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Streight: Use technology to help a music career

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Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters gives antiquated, insufficient advice to aspiring musicians. His formula for success: be a "badass player of your instrument" and "play a lot of live gigs." He says, "I don't understand technology."

Here we go again. The myth that if you build it, they will come. Not true. A musician today has to be more than "awesome" (which is rare). You have to get off your drunk and stoned ass and market your band.

Just being "bad ass" and playing live isn't enough anymore. It's unwise to give young musicians this old fashioned, outmoded advice. Being super proficient, or unusually creative/innovative, is key, but you have to go far beyond just playing your instrument fantastically.

Your band has to understand technology. You have to understand marketing and putting videos on YouTube and posting free mp3s on various music sharing sites. The days of just playing live, drinking beer, and hitting on groupies, and hoping to be discovered, are over.

There's too much music available now, much of it for free. It's harder to get attention. People can listen to tons of great music without paying for it, some legal, some pirated. People don't buy CDs as much. In fact, they frequently don't even care who an artist is, they just buy songs off iTunes. Notice how MTV videos just flash the name of the music artist and song title at the end of a song, barely giving you enough time to catch the information.

It seems to be all about the individual tune now, not so much the band.

Joe Walsh is another old school rock musician who is complaining about the evolution of music. He gripes about the dominance of electronics, virtual instruments, loops, samples, auto-tuning, etc., but the minute anybody plugs a guitar into an amp or sings into a PA system, you've got electronically enhanced music.

According to Joe Walsh's recent rant:

"Records, record stores, record sales, it's all gone. And it's up to the young musicians to try and figure it out. There's no money in it, no record companies. It's free, you can download it. Nobody gets paid, so they can't afford to make music. That's what's happening.

"And they're just cranking out music that is just a recipe.

"You know, nobody is playing at the same time. Everybody's adding on virtual instruments that don't exist on to a drum machine that somebody programmed. And you can tell in the music that's out now. It's all been programmed. There's no mojo. There's nobody testifying.

"There's not the magic of a human performance, which is never perfect. And the magic of a human performance is what we all know and love in the old records, by the way they were made. And it's all gone."

Of course, these are absurd allegations. "Nobody gets paid"? "There's no money it it"? He's talking about the old way of doing things. There is "human performance" in orchestrating loops and samples and in incorporating virtual instruments. I like it when both old acoustic instruments and new digital music tools are combined.

Classical musicians complained about the "unbearable noise" of jazz. Jazz musicians complained about the rise of blues and rock music. Folk absolutists hated it and heckled when Dylan played an electric guitar at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. Now rock musicians are complaining about rap and EDM (electronic dance music), which has invaded the country music genre.

Purists would demand a return to beating on hollow logs, singing without microphones and strumming only acoustic lutes. Music and music distribution is evolving. You either evolve with it or you are likely to perish in obscurity.

You can "be awesome" all you want but nobody will know about your "awesomeness" if all you do is play gigs, drink beer, get stoned, and flirt with groupies, which is all most musicians want to do. They don't even have anybody taking photographs, audio recording or videotaping their live shows. If they're so proud of their music, why do they do nothing to preserve or promote it?

How many live bands have you seen that don't even have their band name on the drum or a big poster above them so you know what their name is? How many times have you seen band members wearing the tee shirts of other bands, just adding to the confusion?

Dave Grohl didn't make it because he was badass. He had a promotion machine and record label behind him. Mick Jagger has a degree from the London School of Economics. The smart bands are using every technology they can find to create, promote, and distribute their music. Those who don't are trapped in dive bars doing '80s cover songs to eke out a meager living.

About the Author
Steven Streight is a man of many skills. He’s a talented writer, web content developer, internet marketing consultant and photographer. He’s a trustee on the Peoria Historical Society, a member of SCORE Peoria and the author of the Peoria technology history book, “Bicycle Fever.” In his downtime, he’s hangs out with his beloved Min Pin and tries to get some rest. Considering how involved he is in the community, it sounds like he could use as much as he can get.