Why We Need Independent Music and Musicians… and Without the Sex and Drugs!

As an independent musician, i.e., a creative artist who writes my own material that doesn’t necessarily sound like everyone else’s material, I notice how difficult it can be to find places to perform publicly so that other people can hear the music. Certainly, if one is a good imitator of the already established tried and true, one has a better chance of finding places to play—as long as she/he performs songs that have been written long ago and have already been performed thousands of times already.

I used to look down upon the “cover bands,” but, heck, they’re making money—sometimes a lot of it. No new, original or innovate music gets created, but they’re earning a living doing what they love—playing music. There’s nothing wrong with that. People want to hear their favorite songs, after all. Besides, who wants to take the risk of playing new songs that haven’t been heard before when we know that playing the same songs that have already been tested many times before by bands who are wealthy, successful and standing on a huge platform will guarantee us an audience and some income too?

Conform, conform, conform!

Yes, even us rebels have our favorite songs. Rage Against the Machine, anyone?

But we also need to move out of our comfort zone once in a while. Otherwise nothing will ever change. Do you really want to hear the same songs over and over again forever? For the rest of your life? Do you want to prevent the next RATM from succeeding because they can’t find places to perform their songs live? Think of all the great music we’re missing!

Now, more than ever, variety is the spice of life. Access to the variety is access to diversity and new ideas. It’s a chance to stretch our brains, to think outside the box, to question the status quo. And that kind of independent thinking leads to creative problem solving. Yep, listening to music develops our brains. There have been studies on this, so, believe it or not, I’m not making this up!
We need new music, new art, new ideas. I think that undiscovered artists have always had a tough time but I feel that this is a particularly tough time (at least here in the USA) for those of us who are innovative and “going against the grain,” so to speak. This is a time when authority figures are highly respected, when we need a certificate signed by an authority to qualify us for most jobs, and a permit to protest publicly (even though the First Amendment guarantees us the right to “peaceably assemble.”) This is also a time when if we do anything at all that’s unusual publicly we know that we are being watched by someone, somewhere, from behind a surveillance camera. This is also a time of great economic inequality and division and a strongly entrenched establishment that is working overtime to maintain its status rather than share the wealth. They don’t like upstarts!

And of course, this is true in the music industry as it is true everywhere else…

Music—as with all the arts, and yes, music IS AN ART!—is highly influential. The arts influence because we are entertained, comforted and soothed by them. A song might lull you to sleep, get you up dancing (even when you’re tired), make you cry even when your happy or laugh even when you’re sad. Music is a strong influence because when we’re entertained we don’t realize we’re being taught anything or that an artist is trying to influence us. Entertainment is automatic. It’s funny, so we laugh. It’s sad, so we cry. The lyrics speak to us, so we listen. Yet all the while, we are being influenced.

I believe this is why some people want to limit who can/cannot be an artist. Some of the effort to prevent access to musicianship results from market research, i.e., a study shows that skinny, good-looking white men who appear to be 18-to-look-younger are more likely to make money for the record company, so this means women, people of color, people over the age of thirty, people deemed unattractive, etc., cannot become professional musicians (as far as the record company execs are concerned, that is.)

But there is also the reality that once you allow anyone—rich, poor, male, female, black, white, over/under 30/pretty, not so pretty, visually-appealing—or not, etc., to become a musician, then you allow more diverse opinions to be spread. Then we start to see variety, out of the box thinking, and challenges to the status quo. I personally think that that scares some people.

Why, you ask?

Well, because then you have what some people call “chaos.” A chaos of ideas means that people are free to be and to express themselves without any threat to their well being. The only problem with that is that such free spirited people are difficult to control. Imagine you are an advertising executive and your job is to convince people to start smoking again. Maybe you want young people who’ve been taught by parents and teachers that smoking is not cool to decide that it is, in fact, cool. Maybe you want them to get addicted early on in life so that your client, a cigarette manufacturer, will have lots of customers for many years to come. Convince those young people to idolize certain rock stars then convince the rock stars (who also want to make money) to promote smoking. ‘Sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll’ was a marketing ploy, people! Marketing to keep rock music out of politics and get musicians and fans alike addicted to instant gratification instead.

As usual, I’m probably getting too deep for some people who are reading a musically-inclined blog that they’re hoping will talk about “sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll”—not critique it as a marketing tool used to control the masses. But how many people will have read this far anyway?

To be continued…?

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