A while back (eight years ago!) on this blog, I discussed the importance of savoring the experience. At the time, I was all about making the online destination worthwhile. Your website needs to contain vital info (contact, tour dates, etc.), but it should also be memorable and provide something to visitors that helps tell them who you are.
In a “less is more” type world, sometimes you’re just left wanting … more.
Never is this more apparent than today’s music business.
Without waltzing down memory lane (again), people used to buy music. Crazy, I know. They used to comb the liner notes looking for info about the band. Big, glossy inserts had the lyrics. If you were lucky, there could be posters and stickers, and all kinds of awesome stuff inside. I still have a copy of Dark Side of the Moon with all the stuff inside.
Today, you search for the content on Spotify. A few clicks, and there it is. No anticipation, no excitement, no experience.
All the while, musicians bemoan their missing money. Everybody’s taking it from them: YouTube doesn’t give a fair share for their videos getting watched, Spotify pays fractions of a penny per play, and it’s impossible to make money from YouTube unless you garner millions of views. Nobody’s going out to hear live music, and even if they do, clubs are paying next to nothing.
So what’s changed? Have people stopped liking music? Are they just not interested in purchasing anymore? Are concerts too much of a time suck on their already overbooked lives?
Maybe a little of all of that is true, but I’m willing to bet that the experience has been taken from music. Once an artist feels that a tweet or Instagram post is enough to communicate with an audience, it’s all over.
Once an artist feels that a tweet or Instagram post is enough to communicate with an audience, it’s all over.
An album release is exciting. Or at least, it should be. Instead it’s a date on the calendar that’s coupled with a media blitz (press releases, social media posts, maybe a new video…). The next day, it’s barely a memory. 40 years later, people still talk about what the Rolling Stones did to announce a tour:
Was it just a stunt? Yeah, but a damn good one! Imagine what it’d be like to have the Rolling Stones come down the street on the back of a truck as you’re heading out on your lunch break.
Today we’ve got things like PledgeMusic. You can invite fans to sponsor the making of your album and keep them updated, send them cool merch, and eventually … an album/download of your product. It’s not a flatbed truck down 5th Avenue, but it’s something. It’s creating an exclusive experience that engages fans and build affinity.
Meanwhile, jazz and classical are dying their own slow deaths.
Compressed MP3s and earbuds can’t recreate the experience of sitting in the middle of a concert hall. And searching for classical on Spotify is next to impossible. There’s no field differentiating “soloist/performer” from “composer!” Who knew Beethoven released so many albums!
All the while, classical and jazz have lost their relevance in the community because there are few ways to experience the music that correspond with today’s on-demand, mobile-friendly culture.
While we race to Best Buy for huge TVs and surround sound systems, we rarely focus on quality audio. It’s all about enhancing the visual and getting the “movie theater experience at home.” For the new Lord of the Rings movie, we want to hear everything. But for our music MP3s are just fine. Where does that leave jazz and classical where quality of sound is central to the experience?
As these genres lose their centrality in our daily lives, it’s becoming impossible to regain ground. Search for jazz on the radio, and you might find a station that plays some jazz at night or on the weekends. Classical stations have either disappeared or lost signal strength. Their fanbase is aging rapidly. Filling seats at jazz clubs is getting harder and harder for all kinds of reasons; can you imagine a rock club ever having a 2-drink minimum and a $15-25 cover charge?
Rock and EDM have mastered the experience. Coachella, Bonnaroo, and Burning Man are as much about the music as the gathering itself. You go to be part of it; not just because you’re a huge Radiohead fan.
The challenge for jazz and classical is to provide easier access to a meaningful and memorable experience. How do we re-centralize jazz in an age of shallow marketing where it’s about numbers more than impact? If we can’t get people into the concert halls, how will anyone experience the sheer power and immense beauty of a symphony orchestra?
There must be a way. Any ideas?