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Thread: Devaluation of music

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    Default Devaluation of music


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    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kontrapunctus View Post
    I've read many opinion pieces like this in recent years. But I notice one thing that hasn't changed too much in the music world. Musicians who are successful in attracting audiences to their live performances are still successful financially, and the biggest live performance stars are as rich and famous as ever, or even more so than ever. Recordings are often more a publicity tool than a direct producer of wealth. The additional problem classical musicians face is that the easy availability of recordings can actually be detrimental, especially if they are trying to sell recordings of music that has already been well recorded many times before. How many Beethoven symphony sets does the audience need?
    IMO the classical music industry needs to go all out in promoting and encouraging interest in live recitals and concerts rather than worry about digital recording rights or small payments from Spotify.

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    Senior Member EddieRUKiddingVarese's Avatar
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    Yep its all true- I think the recorded music industry is in it death spiral

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Part of Norman Lebrecht's indictment of the decay of classical music--Who Killed Classical Music?--is his view that greed-head performers such as Pavarotti and Von Karajan warped the whole financial structure of classical music with their over-the-top salaries, fees, etc., and enabled a host of lesser luminaries, agents, impresarios, etc. to ratchet up concert ticket costs/prices so that average people could no longer even consider going to concerts. Same fate as befell Broadway, major-league sports, etc. The plethora of recordings is also a problem--what's not needed is a fresh new interpretation of Beethoven's Fifth.

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    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    Part of Norman Lebrecht's indictment of the decay of classical music--Who Killed Classical Music?--is his view that greed-head performers such as Pavarotti and Von Karajan warped the whole financial structure of classical music with their over-the-top salaries, fees, etc., and enabled a host of lesser luminaries, agents, impresarios, etc. to ratchet up concert ticket costs/prices so that average people could no longer even consider going to concerts. Same fate as befell Broadway, major-league sports, etc. The plethora of recordings is also a problem--what's not needed is a fresh new interpretation of Beethoven's Fifth.
    My theory is slightly different than Lebrecht's (and I read his book). There was a boom period for classical music from the 1930s to the 1960s. The developments of high fidelity electrical recording and broadcast radio meant that the middle class suddenly had access to the symphony and the opera, formerly available only to the wealthy. Before that, middle class families had a piano in the parlor, and at least one member of the household who could play it, including transcriptions of Beethoven symphonies. (My grandfather grew up in such a household.) This in turn led to a boom in interest in classical music generally, of which certain shrewd businessmen and the stars they worked with understandably took full advantage. But later generations took full access to all kinds of music for granted and the classical music boom gradually faded away. This is all a simplification of course, but the classical music business Lebrecht writes about was doomed to fade, and there's no sense in blaming Arthur Judson, Ronald Wilford, Walter Legge or others who exploited it.
    Last edited by fluteman; Oct-16-2017 at 02:38.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    ^^^Upon reflection, there is much truth also in your analysis. Technology in the form of big screen TV and YouTube has easily filled much of the void left as concert ticket prices rise to stratospheric heights. And they also fill it reasonably well, to a point--I just watched/listened to Gerard Schwarz and his All Star Orchestra on the tube, on the local PBS channel, with the Sibelius 2nd, and quite enjoyed the performance.

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    One indicator of the apparent health of classical music is how many of your friends and neighbors are buying new classical recordings. This tends to be a bit of a spikey thing, driven by technological advances. First, listenable 78s in the 30s through the late 40s, though still quite expensive -- most of what our family had were works that would fit on one disk, with only a couple of those huge multi-disc albums.

    Second, the rise of the LP in the very late 40s through the late 50s. The collections of 78s were totally replaced and home repertoire's expanded.

    Next, stereo LPs in the late 50s and onwards, coincident with the increase in general levels of prosperity. Those mono LP collections were quickly replaced by many or most people.

    Then, in the early 80s, the CD. Again, entire home libraries were replaced. There have since been no meaningful improvements to physical media in terms of sound quality, for most people.

    Now, the replacement of physical media altogether by digital files as possessions or by "borrowed" music via streaming. It's unclear how this will play out.

    My point, I guess, is that the "health" of classical music is to some extent as perception based on industry activity. Times of high activity (meaning high sales), with many new recordings, are what create our "legendary" conductors and artists, and so forth. At a certain age we imprint on our favorites and talk the rest of our lives about how giants walked the earth in those days, etc. In fact, it's all a bit of a figment.


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    Senior Member Victor Redseal's Avatar
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    The recording industry has killed itself. In its efforts to prolong its life by putting out the blandest of crap by people who should properly be nobodies, they have destroyed that part which makes the music interesting in the first place. Could a band as, say, Pink Floyd have garnered the following they did if they came out today? No. The story of Syd Barrett was as much a part of the Pink Floyd experience as the music itself as was the album cover art. Today, as pointed out, bands are nothing more than a name, a title and a track number. The music is bland and sterile as a result. Part of the reason I listen to Lead Belly is his troubled life--going to prison, knifing people in fights including family members, taking John Lomax to court--a black man in the 30s with a long arrest record suing a respectable white man--and winning. All of that gives the music a depth it wouldn't have if I knew nothing of who Lead Belly was other than "Lead Belly", "Goodnight Irene", "Track 04" "3:32". It may as well be anonymous.

