And the Band Stopped Playing

I watched a documentary called “All We Are Saying” with my husband the other night about the fate of the music industry. There were several things that struck me, but the most disturbing is that Joni Mitchell has quit writing and playing music because of the process it had to go through with today’s industry, which is run largely by people who know NOTHING about music.

Much of the film focused on the image associated with the music industry. Many musicians believe that they never would have made it by today’s standards, and I tend to agree. I have a feeling Mick Jagger and Janis Joplin would not have stood up against Brittany Spears and Justin Timberlake. Why? Because no one really cares about the lyrics anymore. People simply want to be entertained. They don’t want music that really means anything. Think about it. When was the last time you were really moved by a song that’s been written in the last 5 years? Country music doesn’t count. We’re talking about rock, folk, and punk here. Even alternative music isn’t really an alternative. A least hip-hop gives a culture to a youth that is strongly without direction. The press is shallow, the critics don’t really know anything about music, an no one has an attention span of more than a few minutes. If we’re not careful, we will lose our music. We’ve already lost some of our best musicians.


15 Responses to “And the Band Stopped Playing”

  1. 1 Balloon Pirate
    May 5, 2006 at 6:58 pm

    I didn’t see the doc. I’ll see if I can catch it.

    Therefore, the following is my uninformed opinion: There’s always been manufactured pop stars, and those who bucked the trend (compare and contrast Shelley Fabares and Lesley Gore).

    I think that the big difference is that the music industry that matured along with the boomers is in its dotage. I think that it’s become increasingly irrelevant, and that more and more people are getting their music through alternative means–the internet and satellite have changed forever the way we access and share music. Performes can still sign with big labels, and have big careers, and all the other irrelevant crap that goes along with it, but they can also choose to go their own way and control the process entirely (compare and contrast Ani DiFranco and Mariah Carey). The thing is, one way’s not doing a very good job sustaining itself.

    It’s a dinosaur. It’s dying. I’m a huge fan of Joni’s but part of me wonders if this might be a dodge for her. She may be hiding a mental block behind this excuse. After all, Neil’s still producing viable, vibrant stuff, and they’re products of the same system.

    But like I said, I haven’t seen the doc, so I may be waaaay off base here.

    Keep on keepin’ on…


  2. 2 Cranky Yankee
    May 5, 2006 at 8:39 pm

    I think the problem is that the music ” Industry” is just that, an industry. What ever happened to art for art’s sake. When musicians are driven by greed and a desire to be stars artistic compromise is not far off.

    In a society that is greed driven and success is measured by wealth our bland entertainment system is the result. The fact that a relative bad singer can accumulate such success as an “artist” because of their physical appearance speaks less to the product and more to those who consume it.

  3. 3 daveawayfromhome
    May 6, 2006 at 5:52 am

    There’s no reason that someone of the stature of Joni Mitchell couldnt self-publish (is that the right word?) on the internet and completely bypass the Industry.
    Would it be as fast? No. Would she make as much money? Even without the overhead of the Industry Leeches, probably not.
    But seriously, how much success do you need? If you’re doing what you love and you’re living a comfortable life doing it, shouldnt that be enough? It sure as hell would be for me. But maybe I lack ambition.
    You dont have to go back very far to find a long history of entertainment on a much more intimate scale than we have now. I’d like to see a return to that scale. It’s been a decade or two since I went to a stadium-sized show, and I cant say I’ve missed anything.
    Except an opportunity to hand over an over-sized chunk of my hard-earned money to multi-millionaires.

  4. 4 Saur♥Kraut
    May 7, 2006 at 1:25 am

    Well… I don’t like any of the singers you mentioned, so I can’t really comment about them. But you’re right, the music industry’s changed radically. To make it now, you have to be a total package (as American Idol demonstrates). It’s a shame, because some of the old artists that *I* love wouldn’t really qualify.

