Ed Ward (captward) Fri 1 Apr 11 06:45
Here's a link to Bob Geldof's keynote, which I felt suffered from being excerpted in news reports. He made some excellent points, so forget how you feel about the Boomtown Rats and/or Live Aid and give it some time; he operates almost like a preacher here. <http://schedule.sxsw.com/events/event_MP990194>
Paulina Borsook (loris) Fri 1 Apr 11 10:57
here's a take from a los angeles VC on sxsw --- magnificent in its creepiness (he is proud to not attend any panels) http://alwayson.goingon.com/node/67549
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 1 Apr 11 11:34
That reminds me of a visit with a law firm that was producing our EFF-Austin steampunk party a few years ago. One of the attorneys was irked that his firm was putting money into a SXSW party. "No business people go there," he said. "It's just a bunch of kids getting drunk and throwing up in the gutter." That's how some people were seeing SXSW; I'm sure that sentiment exists today. And if you did nothing but walk 6th St during the music event, you might get that impression. I personally wish I could spent all my time in panels, but I get pulled into meetings, and for the last four years I've been involved with a big event that kills my Monday (spent doing setup, for the most part). I know a lot of people feel, at SXSW and elsewhere, that the action is in the halls. I'm sitting in a conference right now that's all about the sessions, the learning. (The one I'm in is http://online.journalism.utexas.edu/program.php?year=2011, #isoj).
Paulina Borsook (loris) Fri 1 Apr 11 12:07
depends on your definition of action: something to sell or something to say? but yes, it's in the hallways that action always takes place at such things
Paulina Borsook (loris) Sat 2 Apr 11 10:00
<scribbled by loris Sat 2 Apr 11 12:06>
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 3 Apr 11 09:51
Ed has been in transit back to France, we should see him here again soon. I find myself wondering about the future of events as the associated costs (esp transportation) increase. It's amazing to see the globally diverse crowd that shows up for SXSW; part of that amazement is realizing the transportation and lodging statistics required to make it happen. Here's something from Irish Times about the costs for Irish bands to play SXSW music: http://www.irishtimes.com/blogs/ontherecord/2011/03/29/the-real-costs-of-playi ng-sxsw/ Here's a domestic post that's also music focused: http://www.bizmology.com/2011/03/22/sxsw-value-proves-elusive-for-some/ The author, Lee Simmons, paints a bleak picture, but ends with an upbeat statement: "...the real value may lie in simply getting a chance to make music for a few days alongside other likeminded artists. Its a recipe that may not translate to record sales, but it will certainly keep SXSW comfortably in the black."
Ed Ward (captward) Tue 5 Apr 11 02:53
As the former international guy for SXSW, I can say that a lot of the bands who've played in previous years have gotten government subsidies from their countries' export agencies, who are smart enough to realize that record sales count as exports bringing cash into the country. There being no more record biz, though, it's hard to see where the value is these days for bands. Get signed? To whom? Get publicity? Can't eat that.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 5 Apr 11 07:34
What we used to call a "record," a "single," and "album" - all those are fuzzy in a digital era. What I'm finding is that it's increasingly cheap and easy to find all the recorded music you can stand in digital formats if you can make the transition from owning an object accompanied by design, printed lists, other info. And if you don't care about owning a piece of music, even in digital form, you can fill your day with music via streaming audio sites like last.fm, Pandora, maestro.fm etc. - plus all the radios that are streaming online, and others that are native online. (I heard former NPR director Vivian Schiller say, at the International Symposium on Online Journalism, that radio will be more and more a digital online phenomenon - it will be increasingly rare for people to get signal via airwaves.) If mindshare is committed to cheap and free music, and it's more and more a commodity, there's no money in it, as you've been saying. But I think what bands are hoping is that their recorded music advertises their sound, and they can make money with live gigs. I think that's more difficult, though, because the logistics of touring can be brutal and expensive. There's not much incentive to plow a lot of money into creating a sound, so studio recording as an art form is no doubt threatened. You can make good-enough music in your home studio without requiring the investment in highest-end equipment. Yet there's still bands who are out flogging their sound, some supported by local governments hoping to attract music fans (like the Crossing Border guys, who show up at SXSW with free CDs and a minifest within the event). The smart ones know that the model's changed, and are just looking for a good crowd to spread the word about their sound. The less smart ones probably don't realize how the music business has changed - I suspect there are still bands hoping to break a record and get a big contract.
