I’ve been thinking about music a lot lately. Okay, I always do that, since I’m obsessed with music, but you wouldn’t know it from this blog. I don’t know why, but I don’t usually like to write about music (it’s like “dancing about architecture” or so says Frank Zappa).
There’s an article over on Slashdot that got me thinking. It’s about the decline of the CD as a medium. Yeah, an article on that subject comes out every couple weeks, but I didn’t even read it. More important, I thought, was the ensuing discussion. It seems everybody has a different take on the state of the music industry. For me, no, CDs are not dead. I prefer my music uncompressed and pre-backed-up before I put it on my iPod. Plus, if you count CD-Rs, CDs are more popular than ever. I burn CDs all the time, whether its a copy of a CD a friend gave me or mixes from my band’s recording sessions.
Band Update – finally
Speaking of the band, I know I haven’t posted about us in awhile, probably because I didn’t want to jinx anything. People have been asking me when our album’s coming out for years and I keep telling them, “pretty soon. It’s right around the corner!” For the last few months I’ve been saying, “in a few months!” Well, it’s been a few months and it’s not out yet, but not for lack of effort. To be honest, we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing, but whatever we’re doing is shaping up pretty nice. We’ve got about 7 songs pretty much in the can — which is to say 90% or more recorded. They all need some mixing, but we’re going to try to bust out 2 more tracks before mixing begins in earnest. The songs are heavy but not punishing. They are melodic, but not sappy. They are all fairly unique but I think they will sound pretty cohesive together on an album (except for maybe one oddball).
We’ve learned so much about recording over the last 7 months, I don’t know where to begin. But we’ve also had some setbacks. I’m not blaming anybody (*coughMattcough*), but my Digi 001 suddenly went from an 8 track recorder to 6 tracks. Not good. But we’ll pull through. We’re recording all of the instruments separately for maximum flexibility (and it just sounds better in my opinion), so this shouldn’t cause too many problems. After all of the overdubs are added on we typically end up with over 20 tracks anyway, now we’re just limited to recording 6 tracks at a time.
So anyway, the band: I haven’t even told you the name yet. We’re Darkfold. We’re on UnderUtopia Records, which is our own independent net-based label and our album is yet to be named. Darkfold consists of me, Matthew R. Coon (esquire) and Andy Riedinger (esquilax). We trade off instruments. Matt does much of our singing, but I do a bunch, too. We play heavy rock music, at least that’s what we’re focusing on at the moment. The second album could be totally different; who knows?
Anyway, I’ll try to keep y’all better informed as the album nears completion. We hope to start gigging soon, but we want to get this album done before Armageddon (which could be any day now… in fact… we’d better hurry!). This making an album thing is fucking difficult, especially with 3 fulltime jobs between us. Of course, it would be impossible without money coming in. I really respect anybody who can start a band, even a shitty one, because there’s so much that goes into making it work.
Music, Money & Class
I’ve been thinking about music and money — more specifically, music and class. A question to ponder: How much music is the world being robbed of because the would-be musicians are too poor to start a band? I mean, becoming a professional musician is basically like taking a vow of poverty to begin with (unless your name is “Paul McCartney”), but you have to have a certain level of wealth before you can even take that plunge. Buying guitars, drums, amps and assorted gear is expensive. So is buying recording equipment and practice space and a van for touring. Then, after doing that you need to find time to practice — but how can you do that if you’re working all the time to afford food, clothing and shelter, let alone the aforementioned gear/space?
So needless to say, I’m kinda shocked anybody can afford to start a rock band these days. That’s why I wasn’t too surprised to find out that many successful rock musicians were wealthy before they hit the top of the charts. Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, for instance, had rich parents to help him out when he was just getting started:
Conor: Dark? Not really. Actually I had a great childhood. My parents were wonderful. I went to a Catholic school. They have, I had money, so it was all easy. I basically had everything that I wanted anytime
Gee, wouldn’t that be nice. If my parents were bankrolling my musical endeavors I think we would’ve released 5 albums by now. Curse my middle-class upbringing! (j/k) It seems like every other star is the child of someone famous, from Norah Jones to Jakob Dylan. Rock and roll music was sparked by working class kids like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Elvis. Would those same kids have a chance in today’s cut-throat economy with all its barriers to entry?
America’s Famous Poverty Machine
So my question is: Do you have to be upper-class or at least well-off to have a good chance of making it in music these days? Do the rich people in America make the rules? Music has evolved and the bar for “good” music has been raised and if you don’t want to sign your soul away to a near-extinct dinosaur of a record label what choice do you have?
Personally, I get the feeling that we’re being fucked. The economy seems to be devised to deprive of us our hard-earned money. After inflation, college loans, housing bubbles, gas prices and the fucked up healthcare system, most people are barely scraping by. I have several friends who are still living with their parents because moving out just doesn’t make economic sense. Rent is sky-high and wages are down (even as productivity is up!). Most of my other friends have massive debt (myself included) and no easy way out.
This is the richest, most prosperous nation on earth?! Bullshit. We are being fucked by the rich. The fascist/capitalist oligarchy that controls our government is all about extracting ever more money from the poor and the middle class, not because the rich need another yacht (they don’t) but because the whole system is set up this way. It all needs to come crashing down. And at the rate the dollar is falling, it might just do exactly that. And we’ll have Bush to blame. The “legacy” they keep talking about will be one of fascism, terrorism, poverty and incompetence.
Music and class is not something most people like to talk about. It’s fair to ask, “does it matter? If the music is good, so what?” I would argue that it does matter, and we miss their unique perspectives. If you need a lot of equipment or players (like rock
and classical, respectively) the poor simply can’t play that game. And music education is already cut to the bone in inner city schools.
We’d be condemned to hearing only music created by the offspring of rich people if it wasn’t for hip-hop. Hip-hop, thankfully, can be made on the cheap if you know your way around the software (and if you have a computer) or mixer. But not everybody wants to be (or can be) a rapper. And what is the manifest goal of almost every single rapper on the radio — that’s right; getting filthy rich. (not every rapper is like that)
I don’t wanna be rich; I just want to make some music. I would love to do it for a living, but that just doesn’t seem possible these days. Signing a record contract is a great way to feel rich for a couple years before you discover the terms of the contract have impoverished you and stolen the most valuable thing you have — the copyright to your own songs. So we’re going the indie route, even if it kills us (and it might). In the meantime, I urge you to give some thought to the idea that lower and middle class folks are being shut out of the music game. Just like the other games.
I should make it clear that the most valuable commodity the rich have is time; specifically the time that comes from not having to work.
If only rich people are able to make popular, radio-friendly music we’d lose about 90% of all potential music, and we’d be subjected to endless songs about Jacuzzis, Mercedes Benz’s and Courvoisier. Thankfully, there are a lot bands out there struggling against impossible odds and making songs about real shit, like trying to pay the rent, finding their way in the world and dealing with relationships. Shit, music used to be the province of poor folks — look at all those old blues albums. Leadbelly was poor as piss, but now people think there’s a lot of money in the music game so the rich’s kids have invaded… and conquered.
Shit, the music business ain’t even worth that much, monetarily. But its cultural and entertainment value is immense! I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m whining, but I certainly have a new respect for musicians of modest means who have managed to carve out a good living for themselves without signing to a major label. I just don’t know who those bands are… -
Oh yeah — The Goodyear Pimps!
And WookieFoot! Represent, bliss junkies!
Do you know any others? Give me a shout-out!