The Day the Music Died
The Day the Music Died?
By: Cameron Harlow
Photos Courtesy of Eddie Trunk and www.thatmetalshow.vh1.com
Ask yourself, “when was the last time I heard a new song on the radio from my favorite band?” Then ask yourself, “when was the last time I bought a new CD from that band?” You may find yourself realizing that you don’t even know when the last album was released and as you frantically BING search, you find out they have had 2, 3, maybe 4 releases since you last “heard anything from them”. Don’t be too alarmed, though. You are in good company. It seems that the music industry has taken the stance that we little people have a short attention span and must have new, shiny things instead of supporting what we actually like. Did you know that both Prince and Smashing Pumpkins have released new albums in the last few months? Have you ever heard a song from Prince’s Lotus Flower album from a few years ago? No, but “Shake it Off” is played ad nauseam. In fact, over the last 2 years, Lit, Bang Tango, Stryper, Garth Brooks, Lenny Kravitz, Lincoln Park, Fuel and a lot more released new material.
Well, based off an online survey, your answer is probably “no” unless a friend told you. It seems that ad avenues like Pandora are how a lot of us are finding music; which can be problematic since those types of music sites don’t necessarily play new music from our favorite established bands. What about concerts? When was the last time you went to your favorite band’s show or for that matter, a show of an up and coming band? Promotion, sadly, is left to the bands in local venues and so, they have little ways of letting you know. Most of us follow our favorite bands on social media, but how about our support? Do we want to hear their new stuff or are the “classics” all we care about?
“I think the prevailing thought is that no classic artist can make music anywhere close to what they did in their prime and most don’t want to hear it,” says Eddie Trunk, host of That Metal Show, TrunkNation and long-time proponent of new music on all of his outlets. “I don’t agree with that, but I think many do.” He goes on to say, “I think, in general, we live in a world of great over-saturation, distractions, short attention spans and most will always gravitate toward the safe classics of any artist’s catalog.” Joe Elliot of Def Leopard was quoted once stating that, “T-shirt, bathroom and beer lines get longer the second you say ‘here’s a song from our new album.’” So, it would seem that we do play a part in this part although, not entirely.
For us to get to know a song and stick around to hear it, we have to be exposed to it. Which brings us to the radio stations, why aren’t they playing the new songs? “I think it’s a lack of any real sustained airplay, but also a lack of MTV,” replies Eddie. “It also doesn’t help that, essentially, 2 or 3 companies control every major market radio station and dictate playlists. They want hits that retain listeners, mostly.” So, there is a big cycle: no air-play, no one sticks around to hear it. No one sticks around, no one plays it. Now, that it’s been mentioned, how important was MTV? Did the Top 20 Countdown really drive music? Any of you old enough to remember when they actually used to play videos will recall just how influential it was.
“People forget that MTV in its video days was way bigger than any radio station. Radio often followed their lead. The demise of a major outlet that played new music you could see and hear is a massive blow.”
We mentioned supporting the bands on social media and their websites. We like to share music when we hear it. We learned the vicious cycle of airplay and popularity. Is there anything else we can do? What about buying albums and going to shows? As technology changes, so does our music habits. Many of you download their music (sometimes for free and you know who you are) over buying an album. This drives the bands to tour more. Touring usually means more opportunity to see them, right? My experience has been less than exciting. I have seen several national acts in local venues to less than a sold out crowd. Is this because we don’t hear from our favorites anymore? According to Eddie, “since there is no money in album sales, everyone is on the road; some tour too much and everyone is looking for new ways to get live money. So, you have tons of festivals, shared tours, music cruises, etc. What’s happening live is more from a lack of sales and artists touring more than ever to make up for it.”
For me, that seems like a spiral into a black hole. Our favorite bands don’t get airplay because the stations are dictated to by a small minority of labels and the public has no real say anymore. So, album sales drop off, especially of new albums, which cause the bands to tour more to promote an album and earn the money to survive, only to have us not want to hear their newest heartfelt work. I propose that we can turn the tide. We must keep sharing with our friends whenever we love a song. We must also ramp up our support. Not just of the songs we love, but make sure to search and check out new music. Don’t forget to buy that new CD. And by all means, if you know of a show (since you’re already following them on their web outlets, it will be easy to know), go see them and take a few friends! Maybe even have some real fun and check out some new local music as often as possible.
About the Author:
D.C.”Spike” Harlow is a local musician with ties to music going back to the ’80s. Currently playing bass with End of Silence and co-hosting the MOLDS Episode 2 podcast, Spike has recorded with Amethyst Heart and shared the stage with Emery, Living Color, Wolves at the Gate, Equiknox and Yellow Tie Guy. Writing is not new to him as he formerly wrote for several paintball magazines such as SPLAT! and Paintball 2Xtreme. Spike is an voracious fan of all things music, comics, and sci-fi.