Nostalgia seems to be a common epidemic that has infected people from all walks of life. We hear bullshit from people who have nostalgia for a time they never lived in because things seem so much “simpler” and “wholesome.” People who derive their opinions of an entire time period based on televisions shows like Leave It To Beaver and I Love Lucy. Then we have those that actually lived during the proposed “good times” who are so stuck in the past that they don’t give credit to any of the positive accomplishments of newer generations. If it’s not bad enough that these people harp on and on about mundane things like the progressive change in potato chip quality, some have made it their life’s mission to kill any joy someone might have in creating new music.
Those who get their latest insight into the music world from MTV and BET see fit to say that there is no “good” or “ground-breaking” music being produced this past decade. They blame everyone from the society they live in to the supposed shift in the interests of record companies. It’s something that frustrates me and it demeans all the musicians that I have come to know who pour all of themselves into their music. People have the misconception that a musician’s worth is directly proportional to how famous they are in the mainstream or underground. Hell, some people even believe the exact opposite to be true.
Even worse are the individuals who were part of the counter-culture of their time but have lost touch with what made them rebel as youths. They idolize the key figures of their past, understandable in most cases, and really hold no respect for what the youth of today work to put out; even when they are working within a genre that these people approve of. The youths are called everything from rip-offs of [ insert iconic band name here ] to whatever other unimaginative and demeaning label you can think of.
I usually find that people from the above categories have never known musicians personally and/or have never tried to create music of value themselves. If they did, they would know that music is as alive as it was during the times that they deem the “golden” ages. There are scenes blooming all over the world and in the most unexpected of places; the most notable examples for me would be bands appearing in Middle-Eastern and Asian countries.
So what is music of value?
Music of value is something that moves you on the deepest level whether it be due to the nature of the lyrics or the music itself. It’s when the artist shares an intimate part of themselves but in such a way that anyone can find meaning in their work. And it is most definitely when they become the voice of those usually unaccounted for in the media and, consequently, the world. Music of value comes from people that don’t care if they attain fame or recognition. The only thing that they want, or ask for, is that someone actually takes the time to hear and appreciate what they produce.
Some of you might be thinking, “well, that’s fine, but skill is very important.” My response would be that there’s more to art than just technical skill. Technicality’s only purpose should be that of a tool for the artist to use to express their emotions and thoughts more effectively. So yes, but it’s not all the music should amount to.
Now to dispel the bullshit theory surrounding record labels for the uninitiated. I have two sources that can do that far better than I ever can.
First a post by Benjamin Glass:
I’ve got this idea of starting a record company. I get so tired of listening to the way everyone treats music. I keep feeling they’re selling out. And I don’t like the way artists are treated either. Bing Crosby isn’t the only one who can make records. I don’t know, I think it would be fun.
That was Johnny Mercer back in 1942 talking about starting what would become Capitol Records. Before World War II wrapped up, there were only three major record labels (Decca, RCA Victor, and Columbia). By the time the war was over, Capitol Records became the fourth. The Big Four have switched up over the years with EMI, Sony, Warner-Chapel, and Universal emerging as the victors. The industry has just been maintaining equilibrium within that power play. Until labels become financially infeasible, it is going to continue on this way.
Also, it would appear to me that the music business has always been about business. They have to be concerned about a sustainable business model, and promoting music that doesn’t have a market is a rather poor way of meeting that basic and essential goal. A business doesn’t do anyone any good when it goes bankrupt.
With that in mind, however, there is a lot of crazy and interesting music out there, it just tends to get released on labels started up by the artists themselves.
Second is an interview from Tom Gabriel Fischer of Celtic Frost:
Xasthur’s comment on this video from his blog:
This man tells it like it is. The record industry is full of parasites and greed, they will lie and steal everything from a band. A lot of other bands think its ‘metal-as-fuck’ to get ripped off and turn the other cheek. What’s also true is that, musically, a lot of bands are cowards and sheep.
Summary: nostalgia worship is bullshit. Fuck anyone that thinks otherwise. The following videos drive the same point home but are much more entertaining than my long-winded rant so enjoy.