by Justin Crockett
I’m getting older, musically and otherwise. And like most folks in my age bracket, I’m given to sneering at new music trends. “It’s not music if you need a computer” is one thing that bursts forth from my lips after three Coronas. “Artists don’t even write their own songs anymore” is another go-to phrase of mine, as I ignore the fact that Elvis never wrote a blasted thing in his life. But for once, I’m not here to be all like “hey guys in my day STEELY DAN”.
I bring positivity.
That’s right, contrary to the cynical strands of DNA in my stupid head, I’m here to tell you that music right now, in this day and age, is better than it ever has been before, commercially, as an art form, and in overall quality.
Music Is Easier To Make Than Ever
If you’re a musical talent these days, you already have a leg up on almost every artist that somehow had commercial success through history. “How,” you say, with your fedora cocked just so? Well, let’s go through the things that every musician has prayed for up until the late 90’s.
- Reliable, user-friendly, and affordable recording software(on a laptop, tablet, or phone to boot!), microphones and instruments.
- Free music hosting sites such as iTunes, Soundcloud, etc.
- Social media to promote your music, and ways to target different demographics.
- YouTube to post performances of your music.
- If you don’t want to post your music for free, Bandcamp, CDbaby, and various other sites allow you to receive payment for your music.
That’s not a bad start for a kid in a bedroom somewhere in Dubuque, who just happens to fucking kill it on guitar. That kid could literally record a decent sounding album on a computer in their house, mix it, upload it to a hosting site, sell it, and then book a tour for their band online through social media.
The ability to make an album and share it is especially world-changing. A site like CD Baby has uploaded roughly one of every six songs on iTunes. Or they stream songs to YouTube, and the artists get paid that way. Between some of the major album sites, they receive up to 30,000 amateur submissions a month. Major record labels put out roughly 100 major releases a year. Do the math for how much music is out there, and if you doubt the reach of these album-release services, just ask Macklemore, whose first self-made albums were uploaded to CD Baby in 2005.
Music Is Easier To Access
While Napster opened the door to getting any music you wanted for free, there are still countless, legal ways to listen to almost anything your blackened heart desires. Pandora and YouTube are ways to freely listen to just about any song ever created. If you want to artist to get a little bit of coin for what they made, Spotify, Apple, and Tidal all have premium versions.
And while streaming is certainly the leader in the industry these days, with over a trillion songs streamed in 2015, some music formats continue to evolve and find new fans. Vinyl, which I was pretty sure ended when Phil Collins put out his debut solo album, actually increased its sales for the ninth straight year.
Musicians Are At The Top Of Their Games
I’m not talking about bands with insanely-skilled virtuosos, though there are many. I’m talking in one sense about iconic bands who have mined their peak periods to continue putting out quality material. Some people sniff their noses angrily at the idea and then bury their heads back up into their gaping assholes, but repurposing early songs and demos into a newer album is way better than getting an album of half filler, right? Radiohead did it with their newest album, using songs they’ve been playing live for years. Van Halen went all the way back to their first album and gussied up some songs from those sessions for their 2012 comeback.
Even non-rock genres are experiencing a Renaissance-type period. Take rap, for instance. Turns out these guys right now are some of the greatest wordsmiths the world has ever seen, breaking and reinventing language rules in mind-bending ways.
Just like iterations of a smartphone, rappers have continuously evolved and expounded upon the sounds they grew up with, adding new trinkets and putting out something that always ups the “oh shit” factor.
Musicians too have an ever-present way to better themselves, with in-depth YouTube lessons for any instrument just a few post-jerking keystrokes away. Want to learn guitar basics quickly, in between rolling doobies and volleyball lessons(kid stuff!)? You can totally do that! A long haired fella from a failed 80’s hair metal band has a fucking slew of videos on his channel to help you along.
Look, I’m not saying I’m into any of the new music out nowadays. Some of it is scary to me, or sounds like robots achieving orgasm, or everyone’s dressed as Dust Bowlers and there’s twelve members in the band, one always with a fiddle. I’m just saying, the ease of getting music and creating music is unparalleled, and hidden genius is always lurking there, in the ether. And if it makes you feel something, it’s all good.