Draft 2- Music Sucks and It is Your Fault!

       Yes, that is right is it your fault! I’m tried of hearing musician and music lovers complain about how bad music is and how the music industry is ripping them off and musician make to much money. I also hear how everything sounds the same and there is nothing good on the radio. Hey it’s your fault, you are feeding the beast. Well, OK you are getting some help from the music industry.

       Let me step back a bit I got into an argument with a teacher of a friend on an email list about coping music. (Something I completely apposed to.) He was talking about a “show happening at the Greek Theater in Berkley. Oysterhead, made up of Les Claypool (Primus), Trey Anitassio (Phish), and Stuart Copland (Police) are three musicians that don't ‘need the money.’ … Anyway with tickets already in hand (he) was talking with (his) friends saying, you know I need to buy their CD, ya know, support the band. A bird thumps (him) on the head and says, 'Support the band by buying a CD, hell you bought a hundred bucks worth of concert tickets from them. And the guys playing certainly don't need any more money!' Oh, yea. Duh!"

       The idea was they have enough money in his eyes so it is OK to not pay for the CD and copy it. I have heard this argument from many people even other musician. If you want to punish these musicians for making money, then stop listening to them don't go to their concert. It is your fault they are rich not theirs. Not listening to them makes a bigger point then stealing from them. One of the problems with sayings "he does not need my money he rich I'll just copy it" is it does not seem to be limited to the rich musicians. It quickly come to the common belief that all music should be up for grabs I copied N'Sync disc so what should I not just copy the Del Bombers CD as well.

       Then he "brought up the point that if the music industry can buy out of Maria Carry's recording contract for 28 million dollars to make her go away then something is seriously wrong with the message we are getting from the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). 28 million buys a lot of music. Imagine if they split that up amongst 1000 musicians. That works out to around 25 grand a piece."

       This is true; it is pretty screwed-up that one singer makes that much money. But this is not a commentary on the RIAA (which is screwed-up by the way) it is a commentary on all those who listen, go to concerts and buys or steals her music. They spend enough money on her to make her viable for someone to spend 28 million dollars to own her. If you want things to change stop buying music from major labels. Don't even copy them, that just give the executive an excuse as to why their sales have fallen and they will just raise prices again. Plus copying music is more disrespectful to the artist then the label. (Please feel free to read my article on Ethics and Responsibility of the Music Listener)

       Support the truly independent labels (one who don't use the major labels distribution channels); request their music on your favorite stations. If the stations refuse to play (they will) then stop listening to them and buying the product they advertise. Stop going to chain record store that don't support local and indie musicians. And above all stop giving 28 million dollars to Maria Carry and her music label and give it to a 1000 musicians on a true indie label.

       While some people think it is better just to copy music to get back at the music industry for whatever reason, thre is a good reason not to do this, it gives the RIAA power. They use this copyright infringement to lobby congress with all the money you gave them for self-serving laws to keep them in power. Now people realize I'm deeply committed to artist rights and the underlining principal of many of these laws are good, but the RIAA get them written in away that helps them more then the artists.

       One example of this was mentioned in an article by Chris Keup called Why Napster is bad for musicians. He reminds me the a "few years back Congress inexplicably deregulated the anti-trust laws that prevented conglomerates from purchasing enough airspace to dominate radio in any given market. Now radio is in the hands of a few corporate behemoths that hand down nationalized play lists." This is one of reason everything sounds the same on the radio. Many of the conglomerates owns or has deals with the handful of large labels to get their music on these national play lists. One easy example that comes to mind is CBS they own Westwood One radio and Columbia records. These deals with large label include paying radio stations to play there music. It cost almost a million dollar to get a song to be number one on the charts. "The FCC and the Department of Justice asking the agencies to more closely examine the business practices of radio giant Clear Channel Communications, and specifically the 'persistent allegations that record companies often must pay radio stations to play the music of their artists.'" (from Salon) The problem is seen by major label artist as well but they can not complain. "The RIAA may have an even harder time recruiting artists. 'They [the labels] created the fucking problem, now you want us to put a target on our backs? F**k it,' says a manager who represents several platinum-selling acts. The fear, he says, is that musicians who complain about indie promotion will be kept off radio. Without commercial airplay it's virtually impossible to sustain a career." (from Salon)

       Another example is they used the copyright law to shut down Napster (which I believe in principle was correct) which was an outside their control distributor of music. But they began "to develop music services (on the internet) as well as license their catalogs to other companies. And has Don Henley testified in a Congress community hearing, 'My colleagues (the Recording Artists Coalition) and I are concerned that artists do not have rights to direct remuneration for interactive services'"From an article by Elliot Zaret MSNBC So the RIAA basically turn around and did the same thing to the artists that they accused Napster of doing and your money and actions made it possible.

