As the main face and evangelist of ccMixter I have compiled a rather large list of the excuses to not participate in the site from both music appreciators and musicians. All the excuses seem to stem from a constellation of symptoms one might call boomer-itis. The boomers’ view on remixing, sampling, commercialization, sharing and the creative process in regards to music is the reason why music, of all transitions from analog to digital, has been the most wrenching. At the psychological core is the buried, traumatic truth that music as a cultural influence has completely dropped off the radar.
Boomers who lived through the 1960’s and still hold sway in the halls of politics and culture were so heavily influenced by the popular musicians of their day it is impossible for them to conceive (i.e. they live in complete denial) of a world where 99% of teen males are gaming and only a tiny percentage identifies in any culturally significant way to musicians. On the other hand, for people born after 1980 there is no sense of this loss at all, buried or otherwise. They have no reference point and therefore no understanding of the enormity of say, every release of a Beatles 45 RPM record. To them, the festival at Woodstock is at most “a concert” or more likely, an entry in Wikipedia about a concert some pony-tailed out-of-touch teacher made them look up.
The loss of teen-angst projection onto celebrity musicians is nothing but a favorable development to everybody else but a loss to the boomer’s point of view. On the shallow end of the hand-wringing over this shift, once acknowledged, is nothing more than the sentimental self-aggrandizing that boomers have perfected. The most valid case is the front and center ideology, no matter how naive or contrived, of a John Lennon has been replaced by what Jason Rohrer calls “murder simulators” like Grand Theft Auto. “Today’s pop-rock is a paradigm of a society that has no values; it is ubiquitous even though the record companies admit that most of it loses money,” mourns Donald Clarke in The Rise and Fall of Popular Music (1995, out of print) even before the advent of Halo and GTA.
Clarke is a boomer in every sense. His passion for music and what it represented in his life inspired him to devote his life (once laid off from his unionized auto factory job) to writing and critiquing modern pop music. Unfortunately, by the time he looked up from his assembly line to follow his muse in the mid-1990’s, he found the once powerful and influential world of Elvis, Dylan, Lennon and Morrison to be less relevant than a $3 cup of burnt espresso drowning in milk. (Note that by 2008 this transition is complete as it’s commonplace to get boomer music by Sir Paul, Ray and Joni while buying a latte at Starbucks and unheard of the other way around.)
“The economic machine unwittingly created by the counterculture,” Clarke continues, “sees to it that pop-rock is aimed at each generation of new customers, yet each year not only is it of less musical value, but the market gets smaller, so it is not selling very well these days.”
Even though Clarke had no real way of predicting the rise of PC-based home recording or the Internet his diagnosis is shockingly relevant today. That these words were written when the ultra-boomerific Jonas Brothers were zygotes can be seen as prescient or depressing. Or both. Focusing strictly on the business model that became prevalent in music since the 1970’s he still manages to nail the cause on the head, still relevant 15 years later: “Perhaps the problem begins with the fact that nowadays we have less input into our own popular culture.”
Some marketing assholes with way too much time on their hands (is there any other kind?) are happy to declare that user generated content is dead. (FTR: if you actually use the term ‘user generated content’ you are already suffering from one-meeting-too-many-itis and need to find a real job.) As long as net neutrality holds I think it’s pretty obvious that any group of musicians that are sincere about their art will find an audience, including fans who tip, film producers who license and sponsors who sponsor. We just have to hang in there and remember where we really are in the cultural food chain. Hint: Not John Lennon circa 1970.
Happy and healthy new year to everybody!