Wring in the New Era

True story:

When my son told me he wants to attend a college of digital arts so he could study to become an audio engineer I was uncharacteristically daddy-freaked. My instincts have been to trust my kids to figure what they want on their own time table and see my job as facilitator (you know, check writer) and otherwise stay out of their way. But audio engineer? Why not blacksmith? or watch-maker? or any other dead career choice? Well, turns out my default was right again and, of course, my son knew better than me what was right for him.

You see, during a tour of the school I cornered several instructors and staff and gently but firmly expressed my concerns about this career choice and it took no time at all for these folks to slap my Jurassic ready-for-the-Shalom-Retirement-Home-for-the-Aged-Hippie butt all over the map. The answer, in a word, for all the old farts that haven’t figured it out, duh: games.

It seems the vast majority of grads end up in the gaming industry, which by almost every measure does better business than TV, movies and music combined. It seems one game, “Guitar Hero” has sold more units than all CDs last year, combined. (I don’t have the time to confirm these numbers but they follow the “fourstones’ Law of Half” which states “Even if that’s wrong by +-50% it still blows my mind.”) So sure, that makes sense. I don’t know diddley about gaming but I’m pretty sure they don’t ship too many silent ones.

And all of a sudden every issue regarding the musician’s relationship to the music industry seems like nothing but a bunch of old maids wringing their hands so hard they could start a bonfire. You want distribution? Exposure? My god, how long before the gaming companies sign bands directly without any “label” at all lol? Even old bands like the Cars and Arrowsmith are debuting new material on games. I saw Slash a few months ago on Letterman and he was promoting a video game. Slash. Talk show. Video game. Does anybody over 35 reading this post ever in your wildest dream think these concepts would go together into a sentence?

So shall we wring our hands over the CD vs. download thing a little more? What the role of the “label” is? What about “discovery”? Sony BMG is worth what? 1.2 billion? chicken-fucking-feed lol.

Even on puny little ccMixter, check out the top referrers for the last 12 months:


Check out #4, wtf is “kloonigames”? Yea, that’s right, above YouTube and flickr is this silly Crayon Physics game that features “Lullaby” by _ghost.

Now check out all the Magnatune music on “Braid” [via Buckman].

6 thoughts on “Wring in the New Era

  1. teru

    Video killed the radio star.
    Video games killed the video star? ;)

    Seriously though, very cool story.

  2. jp

    Being in the same boat as you (again), as my daughter is going off to Purchase, which is a SUNY school in NY, an “arts school”..I be commiseratin’.

    But I disagree (what a surprise!) with the assessment of the instructors re the future of a livelihood in the “gaming industry”. While all that $$ is pouring in now, it is evident to me that in the near future, it won’t be..as it takes a lot of idle time to play a video game..and with everything that is happening in the world as far as energy production and energy production related issues (food production and transportation/infrastructure for 2.5 little things) it would seem that the leisure time and money needed for video games is going to go the way of the Hummer H2.

    Music otoh will always be here, though as we already are seeing, big tours are going to be history as well..small scale local things, the return of regional bands, definitely the home brewed, music as a way of communication and communal FUN with your neighbors (who you better be prepared to get to know) etc..non Clear Channel radio..I hope so..

    But the leisure time and $$ needed to “do” games..I don’t think so.

    I have a list of interesting jobs for our kids to face the challenges that are already here..but for someone “into the arts”..they don’t look all that d’gruvy. DEaling with that, I am beginning to put together a program here that involves a few interesting components: art as bellweather of what up, a sci-tech institution giving examples of how things work in the real world as far as agriculture/transportation etc, and (hopefully) the community college involved on a level that would facilitate the teens around here to take a few exploratory courses to get on the right track. There is obviously a use for music/audio engineering in all of this, multi media more so..

    As we oldsters know, the way has pointed to multi media, meaning music/images/kinetic pieces/communication tech, for a long time. Courses in college need to address that, and show some sort of useful results. The key to living in the transition era from cheap energy is going to focus around a few concepts..one of which is “How useful are you to your community?”

    Sorry for the rant Victor..but I gots a lot on my old brain lately.

  3. fourstones Post author

    It sounds like you’ve got some great projects brewing (!) Of course my preference would be if he does sound for “green jobs for all” — in other words, make better choices than I did ;)

  4. gurdonark

    Great post. One more comfirmation for me that it’s not music that’s in trouble, but our dinosaur-afflicted notions of how music will be distributed.

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