       I'm a poor musician, I buy indie, I was for Napster it's not MY fault music sucks. Yes, it is. How many musicians still want to sign with a major label and get that green and marketing money? The majority I'm sure. Well as musician we known that "after a series of closures and mergers there are far fewer major labels and, accordingly, far fewer A&R positions available. Now the notion of artist development has been replaced with a demand for immediate sales. The result: everyone plays it safe — if a song sounds like something that is already on the radio, chances are it won’t be an abject failure and the A&R rep can keep his or her job." From an article by Chris Keup So we make our music sound like what is on the radio to get noticed? Or sell CDs.

       Your thinking, no, not me man, I never sell out, and I give my music away free on the net, which is not controlled by the RIAA. Well, two problems with this you're telling society that music is not worth anything and should be free. But I'm getting fans from all over the world; people are listening to my music. But are they paying for it? I had a friend in London "help" me by copying my CD, which he truly enjoyed, for his friends. He clams to have made 50 copies for his friends in Amsterdam. 50 copies from some who sell 28 million dollars worth of does not make a blip on the screen but 50 copies of an indie CD that only 1000 where made is 5% of the whole release. My friend did get one person to pay for one copy. Giving it away has not helped me one bit. Plus there is the other side to this you know who gives away lots of free music the RIAA in fact they give away more CDs then most indies press for a release. You can’t compete by giving away 5% of your release. Netscape did not survive against Microsoft and they thought just like you. Plus it really just feeds the notion that people should have to pay for music. And that helps keep the indie down and RIAA in control.

       There is no reason for music to sound like it does right now. As John Cage pointed out in a poem he wrote at the end of his life. "People (are) entering the arts in unprecedented numbers." From American Music in the 20th Century p. 352 by Kyle Gann I know of dozens and dozens of independent free jazz labels (that is the type of music I like) and every genre is the same way, even pop. There is literally something for everyone out there and you not going to find it on the radio, in major magazines, on the selves of the nation change music store, but it is out there. And if you want to fix the music industry so music no longer sucks the STOP BUY MUSIC from major labels. Stop listening to radio stations that do not play local music. Don't buy magazine that don’t cover indie music. Don’t buy products from sponsor of radio station and magazines. Musicians stop trying to get signed to a major label, trust me you don’t want to do it anyway. All you big time musicians quit your contract, leave your major label, if your music is that good you’ll be fine. Classical organizations stop taking money from groups that make you play the same tried Mozart piece over and over it is killing your art. But my favorite band is on a major label, you still want me to support the artist? Above yes, write them fan mail tell them to leave their label and start their own. Tell them not to use the major labels distribution or anything and you will be waiting for them on the other side ready to buy their music.

       The music industry is a monopoly controlled by a few different multinational conglomerates, which allows them to side step the anti-trust laws.  And it is your fault because you’re still giving them money. Artist's rights are the top most importance to keep the art forms growing. (I personally think it is criminal that Michael Jackson owns the rights to the music of the Beatles and the surviving members don't.) If artist stop giving up their rights for "fame and money" and people stopped paying the RIAA instead of the artist then maybe music would stop sucking.

