This week on “Are You Really Experienced?” we talk about what was right and wrong (and what Michael Sean Wright thought was wrong) with the Grammys, the ongoing Ticketmaster/Live Nation effort for a virtual ticketing monopoly, a mini-RIAA invasion of the DoJ, what the average person knows/cares about the PROs, and hey, we actually talk about some music! Listen as MSW, Dr. Tony Shore, Joe Kirk and I blather on for an hour about the music ‘n’ tech issues o’ the day…
Let me try to crystallize some thoughts that have been racing around in my head for a long time.
If T Bone Burnett decided he wanted to lead a coup d'état on the nation of Music, sign me up as a foot soldier. I trust his leadership on matters musical implicitly.
However, his comments backstage at the Grammys seem to echo a growing notion of abandonment of music as a method of mass communication, one that I don’t think bodes well for our society as a whole.
“What I think is that there is a limited number of people who like music. But those people really, really like music,” Burnett said. “The record industry got into the business of trying to sell music to everybody. If you make music for people who really care about music, you can do well.”
But if music – the “universal language” – starts to become a mode of communication solely intended for those who “really, really like” it, don’t we all lose in the long run?
The pure idea of mass media products – books, music, film, good writing, solid and credible information – becoming democratized so that those higher ideas are available for all who want them has been watered down over time, and that process of erosion has certainly sped up with the advent of easily available technology.
So much so that pretty much the only thing we’re left with is the lowest common denominator. We, the root level consumer, get the dregs because they’re easy and cheap to produce, and we’re told to like it.
And when you combine that with the flip side of a great and growing number of “consumers” who think, illogically, that all this content should be “free” because they’re unaware (or unwilling to become aware) of the economic structures involve with producing said content, it reinforces the content producers idea that the only thing they should produce is the product they absolutely know will sell. Not “think” will sell…know.
So what happens to the mass of potential music fans – those people who might “really, really like” great music if given the opportunity of exposure to it – don’t get that opportunity if the people who make the music don’t reach out past those who already love it, the people who distribute the music don’t bring it to the much-vaunted “marketplace of ideas,” and audience members don’t think they should have to part with anything other than some hard drive space?
Simple: they don’t become music fans.
Do I think everybody who even ever-so-slightly loves music should listen to and learn to love "Raising Sand"? Absolutely. Do I wish everybody I know who has even a passing interest in music would rush out and buy Burnett's classic "The True False Identity"? Absolutely.
But do I think Burnett and his oh-so-talented co-horts should only make music for those who "really, really like" it? Absolutely not.