Dear Mr. Gill,
I recently read your comments about what the music business has become. I’d like to thank you for articulating, with brutal honesty, feelings felt by many musicians about the current state of our industry.
However, I’d also like to challenge you–and the countless artists who feel the way you do. Yeah, the music business sucks. What can we do about it?
The first step is to ask why it is that music has become devalued. The superficial answer may be that in 1960, recorded media, such as 45s and LP records, cost more to manufacture and distribute. Digital downloads have less overhead expenses attached to them; thus a lower price point is possible. In general, the trend of technology is that it gets cheaper as it evolves.
But what about the bigger picture? Is it true that “creative brains are being sorely mistreated?”
There’s no nice way to say this, but my opinion is that accomplished musicians such as yourself are becoming a thing of the past. The past, of course, can still be–and is being–kept alive, but just as classical musicians, Vaudeville performers and Shakespearean actors are not mainstream and probably never will be, the reality is that public tastes have changed and before long, rock and country musicians who were once iconic will become niche acts. A friend of mine who is a great jazz drummer and also owns one of L.A.’s premier recording studios where he has recorded some of the world’s best players has made the comparison between instrumental proficiency and jousting. Jousting, like musical mastery, is a difficult skill that takes years to develop, yet sadly, its simply not marketable, at least not in a mainstream way.
It’s not easy to make the transition from mainstream to niche, but in order to survive, that’s what today’s great musicians must do. It’s either that or nothing. Music trends are what they are, and becoming grumpy old men won’t solve any problems. The solution is to keep making great, honest music, and find an audience that will respond.
I’m not asking you, or anyone else, to jump up and down for joy at the current state of popular culture. But your music will always have its place, even if it’s not at the top of the charts. Great, timeless music is still appreciated. There are still people who know that Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony has more than four notes, and there are people who know that, contrary to popular belief, Louie Armstrong was not the first person to walk on the moon. Heck, even jousting is back in the spotlight–as featured on the History Channel’s show “Full Metal Jousting.”
Of course it’s a drag to see your life’s work marginalized. But even if more people would rather spend their hard-earned money on an audible flatulence app than on your creative output, don’t forget that there are still people out there who appreciate what you do. I hope that your words are a rallying cry to musicians all over the world–not to commiserate about the state of their craft, but to keep moving forward and to keep finding new ways to make music that inspires their audiences and themselves.
All the best
Long Beach, CA