Many die-hard music fans and professional musicians alike are angry and rightly upset about the current state of the [American] music industry. Gone are the days of MTV and VH1, crowded record stores, long lines at sold-out venues, top 10/20 countdowns, professional independent radio with unique playlists, concert TV specials, and much, much more. Here to replace all that? Localized tour structures, limited artistic funding, self-promotion, bands attempting to "do-it-yourself", and a struggling industry trying to remain relevant as well as prosperous in an age of instant gratification and short attention spans.
Rob Flynn, the always-vocal and highly respected vocalist/guitarist for metal legends Machine Head, has written a viral and brutally-honest and open op-ed about the current state of the music business; an article that many millennials and Gen X/Yers will take far more seriously than the State of the Union address!
Flynn kicks off the [rant] by describing a recent trip (of several kinds?) that he took with some friends, where one of them described what it was like being a teenager in the 1970s and seeing "the cream of the crop" of classic rock bands, live and in the flesh! The show that really got Flynn fired up was hearing about a Montrose show, where JOURNEY was the opener and the audience demanded FOUR ENCORES... for the opening band! Montrose, the headliner, got FIVE encores and didn't stop playing until 2:30AM! In today's concert culture, venues would NEVER allow that, making this retrospective that much more amazing, yet hard to believe.
Now, any of you dear readers know that the "encore" that we all know today is a pretty lame gesture and always results in the band coming back out to play the missing "hit or two" from the set that didn't get played during the "main set". It really comes across as predictable and stale to hardcore fans, who know "that song" is eventually coming, and that the band isn't really done. But these days bands are swimming amidst a stream of corporate and union-regulated nonsense that takes the Encore out of a real Encore. In fact, doing more than the band's allotted set/encore results in massive fines that come out of the artist's already empty pockets. Established bands (like Metallica and Pearl Jam) can disobey and pay the fines because they can afford it, but smaller acts cannot risk the loss. How sad is that? Paying concert attendees cannot demand more from the artists they came to see? They have no say in the show! Even if fans want it, the artist still gets harmed by trying to do what makes sense.
Rob recounts the feeling of what it must have been like to be at a REAL show, where the energy was so off the charts, that the band was NOT ALLOWED to leave the stage; not by the venue, but by the fans! The audience wanted more! Concerts are always cut short at 11pm, and set lists are rigid and predictable. One can see the frustration that Rob, a true veteran of the touring musical circuit, must feel towards this realization of how live music could actually be.
Sadly, as Rob reveals more and more of the limiting placeholders that are imposed on bands attempting to recreate art live for their paying fans, the frontman begins to dive into the state of the business as a whole: describing how today's culture and society seem to have zero want for music due to variety of distractions. We say we want music, that we love music, and deep down we do: but nobody is willing to prove it- or at least prove it in a way that matters to the [current] business practice...
"And the reason you don’t care is because it’s too easy to get sucked into your phone, or your Facebook, or your Twitter, or your Tumblr, or your Instagram, or your games, or your TV shows.
Music isn’t important anymore. Say it is all you want, but the fact is, the 2 biggest rock records of last year only sold 400,000 copies, neither even went gold."
Sadly, that's what business measures, yet there has to be a way to change that....
A lot of us are all aware of the drastically changing face of the music business. The horrible, and indefinitely scary reality is, no one seems to have a plan, including Rob Flynn! Most of the current brains are still thinking in yesterday's terms of radio and TV, when real radio and TV do not exist anymore! New thought will be the only way to save it, and yet no one may know what the new thought is...yet! The thinking, and eventually the solution, will only come from one place: YOU. The fans are the ones who must, while the business continues to struggle to find a way to understand proper metrics to follow a band's success, make music mainstream again, by "wanting it". This want CAN come from ways we may not even understand right now, outside of money, Facebook likes, and Twitter followers. (Myspace friends used to matter remember?)
"I don’t get why people don’t want to see live music anymore, I don’t get it. Did you see the clip of Hetfield talking about how America needs to start “wanting” music again? http://www.blabbermouth.net/news/metallicas-james-hetfield-says-orion-music-more-festival-has-been-a-financial-disaster/"
True, it is a scary time for music, but in that, it may be one of the greatest times of building towards a future in which we can enjoy bands as they were truly meant to be enjoyed, and bands can be successful and enjoy creating the music we know and love without the bullshit getting in the way.
Photo Courtesy of instagram.com/robbflynn