Draft 1

       Classical Music is dying. Dying from lack of interest in new music, lack of new audiences and in the US a lack of feeling of heritage. The majority of classical music being performed these days is music that written over a hundred years ago or more. The music written by Mozart was not intended to be played over and over again. The music was just written for the moment, to be performed in many different areas until the next work was complete. Back then most concerts were performances of new works; today concerts are all old works. I'm not saying we should stop playing Mozart's music but how many times can one hear "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik"? Despite the fact there are many Classical Art composers today very few can get their work performed. Without performances classical art music can not continue to grow and we all know without growth there is only death.
       There are a few reasons for this, first is the lack of interest in the music modern composers are writing. Is this the composer's faults? Well yes, but not completely. Some of the music being written today has lost the listeners, music that very intellectual and the average listen just does not want to take the time to understand. Today's listener approaches Classical Art music as entertainment, not art. Listening to music, as entertainment is very passive, if you like it, you like it; if you don't, you don't. Music as art demands the listener study it learns why he/she likes it or dislikes it. Most of the time this requires background to the style of music. In the book "The Meaning and Emotion in Music", Meyer discovers that the emotion in music is culturally based, therefore learned. In today's society this is being lost because of the entertainment approach to listening to the music. With this in mind, when listeners demanded for performing organization entertain them, new works dropped off performing lists because groups only felt safe performing accepted works. Thus the era of the "Master Piece". This trend increased until composers had trouble making a living and turned to the universities for support. While the university environment let the composer teach more people about music and grow in new directions freely, they slowly lost accountability to the listener. These works are far too intellectual and not emotional, thus losing an audience. So we are stuck in a cycle that needs to be broken in order for classical art music to continue. I ask that listener and symphony patrons REQUEST new music to be played for each concert. Take a chance, a risk on hearing a work that is not a "master piece" but is interesting in the development of Classical Art Music. You may not like everything you hear, but you may hear something you do. I ask composers to not just think about creating the next new thing, but the sound that reaches people. Find out what an audience wants to hear you might be surprised about what they like. We need to break this cycle so that Classical Art Music can find a direction and an audience to continue to grow with before all that is left is music we have all heard to many times.


Draft 2- The State Music and High Culture in America

       As I continue to look in to the state of classical and jazz art music (or high culture verse pop culture), I found that a pop culture icon, Joe Jackson sees and understands the problems much like I do. Since he is a much better writer then me, I have quoted him extensively in this next section from his new book a cure for gravity.

       I have stated before that Classical Music is dying because of a lack of growth and interest. The fact that you hear the same tried classical works in orchestra halls all over the country is evidence that the music is not growing as an art form. The lack of growth is caused by the audiences not will expand their knowledge base from the music they already know and love. They prefer to listen to the same works over and over again then to listen to something new that may or may not be good to them. They refuse to pay to hear anything that is not stamped as a "Masterpiece." Of course that could be because composers have gone too far. That is the most popular complaint. Composers have become too self-indulgent and have ignored the audience. Thus, the notion of Composers or Artist verses Audience. Many people believe that this is causing the death of classical music.

       I believe that there are other factors involved. Under the surface and not seen as readily by the people they effect. I'm not discounting that composers might have left then audience behind and the audience has not made an effort to ketch up. But it is the reasons why this is the case that disturbs me. Plus the fact we make no effort to correct it.

       One factor often over looked is big business, Corporate America. Corporate America controls the main channels for music to be heard and released even with the advent of the Internet. The large record labels buy shelf space in the large record stores. Ensuring that there products are the easiest to find and the most widely known. Then Commercial Radio stations and MTV creates their play lists from what is reported to them as the top selling albums. DJs do not get to create the own play list of music they like. Instead the program manager selects a list for them based on the numbers; it does not matter if the music is good. This sounds fair but the major labels have ways of making the CDs top selling even before they are released. The labels marketing department will "buy" thousands of copies to use for promotion. Plus they will release anticipated sells numbers based on distribution numbers but of course major labels control their own distribution channels. This helps to ensure that people outside of their grip and world can't compete. (The above information was gathered from Tim Sweeney, a music industry insider who also wrote Tim Sweeney's Guide to Releasing Independent Records.) Is this so bad? Well it means that the common listener learns what is good from Corporate America. And most of the time Corporate America will not take risk or realize what is important for the survival of the art.

       "Because our cultural agenda is no longer being shaped either by 'elitist' experts or by 'the will of the People,' so much as by the bottom lines of big corporations who want to sell us stuff, and preferably stuff that's easy to sell. Those of us who care about music have to stand up and be counted. We're going to have to rebel, and we can't do that by dying our hair green and thrashing electric guitars, not anymore. That kind of rebellion is already packaged and labeled and available at your local supermarket at the special bargain price of $9.99 (plus tax). No: in the Corporate Age, the rebels must be people with not only passion but intelligence, discernment, and good taste.
       We-those of us who care-must always seek out and proclaim excellence rather than simply accepting what's popular or well promoted."a cure for gravity p. 281-282

       Record labels are only in it for the money and that is not a good way to promote growth in Art. That is why Amazon sells 249 CDs with Mozart's " Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" on it and Carl Ruggles music only appears on 7. 249 versions of one work by Mozart to just 7 CDs of all the works by the great American composer Carl Ruggles. Granted Mozart wrote many more compositions than Ruggles but this is a ridiculous 36:1 ratio (552:1 if you count all of Mozart's music on CDs available on Amazon). How is the average listener supposed to find out about Carl Ruggles? Do I think Ruggles is a better composer then Mozart? Not really but as I have said before the music written by Mozart was not intended to be played over and over again. I would rather hear Ruggles. But Corporate America will not take a risk on unknown or unproven music and artist. This fact holds back the growth of classical music.