    If we do come across some old anonymous blues recording that's good, we immediately want to know who the guy is and what else he might have recorded. That's how Mississippi John Hurt was "rediscovered." Someone heard his "Avalon Blues" on some blues comp. No one knew who this was so one guy finds an Avalon, Mississippi and starts looking for a musician named John Hurt and eventually meets this sharecropper who could play a guitar like nobody's business. Next thing you know, John Hurt is playing at venues all across the country and making studio and live albums. Suddenly, he's a huge folk hero a few decades after recording a couple of obscure sides. Today, there is a statue to the memory of John Hurt in Avalon.

    All that has been removed from music today. Kids don't miss it because they never had it to begin with. This is their norm. Today's music is nameless and faceless. There is no story behind it. Even if there is a story, it's just some made up PR crap. It's more cynical than than the cheapest,worst bubblegum crap from the 60s and 70s.

    We like to say that the music should be the only thing that matters but that's BS. I'm a book collector and seller. I try to pick the winners and sell them later for more than I bought them for. Usually, I strike out. But one thing about trying to find a buyer is that the book must have its dust jacket and it must be in mint shape. It has to look like it came right off the shelf. A book without its dust jacket loses at least 80% of its value and you're lucky to find a buyer because he probably can't move that book. The jacket by itself is worth nothing and no one will buy it. Yet together they make the book. They make the commodity. You can say that it's the words, the story, that matter but it isn't. It's the product. Good luck selling "name" "title" and "track number." Music has been rendered worthless.
    "God," asked Adam, "why did you make Eve so beautiful?"
    And He replied, "So that you could love her."
    "But God," asked Adam, "why did you make her so stupid?"
    And He replied, "So that she could love you."

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fluteman View Post
    I've read many opinion pieces like this in recent years. But I notice one thing that hasn't changed too much in the music world. Musicians who are successful in attracting audiences to their live performances are still successful financially, and the biggest live performance stars are as rich and famous as ever, or even more so than ever. Recordings are often more a publicity tool than a direct producer of wealth.
    In the LP era it was the other way around, particularly with rock music. Bands toured to promote the album, making very little money from touring and then hoping to shift big units on vinyl, which would bring in the real money. Now, the bigger bands make their money from touring and the merchandise they sell with it and, if they're lucky, supplement it with music sales. I've been reading these 'death of music' articles a lot in recent years. Music wont die. The charts have always been full of crap and sheep will buy it. That's never changed. Niche markets such as classical will continue because there's always gonna be people to listen to it. Pieces like the one I just read remind me of that guy who used to stand on Market Street, in Manchester, with his 'The End is Nigh' placard. Every week, till the day he died he'd stand there, prophecising the end of the world. I've seen similar threads on here and I treat them with similar disdain and roll my eyes.

    Music isn't changing much anymore. Most things have been done. We have a billion sub-genres of rock, jazz and any musical form you can think of. The only thing that is changing is the way we listen to music and its availability. Log on here in 10 years time and the same arguments will still be raging and the same pessimists will be blaming today's successful classical artists for the decline in CM. Music is only devalued by those who have never valued it. My work-colleague calls much chart music 'Music for people who don't like music'. I tend to label it 'music for the masses'. If it's what people want, let them have it. If the masses demand instant access then let them have it. All this recent music digital 'revolution' has done for me is make the music I love more accessible and portable. It's all good in my book. I don't have to spend my money buying an album with one decent track on it anymore. I can now listen and taste before I bite. Run with it. Embrace it. Your alternative is to sit moaning about it. I know what I'm gonna do.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    ^^^I agree with the above. It is indicative of the New Stasis in music and the arts overall, in that there is a place for every single kind of music and for every audience for that music now, thanks to technology and instantaneous communication. The question is what sorts of stress arise from the resulting shifts in income streams; the rise in concert ticket prices reflects the drop in costs of alternate forms of accessing the music. And imagine that world where music education and learning to play an instrument were universally available in all schools.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    In the LP era it was the other way around, particularly with rock music. Bands toured to promote the album, making very little money from touring and then hoping to shift big units on vinyl, which would bring in the real money. Now, the bigger bands make their money from touring and the merchandise they sell with it and, if they're lucky, supplement it with music sales. I've been reading these 'death of music' articles a lot in recent years. Music wont die. The charts have always been full of crap and sheep will buy it. That's never changed. Niche markets such as classical will continue because there's always gonna be people to listen to it. Pieces like the one I just read remind me of that guy who used to stand on Market Street, in Manchester, with his 'The End is Nigh' placard. Every week, till the day he died he'd stand there, prophecising the end of the world. I've seen similar threads on here and I treat them with similar disdain and roll my eyes.

