Trying to get anybody to agree on a hard and fast way to 'save' the music industry is like herding cats. Simon Cowell, for example, won't necessarily share the views of John Lydon for the issues, it seems, very much depend on your place within the industry itself.
Personally, I don't believe the problem lies solely at the feet of the record companies; the music buying public need to accept their share of responsibility too. The majority of us simply haven't evolved to fully utilise the plethora of technologies available to immerse ourselves in new tunes. And before you say anything, downloading a track instead of traipsing to Woolies to buy a copy isn't really what I'm talking about because, by and large, most of us still only purchase, and hence support, those acts record companies tell us to. Switch on your 'new music' local radio station right now and time how long it takes before you hear Rihanna. You'll probably stop the clock in under thirty minutes. There's absolutely nothing wrong with Rihanna, she's a perfectly respectable chart package, it's just that the 'industry' would have you believe that she's the only sassy female pop singer in the Universe. And that's fine. It's their job. But it's not ours to believe them.
The truth is, we have at our fingertips more music than ever before. In literally one click we can find completely new and exciting talent. These acts don't even have to be signed to a record label because they, in turn, have access to inexpensive and accessible recording technologies that mid 20th Century bands could only dream about. And publishing music for sale is easier than ever before; no record company is required thanks to numerous, low cost online music distribution outlets.
But do we search out these new acts? No. Because we still have a pre-digital condition that programmes us to believe that someone else needs to tell us what to listen to; that they know our personal tastes better than we do. This may well have been the situation twenty years ago when music creation was the preserve of the rich or the fortunate. But not now. Now, the music loving public at large have control. The problem is, we just don't appreciate our power.
I see my next door neighbour being the blue print for the next generation of music lovers. Much of his free time is spent hunting through the internet for tracks. One artist leads him to another which, in turn, takes him to a band which drops him in to the lap of a something or someone he never expected. Often unsigned, sometimes obscure and regularly unknown; he's unearthed gems that would otherwise have remained buried amid the musical conglomerates self-serving brouhaha. And I'm not just talking about whimsical stuff for the sake of spending 79p. Some of the acts he's found have nestled their way in to his personal favourites which he's promptly shared and thus kick started a musical snowball effect landing that artist in front of countless pairs of new ears.
Really, the whole concept of 'saving the music industry' is erroneous. How can an environment with more talent than ever before be in need redemption? It's a great time for musicians... there's more chance you'll be heard than ever before. It's a great time for music lovers.. .there's more chance you'll discover artists you love. It's not a great time, however, for the multimillion pound labels who seem to want to maintain a pre-digital level of control. Perhaps they're the ones trying to make us believe the industry is in turmoil?
The record buying public will surely evolve to exploit the rich pool of talent swimming in an unconstrained cyber-space just as unsigned musicians will flock to self-publish and promote themselves amid an abundance of online social outlets and much improved technologies? If you love music...this is a good thing. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Naturally, some will make a living, some won't. Some acts will be more popular than others. But the outcome will be determined by people like my next door neighbour whose approach to ingesting music has evolved at the same speed as the internet revolution itself, free to choose his own top twenty away from third party manipulation.
Take a quick look at TwitMusic. Just one of the many outlets for new musicians fast evolving and expanding. Find something you love and send it on. You'll be part of the future.
And God bless Rihanna; she will always be played on the radio. But it would be nice if not the repetition that makes listeners believe that nobody else in the world makes music.
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