Nobody connected with music in any way can help but notice how dramatically the landscape is changing. The way people find, listen to and pay for music has changed forever and will keep on changing for the foreseeable future. The big record companies are fighting a doomed rearguard action against illegal downloads. And the recent internet-driven movement to send Rage Against the Machine to Christmas Number One in the UK suggests that there is a whiff of rebellion in the air against the so-called talent shows’ conveyor belt of carbon copy, glorified karaoke singers.
At first it seemed as though the internet would be the great leveler, allowing previously unnoticed talent to be plucked from obscurity. Upload your musical endeavors, it whispered, and be catapulted to stardom by the viral power of YouTube. But let’s be real for a moment. We know that does happen occasionally, but when it does, it seems only the pretty faces and the shallow, lowest common denominator type music is eligible.
For once, though, I don’t think we can lay the blame for this trend entirely at the feet of the A&R men and women, or the execs of the big labels. Look at their sales figures – they are fighting for a slice of a smaller and smaller pie. They certainly don’t have the time or resource to invest into the careers of truly innovative artists, nor to educate the public about them. All the labels can do is keep pumping out more of the same; whatever seems easiest to sell quickly. But it isn’t working. Just look at the careers of the winners of American Idol, the X-Factor or Britain/America’s Got Talent – with a few notable exceptions, most don’t make it past the first album. Why? Because people are getting bored with them – they are briefly entertaining and their back-stories occasionally draw a tear or two, but that’s as far as it goes.
In a nutshell, the major record labels ascended to power in the post-WW2 period, when they all but invented teen-culture as a way of wresting the cash from this newly-wealthy demographic. Probably since the Sex Pistols, they have been following rather than leading the record-buying public. And now they are falling so far behind that they will soon become totally irrelevant to huge swathes of us.
This all begs the question then; if the labels aren’t influencing us now, in what music we listen to, who is? The answer, I would suggest, is that WE are! Although we are only still in the early stages of this revolution, the internet has opened up a huge variety of ways for us to influence one another’s musical discoveries. The next stage, I believe, is for a few trusted sources to emerge – not based upon the selection criteria of the ‘grey suits’, but on the simple joy of discovery of great artists and bands by the masses of music-lovers.
This then, brings me to my vision for Musicians Together. Perhaps it sounds a little absurd for such a young organisation and maybe slightly arrogant of me – but in the words of the kids’ movie character (whose name eludes me right now), “If you don’t have a dream, then how you gonna have a dream come true?” Firstly, I want MT to become a wonderfully supportive and positive community, in which we learn and grow together as musicians – and build great friendships and networks of useful contacts. But also, I want us to become one of those trusted sources for the discovery and promotion of great new music – music that people would never get to hear if it was left to the record labels. I am already surprised, almost every day, by the quality of tunes already being uploaded on to MT and regularly share my discoveries on Facebook etc. Yet I believe there is much more to come. We have the potential, between us, to become a huge, trusted resource for the discovery, promotion and direct (straight from the artist) purchase of music.
For this to happen, I guess I am hoping for a few of you guys and gals to really latch on to this vision. I know with absolute certainty, that I can’t do it on my own. Please give me some feedback and let me know your thoughts. If you are sold on helping to grow MT, here are a few things that everyone can do:
1. Champion MT – Badger, harass and annoy everyone you know into joining up and posting their music – or just listening to it – we want fans too, of course
2. Champion the community – Although I talk about finding the ‘best’ music I genuinely believe that everyone who picks up an instrument, or sings, and shares their efforts is of equal value and deserves to be treated as such. Please make sure everyone feels welcome – in fact, make them wonder what on earth is going on, with all the friendliness and helpfulness!
3. Champion the music – Look out for your favourites and promote them like crazy. Get known amongst your online networks as someone who discovers and shares awesome tunes. All of us promoting each other is much more effective than each of us struggling alone to promote ourselves. And of course, if you are sharing links from MT, you will be helping us grow even more
If you can think of any other ways to promote MT, or each other, please let me know. Also, if there are other ways you think MT could be promoting you better, let me know that too. If you don’t want to hear any nonsense about some bloke’s ‘vision’ please ignore what you have just read
Thanks for listening and for all your great support so far.
Mark’s MT Channel