The Great Depression of Music
I have, by no means, really thought this idea out too thoroughly -- and I do not plan on doing so -- but I thought some of you might be interested to hear what I have to this about the music world of today (yes -- once again).
I'm going to draw a lot of comparisons to the Great Depression (in America) to illustrate my point. The music industry and music "machine" of today is, in many ways, like the US stock market and economy of the Great Depression. Let me explain this statement.
What caused the Great Depression in America? One of the core reasons was that the market was expanding too fast for the consumers. Production was soaring, but no one was there to consume the products. In turn, the stocks continued to rise and overspeculation peaked in 1929, causing the Crash. Why was their overspeculation? Mainly because technology was improving at rapid rates, and this allowed for production to rise at unprecedented rates as well.
So this is how I parallel the Great Depression to music today:
(1) Improved technology (i.e. the production line) of the early 1900s = improved/cheaper recording equipment of the 1970s - today ... because of the cheapness of recording space and equipment in today's world, musicians can release a record with much more ease than their grandparents' generation. Little effort is required to pump out dozens of albums, just like little effort was required for Ford to make millions of Model T cars. This overproduction leads to overspeculation ... people think that since there is more there are [going to be] more consumers.
(2) Overspeculation = Overhype ... since there was an abundance of product in the 1920s, there was an abundance of speculation ... there is now an overabundance of music and therefore an overabundance of hype (honestly, how many "next big thing" bands can the NME churn out each year?)
(3) Limited Markets in the 1920s = Too Many Markets Today ... sometimes having too much of something is as bad as having too much. In the 1920s, before the Depression, there were not enough markets to distribute goods through. So the few markets that there were were getting clogged with excess products (i.e. little opportunity for oversea trade back then). Now, thanks to the internet and an increase in places where music can be purchased, the complete opposite is happening. It's like using a broadband connection to send a 2 kb word document ... all of that extra bandwidth is not needed and it goes unused and unnoticed. So, the musical products of today go unnoticed quite often as there are too many ways to distribute it. Also, again due to the internet, there are too many ways to categorize and subdivide music. It's relatively easy now to judge the health of the nation's economy based upon the performance of a few indexes (the Dow Jones, NYSE, and Nasdaq), but if there were, say, 50 other indexes used to gauge this, it would be much more difficult to get an accurate read on the relative health of our nation. And it's the same with music now. There are dozens, if not hundreds of various music communities (i.e. last.fm, radio.blog.club), piles of music wikis, and far too many webzines to keep track of. How the heck are any of us to keep up with the music around us when there are seemingly unlimited outlets for this music to seep into the public through?
So -- my solution? This is a tough one, and probably one that can't be achieved. "Start over." It's the only way out. We have nothing left to build upon except the far too confusing and muddled past. Like FDR, we've got to make a "New Deal," and take steps forward to rebuild from the foundations of music from the ground up ... not just try to fix the problem indefinitely (i.e. continually blaming "big" record companies).
Well -- that sounded far too scholarly and absolute, so I will leave you all with that. But also don't get me wrong ... I love music. I love buying it and listening to it and writing about it ... everything. But I am quite certain that, had I lived during the 1920s, I would have had a similar urge to invest and buy and be an avid consumer (can you say that?) ... it's not that I dislike music, it's that I just don't see it going much anywhere now. Plus -- how many times can you recycle a plastic bottle? It ain't indefinite ...