What If Music Dies? Soon?

I’m serious.

I went down to the sacred store, Where I’d heard the music years before, But the man there said the music wouldn’t play…

And in the streets, the children screamed, The lovers cried and the poets dreamed But not a word was spoken, The church bells all were broken…

And the three men I admire most, The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost They caught the last train for the coast, The day the music died.

I plan on being a musician in some right.  Being in the music business. Of course, that would be hard if we didn’t HAVE a music business to be in.

Modern music is bad enough to me, but I can handle it. People like Bruno Mars and Phil Philips actually know what they’re doing, and they give me some hope for young people’s musical tastes. But honestly, right now, they’re the only ones. Otherwise, I worry that several popular genres like rock, pop, and dance have totally gone to pot, and other worthless genres (to me- if YOU like them more power to you) like hip hop, rap, techno, etc have popped up to drag the other genres under with them.

You must be wondering why I don’t like them. Or, maybe you’re not, but either way, if you keep reading you’ll find out.

Like a Joe Walsh interview brought up, music isn’t made by PEOPLE anymore. I mean, technically it is, but not in the same way. People write a part for an instrument, make it on a computer (Garage Band anyone?) and add on all these digital tracks made by virtual instruments one by one, and then they sing, and then they run their voice through all kinds of odd filters, and then they call it music. I suppose it is (creative licence) but not in the true sense of the word. Not to me. Not to most people I’m good friends with.

Music is sold by the song for $1.29, sometimes 99 cents if you’re not too popular, and yet most people just steal it off some pirated site on the internet for nothing, like it’s perfectly fair to the artist to say “hey, I know you worked hard on this and this is how you make a living and it makes about as much sense as asking a painter give his paintings away for nothing, but I’m gonna just steal this now, because I want it and I can’t afford it. Okay?”

People make CDs and put ’em in Walmart, people buy them now and then because they’re in the five dollar CD and movie bin, but no one wants a physical thing they can hold. Everyone wants files and virtual stuff.

Record companies don’t even have any records for crying in the bucket, and anymore they’re a joke. There’s no putting planning the cover art and going to great lengths to get the order of the songs just right when you make the album to get the message just right, no concept albums happen anymore (although Styx’s Kilroy Was Here album with the robot theme was a mild disaster, it’s still the principle of the thing), and no one sits down, puts a CD in, starts it on the first track, and listens to it all the way through in the order it was meant to go by the artist who planned it out. (except for me, apparently).

Heck, I may be the only person left who even uses the word ‘album!’

You know what REALLY bothers me though? This radio station has decided that they want to fit 24 songs an hour instead of 12. And they’ve also decided that people no longer have the attention span to put up with the same song for three or four minutes, I mean seriously, no one has three or four minutes to devote to one thing at a time anymore, right? So they’ve started cutting songs in half however they see fit. This is just wrong. Maybe they listen to a song and say “Okay, no one will care about the solo. Just cut that out.” or “No one will care about the bridge, no will care about the last chorus, no one will care about the second verse, just cut it out.”

Okay, let’s look at Freebird. That’s a song most people know, right? Everyone yells Freebird at concerts so I’m assuming you all do. If you don’t, I’ll put it in the bottom of the post just in case. But it’s an iconic rock song by Lynyrd Skynyrd, which has it’s own Wikipedia page, and is a staple of rock and roll. It is half ballad, half iconic guitar solo, which is the point of my huge, so far pointless paragraph: What if this happened in 1973 and they cut out the solo in Freebird? Would it still be the most iconic song in rock and roll? Heck no it wouldn’t, and I’d like to see you try to convince me otherwise! It would just be a short ballad with nothing to make you come into half way through on the radio and be like “hey! that’s Freebird!” as soon as you hear a few notes.

Or, hey: How about the Dire Straits song Sultans Of Swing? Not exactly a classic, but have a glance over the lyrics here if you like. It would leave us all lost and confused if they chopped it in half. The story about a band called the Sultans of Swing would be lost if they chopped it off after the verse about Guitar George who knows all the chords, would it not?

Look at the Thanksgiving Day classic by Arlo Guthrie: Alice’s Restaurant: the eighteen minute song about how he and a friend took Alice and Ray an Fasha the dog’s garbage out and decided one big pile was better than two little piles, so they threw it down a cliff with some other garbage and since it was a small town, they got into all kinds of trouble. And also, he came to talk about the draft, and the Group W Bench…and tell you that if you wanna end war and stuff you gotta sing loud. If they cut that in half we’d never know about the fate of the 27 8×10 color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us. Them. Whatever.

