Brilliant documentary on the State of the Music Industry

via Podcasting News

Before The Music Dies‘ is a 2006 documentary about the state of the music industry without the shrill discussion about filesharing and that particular RIAA Weapon of Mass Distraction and very welcome because of it. Made by music lovers FOR music lovers; it interviews many people from Eric Clapton, Elvis Costello, a wonderfully on form Erykah Badu, Dave Matthews, Branford Marsalis and many more known and unknown. It covers the main reason that the music industry is changing and it’s not filesharing – the major corporations and their conservative management and lack of artist development and swallowing of radio – the homogeny of culture (monoculture) created from that.

The big 4 would like you to believe the 800-pound gorilla is filesharing and the internet, but largely it’s a convenient excuse for a bland-ishment and lack of support for artists and focusing purely on the bottom line – I mean how many major groups and artists you hear now have been dropped, still big/known ones which surprise you? It’s quite a lot – because unless you provide the hits then you’re out. People will support the music they love, and will fall in love with new music – but if you pump 80’s channels and the same old crap at them then yes they will switch off and treat it as background. It’s not the video game nor is it the internet that is killing music for the youth – it’s lack of innovation, creativity and support from the modern likes of John Hammond and Ahmet Ertegun that is killing music. Push bland Beyonce and Britney and tried and tested retro ‘hits’ at people and don’t provide anything new, of course the kids are going to drift off and do something else, or treat the music as wallpaper. For it IS wallpaper. Aural brainmulch candyfloss wallpaper.

But also this culture of fame, celebrity creates something far more worrying – something I’ve been talking with John recently is that people expect more and more instant feedback, they’ve become X-Factor fame junkies, it’s devalued in their eyes unless it’s somehow BIG and SUCCESSFUL. As far as I can tell it permeates all fields – not just music; many places where business has a grip on the cultural psyche – from the modern social spaces such as social media, to the older spheres such as broadcasting and education.

The worse thing about that is it can make artists devalue their own work in their own eyes, this drip drip drip brainwashing that X-Factor Pop Idol Heat magazine type successes is the benchmark of what’s good – or people don’t even try or embarassingly like the first auditions of X-Factor think they don’t have to practice or learn…the myth of the overnight success is very dangerous (and false – as people have pointed out their 5-10-15 years of ‘day’ working at their skills previous to that ‘night’) It’s turning yourself into a brand and product, and the alienation that entails – which as in the film if you are your own boss and company can be liberating, but most often than not you are a corporate puppet.

And when you have the likes of Cerys on BBC 6Music – a niche music lover’s radio station on DAB, publicly funded and thus removed from the need to be commercial – stressing that she might not get away with playing an 18 minute tune as I heard a few days ago, then you know something is extremely wrong in the state of Denmark (St). The idea of advertiser-friendly 4 minute songs has trickled into areas that shouldn’t need to care about them, in fact it’s in the remit NOT to be like other commercial radio, well that’s worrying.

The metrics the BBC is using – of RADAR and RAJAR figures – to justify it’s programming is the same as commercial radio, so to keep the ears they employ the same tactics and the same people, even if it goes against the very same idea of public broadcasting. They should be serving the niches and areas that are increasingly not filled by commercial interests, it’s not elitist it’s what their public remit is. Again and again though they defend their increasingly populist programming (even in the case of the newer digital stations there is no need to be) with audience figures. It’s meaningless. It should be more about audiences served and their happiness that they have some home and diversity in the bland homogenity of stations, rather than Strictly Come Dancing ratings war replicating the worst of commercial broadcasting. Worthy and treating your audience as intelligent is not wrong; and it’s dumbing down which is the real crime.

And it’s not just in media – the Success Factor plugs into so many things, people won’t watch or value a video unless it has 100,000s of views, won’t value someone’s contribution as ‘official’ unless they have 1000s or 100,000s of friends on Twitter or Facebook, won’t think a website or blog is big until it gets a lot of comments (although ironically most readers are passive and don’t comment). The celeb magazines are just a glamorous if inane symptom of a much deeper cause; what I call the numbers game. And most of the numbers game is actually faked as much as that BalloonBoy – people puffing up figures, fake sales, payola, fake comments, fake hits, SEO trickery and bullshit, autofollows and fake accounts. Why can’t we evaluate something on it’s own worth? And conversely work at stuff without expecting immediate reward or placing value systems on it that eventually suffocate the creativity? Is that so hard?

Branford Marsalis says it best in the video, 1hr 4mins in:

“What I’ve learned from my students is students today are completely full of shit. That is what I’ve learned from my students is that much like the generation before them the only thing they are interested in is you telling them how right they are and how good they are.

That is the same mentality that basically forces Harvard to give out B’s to people that don’t deserve them, out of the fear that they’ll go to other schools that will give them B’s and those schools will make the money.

We live in a country that seems to be in this massive state of delusion, where the idea of what you are is more important than you actually being that.…yeah my students all they want to hear how good they are and how talented they are. Most of them aren’t really willing to work to the degree to live up to that”

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Tim B Written by:

One Comment

  1. Martin
    October 19
    Reply

    Well said Tim. The Branford Marsalis quote could very well be aimed at the ‘constestants’ in the BBC2 TV programme ‘Design for Life’.

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