine talent simply disappeared from our generation. The sad fact of it all is that music is no longer about music (read that line again if it didn't make sense the first time).
Music, a once well-respected art form in which songwriters created stories about their experiences and offered inspiration, hope, and comfort to their listeners is now a commodity — a slickly pre-packaged trinket oozing with marketability and emulating every current trend in society from black eye makeup to disgustingly pretentious bad-ass attitude. The problem with this of course is that it lacks originality and genuine substance (the very things that good music is made of).