    Music isn't changing much anymore. Most things have been done. We have a billion sub-genres of rock, jazz and any musical form you can think of. The only thing that is changing is the way we listen to music and its availability. Log on here in 10 years time and the same arguments will still be raging and the same pessimists will be blaming today's successful classical artists for the decline in CM. Music is only devalued by those who have never valued it. My work-colleague calls much chart music 'Music for people who don't like music'. I tend to label it 'music for the masses'. If it's what people want, let them have it. If the masses demand instant access then let them have it. All this recent music digital 'revolution' has done for me is make the music I love more accessible and portable. It's all good in my book. I don't have to spend my money buying an album with one decent track on it anymore. I can now listen and taste before I bite. Run with it. Embrace it. Your alternative is to sit moaning about it. I know what I'm gonna do.
    This is a good post, but it can be a sensitive topic, not least because a lot of the people doing the moaning are the professional musicians themselves. It's hard to find a diplomatic way to break it to them that what they see as the "good old days" are over, and if they think the cash is going to roll in because they've put so much time and effort into perfecting their recording and getting it into the online marketplace, they are going to be disappointed. Many of them are convinced they are being exploited by the music business in some sort of Lebrechtesque capitalist conspiracy. One of them angrily pointed out to me that Daniel Ek, the owner of Spotify, who is younger than he is, is worth so many millions while he gets one-figure checks from them (i.e., sums in the dollars, not even the tens of dollars). I understand your pain, D___, but how much do you suppose Mr. Ek makes each year from your two excellent but virtually unknown and ignored recordings? He and his online competitors have taken the music business away from the traditional labels, most of which tried to fight the internet revolution in court and with legislation and realized too late they needed to join it rather than fight it. Just as those traditional labels did, he makes his money from the stars, D___, not you, and some of those stars do push back when they think they are under-compensated. That's the state of the business today, and moaning won't change it.

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    Music was worthless from the beginning, look at how much music existed even at the Baroque Era alone. You think everybody likes all of those billions of pieces? Do you really think people should spend all their money on that?
    I don't think so

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    Fast forward to 2017, it's just x1,000,000,000,000

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    Senior Member Victor Redseal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David OByrne View Post
    Music was worthless from the beginning, look at how much music existed even at the Baroque Era alone. You think everybody likes all of those billions of pieces? Do you really think people should spend all their money on that?
    I don't think so
    ALL their money? I think common sense will tell you nobody should spend ALL their money on music. But disposable income? Why not? The majority of my disposable income is spent on CDs, books, magazines, DVDs and my personal music. What else were people in the baroque era going do with their disposable income? Vacation in the Hamptons? Owning music and books was extremely popular among those with the wealth to do it. They had no records to listen to, no movies to watch, no TV to kill a night with. So they bought sheet music, read books, went to the theater and what not.

    So, yes, I'd say they DID want all that music. I own a great many books from that era. You wouldn't believe what kind of topics they wrote about. Anything and everything. And you know why I have those books? Because they were built to last. A book was, by itself, a work of art. Heavy leather or pigskin covers engraved with the owner's name or initials in gold-leaf, marbled end papers. marvelous print and fonts, engraved illustrations with a delicate square of tissue in front to keep it from leeching onto the facing page. Clearly, books were valued then and handed down and built to endure many handings down such that they still survive in my library very little changed from when they were brand new.

    Even people who weren't musicians bought the sheet music because it was prestigious to own it--a sign of taste and culture. Besides, if you hired an ensemble to play at a gathering or for a small concert, it would be nice to have your own sheet music if you wanted them to play those pieces.

    So, yes, the wealthier people did indeed buy up that music. You point out yourself how much of that music there was available. How did that happen with no demand for it?

    Today, we still spend a great deal of money on music just not on classical or jazz because, let's face it, both are in their twilight. They'll never disappear and there will always be a small dedicated audience but neither wields close to the power they once did. But people still buy a lot of that stuff. Google any classical composer you care to and someone somewhere has his music for sale.

    So I disagree that it was always worthless. In fact, I find that completely inane. We value our arts. They are what makes life worth living. Maybe we don't value it as much as we should but sometimes that works out. I once bought a brand new Mingus CD for $1.50. They marked it down to $3 to move it. When I picked it up, it was in the 50% off shelf so the cashier gave me half off from the $3.00 price. Mingus deserves more value than that but it barely dented my wallet, I got a nice recording and the store moved merchandise out which was what they wanted. Everybody's happy.
    Last edited by Victor Redseal; Oct-19-2017 at 01:22.
    "God," asked Adam, "why did you make Eve so beautiful?"
    And He replied, "So that you could love her."
    "But God," asked Adam, "why did you make her so stupid?"
    And He replied, "So that she could love you."

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    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Well said, Victor Redseal. You mentioned sheet music, as did I in an earlier post. Those who had serious money also owned pianos (or before the mid-19th century, earlier keyboard instruments) and other instruments, and someone in the family took enough lessons to be able to play them. By the late 19th century, the rising middle class was buying large quantities of pianos, and there were hundreds of makers in the US alone. Sheet music became hugely popular.
    Of course, there is a large quantity of music produced and eagerly consumed in every era that is largely and probably justifiably forgotten in later eras. I don't see a problem with that. It just shows we have a dynamic and creative society and culture.

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