Well you must have been reading my mind Angie, as yesterday I started to enter some comments into this thread. I wanted to share some comments another musician, Billy Bragg had to say about this subject in another column ( see below)
In the end I was not able to complete my comments and headed 'stage left' to the matter which was calling me.
I must begin by saying this has been one of the most intelligent dialogues on this issue I have seen, professionally or otherwise for a long time. I am so impressed by how current many of you are with the issue and willing to get into the ‘nitty gritty.’
Indeed, I have learned a lot myself and am grateful to all of you for this . No doubt I will continue to learn more.
As you will see, the technological advancements have brought a mixture of good things and less good things.
What I am seeing on the front lines is quite possible an 'end game' of sorts and I don't think there is anyone in or out of the industry who is able to predict where it will all end.
The disintegration of bricks and mortar music retail , in particular the Mom and Pop music stores, has been an incredible loss in my view.
They were often run by people who loved music and loved turning their customers on to music.(In my view, the best way any business should be run!!) However, they were pressed out by a number of things including other retail outlets who adopted very different business models, including that of selling real estate in the stores ( rack space, listening posts etc back to the record companies) and that, along with the technological advances and disenfranchised public, became like a deck of cards pushing out the little folks who genuinely cared and gave their customers good service. Some retailers have used ( and continue to use) CD's as loss leaders ( sell for less than their cost in order to get customers into the stores to buy more expensive things)
The many layers of infrastructure and legislation which are needed in the digital realm to compensate for this disappearance of music retail are simply not there yet and as a result, any artist and their supporters who prefer to 'consume' their music through CD's have quickly become further disenfranchised.
There are a lot of variables and layers involved in the new technological and economic world and their dynamics and interplay need to be computed together. Not an easy thing.
I believe there are a number of industries in a similar position.
What is clear is that creative people need a critical mass of success in order to do what they do unless they revert back to a patronage system .
We still have patronage arrangements in a variety of forms, for a variety of artistic endeavors. As for myself , it is something I have sought to avoid as much as possible for a variety of reasons This would include product endorsements etc.
The patronage system may be the only way certain things can survive and we see this often in relation to art forms such as classical music, dance etc.
This can be OK if there is no creative push for more 'commercial 'creations or programming. However, when outside companies use the arts for 'marketing and advertising' through name association of course this can set up a situation of potential conflict .Who does the creative director serve? The art and creative expression or steer creative direction to more populist or 'commercial' directions in order to serve the marketing objective of the patron?
Piggy backing on this can lead to the promotion of things which society does not support anymore like cigarettes. It can be a difficult relationship, but there are many examples of it working too.
In relation to the more contemporary music industry, if there is not a sufficient and internationally agreed upon system which ensures creative people are paid for their creative initiatives and copyrights, of course, more will be turning to other lines of work in order to support themselves. They may still be involved in their 'art' but probably at a lesser degree. I am already seeing this.
I have wondered how long it will take for certain artistic communities to 'dry up' at the scale they are existing at right now. Maybe it will all become more localised again. ...akin to the Slow Food Movement!! And not to say that is a bad thing either. Just different.
Like many things in our contemporary world, things are in great flux and the situation nor the solutions are easy or obvious , especially when there are various technological and commercial interests who are vying for supremacy or advantage. The creative folk and the public, as frequently is the case, are caught in between, sometimes left empty handed or wanting.
Even though the situation is not easy or clear, I do feel the first step towards the solution of any problem is being willing, prepared and equipped to tackle complex issues. I commend all of you in your approach to this rather less than ‘sexy’ part of the music business.
I guess the next stage is , what can or should we do about it?
And now for just a little bit more food for thought.
Here is the link to Billy Bragg's comments I was referring to earlier. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/22/opinion/22bragg.html
Thank you all once again for your comments and I hope you are finding each other's thoughts and experience interesting and valuable. I certainly am and I will join in as I can.
(I apologize for the length of this post.)