A friend of mine shared an article by Craig Havighurst on facebook the other day. After reading it I got frustrated how focused on the recent past many articles regarding this topic are and how pessimistic that point of view is. It is a good article, with interesting thoughts, still I felt compelled to write a bigger comment wich you will find below following the link to Craigs original article, which is a highly recommended read.
Most things in that list are society problems at large, the question is how the music industry deals with it. With all the pessimism about music as a main career, there are loads of new things to focus at. First, what I never read anywhere, is that a society determines the place for music. In Ireland, children learn to play their instruments from their parents. It is not a deal if you are a master of your instrument, you just bring it to the pub at night and play. Without expectation of fame or money. Just for the craigh. Same in Africa. Loads of skillful and creative musicians, Just playing for fun and worship. So the question should be: is it just to expect being able to live of recordings at all? This career path is about 150 years old. The career path of a performing musician on the other hand thousands. Recordings are a fad passing by imho. The real value will go back to performance.
Some more thoughts:
Loss of context as a product : Music blogs deliver interviews, thoughts and information along with play list. This is often way more comprehensive than anything ever delivered with sold media. Also, others where arguing that all the context was distracting from the music. One could argue it is purer now.
Commercial Radio has staled : Podcasts have become exciting.
The Media : Depending on the definition of "The Media", is suffering from and profiting from the same transition as the music industry. That is no excuse, but art has always been for the freaks. Real success is measured in money. Always was (going thousands of years back!), always will.
Conflation : Nothing new. Ever been in a Virgin Mega Store in the 90s? iTunes Store mirrors just that. A one stop entertainment supply with movies, games and music. Also MTV was successfully mashing up TV consumption and Music consumption, opening a new marketing channel.
Anti-Intellectualism : Again, this is not a problem of the music industry but society. The music industry does only react to market demand (it is an industry after all.) Also, in western culture, we do not worship anymore. Our churches are temples of consumption (Malls are triggering the same brain regions as churches btw.). My church is the club. This reflects in the music. Classical music was often mainly worship music. The same counts for Gospel. Indian classical music too has religious aspects. It is a culture thing, anti intellectualism. Look at our leaders.
Movies and Games : Are new career paths. Add sound design to that. After recordings opened new opportunities for musicians and composers approx 100 years ago, social networks allow for direct contact between composers/producers and their clients. Also Audio professionals such as engineers did not exist 150 years ago. I agree with the devaluation as background noise though.
Music in schools : Yeah, meh :/ That was never a particularly pleasant topic. Churches and private tuition where always the paths to mastery. Unfortunately there has been no progress there…
The 40 years between the 60s and the 2000s where an odd anomaly that have been distorting our expectation and perception of music through the recording industry and their marketing. Combine that with a decline in certain cultural values ( or maybe just raised voices of the masses drowning out intellectualism ) and you got the reasons for the current state of music in western society.