Wednesday, 14 March 2007

The Journey of the New Troubadours

The least we can say is that music industry is moving fast - very fast. It was not a long time ago that Thomas Edison breveted a French idea from Charles Cros and developed in 1877 the first phonograph able to record and play music. With the emergence of the walkman, music started to invade the outside of home and tapes enabled us to create our own copies, CD technology only re-enforcing an astonishing sound quality.

A new generation for music has now arisen with audio compression formats such as mp3 allowing an incredible simplicity of usage and manipulation of tracks to create our own music lists from our favourite artists. Music is selected and downloaded directly to our computers from our old CD collection or from fast growing web stores such as iTunes.

All these continuous improved technologies coupled with the development of communications systems (radio followed by television followed by internet) helped the growth of a mass market music industry and created wide opportunities through the emergence of pop music and its derivatives (metal rock, electronic music, etc.) generating amazing amount of money for some luckiest artists (which personally I find the amount of money they generate, outrageous) but essentially it gave the opportunity for prolific talented people to express theirs skills, live from their passion and generate all this various lyrics and melodies we love so much.

Nevertheless, it seems that a derivative system is penetrating the market of music industry to offer the possibility to download music for free on websites which started with Napster and which are in the process to be legally approved despite some artists brandishing the risk of prejudice for author rights and the end of a golden era (in term of money making) for music artists. Maybe I have different values but it is difficult for me to find it normal to get for free the work of people who worked hard to produce it even if my wallet would feel better, nevertheless, if it is legally free, I will not pay!
In the mean time, the record companies seem focusing on the easy route to make money with shows such as pop idol and other X-factor to nominate a pseudo-artist who will find instant fame without any credibility and being forgotten by the public after one to two years but generating a huge amount of money for record companies in a very short time. This controversial method is , I believe, shadowing the emergence of what I call real artists who write their own music and touring for years, slowly improving and perfecting their singular music style to attract and keep a specific public audience.

I am glad that today communication technology and also sites such as myspace increase the awareness of the public to a wider range of potential music artists and enlarge our choice for music to give less power to record companies dictating us through radio DJs what to listen and buy, thus marginal artists but with real talent get the chance to attract an audience while still being outside the record industry system. But I have concerns about a sustainable future for the majority music artists with the end of the author rights and the emergence of the pop idol phenomen. I am hoping music artists will still be able to live from their talent music through touring concerts and will not morph to providers of music for other industries (i.e. movies soudtracks) where they can still make money. A worst case scenario would be that a majority of talented people who could not afford to live from their music, would keep it as a hobby during the week end with potentially less engagement and passion, therefore a loss for music in general.

Do you remember the troubadours? They were not wealthy people but living their passion for music and spreading their creations to the public. Well, it seems like artists will be back to a troubadour-esque life style and only passionate ones will continue to convoy the evolution of music through various channel of information and still be able to perform on stage. Hopefully this would skim the music from its commercial aspect and give back performing artists their true place in the public heart during all these highly communicative concerts where music is at its best.

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