Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Play it again

I remember sitting next to a professor of music on a long flight to somewhere or other. He was staring resentfully at my iPod and so I asked him what he had against it. Turns out that his response wasn’t about branding or technology standards or design. He simply wouldn’t listen to recorded music. Full stop. The bottom line for him was that a recording by its nature is always the same. That’s the idea. It is always exactly the same. Unlike live performances once you heard it once, that was the way you were going to hear it every time from then on. I love my iPod and seem to remember making a case for it in terms of access and choice, but he was adamant. I remember thinking what a load of rubbish - until I went to my next live music event that is.

The fact is that recorded music is fine until you hear …the real thing. Real, live people and their instruments up there on the high wire doing their thing. Sometimes they fail and the room dies. Sometimes they find something fresh and extraordinary within themselves and we all take off together. There’s nothing quite like it. When I think of the great experiences I’ve had at live concerts, especially those involving Bruce and the E Street band, I relive the thrill, wherever I am and whatever I’m doing.

As for performing music live (and Bruce would concur), the great conductor Daniel Barenboim said in November to the New York Times, “When playing music, it is possible to achieve a unique state of peace, partly due to the fact that one can control, through sound, the relationship between life and death. Since every note produced by a human being has a human quality, there is a feeling of death with the end of each one, and through that experience there is a transcendence of all the emotions that these notes can have in their short lives; in a way, one is in direct contact with timelessness.” (A whirlwind named Barenboim – New York Times 11/23/2008).

Music is one of the great joys of life and however you get it into your system, that’s ok by me. I’m not alone. The music experience stats headed up in the short period from 2007 to 2008. Bauer Media’s research calls them consumption stats but that’s a reach too far as far as I’m concerned. We experience music; we do not consume it because it’s always there for someone else to fall in love with. The number of people passionate about music is heading up as well. It might be because there is so much more music around to connect with or because it’s all become so much easier (take a bow Apple), but the exciting thing is whether you’re a fanatic or simply along for the ride, everyone loves lots of different kinds of music. Hallelujah! Bring on the ballads, bring on the rock and roll.

If music be the food of love, play on.


Parusha Partab said...

Yes! to more music. Yes! to more free music. Yes! to Apple making it easier to enjoy the a fore mentioned.

You right nobody can consume a song but we can consume a CD.
However as music becomes easier to access so does it become harder to protect and consume. Nowadays musicians struggle to make money off their music, but who cares?

Just as musicians and record labels are losing their cut on the CDs, so are consumers losing the experience of consuming. Today a select few, buy CDs or vinyls and and with that the experience of consuming a tangible object is lost. And the digital nature of mp3s does not fill this void.

Given that, live music is now elevated. Music now becomes an invitation into a particular artist's world. The artist's merchandise, image and the experience of their performance is what we now want to consume.
Are we all fanatics? No. but we are all consumers.
And I think that musicians should step up.

Because I would never buy a Rihanna Cd to listen to "Umbrella", if I could download it for free, but if she released a signature umbrella collection which had her catchy "ella ella ella er" lyrics on them... I would have bought it.

Dean Calin said...

My vocal group, Bounding Main, works very hard on the marketing aspects of our music along with the music itself. Our two most recent CDs inserts and jewel case cards have amusing images and commentary that tell a story both of our take on the songs and our love of the genre. Sadly, in the last couple of years we've seen the CD sales slip and the electronic sales climb; numbers-wise this is okay, but artistically it makes me sad that people are only capturing a slice of who we are. Of course everyone tells us that it is our live show that is the best - we had two European concert trips last summer with several more invitations on the table for this year and 2010. But we can only be in so many places at once, so we populate our web site and social networking sites with all of the things we can to fill in the space between live shows. We also have a regular fan mailing that endeavors to keep us in people's heads. Lots of work, but it is a labor of love. Oh, we DO miss the money for the CDs and songs that people rip without paying for.