Not to mention, songwriting is a skill. Maybe you didn’t know. but there is an art to songwriting. Read a book called The Craft Of Lyric Writing by Sheila Davis sometime. There are certain song formats like ABAB or BABA or ABCA or….etc etc. (A being the chorus, B being the verse, C being the bridge/solo/interlude/whatever, etc etc). It is an art that requires you to tell a story that pulls people in and makes them want to actually hear the whole thing. This is like messing with the art of lyric writing. There is no way a songwriter can accommodate to make sure the story-line in the song will still be complete in case some jughead at a radio station decides to chop it off. Okay, actually, that might be a little bit harsh. Allow me to rephrase: Songwriters write the song, and no radio station executive can take over after the job is done because he thinks his listeners don’t want to hear the whole thing. Most radio station executives aren’t going to have the songwriter’s best interests at heart, and should not be allowed to fool with the finished product at will to see if he gets more listeners.

If he wants more shorter hit songs to play, he can write ’em himself, as far I’m concerned. Then he could see how very hard it would be to write a top 10 billboard hit in under two minutes.

10 years from now, are we gonna have any radio stations? Any record companies? Any mass produced physical recordings of anything, much less music? (CDs, records, tapes, etc) Any top 40 billboard charts?

I don’t doubt people will still play guitar on their back porch at sunset, or that boyfriends will still serenade girlfriends in the cheesiest way possible with a ukulele just to evoke an indulgent smile, but will there be a mainstream music industry?

It must sound insane to speculate on the idea, and maybe I’m wrong. I sure as heck hope I’m wrong. Regardless, I think it’s a possibility. A scary one at that but still quite real.

Now, let me finish up by quoting Joe Walsh from that interview:

“Records, record stores, record sales, it’s all gone. And it’s up to the young musicians to try and figure it out. There’s no money in it, there’s no record companies, it’s free- you can download it. Nobody gets paid so they can afford to make music…. that’s what happening. And uh, they’re just cranking out music that is like, just, a recipe. Nobody’s playing at the same time. Everybody’s adding on virtual instruments (that don’t exist) onto a drum machine. That somebody programmed. And you can tell, in the music that’s out there now. It’s all been programmed. There’s no mojo. There’s nobody testifying, there’s not the magic of a human performance. Which is never perfect. And the magic of a human performance is what we all know and love in the old records. And it’s all gone. So we’ll see what the digital age has in store.”

You can see that interview here, on Live From Daryl’s House (ya know, Daryl Hall? Hall and Oats? Your Kiss Is On My List? Yeah, he does a live music show and puts it on the internet, and Joe Walsh was on there). It’s at the part called “Wrecking Ball Intro” if you go to the drop down menu below the video player. (Unless it starts there by itself…. I don’t know if it will).

A long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance, That I could make those people dance, And maybe they’d be happy for a while

But February made me shiver, With every paper I’d deliver, Bad news on the doorstep, I couldn’t take one more step

I can’t remember if I cried, When I read about his widowed bride, But something touched me deep inside, The day the music died

Songs I talked about:

Sultans of Swing:
Alice’s Restaurant:
The lyrics in the post are from Don Mclean’s American Pie:


Bye, bye Miss American Pie, drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry Those good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singin’ this’ll be the day that I die….

2 thoughts on “What If Music Dies? Soon?

  1. icedteapurplegem says:

    I have wondered about this same thing. It bothers me, and as with all things in life that bother me, I have set out to do my best to reverse it by definitely buying CD’s and trying to broaden my music horizons. I like all music, from the trite to the deep, and I really hope that the music business doesn’t get too corporate, or fail, so that artists can keep having that raw freedom to create and experiment. (I’m sorry for this gushy comment!)
    It’s funny you mention “Freebird”. We were just watching “Elizabethtown” – a movie I now LOVE! — and that song was in there. It was recreated, and BT was like, “Okay, coming up is a guitar solo. Let’s see if they can pull it off.” And they plunged into it, and it rocked! I hadn’t really heard the song before, and I loved it since then (and I don’t even really like guitar solos, or rock, or electric guitar.) Elizabethtown, has a lot of music appreciation in there that certainly made me feel all gooey inside because of their nods to music itself, and their acknowledgement of the work of past music greats. Or maybe that’s just what I got from it… Anyways, I’m so sorry for this very long comment! But awesome post, and I too hope that the music won’t die.

    1. Cass W. says:

      Thank you! 🙂 I’ll have to check that movie out sometime, I hadn’t heard of it before!
      Yeah, me too. I try to collect CDs when I can. Of course, it seems the only CDs of my interest I can find are greatest hits compilations of bands from 30 years ago, but oh well. I try. :p
      One thing I can almost guarantee: If these people who think all music should be free because it’s not worth money apparently succeed the music business WILL die. There is no way all artists can sustain themselves on other incomes with never making a dime from their actual career (musician, hence, they never make money on music and you have a problem…)

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