Ed Ward (captward) Tue 5 Apr 11 09:13
Plus, of course, there are a lot of things you can record but not play live, and there are artists who'd rather not tour for various reasons, and what if you become big in Australia but are a garage band in New Jersey? Your chance to make road money is eaten up by the airfare. What's most depressing to me, though, is that music as such doesn't seem to be of any interest to its consumers. It's a noise in your head all day long that doesn't make any difference except to fill some perceived hole in your life. It's always been the consumers, rather than the connoisseurs, who've made the economic difference, so the chance of making it via music with actual content is lower than ever. And Jon, have we given the non-Well readers the secret number so they can participate?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 5 Apr 11 11:10
I don't think we have. For those of you who are not on the WELL but have something to add, or a question to ask, you can send your input to inkwell at well.com, and it'll be posted here. What I think I'm hearing you say, Ed, is that music's become a boring commodity. We need more bands like the Flaming Lips: http://www.crawdaddy.com/index.php/2011/04/04/flaming-lips-to-release-new-musi c-in-unconventional-way/ "... the Flaming Lips are releasing four songs on a USB drive thats buried inside a brain and encased in a life-size skull, which of course, will be made from seven pounds of Gummi-style candy gelatin."
Ed Ward (captward) Tue 5 Apr 11 11:15
Also this long (but excerpted) piece in Slate: <http://www.slate.com/id/2289177> How on earth would you finance a band like the Flaming Lips in this environment, though?
Paulina Borsook (loris) Wed 6 Apr 11 10:07
that slate piece is great --- depressing in a different way...
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 7 Apr 11 21:30
A lot of broad statements there... I don't see my relationship to music in that piece, and I don't see that many people wandering around listening to their ipods. I think those people are the exception, not the rule. What the article seems to say is that, historically, philosophers and others are neurotic and conflicted about music.
Ed Ward (captward) Fri 8 Apr 11 01:19
I'm not sure how that article was edited, but I do believe that one of his points -- that the iPod has changed the way we listen to music -- is dead-on. It's made music something you can have going all the time, and a lot of people do, even in the "live music capitol of the world." Certainly I've noticed this everywhere else. This means, as I've said (maybe upthread?), that music that makes demands on you, music that moves you, is far less welcome to the consumer, since you can't interact with it properly when music is ubiquitous wallpaper in your life. It's also changed another thing for the worse, in that now that the vast majority of music is consumed as digital files instead of physical media, there seems to be a feeling of entitlement on the part of a large number of consumers to getting it free. This is untenable and, I think, ultimately destructive to both artists and the art. If you don't see yourself in that article, then pat yourself on the back.
Gary Greenberg (gberg) Fri 8 Apr 11 04:13
Well, I don't know about back-patting, but when I read that article I was glad that I lack the patience to go way into the digital download thing, that I often can't stand the sound of mp3s, that I have always been constituationally incapable of doing much else when I am listening to music, and that my ears really really hate earbuds, (Jon Stewart last night, doing his Glenn Beck routine: "I am going to fuck you in the ears with the truth," but earbuds must make me feel like I'm being fucked in the ear with plastic)--anyway thanks to all that I evidently haven't contributed to the End of Music.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 8 Apr 11 07:00
No doubt iPod and digital transfers (Napster, Pirate Bay, DropBox) have changed the acquistion of music....for someone like my brother, who is an audiophile, it is very disturbing....he would never listen to anything with only mp3 quality, thus the iPod and anything on the internet or digital is out for him.....i like the iPod and usually have my headphones on whenever I'm working or online, or I have iTunes playing in the background.... As for thinking music...not true for me....love Mumford and Sons, Decembrists, Feist, Iron and Wine, etc.; always looking for new music and what the 16-30 year olds are listening to....but, then, I'm a culture, sub-culture sociologist type, so it is critical to be keeping up and actually listening, even if the kids aren't... Paying for it....hmmm, now that is a bit of dilemma, as just about everything can be gotten for free now....someone in my network has actually paid for the music -- either through iTunes, Amazon, etc. but we share it freely among ourselves, just like we used to do with tapes, 45's, albums, etc. Don't see anything wrong with that....But once I've found an artist or group I like, I support them by joining their site, following them on FB and/or iTunes and buying their new music or completing my archives of their music and seeing their concerts....I don't know if I'm typical there or not...
Ed Ward (captward) Fri 8 Apr 11 07:49
The Economist looks at geezers and media: <http://www.economist.com/node/18527255>
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 8 Apr 11 09:42
That Economist article reminds me what that I seem to be an exception - I'm as digital as the "digital natives," and I still listen to new music more than anything else. I'm always surprised that other sixtysomethings are stuck in old media. I thought some more about the pervasive iPod use that Ed was describing. I think it's partly attributable to our constant exposure to film and television. We grow up thinking that life is supposed to have a soundtrack. I was also thinking about music as energy, or as a way to condition energy. Running background music is a way to sustain a particular kind of energy or flow. Ed, as a music critic and connoisseur, I think you just have a different ear, you don't really think about using music as a background - it's front and center for you, and commands your attention. Speaking of which - attention is another element here, a considerable challenge as there are so many demands for it from so many angles. I think it's always been hard to cultivate sustained and meaningful attention (read Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, for instance, or Buddhist texts - 4th way and Buddhism are very much about conditioning and refining attention and focusing on the present). I suspect many people are not so much listening to music as feeling it, they're doing something else with their minds. In fact many of us fall deeply into our heads and are disconnected from most of what's happening around us, including music... and in that case you don't want music that demands attention, and you don't make too many demands of music.