  5. 5 United We Lay
    May 7, 2006 at 1:24 pm

    Yes, it is possible to produce your own music, but no one ever actually hears it if you do it that way, even if you’re Joni Mitchell. Did anyone know about Crosby’s new album? He’s actually losing money because the industry isn’t involved in marketing, touring, etc…

  6. 6 Ed Abbey
    May 8, 2006 at 4:42 pm

    I think BP hit the nail on the head. Music as we KNEW it is a dinasaur and isn’t coming back. Most of the music that I listen to is now made under small private labels or with their own record label altogether. (The Nadas and John Prine are what come to mind.) With that structure and limited resources, it is hard to create a group wonder such as the Eagles or Beatles, etc that redefine a generation of music. I don’t think the current structure means the music is not as good, but merely just not as hyped.

  7. 7 Balloon Pirate
    May 8, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    UWL–Perhaps ‘no one’ will ever be massively exposed to one particular artist as has been the case in the past, but that doesn’t mean that ‘no one’ will hear an artists music. For me, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    Remember when all of television was divvied up by the ‘big three?’ Now, the four networks are becoming just small pieces of a broad-band cable/satellite pie. No one TV show’s ever going to get the consistantly high ratings of shows like ‘I Love Lucy” again, because there’s far more options out there. That’s not a bad thing.

    If I were to guess at the future of the music industry, I would speculate that the ‘big labels’ will exist primarily as repackagers of existing small- or self- labeled recordings.

    Phish made a name for itself well before Elektra picked them up, and Ani DiFranco has repeatedly refused deals from major record labels to record on her Righteous Babe label. She may not be a millionaire (or she may; I dunno), but she’s just sold out Carnegie Hall, so she’s doing something right

    And if you haven’t listened to Ani DiFranco, I suggest you treat yourself and download a few songs. My suggestions: “’tis of Thee” and “As Is”

    IMHO, anything that gives the world more options than Mariah, Nickleback and the next winner of “American Idol” can’t be all bad.


  8. 8 Saur♥Kraut
    May 8, 2006 at 7:43 pm

    Hey, have you guys seen this? I did a Snopes on it, and got nothing back. It seems to be genuine. I’ve also googled it, again, it seems genuine.

    here’s the video.

    This is really scary. What are your thoughts?

  9. 9 BarbaraFromCalifornia
    May 10, 2006 at 1:12 am

    I am a huge fan of Joni Mitchell.

    I am sorry to hear that news about her quiting her writing.

    Maybe this too shall pass.

  10. 10 Jessica
    May 10, 2006 at 4:37 am

    I’m all about the equity of 99-cent songs on iTunes. The silver lining, maybe, to a cloudy industry?

  11. 11 United We Lay
    May 10, 2006 at 12:17 pm

    There will always be music in bars, clubs, etc. People will always want to be in groups and experience music. You can’t do that with a laptop. Maybe buying and sellign music has changed, but the need to make it and hear it never will. It’s a poor excuse. By the way, since my husband is a musician, I have never once, no, not even once, downloaded music from the internet without the express permission of the artist. That is theft, pure and simple. I will not allow it in my home. My children will never get music that way.

  12. 12 United We Lay
    May 10, 2006 at 12:19 pm

    For some readon I couldn’t open the video. Can you give me a web site where I can get that.

  13. 13 Ed Abbey
    May 10, 2006 at 2:53 pm

    UWL – I had to right click on the link and SAVE TARGET AS onto my hard drive to get it to work.

  14. 14 Saur♥Kraut
    May 11, 2006 at 1:28 pm

    I ended up posting about it in my blog today. Let me know if there are probs seeing it.

  15. 15 greatwhitebear
    May 12, 2006 at 10:13 pm

    it is not neccesarily so that you can’t make it big withouth big label backing or top 40 air play.

    A couple of bands immediatley come to mind. Wilco, and Umphreys McGee. Neither gets any radio play outside World Cafe and various other world music shows. Yet both always draw large consisntant crowds all over the country and have very dedicated fan bases. And albums that sell well.

    They have built solid reputations by word of mouth and over the net.

    The poeple who have long careers in the future are going to be the ones who know how to use the net and other media successfully. The diference between Neil Young and David Crosby is that Young does, Crosby doesn’t.

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I am not perfect. I do my best to practice what I preach, but I am human. My mantra is, "DO NO HARM". I may not always succeed, but I will always try. My goal is to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

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