a few reasons the music biz is a good biz: a rebuttal to negative conversation about the state of music
i've been so jazzed about all this stuff. it's been building and building for the last few years and now things are so happening right now, let's take a look at a few points that make me leap out of bed with excitement about how killer this whole deal is.
a. it's very easy to get your hands on mountains of great music instantly. read that sentence again. see, i'm old enough to remember how things used to be in the late sixties early seventies and it was really hard to get records. i grew up in small towns in texas. to get records lots of times you had to order them through the mail out of magazines [heck it was hard to get the magazines!]. lots of times it would take weeks for the box to come. and guess what, it was texas [hot] and often the records would show up warped. i remember sometimes they wouldn't even put the right selection in the box and one would have to mail it back and wait again! now i can get almost anything while i'm waiting for the kettle to boil. and the selection is wayyyyyyy more complete than what was available back then. not to mention live videos and free live shows [you can download more free live shows than you physically have life left on earth to listen to!! yay!!!], web sites where artists stream their new stuff and on and on.
folks….this is the definition of badass. i shan't be listening to any moaning about this, for i can only harken unto the blessing therein.
b. gear. again, when i was a kid recording gear was like a mystery. you saw it in pictures of rolling stone magazine or whatever and you read as much as you could get your hands on, but you never saw a u87 [look it up], or a 2" machine in real life [again look it up]. now in my backpack, i carry more recording gear than was even available in the '70's. or 80's, or early '90's even. when i started studying recording and stuff, we didn't even know non-destructive editing was possible. small artists are so empowered with great gear that will drop ship to them overnight. gear that will thusly interface with all this other stuff and sounds great on top of that. i remember when 1. this stuff was very hard to come by 2. was extremely cost prohibitive 3. as big as a house, or 4. didn't even exist yet. now, all of those problems went away.
c. no matter what anyone says, audiences are hungry for music. people love music like never before. one component of this phenomena is the ease with which we can discover, share, and listen to music within our own context of work, play, and commute times. everywhere you go you can take 6000 tracks in your pocket and jam away. people can make playlists with the ease of making a grocery list. when i was a kid you had to build them physically on a cassette. it would take hours. and they weren't indexed. folks are simply hungry for music. another component of this is the reality that there is more cool stuff being done right now, than a person can even keep up with! no matter what gets said about how awful everything is, people still love to go to concerts, see shows, download cds, download live shows, buy merchandise, get on mailing lists, tell their friends about the experience through social networks, variously supporting their fave artists, as well as searching out new things to groove on. this was physically much harder to do in years past, pre- net. most of these aren't new activities of course, but they are ever so much easier right now. more people on the earth = more people to juke! sundry economic, and social variables will boost up and pull down the resultant participatory numbers on the margin, but globally things are going to get even better. as the guy from ghostland observatory recently said in an interview, the tribe is still going to want to dance.
d. all the older artists are still here. the threadbare, timeworn argument of the lazy music critic, "well they just don't make music like they used to" isn't a valid statement. they are totally making music like they used to because all this stuff is still being produced. example: there are more beatles albums out now then when they were still an extant band on the space/time continuum. these people never went away in the first place. plus we get outtakes and bonus tracks and live videos and would you like the mono version or stereo? none of that was available when i was a kid. they are still putting out the old stuff in various new packages. this can't be beat, it's awesome. like when i bought the charlie patton boxed set. it has way more stuff than i even knew existed! i could not even find one track on him when i was a teenager. now i have possibly everything he ever recorded in a wave file. jukin'. this stuff will get you pumped up pretty quick if you are a fan of music. it doesn't matter what kind of old stuff you are into, within reason, someone is standing there to sell you the music or get this…give it to you for nothing. example there's a bunch of the edison discs available on archive.org. it's all in the database. if you are into more newer stuff, this whole set-up is your baby, baby.
