Friday, February 22, 2008

The Backlash

There is a backlash coming, and I can't wait.

Less than a decade ago, arrived as a source for music of all kinds - mainstream, indie, obscure, global, local, you name it. It gave way to PureVolume and eventually MySpace (and the popularity of P2P networks), but the surge had started. People - mainly youth - were able to download anything they wanted, as long as they searched hard enough for it. Record and digital music collections exploded, giving rise to the changing perspectives on music that I have written about previously.

Before this point, music (and music opinion) was received largely via close friends and family, large media outlets (radio and MTV), and perhaps the odd group activity like a school dance or Christian skate night. The focus in many of these contexts was a collective experience of an individual performance. You listened to the radio while doing errands with your family or on long road trips. You watched MTV with friends (especially if you didn't get MTV and were forced to go to a friend's house to watch it). Dances and skate nights were obviously not about the music. Music was a soundtrack, but an incomplete one.

The digital age made music a constant, almost unbearable soundtrack. If you aren't listening to your iPod on the bus every morning, you can look up and note the many who are. Many people have large enough music libraries to play - without pause - for weeks or even months. The digital age also allowed for a rise in the number of recording and music-producing bands, who began to go on tours to support their passion.

But we're kinda getting sick of it.

Talking with friends and colleagues, there is a growing weariness with the state of music. There are so many bands, so many songs, so many mash-ups, not to mention so many websites, blogs, magazines, and TV channels. So many shows, and as a generation, we're sick of going to them all the time. Especially since we find ourselves disappointed by the performances more often than not. We'd rather listen to an album that we like, and not risk having it ruined for us by seeing an ill-prepared musical unit try to create a faithful rendition of it or an interesting digression from it.

We're also spending our own money now. And we're becoming more picky. Thus a backlash is on the horizon. Bands are starting to feel it, as are record companies. Both complain of music sharing harming their careers and investments. Sure, there may be a correlation there, but I'd be more inclined to believe that as the first generation to experience such music overload has moved from high school to college and now post-college life, it realizes that there are plenty of other ways to spend time than to sit at a computer and hunt down the latest and "greatest" musical acts.

But take heart, dear bands and musicians with true talent, passion, and commitment: the backlash that is coming will not destroy you, but it will thin out the herds quite a bit. At least, we can all hope it does. You can be sure that there will always be an audience for a truly kick-ass concert that's coming through town.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Musical Espionage

I was thinking earlier this evening about how cool it would be if I were a world famous rocker and was contacted by a secret spy organization, who wanted to know if I would put coded messages in my songs, so as to communicate with their spies abroad.

I instantly realized this idea was absurd, because there's no way I could encode messages in songs and release them fast enough and with wide enough distribution to make any sort of difference.

But then I thought, isn't every artist, in a sense, taking part in a scheme like that? Almost every artist has a message in a particular piece of work, even if their message is self-absorption or "there is no message," which is a message about how sometimes things don't need to have a message. ("He's got a point, there." Name that movie!) Every artist has a message, and that message comes from somewhere, whether the artist believes it comes from the literal voice of God or simply synapses firing in the cerebral cortex. Musicians have a particular genre of message that many other artists do not share, that of the unstoppable sequence. I mentioned this in my first post here, how you can't stop music and observe it. Of course you can read musical notation and look at scores, but the actual music itself cannot be frozen and observed. It requires that we submit to its string of occurences in the 4th dimension.

Take time to listen to the codes, but don't let it jam your airwaves.