The New Music Business Is For Grown-Ups
Although the accessibility of YouTube has opened up avenues to exploit the seemingly prophetic abilities of Justin Bieber and his ilk, the truth is, the only people that are mesmerized by his skills are the young and naive. The rest of us, consciously or subconsciously, equate it to the same entertainment value as a dancing monkey, or a robot that can successfully navigate a flight of stairs. This is because there is entertainment value in mimicry.
We are fascinated by something out of the norm, which resembles the things we have become accustomed to. However, our attention to this is fleeting; as soon as we've seen it, we are familiar and want the next thrill.
We are bombarded with endless products offering up a faux alternative to the reality we once held so dear. Spring fresh detergent, pumpkin pie aroma candles, imitation leather jackets, cinnamon flavored coffee. Many seem satisfied with the replacement, but couple it with an experience of the genuine article and we realize how far apart they actually are.
Sure, the decline of the music industry is in part due to piracy and the death of the CD as a primary format, but it is also due to the major labels finding a formula that marketed faux soul, faux ability, and faux songs as the real thing. When products are fake, they have to carry a disclaimer, warning of their impurity. The music industry would market everything as the real thing and go to great lengths to prove its authenticity. Thus, the skill of the major label became bullshitting.
Finding artists that could be quickly packaged and bumped onto the assembly line, out onto the shelves, next to the scented candles, and knock off clothes.
They would put their bullshit machine into motion. Paying whomever they could to jump on board, with the hope that their Stevie Wonder, Beatles, or Madonna scented product, would connect in some way with the masses.
E = MC Hammer
The mistake they made was to think they could control the market. That by following a formula they could mastermind hit after hit, but disrupt one essential element of that formula and it no longer works. The CD sales were that element. Good racking could be obtained in stores such as Best Buy by paying large fees, sometimes as much as the record itself cost to make. These were not because they were actually pick of the week and deserved the space. It was because the space was bought, to continue the lie that you were being confronted by the real deal – something that had been singled out for its authenticity.
In fairness to the labels, it did serve as a much-needed filter. The market is now over saturated by band after band bombarding you with requests from every social network available to them.
It's Evolution Baby
We are now entering a point in music, which is akin to natural selection and survival of the fittest. What makes an act survive is the strength of their music, not of the machine around it.
The dinosaurs could have overpowered all of us, but they were powerless to the meteor that wiped them out. A meteor has certainly hit the music business and it's the cumbersome dinosaurs that are falling.
There is no better example of this than the 2011 Grammys.
Arcade Fire taking album of the year was a big statement. However, it was the show stealing, no frills performance of Mumford and Sons, which was the real example of survival of the fittest. On a stage barely bigger than them, with no elaborate lights or embarrassing dancers, their authenticity shined through.
Their mainstream popularity has been due to natural selection, not some lab experimentation.
Catching the Rat
This is why the new music industry is for grownups, people who have matured through these hard times and used it as learning experience. Those who have treated their craft like the nurturing of kids.
Understanding that it takes time for songs to reach their full potential, and it's through life and lessons learned that mistakes are prevented from being made.
Our instincts need to be honed and understood. Artists like Justin Bieber and Willow Smith have been surrounded by influence from a young age. This has certainly helped develop their musical instinct, but they are simply kittens chasing a ball. Sure it's cute and all, but sustaining a career means you have learn to catch the rat.
Christina Aguilera has been finding out the hard way. If you are thrown into things at too early an age, the only place for you to start making mistakes is in the public eye, and that is disastrous for your career.
When there are lions out there – you don't want to be a wildebeest.
Listen To Your Parents
Mick Jagger didn't just catch a rat at the Grammys. He caught a bunch of them and fed the whole audience. His energy and vigor showed the prepubescent performers of the evening that – one genuine article expels the need for the safety blanket of fifty back up dancers.
Jagger was the perfect musical father figure, and the children need to be spending more time listening and learning from their parents and spending less time messing around with their peers.
OK, it's time to leave the kids with their major label baby sitters.
Let's go out and get this party started. It's going to be on a tiny stage in some skanky bar that the real future is being born.
And that is a place for grown-ups.