       Some say that it is not the fault of Corporate America on what music sells and what does not. It the listeners that buy the music (if they hear about it and can find it) so it is the Artist fault for not writing what the people want to hear like the entertainers do. At this point I think it is important to differentiate between the Entertainer and the Artist. Every genre has Artist and Entertainers. While rock music has more entertainers then artist it does have artist. And while classical has more artists then entertainers it does have entertainers. In fact I believe that because of the nature of our culture, that over time some artist should now be classified as entertainers. This is what Joe Jackson has to say on the subject:

       "In other words, you can't distinguish the Artist from the Entertainers by genre. Every musical category contains some of each. Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington can both be categorized as a big band jazz, but Cab was unambiguously an Entertainer, while the Duke was an Artist of the highest caliber.
       So what is the difference?"
"* The Entertainer (Jan 1-Dec 31)- you want to make people happy. You want to be accepted. You think your best-selling work must be your best-the one where you got it right - and you feel obligated to give people more of the same. You enjoy applause as an end in itself, and the more applause there is the better job you feel you've done. The face you present to the world isn't necessarily you. It may well be an act, a routine, a shtick. You are likely to be a conservative or traditionalist, more likely to take the easy or proven route, and you don't want to change the world. You just want to enjoy yourself and make a few quid along the way. And if you can bring enjoyment to others, too, why then, what could be better?
       Your weak point: Paranoia, You may become a superstar, but still lack self-esteem. This is because your guiding lights-applause, box office receipts good press-are all outside yourself, and ultimately out of your control.
* The Artist (Jan 1-Dec 31)- you are interested in the pursuit of truth, beauty, and new insights and connections. You want to be an individual, rather than run with the pack. You ask questions and don't necessarily accept the answers you get. You may like applause, but it's not an end in itself. You don't necessarily consider you best-selling work to be your best, especially since you're always striving for something better. What you do is not an act. It's you. And you don't want people just to have fun, but to join you in thinking, feeling, and exploring. Your ultimate goal may even be almost religious: not simple pleasure, but transcendence.
       Your weak point: Self-indulgence. That is, a tendency to think that every lame or trivial idea that comes into your head is important, just because the muse brought it along with all the good ones. Remember that an artist needs an audience, too, and a ruthless internal editor to make sure your work is as good, as focused, and as accessible as it can be-on its own terms."
a cure for gravityp. 240-241

With that being said, I don't care about the entertainer for this discussion, by definition he gives the people what they want and do not really help to promote the growth of the art. Most of the time he just confuses the issues of artist and takes away from those trying to move the art forward. But don't get me wrong I feel that entertainers are a valued member of society and they're status should not be changed. But it is important that we understand that we give them the credit really owed to the artist.

       With that being said the artist is often accused of not writing for the audience. Well I sometimes agree with that. Many composer I have listened to have been obsessed with a musical theory. Sometimes losing the human quality to the music. I have heard many composers that seem to write for shock value or to just be different without any really musical statement. I do not think that they should not of done what they did though. Many times after working with a theory for awhile they are able to bring the emotion back into the music or another artists use their technique too. Example: Schoenberg's12 tone works do not all sit well with me as emotional music but Alban Berg who used the same technique which he learned from Schoenberg created the highly emotion work of Wozzeck. Somewhere there lies the balance between innovation and creating meaningful music. I do think some artist might do some good by stepping back from their theories and mover over a little toward the feelings in their music. But they should not become entertainers nor should we as listener only except that which we know we already like.

