The River's Badge

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Six Reasons Why No One Is Buying Music

I guess I should have titled this, "Why I'm not buying music."

There's a lot of blame to go around for the downturn in music sales.

First and foremost, there are the record labels.
They want everything to sound the same! Of course, I guess they are risk-averse. But it's sort of a catch-22, isn't it? They're afraid to take a chance on something different for fear of losing sales, and yet they're losing sales left and right as is. They might want to rethink their strategy.

Second, the artists.
I'm talking about major-label artists. Mind you, I'm mainly speaking to country music, since my musical tastes are limited. Unfortunate, but true.

My caveat here is that I don't really listen to today's' country music, but I do get some snippets from time to time. I sort of, kind of, know what's hot.

For example, I know that Sugarland is hot, and that kid, what's her name. Sorry, I am trying really hard not to come off as cynical. I also know that Rascal Flatts is hot. Oh, and I know that Kenny Chesney is supposedly the only big arena tour anymore.

So, there you have it. Today's country music in a nutshell.

Anyway, I know that they all strive to sound pretty much the same. For example, I guess banjos are in vogue now in country music. So, one act uses a banjo; they all use a banjo.

It's funny when you think about it. I bet Flatt & Scruggs are rolling over in their graves. Well, only Flatt, really, since Earl Scruggs is still alive. So, if he's rolling over in a grave, he needs to step out of there.

I could be totally off base here, but if you're a major label act, and you're making big bucks for your record company, you could afford to try some new tricks. What's the label gonna do? Fire you?

The third reason I would cite is, Pro Tools. I was reading an article titled, "Sir George Martin's Advice To Musicians", and he said this:

Capture humanity over perfection I’m a great believer in humanity. I went to a Frank Sinatra recording in the Fifties. Now, Frank sometimes sang out of tune and he did things that maybe he could have improved. But though he sang out of tune he sounded great; some people sing in tune and sound bloody awful. I like a little mistake, a little bit of humanity, and you got that with the Beatles. Ringo never played a quartz-controlled beat ever in his life.
Well, sadly, Sir George is out of touch with today's music. There is no room for imperfection. Any imperfection is erased with one click of the mouse. What that does is, it takes the soul out of the music.

I've cited before a recording by Merle Haggard. I think it was, "(I'm A Lonesome) Fugitive". There was that sort of squeak that happens when you're running your fingers up the fretboard of your guitar. I listen for that squeak every time I listen to that song. I like it there. If it was gone, I would miss it. Call me crazy.

Fourth is this: the music is unrelatable. Give me a cry in your beer song any day. Give me a good heartbreak song. Nowadays, it seems like everyone is trying too hard to impress. They're overthinking it. They're trying to be "cool". The thing about music is, and always has been, you have to be able to feel it. The technical skill, while maybe admirable, doesn't hit you in your gut (at least not me). My response to that kind of thing is, "ehh", and then I turn the station. You can sense that there is no "there" there.

Number five. "It's all about ME." I want to make a splash. I want to be featured in People Magazine. I want to join the cult of personality. Yea, musicians are an egocentric bunch. Egocentric, yet completely vulnerable to what people think of them. Those that hit it big nowadays want the validation that only a tabloid can bring. The artistry is secondary. Artists like Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, who tour constantly, don't care about that stuff. They're in the minority. They're relics.

Finally, the music has lost its JOY. Oh boy, it's all business, isn't it? Let's chart this out on a graph. Okay, hooky chorus, a bridge after verse two. Throw in some banjo. Hey, how about some cowbell? More cowbell! Yes! Let's check out what Miranda is doing. Okay, she's got a hit song with all verses; no chorus. Okay! Change of plans! Let's do a song with no chorus, no bridge, just verses! Eureka! We've got it!

The music business has become too much business, too little heart.

I'm probably considered an old fogey, because I prefer the country music of the eighties. I haven't "gotten with the times". Well, here's something to ponder: Maybe the country music of the eighties was just BETTER. Maybe I'm not an old fogey. Maybe I'm just a music connoisseur.

But hey! Don't market to me! I could be buying lots of music, if they all gave me something I'd want to buy.

In the meantime, I'll download individual mp3's from Amazon. Old songs, mainly. I'm done buying CD's. Except for Dwight Yoakam. And occasionally, someone who surprises me.

And since this is a video blog, I'll leave you with this:

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