The following article is based off an article written by Ricky Lindroos titled “The Disappearing Musician.” My sentiments are definitely echoed by Mr. Lindroos and I share his dismay about the demise and expendability of true musicians in the work force.
When I was in high school back in the 90’s, I spoke with a talented Jazz musician who came to our school to guest-direct one of our band rehearsals about the music industry’s past and future. He told me he felt that advances in technology, specifically the technology geared toward the home entertainment industry, would eventually be the undoing of his once lucrative career.
I remember him telling me about the days when he first started playing clubs around New Jersey and Boston during the late 70’s. During that era, the clubs were always packed on weekends and there seemed to be a sincere appreciation for the music and the talented musicians performing on stage.
But as time progressed, more entertainment options became available that were primarily based around the home. Televisions became sharper and more colorful, there were more and more channels to choose from, and a large silver box called a VCR allowed you to actually play movies of your choosing on your TV set.
Fast forward a bit and you find yourself in a world that has become increasingly saturated by choice. Music is but one of a handful of different avenues one can take when in need of entertainment. With the Internet, gaming systems such as the XBOX and Playstation, high quality DVD based movies in your living room, and ten types of pizza at your fingertips, who needs to go out anymore?
If you do happen to spend a night listening to music, there’s no need to actually pay for that song that’s gently gracing your ears. Peer to Peer sites like LimeWire and Grogster put millions of songs at your fingertips, just click and that song is yours.
The thing I find hardest to get across to friends and aquaintances is how much effort went into making that music that is so easily downloaded for free. That four minute piece of art most likely took months if not years to finally be completed. A group of musicians sat for hours at a stretch in a stuffy room writing and re-writing, arguing and compromising until they had finally created a song. The consequence of this being, large amounts of work and effort are invested with little or no guarantee of a return, other than personal satisfaction and artistic expression.
Unfortunately, artistic expression doesn’t always keep the bills paid and the vast majority of musicians face a career path that is uneasy and uncertain. They don’t receive pension plans, health care, or guaranteed wages. There is no corporate ladder to climb, it’s more like a small path that leads into a dense, dark forest. Some find their way through quickly and easily, while others get lost and languish in an unforgiving environment.
What lies on the horizon for the music industry as they face consistently declining album sales is uncertain. I’m sure the major record companies are currently trying to find ways to make the online music, iPod saturated culture more lucrative for themselves. As well as developing new technology in hopes of ending the ease of music piracy. Let’s hope they improve upon previous attempts of copy protection that resulted in security holes being created on any computer that played the protected CD. (i.e. Sony BMG 2005 XCP software)
As far as the future of the musician, I don’t ever envision a world in which music is unneeded or unnecessary, but musicians will have to evolve and make use of the tools that the personal computer age has given them. Web sites such as MySpace and YouTube give the local musician world-wide reach, and affordable home recording programs like ProTools LE and Cubase are now widely available.
Technology may continue to improve and play an ever growing role in our lives, but the sincere simplicity of four guys standing on a stage playing their hearts out while thousands of music fans sing every syllable, cannot and will not be trumped by any technology.