       "One thing that Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin had in common was their attitude toward the arts.
       In their respective visions of Utopia, artists were the servants of the people. An artist's duty was to produce work in a style that would be accessible to everyone, and his worth would be judged by his ability to appeal to the largest possible number of people. Individualism was not only undesirable, but actually dangerous-if not to the public, then certainly to errant artist himself.
       The great irony of this admittedly logical proposition is that it produced lousy art, which hasn't proved to be popular either.
       You'd think we'd have learned some lessons from this. But similar attitudes to art persist throughout what we call our popular culture. I've come across many people whose beliefs about the 'duty' of the artist seem to have come straight from the pages of Mein Kampf. They'd stop short of shooting the individualists, perhaps. But, they say, if the artist isn't trying to please the masses, he must be self-indulgent; just trying to please himself.
       I think this attitude stems partly from good old Anglo-Saxon philistinism. 'Arty' pursuits are basically suspect to begin with-art isn't a 'proper job' is it? - but you can get away with it as ling as you're doing something popular. That way you can be seen to be Serving the People. But otherwise… well, who do you think you are? " a cure for gravityp. 145

Finding a balance is something that is very difficult for artist to do. But I feel that it is necessary to do and the balance will more then likely change during different points in an Artist career.

       What is the listener or audiences roll in all this? Well it seems that it is being manipulated by big business and being scoffed at by the artist. But the audience has a bigger part then this. First the listener needs to realize that Corporate America and the all mighty dollar has a hold of their culture. Especially in America where we seem to not appreciate high culture as much as pop culture. I have played Classical concerts in America where the seats are filled file 50-70 year olds who leave the theater without clapping so they can escape the traffic. Then I have played concerts in Europe where the audience is 10-70 years old and when we are done no one leaves. They just stand clapping. I was even rushed by teens for autographs while trying to pack up after the concert and I was just a lowly section player.

       "-but these Russian 'intellectuals' lived in the same filthy communal apartment buildings as everyone else, eating sour cucumbers and drinking vodka out of ring-pull cans.
       They were all passionate about art and poetry and music. In the West we tend to think of art as a decent standards of living. In Russia I saw the opposite. In a harsh and uncertain world, art was vitally important. It was like a flame that had to be kept burning, no matter what. In a metro station I saw a shabbily dressed string octet playing with a passion and commitment you don't often see at Carnegie Hall. In a gray and smoky café I saw a gypsy violinist playing like a man possessed, as though the Devil was more real to them than 'real life' was, and I could relate to that." a cure for gravity p.188-189

       I don't know why America seems to not appreciate high culture like other nations, but we need to for the growth of our society. Many of the worlds past great societies have generated much to high culture for the world, but it seems our biggest contribution to the worlds culture comes from our pop culture. I will end this with one more quote from a cure for gravity, by Joe Jackson.

       "Perhaps I am an elitist, but if so, it's in the sense that if I go to see Manchester United, I want to see to see the elite of football. I'm not going to apologize for that. What, after all, are artist for? I don't think they're there to be the 'voice of the People,' even if it sometimes seems to work that way. I think artists are there to amaze, to inspire, to challenge, and to open our minds and hearts, On a basic, tribal level, I think the artist should be the shaman. All too often, in our culture, he's the village idiot.
       Admittedly, this breakdown of old boundaries is more likely to be reflected in, say, massive coverage of the Spice Girls in The Guardian or The Times, than it is in millions of Pompy hardnuts grooving to Shostakivich. The cynical artist sees this as evidence for an old complaint: The Masses Are Stupid. But more and more I see this kind of cynicism as a cop-out and a bore, and I can't go along with it. The fact is that people en masse can't b expected to be connoisseurs, or passionate about what I happen to be passionate about. They're not stupid: They just have different priorities.
       Everyone, though, should have some music education. One reason that working-class kids like me are usually more likely to appreciate the subtleties of Manchester United than the subtleties of Mahler is that they've all played a bit of football, so that know what's going on. But few young people today even have the musical opportunities I had at the Tec.
       If we want music to survive, we must teach kids to appreciate it, before it's too late, before songs become nothing more than units of currency, and instrumental music exists only to accompany car commercials. My concern isn't just for the music, but for the kids, too. What kind of kids do we want, after all?
       And with that, I'll get down off my soapbox. I don't like to sound so pessimistic: For the most part, it's not how I feel. The art of music may be in a state of flux, but it won't be extinct any time soon. Schoenberg once said that there were still plenty of good tunes to be written in the key of C major; that is, on just the white notes on the keyboard. He conspicuously failed to write any, but I think he was right.
       I've heard it said that a pessimist is never disappointed, It's a cute line, but I think it's wrong. A pessimist is someone who is permanently disappointed.
       An optimist is only disappointed now and again." a cure for gravity p. 281-282



To be continued....

Other article on the 1995: State of Classical Music and May 1999: The State of Classical Music.

Copyrighted by Michael Cooke,1997.