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Music Future?

February 2, 2010

The La Times published a funny article on January 31, http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-afternoons31-2010jan31,0,6652730,full.story It’s about the music industry these days in LA. I say it is funny because the bands are in the same position now that they have been for the past several years, yet the article does not show this fact. The article suggests this is a recent trend. Perhaps it is because some bands are only just now feeling the effects of the music industry’s poor decisions–focusing the whole industry on one style of music, punishing their fans for sampling songs, allowing Apple to seize control of their market, etc.

A few years ago, The Still Lifes introduced me to Dennis Draeger. He was just starting his masters degree in Futures Studies at the time. Since he was an avid music fan and a budding futurist, I asked him to write some reports for me about the future of the music industry. He immediately said he didn’t think there was a foreseeable future for a commercially viable market with our taste in music without some massive amounts of capital, but he would do some research and see what he could dig up for me. When I asked him to explain massive amounts of capital, I was surprised we had a similar definition: tens of millions of dollars. I may be a successful businessman in my own right, but I’m not Donald Trump much less Jack Welch or Warren Buffet who don’t need a TV show and a bad wig to stay in the public interest. My best work is getting small businesses to become medium businesses. That’s what companies hire me to do. So, when I decided to dump some small capital into a personal interest, electronic music, I was hoping to bring some music nerd interest to some newer electronic groups which used acoustic instruments to create works of art. I never expected any of the eventual bands to go mainstream. Dennis’ initial thoughts though were worrisome since they suggested that medium level independent labels may be a thing of the past.

Dennis actually wrote some very inspiring and insightful reports on the music industry. And many of the things he mentioned are mentioned in this LA Times article: the death of the album, bands being lost in the ocean of hopefuls trying to get sold on the internet or iTunes, the focus of record labels to make money off band tours, and a need to focus on selling music for soundtracks to TV and movies. Dennis even brought up an idea of selling the bands through designer T-shirts. Dennis said most of the things he put in his reports had been brought out years before he wrote them in 2007. In fact, he found a blog from 1999 that postulated many of the things mentioned in the LA Times article. Yet three years after he informed me of all this, here we are in the same situation according to this article.

Laughing at this may be a dark form of humor, but I have to laugh to keep from weeping. I especially have to laugh considering the continuing trend these days toward boring, rehashed mainstream pop which dates its lineage back to Spice Girls, New Kids on the Block, Menudo, ABBA, The Archies, Nancy Sinatra, Fabian, Pat Boone, and earlier. There’s nothing wrong with any of these people, but watching the Grammy’s these days is like watching reruns of Leave it to Beaver with a little more sexual innuendo–just enough to keep interests of teenage boys.

What happened to thinking about music as an art form? What happened to expecting musicians to push the envelope. The only envelope Kanye West, Taylor Swift, and Lady Gaga are pushing is 15% of their paycheck to their image manager. Swift, the pretty little princess of white trash pubescent noise, was at least voted on by a demographic of couch potatoes trying to sing along. Kanye, to his defense, has brought Santogold (Santigold) to a little more prominence than she would have if left to her own devices. Lady Gaga is at least…well are there any positives to her? She’s keeping vaudeville alive? No, I don’t think she is trying to be funny. If her image consultant is trying to be funny, I don’t think Lady Gaga is in on the joke.

The hope of C/Fe Records is to be a haven to artists searching for ways to appeal to the public while creating music that reflects its time as much as it is experimental. We want to also provide a place for music aficionados to experience new sounds and new concepts of where music can take us. Let’s get beyond the old cliché of what a band was, and focus on what a band and record label can and even should be.

C/Fe has a lot of plans. Some of our strategies may fail, but many of them will succeed. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Listen to the sounds of the singularity,

Jakub Novotny

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