The Delta Snake Review

The Delta Snake Review


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Music and the cloud 2014

When the first things I did after reactivating the blog and was to look over my old articles from two years ago. The stuff is still reasonably accurate in terms of the philosophical BS that I was spitting out, and the observations on what the digital music scene was make for a good period piece.

Two years ago the only social network I was on was Facebook, I actually had been blogging on and off for quite a while on another blog site. That one was mainly an attempt to carry-on what I was doing with the Blues website that I had at the time on a smaller scale.

Since then I've been on Twitter, dabbled in a couple of other social networks, and until recently spent most my time doing paid writing doing reviews on instruments.

It wasn't that I suddenly decided that I wanted to spend all my time reviewing instruments. It's just that it was such a novelty to be paid for my writing that I decided to keep that thrill going as long as possible.

I had done paid work before, most notably for the  National Resophonic guitar site, and freelance work for various weekly papers in the valley here where I live.

But enough of that, two years down the line finds me dictating this blog into my phone instead of typing it out on a computer, and the music world is changed yet again, as it always does as technology changes.

The main change is not so much the form of the music, it's still all-digital and based on the MP3 format. The paradigm is that the entire younger generation doesn't care if it owns music or not.

It's all in the cloud. People of my generation are used to shopping for music, in fact, I still go to a record store on a regular basis to find music that I can't find online.

Even that's changing, even the rarer stuff is ending up on Spotify and other streaming services.

The whole business model of streaming makes perfect sense. The vast majority of people will listen to a song, or in the case of my generation play a record to death, and then move onto the latest hits.

That's the way it's actually always been with music, otherwise there'd be no such thing as used record stores.

We're pretty much back to the days of radio, except the listener can choose and program the music that they want to hear. Bad news for DJs, great news for listeners.

Two years down the line most major artists have pretty much given up trying to hold their catalogs up for ransom, and most allow at least some streaming of their material now.

Basically most catalogs function as a basis for air play-like royalties, and I read more and a few articles by artist complaining that they got only a few dollars for what they felt was a significant amount of streaming.

The flaw in the logic there: exactly how rich were artists supposed to become because of their music?

In the 60s, during the summer of love, musicians started off with the position that the audience and artists were basically part of the same show, entertainment was a communal thing.

That lasted only a few months of course, once those musicians started signing big contracts, became stars, and the audience began the age old process of treating stars like royalty.

One of the main factors is the breakdown of the traditional distribution channel, which I discussed at length in my earlier blogs already.

The distribution channel is now so diverse that it's said that a good portion of any streaming site never gets played. Which is probably not true, most artists will go to the sites to listen to their own stuff. I certainly do, it's more convenient and carrying CDs around, and it's good to check how it plays out phone or computer for future recording.

So anyway, all this music's up up in the cloud now, music started doesn't automatically entitle you to a mansion anymore, and to add insult to injury, a lot of the younger generation isn't even listening to music that's generated by musicians. At least in it's original form.

I said earlier that streaming was bad news for DJs, but only those that work at radio stations. The 50s style DJ, the kind used to be found in dancehalls and clubs, is back in a big way.

That changes yet another model, the club performers. One of the results is you see a lot of slogans like "support live music," but live music is actually doing just fine. 

You just have to be better in order to get a gig at some of the better venues, but a DJ at a club will play a couple dozen records in the course of a night. That's dozens of artists, the majority of whom whose music wouldn't be heard in any kind of live context if they all had to find club gigs.

If you step back from this confusing picture, one thing is clear; more music by different artists is being played than ever before. An artist can get their music up in the cloud at minimal cost, and the only downside is you don't have a record company spending money on you for promotion.

In other words, there's still a lot of musicians still wedded to the star trip. They want to be discovered by somebody, or label, who will then take the risk and do all the work of making them stars.

There still some of that going on, but most musicians should just simply take the opportunity that the cloud-based media is providing, take advantage of the access, and get back to the real business of music.

That is the play what you want, and when your fans over listener by listener. 

A true musician won't even notice the time passing as he does this.