Sunday, December 18, 2005

Music Industry - Yours for the taking

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal this week, entitled "Silent Night for Music Sales" lamenting the sorry state of the music industry (90 % self-inflicted, IMHO).

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side.

Hunter S. Thompson

The HST quote speaks for itself, there are a couple of quotes in the article I just can't resist pontificating on.

The article lists the now-familar litany of illegal downloads, the ability to burn a copy of your buddy's CD in a matter of minutes, high CD prices (self-inflicted, as I said), and competition for the entertainment dollar from DVDs and video games. But here's what piqued my interest -

Don VanCleave, president of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores, says blame lies with "an absolute, gigantic cesspool of really bad bands."
I don't know that it is the bands, although I agree the vast majority suck, I think it is the genres of music themselves. Indeed, having seen the "hot new band" Institute twice as they opened for U2, I can assure you I will NOT be rushing out to buy their album, because I've heard it all before. Back in the 70s, you couldn't wait for the next Bad Company, Zeppelin, Stones, etc., etc. album to come out so you could hear some cool new riffs. But by '76 or so, all the riffs had pretty much been thought of. Eddie Van Halen and then the Edge in the latter years of that decade created new guitar sounds, and bands for years to follow mined those veins respectively. But nowadays Lenny Kravitz is the only one cranking out new riffs, and that's only on one song an album or so. Everything else you hear on rock radio all sounds the same, everything that can be done with a distorted electric guitar has been done. Maybe if Hendrix had survived he would have kept creating new sounds, but I doubt it.

Hip-hop? All sounds the same, been there, done that. Country? Stale. Jazz? Nearly non-existent. Classical? When the older generation that makes up the bulk of classical concert-goers dies off, so will the genre, it will be of interest to scholars only.

Which brings me to the next quote -

"It's almost like we need a new genre of music," says John Sullivan, chief financial officer of Trans World Entertainment Corp., which operates music stores under the FYE and Coconuts names, among others. "There hasn't been anything fresh to get consumers excited in a while."
Indeed, I couldn't agree more. I've been thinking the same thing ever since it belatedly dawned on me in the late 90s that rock was no longer the dominant genre of pop music, as it had been since my early years (which coincided with the British Invasion). And for a new genre, we need a new instrument, new sounds. The recorder, lute, etc. begat Renaissance music. The electric guitar begat rock, created the sounds that enthralled the young Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, et al, when they heard what the blues legends could do with that instrument. One wonders if a new sound is even possible, given the plethora of sounds available with today's electronic instruments, maybe music itself has gone stale. As one who eats, sleeps, drinks, and breathes music, that sounds like heresy to me, but you do have to wonder.

So, here's your challenge. Invent a new instrument, a new sound, a new genre, that will captivate people as rock did when it was fresh, and the music world is yours for the taking.

Oh yeah, don't even THINK about selling your new form of music on CDs for $13 a pop.

Rock Hall almost gets it right

I blogged on this when this year's nominees were announced, I like symmetry, so I have to comment now that the nominees have been named. The nominees are:

Black Sabbath
Lynyrd Skynyrd
Miles Davis
Sex Pistols

Well deserved all, I guess. I still have a problem with Miles Davis, I mean he's one of my faves, but this ain't the jazz hall of fame. I just don't see much rock'n'roll connection, other than his pioneering fusion album, Bitch's Brew.

Blondie? No problem, they brought New Wave to the masses.

Black Sabbath? Hugely influential, to this day. Should have been in long ago.

Lynyrd Skynyrd? ditto to the above comment on Sabbath. How many millions of kids picked up a guitar to learn Free Bird?

Sex Pistols? If Percy Sledge could get in on one song, they can get in for one album. But unlike Percy, their one album (actually more specifically all the hoopla before and after that one album) put punk in the public consciousness.

Which brings me to the criminal omission, once again, of the Stooges. Voting in the Pistols before the Stooges is putting the cart before the horse in a big way.

In 1986, the first class of inductees looked like this:
Chuck Berry
James Brown
Ray Charles
Sam Cooke
Fats Domino
The Everly Brothers
Buddy Holly
Jerry Lee Lewis
Elvis Presley
Little Richard

early influences
Robert Johnson
Jimmie Rodgers
Jimmy Yancey

So now that they've gotten around to recognizing punk the last couple of years, they should have followed the same modus operandi - recognize the pioneers first, then those that built on the foundation laid by the "early adopters".

Oh well, "wait 'til next year!!".