Thursday, November 08, 2018

Swimming With The Current

I noticed a friend posted on social media about releasing new music. He alerted his friends about a new single being available soon where folks purchase or steal music. He meant stream, but he decided to leave it.

I get that. Artists aren’t being paid properly for the music they produce and supply to the masses for streaming consumption. As someone that thought the original Napster was the equivalent of robbing a bank, I totally get that. It costs money to produce music if you want studio quality.

The streaming music industry is woefully behind when it comes to paying the artists. I have sympathy for those artists… No one hires a painter only to pay them a small fraction for their work.

But I feel there is a catch-22 as big as the Hoover Dam with streaming… Live original music is dying a slow death. And I admit that I just don’t really care about going to live shows anymore. I will list my reasons.

1. The start times are too late for my old mandom ass. I simply don’t abide by the same schedule as I did 10 years ago.
2. It can be a hassle. Parking for most venues are limited and rare to find on the cheap (free). If I were to go to the Ramkat in Winston, that would be a major pain in my ass. That’s exactly why I only went to 3 shows at the Ziggy’s in downtown WS.
3. I have gotten older and fatter. Standing on concrete for 4 hours just isn’t for me anymore. And I certainly do not want to pay more for the VIP treatment to just place my ass on a chair from time to time.
4. Ticket prices have gotten a little out of hand in my opinion. Local artists are a little different, but 1, 2, and 3.
5. Most of the shows that I want to attend are at least 30 to 45 minutes or more away. That also pertains to the number 1 reason. I no longer want to drive home in the wee hours of the morning.

Do I miss going to live shows?

Yes. That’s the short of it.

The big ol’ Hoover Dam… Streaming.

Streaming is a simple way for others to find out about an artist’s music. We pay $15 a month to Spotify for their family plan. Instead of paying from $10 to $15 or more per new CD or digital download, I gladly throw my money at Spotify. I’m not risking my money for a purchase of one CD/DL when I can stream it for the same price or just a little more. PLUS, I’ll have access to hundreds of thousands of other releases by the same number of artists at NO RISK. For me, that’s the perfect situation. Sure, I have a handful of artists that I will gladly spend my money on for a hard CD copy of their latest release. But over the decades of acquiring music, I’m running out of room to house them. So, streaming really cuts down on that. And my wife definitely appreciates that even though she wants to get my vinyl collection back out and running for listening pleasure. Personally, I don’t get the whole vinyl thing being hip again. Sure, I miss the crackles and pops of the vinyl but I have fully embraced the ease of the MP3 player and now streaming. And the ability to switch to just about ANY artist is amazing to me.

The kids today don’t seem to be interested in seeing live music unless it’s a huge artist they’re listening to on streaming services. I’ve seen and heard about the dismal turnouts for club shows. There are just too many distractions for our attention these days. TV is showing signs of a death rattle. Radio is on life support. And streaming is now king. We want what we want when we want it. I will make no apologies for embracing that same philosophy. And besides, with Spotify I’m listening to what I WANT. I choose. Radio is the LAST thing that I want to listen to simply because they refuse to offer anything new or different. They just keep pushing the same ol’ same ol’.

But let’s get back to the “stealing” aspect that pertains to the Hoover Dam catch-22…

An artist wants to be heard. Artists want people at their shows. But people won’t attend shows unless they’re familiar with the music… And don’t get me started on that. I despise hearing “When is it going to play something that I know?” question when friends are sitting around visiting with us. I mean, how do they find out about new music?? Seriously, did you just know “Wagon Wheel” the first time that you heard it??

But that seems to be the herd mentality when it comes to original artists out there making music. Personally, I want to hear what the artist is bringing to the table with their own experiences and the pictures they paint with words and music. I will ALWAYS want to know and learn about new music.

Everyone isn’t like that. So, for the local artists that feel that they’re not getting paid for their work when it comes to streaming… I get it. I totally do. I do think the trade-off comes with the ability of discovering their music through streaming. And maybe, just maybe, those new listeners will show up to the gigs of the local artists. Buy some merch, purchase a couple of adult beverages, and maybe even talk to the local artist.

I urge everyone that streams music to give your local artists some room on your playlists. And if possible, promote their music on social media to spread the word. Spotify has an easy way of doing just that with Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I know that Spotify creates a little sample of the music to try right there in the Facebook news feed.

I have a playlist with artists that make music from North Carolina that I call “Homegrown NC Goodness”. From bluegrass to hard rock to country. There’s something for everyone. Try it if you’re so inclined. You can lift the songs that you like and put them into your own playlists.

The landscape of the music industry has changed over the last 20 years. I used to work for Capitol Records and that joint shut down before the 1990s were in the record books. The labels saw the writing on the wall, but stuck with the same ol’ same ol’ until it was too late. The flood gates are open and the current has become too strong to shut them. Streaming has created a “wild blue yonder” of possibilities for discovery. So, there’s the catch-22. Artists are driven to create. Creating music takes money. But if there’s no Horton to hear the Whos then what is it all worth?

Hopefully, the streaming music industry will find a suitable solution for everyone. The artists, the labels, and the listeners.

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