Sunday, May 11, 2014

A small rant and some random observations

So, I like music. Heck, for about a third of my working life, I made music my main source of income. That's about as good as your average Rock star, so I feel pretty solid on this. My problem is with the state of music journalism, and what it says about music fans: while I agree that there's been a shift from music criticism to lifestyle reporting, I fear there's been a yet bigger change. I have been looking through music mags, and noticed it's increasingly rare to find photos of actual musical instruments. Heck, you don't even see microphones, unless you're talking about game shows. Then, you read the interviews and it's like they're talking to marketers: you'll see discussions of the business of touring, and how their love life is going, and their houses, as well as really vague talk of "direction" or "connections"- but there's no actual talk about what they do, except for talk about the lyrics. The only exception to this are in dedicated instrument magazines, like "Premiere Guitar" or " Keyboard Magazine". Now, add to this that the business of touring to play live music has changed. It's all about festivals, now- and I don't blame the bands, but when you're playing 10 gigs a year, instead of 50, and each of those 10 gigs is on a bill of 20-50 bands, to 75000 supposed fans, I really question how much of it is about bonding with an audience over the power of melody and beat, versus simple mob mechanics. Again, I understand, the bands have got financial needs, so I don't blame them for wanting more than beer money for their living, but I really start to wonder how much is about music, when you're playing so very little, with so much technology in between you and the audience. But, how can you deny 50,000 bucks over against 500 bucks? Yes, that really is the difference.  So, one last time, I don't blame a band, like say, The Arctic Monkeys, for only doing festivals, and signing agreements to not do club gigs- but then, how can I view them as the same occupation as the guys in say, Torche, where they're not doing photo shoots, they're playing endless gigs? It is all connected- if they play music about 30 days out of the year, and do interviews that are much more about what it's like to be a celebrity, and you see so few photos of them with instruments that it's hard to tell who plays what- how exactly am I to call them musicians? How can I be a fan,  except in the most general sense? So, my suggestion is this- we acknowledge the truth- on that level- it's not music, it's show business.
So, on to other topics-
Books- I've been reading a couple of books- "Left of the Dial"-by David Ensminger. I don't know how fair it is for me to talk about it- When David ran his magazine of the same name, I worked with him on it. Some of the interviews in this book arose from that work. I do not want to claim credit for what David has done, but I'm still too close to the work to review it. Also, I've been reading "Electrified" by Robert Shaw which is a collection about new, innovative luthiers . I find it inspiring but that's a subject best left to my other blog.
TV- I've been at the mercy of my wife's tastes, so I've seen all of The Mindy Project and I've seen about 5 episodes of Orphan Black. But, I have been watching Legit, Fargo,  Mad Men  and @Midnight as well. They're all really good.
As for music, unfortunately, I wasted too much time trying to find something reasonable in the new Black Keys, and failing. So, I went back to some favorites- The Dream Syndicate and Thin White Rope. So, nothing to report there.