Economics and the Future of Music

Hello folks. This weekend I am coming at you with a spinner of a topic I think. I’m not even supposed to be here right now, but well life kinda just ripped it for me. Part of that is because of personal issues, but part of it is because I spend my days working in a financial institution and this whole stock market, economy bullshit is really fucking with what little chi that I have. It’s also really making me wonder what the future holds for life. We are seeing an economic freak out of massive proportion. Everyone is scared it seems and even as gas prices temporarily fall, the decline is in line with just about everything else, with the exception of the price of commodities which is what most people in this country are really concerned with in terms of their wallets.

I was thinking about all of this last night when I came home and found my package of Cd’s from Matador on my doorstep. I still buy Cd’s. It is my format of choice and always will be. But the reality is, I don’t know if I will really be able to buy Cd’s any more. See I could have spent $16 dollars on the new Mogwai album and the new opus by Fucked Up. Matador offers these gems for $8 a piece on their web site as MP3 downloads. I could have had them instantly. But instead I spent an extra $11 for the Cd’s to be shipped to me in brown packaging and a bunch of plastic and it took a week to get here. I could have picked up another album for that price from them and still had two dollars left over. But I love the CD. However buying Cd’s anymore has become a chore. The fact that I am forced to order these albums is an indication of our declining economy as much as it is about the prevalence and advances of technology in our lives. Despite being located in a major metropolitan suburb, there are no independent or small chain record stores that in the past were more likely to carry releases by smaller labels. People who loved and followed music often worked at these places and they would order music that was interesting to them or that was hyped by word of mouth. And while it’s true we’ve replaced that hype with the internet and most of those people are probably now jockeying blogs like this, the fact is there is no longer money to be made from these people in a retail store. $11 anymore is a big difference. Not just in terms of the products it can buy, but it’s value elsewhere in the economy as well. After all, I’m looking to move to a new city, start a new life. That $11 could have bought me a lot more then two pieces of plastic that I mostly just upload to my computer and slap on my ipod, not bothering to touch ever again. Trust me the silliness of this does not escape me. But like all creatures, I have habits.

Speaking of Fucked Up, and I kind of want to at length, but probably not here in this post, I have also begun to think about the future of the touring band. I am wondering that if resources become more scarce, money becomes tighter and the public in turn gets tighter with their entertainment dollar if the rise of regional bands and regional radio will return. Part of me is very excited about this. I kind of hope the new economy forces a lot of the lazy people out of music. I hope in turn this helps bands grow the way they did when I was young, playing a lot locally, getting an audience in their home town and then trying to break out in the world. It seems to me that now you get a myspace page and a van and suddenly your on tour. As the hype of Fucked Up’s grows with the release of their new record, I wonder soon if bands like this willa ctually get bigger because they are essentially willing to go for it all and just keep hammering at it. I also hope that regionality of music occurs again. There is something to be said about where you live, and if we start spending more time in one place, growing our own communities again, perhaps we will see new musical styles emerge from different parts of the world again. The “DC Sound” used to mean something, it was a stamp of approval. Now I can’t remember the last time I read that phrase in a review.

The American dollar is getting tighter, it’s going to force us all to get more creative in our daily lives and hopefully that creativity will be directed into art as well as community, as well as sustainability. It is my hope that as a country we beging to re-evaluate what is truly important to us as people. That where we live is important and how we live is even more important. What we value and how we value it tells a lot about our society. In many ways I think our values are a bit screwed up. The future is going to be interesting, there will be a lot of opportunity for inginuity and those that have drive and are willing to make sacrifices are the ones that are going to succeed. Perhaps we will create more community based cultures where our local bands, our municipal sporting teams, our libraries, community centers and businesses will be what thrives. Maybe the homogeny that seemed so ready to crush us all will dwindle and fade and maybe we can hang on to the creativity and individuality that makes being human so unique and wonderful. Maybe yr favorite bands will be yr next door neighbors.

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