Friday, December 7, 2007

Ummm - not a Top 10 but.... (from Secret DJ Bill)

Somewhere in here is the excuse of why I'm habitually tardy with my List, even as I'm partly responsible for its initial inception.

So in the spirit of being 6 months behind the times but always struggling to catch up, here is my lengthy post in response to the August 17, 2007 post: If it's too new, you're too old... - reading that original post could result in mine making more sense.
Theorem #1 – Music then WAS better, or more accurately, the time was better for music listeners because all music outlets focused on indie music at once. The time period in question – Jane’s Addiction initial releases along with a young and still political, not safe for Adult contemporary, U2, the Pixies, indie stalwart Elvis Costello and the Cure – was a time when those band’s got no radio play, major tour support or MTV play. The only access was either college radio or MTV’s late Sunday highlight “120 Minutes”.

This probably would have seamlessly continued till today, albeit with the occasional radio hit, cross over success, and/or accusations of selling-out. But then Nirvana.

Now I liked and still like the band a lot, but I’m not on the “most important band” wagon (is it redundant to say band bandwagon?).

The musical shift occurred surprisingly quick as record companies realized that bands of the indie persuasion were viable commercial entities. Comic in hindsight, Nirvana’s “Nevermind” became the first album (through the tracking ability of a new hi-tech sales reporting system) to become the #1 album on the strength of returns. Kids returned their Michael Jackson “Bad” CDs, received as Christmas 1991 gifts, for the Nirvana sophomore effort.

With this dollar driven decision you had a convergence that hasn’t occurred before and to no great degree, since. The indie album charts mirrored the pop charts. MTV and pop radio stations played songs from bands most people hadn’t even heard of in the previous year. But the majority of the bands had a history far deeper than their sudden exposure would hint at in a similarly exposed artist today. Thus, they were better.

Ultimately the insatiable need for new, similarly sounding groups, regardless of their abilities grew, to a point of over-saturation and subverted the less marketable though superior bands. Thus the Jane’s Addictions of today are not heard by the masses (the “music was better then” crowd) without a Nirvana like wave of exposure to carry them into prominence on the music scene. Not saying it isn’t happening elsewhere. Ask me at the Top Ten party “further observations – why the hell is country so popular”.

Theorem #2 - Structured day-to-day life doesn’t allow time for new music investment (the effort and time to decide whether you like music or it’s crap). I'm someone who, according to this posting, is supposed to be securely in the old folks home "Casa de la Decade old Musica".

But somehow I've avoided the trending to date. Yet I know many a high school peer who still secretly covets their White Snake jean jacket, wishes Favre had a sweet mullet like the Majik-man, and will buy tickets to a Poison show without a drop of irony.

To them the ascendancy of Nirvana, et al ad nauseum was the musical cue that they should get the hell out of college so they could get a job to start paying off their college debt. The daily grind of “wake up, go to work, get drunk, go to sleep” (repeat –immortalized on Pat McCurdy’s ”Pat in Person”), takes its toll on directionless free time, which is replaced by getting the necessary done. Me? Getting a +40 hour job was for suckers and I remained poor, yet free from a structured life and able to explore record shops and go to crappy, but affordable, shows of up and coming bands.

But as I work more and more, it is harder to expose my listening sensibilities to new music. TV offers no “anytime” option for listening/watching music like MTV did in the 80s and 90s. And radio has consolidated and corporatized into the “only these 15 songs from this style” format. That leaves web and satellite. Satellite tends to categorized in the same radio genres and has yet to be pervasive enough to be driving new record sales, thus affecting what bands are then pushed and signed by recording companies.

That leaves the internet for being the bastion of new music exploration. But this format has been labor intensive and is not readily portable. The advent of free music-choosing sites, based on your tastes and scoring of similar bands, may open up a music exploring renaissance – but only if a Napster like Website can capture the zeitgeist. Pay-per-song site tends to favor already popular music and has one feature that combines with Web music access that alters the entire musical landscape. Ask me at the Top Ten party “further observations – why the hell is country so popular”.

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