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Preston Clive in Preston Clive - THE IRRITATED AMERICAN, Wielding The Digital Hatchet,

The Music Business, Howling The Blues

THE IRRITATED AMERICAN

New Pop Music product packaged for sale online.(IMAGE: backyard-gardening-fun.com)

THE BLUES: 1) a feeling of sadness or depression

                      : a style of music that was created by African-Americans in the southern U.S. and that often expresses feelings of sadness

Yes, the music business is generally feeling the blues, and as a result is singing a deeply felt, aching version of The Blues. Heartfelt, melancholic, full of aches and pains, dismal, sad, and gloomy.

Why? Of course you know why--falling revenues .  .  .  what else could send the hearts and souls of conglomerates that once made billions every year down into such profound dumps? 

Money--that's what.

The music business has been hurting, and hurting for awhile now. In an effort to find its way through the wilderness of digital--a technological realm that was supposed to signal a wondrous revolution, that somehow turned into a complete curse--the business has routed itself straight down into the outhouse tank.

There's a debate going in at the heart of the music business that concerns the revenue potential resident in the prospect of artists and record labels taking their eggs out of the faltering basket of free terrestrial radio and shifting them into the land of paid streaming content via online services like Pandora, Sirius, and Spotify. The hesitancy on the part of the music business to embrace the streaming model is the fact that these services are viewed as a threat to the (wait for it) viability of the album. Since folks will simply stream the one or two songs they want to hear from each artist, the story goes, thus the album will drop dead.

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Now that I've returned to my seat after rolling all around on the floor laughing my ass off just writing that statement, I can get back to the business of finishing this article.

The "viability of the album," eh? Since when did people truly care about albums over, say, the past ten years?

Never. Venues like Pandora and Spotify may be modern, natural developments in the realm of digital content delivery, a simple outgrowth of the web and satellite technology working with mobile to deliver any number of media to the end user as he or she drifts through the day--but their heavy use is also a reflex versus the absolutely terrible music that record companies have been dumping into the market over the past decade. Nobody wants to pay full album price for an artist who has one, maybe two good songs on the whole release.

The problem boils down to this: youth used to own music. It was theirs. Styles of music, beginning with the blues from the Delta and Chicago, rose up from the streets of America to take over the country, and the world. Running from the 1950's to the 1990's, you can tweeze out something important that happened in each decade--whether it be doo-wop, San Francisco acid rock, English club bands that formed The British Invasion, Hip Hop and Punk rock of the 1970's and House / Techno of the 80's, to the Seattle sound of the early 1990's--and trace it back to something original that was happening on the streets. 

Organic movements that started out on the youthful streets, and took over the world. By the time they took over the world, the next thing was already bubbling beneath the surface ready to explode.

Nowadays--nothing. It's all "top-down," dispensed by record companies who thought they knew better .  .  . thought that by keeping things predictable and entirely under their control, they could make they this ever-shifting business more profitable.

Worse, there is next to nothing bubbling and churning under the surface out there on the streets--kids have been conditioned to expect music to be dispensed from above, and so they're not even out there in all their masses, as they once were, experimenting, originating, defying. No corporate eyes are watching them, eager to pick up the next youthful revolution.

Whether or not the business en masse embraces Spotify, Pandora, and see them as natural adjuncts to Apple's iTunes, Google's Play Store, and a host of other online services, the argument regarding the venue chosen for mass marketing will remain a straw man. More content on these streaming channels will no doubt give the stock of Pandora a boost, but that's about it. 

The content has got to improve, and belong to young people again. Otherwise the days of the rock and roll god will remain dead and buried, with no resurrection.

Preston Clive

1/26/2015***