I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately* - plunged into another lockdown, friends losing their gigs and other opportunities and a lot of clamouring for some kind of normal, although I’m not even convinced at this stage that’s going to help.
It occurred to me that musicians and the music business aren’t always the best at adapting and embracing change, seems we’re much more likely to bitch about why things are so hard now (now being anytime from the beginning of time until the end)
My first firsthand taste was when I was working for Warner UK in London. iTunes hadn’t come to Australia yet but we had millions of lines of royalties on spreadsheets that had no home due to misspelled artist names or incomplete records. That’s no exaggeration either - it could have been tens of millions, we lost count.
You may remember that prior to this musicians were trying to sue Napster, American record labels were suing kids and pirates were earning more money from ads on their websites than musicians could ever dream of. Still, it took a tech company to come up with the solution - even then record companies argued about everything before finally giving in and accepting this was the future.
Why is this relevant now? Well again, a non-music company developed the solution we didn’t know we needed. As live streaming took off during the first wave of COVID, DIY artists everywhere were going live from, well, everywhere. This was the saviour! But then the pros got in on the act and the production level skyrocketed… all of a sudden, someone singing songs with a guitar in their kitchen went from “intimate” to “boring” while bands that could were hiring soundstages and aircraft hangars to put on “unmissable” shows.
I feel the fatigue. As both a performer and an audience member - I was so keen at the start to see bands I loved playing gigs, I would have bought tickets to 10 or more shows, and usually they were good. In the last few months I’ve seen one, and “x person is going live” passes me by without a thought.
I’m sure I’ve said it - but I’m increasingly disturbed by musicians starting conversations with the line “people should…” - like it or not, we all carry a little bit of entitlement about what we do.
People should pay for music, people should go to gigs, people should support ME!!!
People *should* do a lot of things, but they don’t. And what responsibility do the entertainers have? We should engage people, bring meaningful experiences, create amazing art… musicians also should do a lot of things they don’t.
Maybe it’s time we recognised that normal isn’t coming back, not the normal of 5, 10, 20 years ago - accept that it’s time for something new. Our audiences deserve nothing less.
What that new thing is I have no idea, but I’m committed to searching - ‘cause I want these things that (I believe) all artists should want.
Sometimes it’s healthy to say “maybe there’s another way”.
...and I’m up for any suggestions you might have!
Thanks for listening,
*I figure there must be some similar thinking going around at the moment because as I was about to start writing this I heard very similar sentiments on The Musician to Artist podcast created by Craig Honeysett from Dotted Eight Studios in Orange - shout out to great minds! ;) check out Craig’s excellent stuff here https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVGhJIExayoFAQ2nDW0zw-I_5rSqxlPv6