“We live in an age of music for people who don’t like music. The record industry discovered some time ago that there aren’t that many people who actually like music. For a lot of people, music’s annoying, or at the very least they don’t need it. They discovered if they could sell music to a lot of those people, they could sell a lot more records”.
I like this quote – I figure there to be some truth in it. Perhaps you like it too. Or maybe you instantly wonder about the motivation for T-Bone Burnett to say this? Is he upset that the music he is involved with has not reached a wide-enough audience?
We have to remember that there was music long before there was a music industry. We are witnessing the fall of the music industry; the collapse. It won’t necessarily rebuild in to a new industry – but there will always be music. There was music before there was a music industry. There will be music after there is a music industry.
We still continue to confuse hype with critical acumen and sales with artistic ability. Success means sales when we like someone who has sold it a lot. But sales can also point to the enemy if/when we don’t like the music.
Kanye West – classic example.
He is no game-changer – there is nothing bold and remarkable about releasing an album on a major label – it is a numbers game. The major labels will do whatever they can to create hype and to have something that will sell. The artist can talk all they want about the purity of their artistic statement but now, more than ever, if that is being released via a major label the artist is basically telling a lie; the label is hoping they can make plenty of money quickly from selling the telling of that lie.
The game-changer is almost gone – as the main format for listening. Many will tell you it’s long-gone already. But even those that still listen to albums, that still buy albums (I include myself in this group) will have to face up to the fact that it’s dying out, it has a shelf-life; it’s being called in.
The way to continue to sell albums/music is to make good music. You need to build an audience the old fashioned way; that is the only way that it can work – and that it will last. And you need to trust that audience; that audience needs to be able to trust you.
We need to get out of the mindset that music creates stars; that one can become rich from making music – that one can have a ‘hit’. And that these are the important factors in judging something or someone to be a success.
So, you reckon T-Bone Burnett is not as successful Kanye West– or whoever you want to choose…
Well there’s a good chance that whoever believes that is not really a fan of music. They’re
actually a huge fan of marketing – no matter how fringe-like and non-mainstream they believe themselves to be. They’re a fan of hype, a fan of buzz, a fan of finding something safe and obvious and sitting with it rather than being challenged. In short, a fan of having the wool pulled over their eyes; a fan of preferring to gaze at trees, unaware of all the wood right there too.