Thursday, July 05, 2018

Forever is Never

Musical acts don't seem to have the staying power they had in previous generations. That could be because there are so many, because music doesn't have the emotional stickyness, that there is too much technology and too little reality, that music is more virtual (say streamed - Best Buy just announced it is no longer selling CDs and is returning the ones it has in stock), all or some. But anyway you look at it, the best a recording act that writes and records original can do is get it out there anyway they can and pray those server system versions are still around in the future or that music will disappear as if it never existed.

The bad news here is from their inception and into the foreseeable future, those will be compressed versions with high and low end stripped. So if you as the producer are paying extra for the high fidelity high end studios and recording engineers provide, you are doing that for ego and vanity unless you do have CDs or other high end storage versions created. T-Bone Burnett pointed this out: a whole generation of music is going to vanish except for some lower fidelity cuts popular enough to get stored elsewhere.  One tactic is to allow downloads instead of streams so at the very least there are more copies somewhere.   The song in the video above is regularly streamed in countries all over the world.  While that is cool for my ego and hopefully it means a diverse group of people enjoys it, unless they can download it, it disappears if and when Alphabet/YouTube decides to prune selections just as they stopped paying us if we had a fan base of less than a thousand.

On a friend's Facebook page we discussed the dilemma that mediocrity tends to be promoted over the best musicians, or virtuosos. There are reasons for this but when you look at the technology, not only will the music vanish, what remains may be the least worthy. From the perspective of a musical historian, the younger generation will appear to be musical imbeciles. This also means current popularity past what a live act puts in the bank from ticket sales, merchandise sales and over the transom CD sales is worth less than it ever has been. Get it while you can but keep your expectations realistic.

I have to hope that technologists will step up to the challenges here and they usually do by ensuring good music is rehosted to new media as they come along. In that case, the best master you can make may have real value later although as we discovered with analog tape, that may be an arduous process and a little bit of a crap shoot. As for the original composer's intentions, some of that may be lost to the person who remasters it. Even classical music scores lose information because the performance marks are reinterpreted by performers. Beethoven really did intend some of his later compositions to be played much faster than is common today.

Do your best but forever is never.

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