Monthly Archives: August 2013

New Terrain: The Other Side of the Changing Music Industry

With the development of social networking sites, prosumer recording equipment, and the mp3 culture the increased ability to disseminate independent art has caused the music industry to go through nothing less than a rapid paradigm shift. With physical distribution and advertisement reduced to a small fraction of its former self major labels have lost a great deal of their influence and control over the industry. It is now possible to create and distribute a product which rivals professional quality and cultivate a sizable following from the base of an average household.

Musicians and artists who rose to notoriety before the social media age often speak on the importance of low budget/high quality projects and ease of self promotion through social networking. They often stress the long hours and the large amounts of money that were put into creating a quality product in previous generations. Long story short, musicians now have it easier than ever to become known in an industry that has always been controlled by a manipulative group of corporate interests. This is not new information to anyone interested in the music business. However, masked by the many shouts from classic stars raving about the new golden age of artistic freedom, heavy barriers exist that could be just as oppressive to the sincere musician as the former power structure.

Yes, there are more avenues for independent art than the last several generations, but it is important to realize that with the opening of new channels comes the flooding of more material. Along with more possibilities are far more artists and entertainers filling newsfeeds. Even without the debate on quality, it’s no surprise that this thickening of the industry chokes it from allowing many more great artists to rise. Moreover, it is almost expected that not only should a product be of professional quality now but that it should be offered for free due to the overwhelming amount of competition. In the end, the industry has become more dense while the actual quality of the expression has become diluted by prosumer gear (a bad vision can be temporarily covered up by the sheen of modern technology).

It should be understood, though, that this is not an excuse or reason to complain. Rather, it is simply an important perspective that must be given attention in the full understanding of the industry’s new direction. Because of its early age, it is wild and uncontrolled. The more the artist understands the terrain of the new paradigm the easier it will be for him/her to navigate their own path.

 

Rising Blue: Jazz in the Mainstream.

In the past, I’ve written short posts on the importance of the young contemporary jazz generation. These artists are often seen as part of a very small subculture tucked away in the new york clubs or oversees in Europe and Japan. Once in a while they make appearances at the international jazz festivals or collaborate with hip hop artists. And while the blend of urban, electronic, and traditional improvised stylings makes for an exotic mix that is sometimes recognized, it is just as quickly let go for fear that it will fail in the mainstream. It sounds dramatic but when you realize that sales of jazz recordings make up less than 3 percent of our country’s total record sales, you come to realize how far it has fallen (http://www.theroot.com/views/jazzinomics) . Moreover, the classics such as Miles Davis and Coltrane take up the majority of that 3 percent. Recently, however, within the past several years young experimental jazz artists have stepped out of their own genre and taken away grammy awards in categories almost always awarded to mainstream acts. Esperanza Spalding, for example, won the award for Best New Artist against Justin Beiber. In addition, Robert Glasper’s newest recording Black Radio won best R&B Album. If there is any indication that jazz is returning to popular culture the notoriety of the often mainstream-dominated Grammy Awards would indicate it.

 

 

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