Live Music is Dead!?

I don't really believe it is! But my friend, and musician, eric ott posted a Facebook comment wondering if it was, and it got me thinking. here is my long winded response:

my take: yes and no. this is gonna be long, and i'm gonna generalize a bit, btw. i think we musicians (or at least *I*) have been spoiled by playing music in the pre-digital era - an era when there were fewer means of meeting society's needs (say, social needs. needs for connectedness). you didn't google all the band calendars/websites and choose - you just went to town, ran into some friends and eventually found a place to hang. and more bars had music because they wanted to make the experience a better one for their clientelle - or even increase the foot traffic if the band was popular. you didn't get sucked into reading your facebook "news feed", or a thousand on demand movies or TV shows, or some show you DVR'd for some later "free time". at best, you didn't fuck up setting up your VCR and maybe you had one show to watch. but it still wasn't as easy as just flipping on the TV and hitting two buttons.

soooo....

people went out. some bands were good, some bands were ok, with a couple "hits", some sounded like Creed. zing! i would argue that most people went for the experience - the whole experience - hanging, drinking, seeing people, and music *happened* to be there, so, we all had a better chance of developing a fan base, to say nothing of more opportunities to play and get better. so, when a band played the stone church - a pure destination gig - we all had a chance to play for more people before that gig, to get better, and develop more of a fan base. the people who got their community "fix" (and had fewer ways to get it) would make a night of it with their friends, and that's what they'd do. now plenty get it thru web surfing, FB, xBox, and IM'ing and texting, and the "draw" is split. notice, we're all HERE INSTEAD OF CHATTING ABOUT IT AT A BAR! :)

look at the dying record labels/industry. agents, managers, labels execs are furious they can't maintain their high-on-the-hog way of doing business and profits! they're so pissed that people won't buy their shit! well why should we? mos of it iss sub par, and we only want two or three tracks. they gave us bad product, and more importantly - a bad *experience*. now we have a better option that serves our needs as music listeners. but BEFORE - we HAD to buy it, or get a third generation cassette copy from somebody else. ANNNND, it was a way for all of us to connect with each other, through the common interest in great music - meeting OUR social needs. now we do this online. when is the last time most of us all grabbed a new, highly anticipated record and listened to it in the same room with a few other people who were excited about it, chatting only a little? say zuzu used to do it pretty regularly. obviously I/we are older now, and it's not as easy, but you get the point. the major labels were doing just fine until they weren't - but i'd argue that their doing well had more to do with people settling for a shitty sub par version of what had come before (50's-1980+) and little to do with them (on the whole) providing a great service and experience. cultural inertia.


I like to bash on the big bad music industry for being blind and shortsighted as much as the next guy. but i think a lot of what us grey beards consider the dying of passion for (live) music, is actually, people finding better/easier options than "pretty good" music. i fear this might come off as harsh, or jaded, but it actually makes me quite optimistic! what it DOES mean (if i'm right - and who's to say) is that musicians/bands, if they want people to come and become fans - MUST become better at seeing the whole picture. I can jam with friends at my house and be fulfilled. when i ask other people to spend their precious time and money to spend and evening listeneing to me and my band, i have to think about what *their* experience is! are we too loud? do we look like we just got there from the grocery store? how are the songs going over? what would other musicians (whose taste i trust) suggest i do better?

It's up to US to be a more compelling option that all the little shiny things out there, and to remember that people WANT to discover new, exciting music. it hasn't lost it's appeal. i just think they removed the "curve" and music is getting it's real grade.

wow. that was long. sorry. guess i had some thoughts about it.

hugz.
j-no

4 comments

  • Eric Ott

    Eric Ott

    Will i get any royalties from this post? Good answer Jon.

    Will i get any royalties from this post? Good answer Jon.

  • KV

    KV

    I think the loss of venues also played a large part of the decline. Just a few examples, the Portsmouth Brewery downstairs reinvented a gritty, hearty scene into a kitschy lounge atmosphere. The Stone Church seemed to focus more on fine dining and lost the artist-centric feel. They didn't seem familiar anymore, and as you mentioned, rude people just wont shut up during the music. And I can't even remember what happened to the Elvis Room. The driving forces (the bands circa 1990's) behind the local music scene promotion burned themselves out. And in my short-sighted memory it also seemed that almost all of the major bands seemed to fade out together in a relatively short time...Say Zuzu, Fly Spinach Fly, Thanks to Gravity, Heaven's to Murgatroid, Pondering Judd (the more rockin' version, (as opposed to the more acoustic incarnation) with Eric Nelson I think...) All of these bands and more were years ahead of their time, and the promotional/exposural opportunities today (FaceBook, MySpace, YouTube, iTunes etc.) would have brought this talent to so many more people (maybe at the expense of our local enjoyment and accessibility...) and maybe kept the flame burning longer. Maybe I'm sentimental about the era, but I watched great musicians perform great music I'll never forget, and I hope that it isn't over for local live music...Thanks for all you've done, from a NH local music fan.

    I think the loss of venues also played a large part of the decline. Just a few examples, the Portsmouth Brewery downstairs reinvented a gritty, hearty scene into a kitschy lounge atmosphere. The Stone Church seemed to focus more on fine dining and lost the artist-centric feel. They didn't seem familiar anymore, and as you mentioned, rude people just wont shut up during the music. And I can't even remember what happened to the Elvis Room. The driving forces (the bands circa 1990's) behind the local music scene promotion burned themselves out.
    And in my short-sighted memory it also seemed that almost all of the major bands seemed to fade out together in a relatively short time...Say Zuzu, Fly Spinach Fly, Thanks to Gravity, Heaven's to Murgatroid, Pondering Judd (the more rockin' version, (as opposed to the more acoustic incarnation) with Eric Nelson I think...)
    All of these bands and more were years ahead of their time, and the promotional/exposural opportunities today (FaceBook, MySpace, YouTube, iTunes etc.) would have brought this talent to so many more people (maybe at the expense of our local enjoyment and accessibility...) and maybe kept the flame burning longer.
    Maybe I'm sentimental about the era, but I watched great musicians perform great music I'll never forget, and I hope that it isn't over for local live music...Thanks for all you've done, from a NH local music fan.

  • Mike Bjerke

    Mike Bjerke Hinckley, Minnesota

    www.livemusicisdead.com title track sums it up. MB

    www.livemusicisdead.com title track sums it up. MB

  • J

    J

    As a musician who has spent many years on the road, trying to connect with apathetic/electronically distracted/cynical/nostalgic audiences, I am reminded of the old saying: “Easier said than done."

    As a musician who has spent many years on the road, trying to connect with apathetic/electronically distracted/cynical/nostalgic audiences, I am reminded of the old saying: “Easier said than done."

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