Friday, September 17, 2010

Into The Valley

We're over the top now, on the way down the slope to the new valley. Forces are beginning to converge. Fog is starting to clear. A new day is dawning in the music business.

I'm not alone in this feeling. There's a new static charge in the air. Things feel possible again. Not because any specific element is in play - it feels more like a case of "Well, why the hell not??"

Oh, there are still people lost in the old world - they've yet to make the journey over the mountain, if they make it at all. You have to see the mountain before you can climb it.

Some nearby acquaintances are still trying to outsmart the old formula. They're trying to goad their fans to call radio stations (do any of their fans listen to radio?) or ballot-stuff web-polls and surveys. What was the last CD you bought because you saw an ad on some website saying it was a #1? Anything long lasting is going to be via word of mouth.

The future is personal evangelists and the Gospel of You.

Evangelists. Gospel. It's really about religion in a way, isn't it? And isn't the time about ripe for a nice revival?

We can't look to the recent past on this one, however. That was an anomaly that isn't going to be repeated. We have to look further back. Remember, Jesus walked with his disciples, not in the VIP section. Bands and artists would do well to remember this.

The future is hyperlocal and personal (a band can play in front of 25k people, stop at a Whole Foods 10 miles away and nobody knows who you are. True story.). I know the usual signals are telling you different: the insipid "Idol" shows still shoveling hopeful after ever hopeful schmucks on stage, modeling the same tricks and moves they've been watching on MTV, and being handed tours and awards, etc.

I can tell you confidently it's all bullshit. It's the system feeding back on itself. The audiences are carefully groomed and prodded. The awards bestowed randomly and are meaningless anyway. Those shows exist solely to "deliver" a targeted demographic to advertisers and marketers, and for the few who are profiting, they are profiting handsomely. So of course they want to keep that feeding frenzy going. Why would an artist get anywhere near something that toxic?

But you've got to get outside that box to see what's really going on - what that system isn't telling you. It's not telling you that people spend more time on Facebook and YouTube than watching television, or listening to terrestrial radio (do cell phones have FM receivers?). If you live in the US, the system hasn't told you about Spotify. It's not telling you there are more consumers of music than ever before, and more genres than ever before, more places to play than ever before.

And musicians should be playing. Every day. There's a place for practically every kind of music now - no excuses.