Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Before the Music Dies

Does anyone share this opinion with me?: The music industry is taking a turn for the worse. The industry is more concerned with image now instead of the actual music itself. Music is heading in a wrong direction.


Perhaps my further blogging will inspire you one way over the other. These essential arguments above, besides being my own, also come from an incredible documentary called Before the Music Dies. The documentary is dedicated to a musician who died, and before he died, he stressed his concerns for where the music business is headed. I, too, have the same concern as do other musicians as well.

Nowadays, music is about the image, the video, the single, the performance--not about the actual music itself. Thus, a decline in the quality of music will come. The industry worries about what will sell; what will sell is the image, the superficiality. Can we blame them with the decline of record sales due to Napster and other music downloaders that cut the profits that used to escalate from albums and concerts?

I think we still need to focus on making good music, something that is getting lost because of a terrible, controlling factor called money. Even look at radio stations. Radio stations play all the hit songs just cycling over and over again because they need to attract listeners. They're not going to make any money or stay on the air if no one listens. Then we get over-played songs, mostly pop songs, and the radio is dead. Music is more about money now than the actual art.

Says Bob Dylan, "Music can save people, but it can't in the commercial way it's being used. It's just too much. It's polution."

Besides money, the music business is all about youth and young artists: “Right now this industry is all about youth,” says Eryka Badu, "It’s not about the music anymore. It’s about the video. Video killed the radio star."

A music fan commented saying something similar to this: "I don’t want to hear a 20-year-old beautiful person singing and writing. What have they experienced? I want someone older who has lived. Young people haven’t lived, and if they’re young and beautiful, what’s wrong with their lives? 'At Last?' Bullshit."

Years ago, artists weren't emerging from high school as they are now. They were well-experienced and well-trained musicians. They aren't musicians because it runs in the family (Ashlee Simpson, Jaime Lynn Spears, etc), they were musicians because they wanted to play music. Music now is all about image. What hot stars are going to sell? What lead singer will attract the most girls? What pop singer is hot and will draw a male fanbase? Who will make the hot music video that will be most downloaded? It's a whole new ball park.

On the same topic, Bonnie Raitt comments: “Looks have always mattered, but they really matter in the kind of muscle that gets behind promoting a million dollar seller. You have to have a certain look.” And further, "Sex has always sold, but in the 1960s and 70s you didn’t have to be a George Clooney to perform music."

The problem with today's music, according to a music teacher, is that today's generation is worried about how good they are and where they rank, not on music. It's about image more than sound. It's more about the idea than the actual art. They don't want to put that much effort in and work for it. They see who they have the beat and they want to get there--it's not about making music anymore. It's dillusional.

Eryka Badu categorized musicians today into three categories, three kinds of artists:

1. Artists who hurt. (It hurts for these artists to write and perform. They are more popular than the money they receive. They play from the heart.)

2. Artists who imitate. (These artists imitate other artists and sounds instead of creating unique music. They generate the most money.)

3. Artists who does what someone else wants them to do. (They parrot what their label tells them to do, but they lose their jobs the quickest because they are too alike others competing with them.)

I am just afraid that we're not going to have any artists who are in the first category because it's hard to make it in this industry if you go out on a limb to play good music from the soul. Pop music is in. Rap is in. R&B is in. If you want to be successful, you need a good single, but do artists think of the single when they create? Shouldn't they just create music naturally instead of focusing on profits and singles before they create?

Before I ask you what you think, I have two quotes that stuck out to me from the documentary.

“I would like to ask the music business to look at itself and ask some hard questions. Because there would be no U2 the way things are right now. That’s a fact.”
-Bono (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction Speech 2005)

"There's a lot of dumbing down going on. I don't think we need to panic, we just need to teach our children well."
-Dave Matthews

So what do you think? Is this change inevitable or can something be done? Where is music headed and what can we do? Are these changes good/bad?

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