Saturday, November 28, 2009

I was wrong about....

I keep a running list of things I've been wrong about in the hopes of learning from it. These have been foaming about in my head for a while; let's see if I can give them some shape here. In no particular order:

I was wrong about how the internet would "empower" artists and connect them with fans.
Part of this was due to my luck in being an early-adopter of broadband internet, and believing it would have the same dramatic impact on everyone else's life as it had on mine. I'd had some strong first experiences (winning the 100,000th artist slot at mp3.com, for instance) that seemed to indicate bright futures for musicians on the web. And for some musicians, that certainly was the case.

But scale changes everything, and that's one area I was completely wrong about: scale. I'd initially figured that "real" musicians would find an easier time connecting with purchasers because I'd (naively) thought A) the bulk of the music production community would embrace the technologies (didn't happen), and B) the bulk of producers would actually be professional musicians.


These two assumptions turned out to be horribly false. The bulk of the professional music community balked at first because they didn't see it as a way to actively pay their bills, and they were right about that. My second assumption was turned upside down - "Here comes everybody" - when the numbers of amateur and entry producers dwarfed the professional by scales of magnitude.

With these new scales came bigger versions of the same persistent problems (vaulting work into the public consciousness) invariably attracting the same niche noisemakers and creating only the slightest variation of previous hierarchies. The creative arts tend to drive tight communities. Birds of a feather...

The biggest lesson for me, however, was how it would change the value of live performance. For the longest time, I've (unfairly) judged live performance by my own production standards - a bit like comparing cropdusters to 747's - so I'd naturally underestimated its appeal to audiences. Turns out most people don't care if the music is built on simple, well-tread ideas: they just like how it sounds.

And from now on, that's good enough for me, too.

Photos by Flickr's jancin and gorski.

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