e. the database. the database is gigantic, and growing all the time. and you can tap into it anytime you want. from virtually anywhere. i would suggest the video of sonny boy williamson playing bye bye bird solo wearing a dapper suit and playing his ass off. and then try the LCD soundsystem, some 70's dub, some 2009 dub, some lady gaga, and ralph stanley, and olivier messiaen's quartet for the end of time. this is so great! man, i never realized this was going to happen and it did and i'm so happy about it i can barely sleep.
f. travel. it's easier than ever for artists to get around. cell phones and computers for the road, a whole line of nice business hotels all over the place with workout rooms, good coffee in the lobby, computer centers, wifi in the rooms, flat screen tvs to watch basketball on. ipod dock with which to juke. airlines that go everywhere and cheap tickets if you know how to shop. rental car places everywhere. trains in certain spots. i started touring in the late '80's, and twenty years later i gotta say, it's way easier now. better food. more great coffee and book stores. more educated audiences. this makes touring much easier. it's even easier for fans to travel too. want to see your fave singer in such and such a town? well you can probably shop and get a plane ticket most anywhere for a couple hundred if you know what you are doing. bid on a hotel for about 60 bucks in any major city. you can get out there and back and have a great time for cheap. if you hear someone prattle on about how terrible it is to travel, don't believe them. it's pretty easy really. grind of the road? well maybe, but how 'bout an espresso, a chapter of proust, and some strawberry waffles, two hours of albert ayler, and a nap. and then go play music for people that like music. it's just not that bad! sure you'll get tired, but you're not chopping cotton, that'll wear you out. and not because you got delayed in denver [with free wi fi in the airport.].
g. radio. there are some really great radio stations out there that fit my own personal definition of what a radio station should do....turn us on to the cool music. there are lots of them out there, but let's just mention one. KEXP in seattle. they have these little blocks on there that play a certain thing, and they tend to play the best stuff. like yesterday i was coming home from the airport and i heard something so cool i nearly wrecked my car. got on my iphone, looked at the playlist and immediately downloaded the cd and began thusly to juke. i didn't even have enough sense to dream that this would be possible as a kid. whoa! this is so awesome, we should be speaking positively about all this stuff. oh and streaming. you can listen on the net. wherever you can get a connection. so radio stations are now broadcast worldwide. try resonance fm out of london.
h. record stores. there are some really cool record stores out there. let's just start with one. criminal records in atlanta. they do what record stores are supposed to do….turn us onto the cool stuff. criminal records has a very knowledgeable staff, and always play great stuff in the store, they have a great selection, have the most awesome in-store performances you can imagine, and have great comic books and different kinds of hooraw in there. it's a great place to spend an afternoon. ever been in there? it's usually packed and folks carry stuff out of there in bags. and you keep wanting to ask the lady what that cool record is they are playing.
i. labels. there are some really cool labels out there. haha…that do what they are supposed to do, turn us onto the cool stuff. there are some cool companies out there man. i can still find labels where i can pretty much buy anything they have and it's going to be great. let me rephrase that, there are about ten times more labels that do that now than back in the day, actually. and they keep putting out great stuff and drawing these lines where they put guys together to create new stuff. i like how some of these companies are really light on their feet conceptually and can come up with new ways to work with things as they change. this is how things are supposed to work, and it's working greatly. how do we know this? there's more cool stuff being put out than is even possible to keep up with. if you're not overwhelmed...you're not trying!
j. administrative people. there are lots of great agents, managers and tech folks out there. we live in a time where if someone needs something done there will be someone standing there to help them or show them how to do what they need done. there is quite a set of very smart people that love music that help artists run their businesses. and since we can easily connect worldwide, we can work with folks all over the place easily. example: every person on my team pretty much is in a different time zone. negative impact on outcome = zero. again there are lots of great resources on the net vis-a-vis dealing with contracts and running a small business.
k. current artists. there so many guys out there fueled by all these points… that there is more cool stuff out there than we can even keep up with. all these new configurations new riffs and new structures built upon the shapes and forms of the past. or not! perhaps the older forms rejected entirely. it's all one big giant database and music has never been better. enjoy some today. it's really the greatest thing we have on the physical plane. so get to jukin'.