Clearly we are at a crossroads. This is not meant to be a diatribe, but rather a description of what I've noticed. I look forward to your comments, observations and contrasting points of view!
Looking back on this last 7 year period in 20-30 years I think we'll call this a time of GREAT CHANGE in music.
- technology is changing in remarkable ways. Live performances and recordings can be transmitted by anyone to millions (of they're interested) simultaneously in real time or FASTER! Now your music doesn't break. Cassettes died hideous deaths on auto dashboards. Records destroyed in basement floods, or simply wore out. Now, put your mp3 in the cloud and there it be. The fidelity of our modern recording systems is just staggering. I know some yearn for vinyl and tape, but in terms of capturing and reproducing information faithfully in many channels, with no loss in copying, etc....and then there's mp3. I'll write (again) more about the highs and lows it brings us, but it has been an enabler of some of the explosive changes we are seeing.
- performance practice is changing in that more an more electronics and 'hybrid' instruments are coming into view. The 'Masters', whether classical, jazz, and even pop, are becoming less iconic in our culture and our new icons spin through our attention span with remarkable speed. The number of people studying the old performances (save some who are copying).
- listening habits are changing. Just as in the 1950's, the single is becoming king and queen. The long form is less attractive is so many different media. I hear so many people complaining about having to buy a WHOLE record from an artist. All they want is the 'hit'. This means they won't have the experience of growing to love the rest of the record....the 'other' tunes that grow on you. Imagine if you had listened to Bobby McFerrin and all your heard was 'Don't Worry, Be Happy'. That might present a skewed idea of who he is and what he does. Case in point, I went to a Ladyd Gaga concert a couple years back and was astonished when she sat down at the piano, solo, and dove into some rollicking cabaret tunes. I had not idea. It caused me to think differently about her.
- buying habits are changing. Music has always been treated a bit like jewelry for some. Listening in the car, at the beach, for some it is an assertion of lifestyle and style....and it's there for the taking. The new ideas that folks are trying on - You make more money giving stuff away (Trent Reznor http://www.nin.com/)
- Make your fans patrons (Kickstarter, etc http://www.kickstarter.com/)
- We have the power so if you can't beat them, join them (just TRY and fight they say), (www.Last.fm)
- The only way to make money with music is to license it. Not a new idea but it has become something of a holy grail for many.
While I see a lot of creativity in the ideas, and some successes dotting the countryside, I am convinced we really have no idea what will emerge from this time.