Stevie Nicks’ opinion on the Internet:
“Children no longer develop social graces. They don’t hang out anymore. I’m financially stable. I’m okay. But what about the kids trying to make it in this business? If you’re not an established band, if you don’t have a hit single, they’re gonna drop you. There are a lot of people out there as talented as we were, but they can’t sustain being in a rock ‘n’ roll band for long without success. We were able to, but we’re going to die out.”
Unfortunately for Stevie’s opinion of the modern world, I can say (from experience) that young people today do have social skills and they do hang out… what else can we post on Facebook? I think it has much more to do with how the Internet bombards us with so much music with so little effort that its difficult to care about it as much as we used to.
To save space and your sanity, I’ve condensed my points and not included as much detail as I’d have liked to, so this is more of a summary of my argument.
As the modern world turns around and finds out that it has accidentally stumbled into something called the ‘digital age,’ most of the major players in the music industry woke up to the worrying realisation that they were no longer as high up the food chain as they were yesterday. The entire culture industry, along with support from legislation has placed the blame in the laps of online “pirates.” Although distributing large quantities of entertainment free of charge has had a short-term effect on the bank accounts of the major players, I believe that specifically in the case of music, the pirates are indicative of an attitude change towards music (driven by the extent that we can now produce digital reproductions of art) which was predicted years ago.
So what do we do? For me, pushing music forwards as an art form is the primary goal. Experimenting with sound, combining it with as many elements as you can is, in my opinion, the best way to create amazing artistic statements. I don’t feel like we can do that if we carry on selling music in the traditional way, genre specific people in genre specific clothes playing chords arranged in a genre specific manner. We’ve also had groups which broke out of some or all of those elements. Maybe there’s another way? We all need to grow up, get over the end of the 20th Century and stop trying to be Rock Stars. Let’s be artists.
Many people in Western societies now have the god-like ability to conjure entertainment, including text, pictures, audio and video, at will with nothing more then a swipe of a finger across a piece of transparent plastic/glass/whatever-it-is-they-make -smartphones-from. For the first time in history, we have a massive cultural pool of entertainment sources, which we, as users, can pick from as we choose. Music is in the background on websites, during videos or short animations all across the web. It increasingly permeates our daily lives too. So why isn’t it more important & profitable?
Listening to an iPod (or any other perfectly good mp3 player) whilst you go about your daily business allows people in an increasingly atomised society to separate themselves from the world around them and create their own headspace. As you pop the headphones in and find your favourite album, you block out as much noise from the outside as possible, overlaying your personal sound track over the top. In this way, music isn’t something you go out of your way for, it now has more in common with the atmosphere: it’s sort of just there.
The emphasis seems to have shifted and it appears as though the arrival of truly personal computers (aka smartphones), permanently hooked up to the Internet and attached to their respective owners are starting to change the expectations consumers have for their sources of entertainment. In the time between the Gutenberg press’ introduction, and the arrival of Edison’s phonograph, only entertainment (including sheet music) that could be written down could be faithfully reproduced and redistributed across our entire society.
However, assuming you have decent enough literacy expertise to read the book of your choice, you need the relevant practical skill, or a friend with them, to provide the actual entertainment. The book acts simply as an instruction manual. This means if you want to listen to whatever music you please, you have to learn to read music and pick up an instrument, or travel to see the musicians perform.
Why would you want to do that now? Why bother? I don’t even need to buy their CD or even bother downloading it, I can just look up my new favourite band on Spotify! Then next week, I’ll look up that week’s favourite band instead.
Music synchronised with moving images can make or break a film. The famous example, that Jaws wouldn’t be anywhere near as scary if it didn’t have music is true. I don’t think that all music needs to copy John Williams, but the synergy between music and picture create something special.
TV and the internet have helped to permanently blur the line between image and musical artists. We’re now hearing thousands of pieces of music for free every day, without even trying, in the background of adverts and programs, edited onto that cat video I keep watching on YouTube, etc. It’s now quite likely that most people, particularly young people and children surfing the web, will come across more content where music serves to enhance the visuals then the other way round.
Despite this, music isn’t unable to stand on its own, I just think that it’s heyday has come and gone, and it may be time for a new art, or a reinvented older art form to come to the fore.
5 minute video on Walter Benjamin (Thanks to Jon Stewart for the link!)