Ed Ward (captward) Fri 8 Apr 11 10:00
Which is why there's so much mediocre, tepid crap around. Now, I'll admit that I play music when I'm reading (sometimes), doing the dishes (sometimes) or doing other household chores, and driving (often), but I long ago learned to bifurcate my consciousness so that I can pay full attention to each chore (usually). I also go days at a time without listening to anything. Helps keep me fresh. I know when I'm not paying attention and should be.
Andrew Alden (alden) Fri 8 Apr 11 19:22
I'm glad I'm not the only person who can't have music around because he finds it too compelling.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 8 Apr 11 21:36
I kept the car radio off for 6 years; just recently started playing tapes in the car again and occasionally listen to the radio stations. But, I'm weird like that.
Ed Ward (captward) Sat 9 Apr 11 01:36
All of this theorizing is interesting, but reading back on a mailing list I'm still catching up on, there was a very big problem at SXSW that needs addressing. Maybe we can figure something out. The event was way overcrowded this year, mostly because there were thousands of non-registered people going from non-SXSW party to non-SXSW party. Given that this has to occur during Spring Break (which is where a lot of the non-registered people come from) and given that the St. Patrick's Day Drunkfest pretty much always falls during the week sometime, what can be done about these hordes of people? There was violence, there were 7000 people camping out for three days to see Kanye West at a non-SXSW event (and only 2500 could get in, although the company taking the RSVPs OK'd all 7000: can you say data-mining?), and traffic was the worst I've ever seen. What can SXSW do about this? What can the city of Austin do about it? Because there's going to be an image problem (SXSW has always been portrayed by a segment of the population of Austin as evil, The Man, etc) and there seem to be elements of the city (who may or may not be getting paid off -- pure speculation on my part) who don't much care. If it gets worse, it's going to be very bad indeed...
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 9 Apr 11 08:28
A social planner might call this a wicked problem: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problem Like so many beach towns, Austin has become a spring break destination, and economies have emerged that depend on that surge of activity. SXSW week in Austin is a social tsunami that has scaled up exponentially over the last five years or so. The logistics just have to catch up. Here's a review of the Kanye show: http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/music/entries/2 011/03/20/sxsw_scene_kanye_jayz_everyone.html?cxntfid=blogs_austin_music_sourc e The review doesn't make it sound quite as bad as your assessment - evidently a three hour line and a lot of confusion; they weren't prepared for the crush of people...but they don't mention the 7000. This should be a learning experience for the City and SXSW.
Ed Ward (captward) Sat 9 Apr 11 08:33
A friend lives across the street from the power plant. They were lined up for three days with no food, no water, no sanitation.
David Gans (tnf) Sat 9 Apr 11 10:34
Catching up on this discussion, and damn it's depressing. I am a working musician. I sell 99.9% of what music I sell at gigs. It used to be about 80%, but online sales have dried up almost entirely and I have never had a distribution deal nor been in more than one or two local stores. I am able to make money on the road because I am a solo performer. I play house concerts, which almost always include lodging and a meal in the deal, and I couch surf a bit on other days. I've been in a recording studio a few times over the last couple of years, and it just kills me that it's not economically feasible to do that more often. It is SO MUCH FUN to make music in a studio. I agree that it's possible to make a "good-enough" (as jonl put it) recording at home, but it's nowhere near as much fun as trackling with a real band and a real engineer and then taking some time to add just the right touches to the track and then mixing it to perfection. Collaboration beats ths living shit out of self-produced as fas as I'm concerned. It's also true that there is no more record business. Last night I was talking with a friend wo manages a couple of acts, and he thinks it's a mistake to believe that any new business model is going to emerge to save the day. I think the way people consume music has changed permanently from the days of my youth, then a new Bob Dylan record became the most important thing you could possible want to do and all your friends felt the same way. I make music that tends to require attention - you know, the kind with lyrics that say something. Pity me! That said, I am a pretty happy camper. I don't know how to do anything other than what I do, and I have managed to keep my musical career in the black thanks toa day job that gives me the flexibility I need to go play festivals and stuff. n the other side of the coin: I am a radio producer who is committed to promoting good music to my listeners. I am a picky fucker, and very little of the stuff I get in the mail ("Americana" and "jam band" genres mostly) does a damn thing for me. I hear great music at the festivals I play and I will work hard to get people interested in the music I bring home. My current favorite is a brilliant young songwriter from Asheville: <http://www.galenkipar.com> . I want him to be able to make a living with his music, too.
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