From Tom Fine: "I still think that if better new music, in general, was
being offered for sale and better marketing was being done to sell it to
younger folks, and there was more education about the benefits of own hard
copies of music (liner notes, better sound quality, etc), it might help..."
I agree however as far as I've been told by sales and promotion people at
labels, records have never really been sold by what we think of as
marketing. We get exposed to music and we like some of it enough to want to
buy it. It's almost entirely a viral word-of-mouth process.
At one time radio played the best-selling recordings because it was a cheap
form of market research to use for selling advertising. Today focus groups
determine what gets played rather than actual sales. There is unfortunately
a big difference between what people will say they like and what they'll
actually forego another latte at Starbucks to purchase. This disconnect
between exposure and what music fans will purchase has crippled the ability
to break substantial new artists as opposed to the cookie-cutter "identity"
music that does well in focus groups.
I believe this is really a grass roots problem. The three ways new music
used to get exposed were broadcast, affordable live venues and small record
stores. We lost all three by the '90s. We also lost the ability for most
talented young musicians to support themselves with a full time music career
a decade earlier. Most younger people are absolutely shocked by the quantity
and quality of live music performances that can be found in the
entertainment section of large city newspapers prior to the late 1960s.
I'd also argue that full time performers learn to do a lots better job than
part time performers. For this reason the average live music we encounter
today is significantly worse than what one ran into 40 years ago. It isn't a
question of a lack of talent but rather a lack of the ability for most
people to afford to do the amount of work that was common then. It's a sad
fact that a huge number of America's musical icons of the 1920s-1980s could
not have a music career today for purely financial reasons.
I'm not sure how to address these problems but failing to look at them
squarely or being in denial of the general downturn in average quality isn't
helping any more than the massive leadership changes at the major labels
have. Great recording artists are not created by record labels. They are
grown in live venues.
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