The Thinning Wall Between Performer & Audience

One of the more interesting trends I’ve noticed recently in the music world is semi-known musicians offering to give one-on-one lessons to interested fans – either online or sometimes even in person.   My initial thought was how depressing to see ‘the mighty fallen’ and reduced to whoring out their talent for half hour quickies.  But as I thought about it further, it’s not so much sad as it is telling.  It’s a sign of the times we live in.

It used to be, if you were looking to rub elbows with greatness and learn from the masters, you had to peruse the back pages of your favorite fan magazines.  There you might see Jim Gillette (or MR. Lita Ford, if that’s your angle) pictured as he shattered glass with his voice and offered to teach you to do the same.  Or [INSERT GUITARIST NAME HERE] was pictured with his latest endorsement toy, pandering a 10 tape set of instructional goodness guaranteed to have you sounding like Eddie Van Halen in 5 weeks.  So you’d shell out 2 weeks savings and wait for the postman to bring you the holy grail.

If you were lucky enough to live near a big city, there might be a clinic sponsored by the local music store where you could witness Cheesy Von Salamiwrapper blasting out the licks from that one hit he had off of Headbanger’s Ball, before the band all broke up and entered rehab.

Or, you took lessons from some schmuck at the mall who had a repertoire of stories of how he ‘almost’ opened for Krokus once.  Or you taught yourself.  That’s how you REALLY learned how hard ‘Crazy Train’ is. . . by trying to figure that shit out on your own!  But really, back in the day, those were your options.

Now, thanks to the wonderful world of the internet, you can download training videos, search for guitar tablature, enter chat room help sessions, participate in podcast lessons . . . the options are amazing.   

Music downloads have shown that the status quo is no longer the status quo, and a new business model – and attitude – will be necessary for any label or artist to survive.  So any musician offering his services during extended downtime in their schedule, isn’t necessarily a thing of pity – but perhaps instead a harbinger of the thinning distance between rock royalty and their fans.

This might be bad, if you’re a talentless former frontman with a god complex because it levels the playing field to where you’re no longer an unapproachable diety to your fans.  You’re just a musician – either a gifted one, or a damn lucky one - maybe both.  But you’re no longer just a poster on a wall, or an image on a music video. 

There’s an opportunity again for the craft to be passed down, mentor to disciple, like it used to be done around a campfire hundreds of years ago.  Only now our campfires glow off of LCD flatpanels, and disciples play along with mentors who aren’t even in the same timezone.

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3 Responses to “The Thinning Wall Between Performer & Audience”

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  2. COD says:

    I think what we are seeing is the shift in business model due to digital music. Performers now make money on their brand as much as they do on hawking recordings of themselves. In the near future, nobody will make a living selling recorded music. It will be a promo tool to get people to your shows, to join the fan club that gets you cool extras, or to shell out thousands to attend a song writing workshop with the artist.

    This is all good IMHO.

  3. RevMortis says:

    I’m sure a lot depends on if you’re a royalty check recipient or not. If you’re accustomed to making X amount of dollars solely based on the distribution of your recorded work, the new technology probably really pisses you off. But it’s basic supply & demand – and now Pandora’s Box is open and the supply is plentiful, even if acquired illegally.

    You fix this, as you mention, by creating more demand, demand for something that is NOT so easily acquired.

    This same type of shift occurred to the authors and poets roughly 70 years or so ago, when motion pictures and later television usurped the readers of poetry and literature. The format survived, adapted and a new variant eventually came to light. But back to my original point, the separation in accessibility of the creator from his loyal fans diminished, albeit not as dramatically as the shift we’re seeing currently in the music industry, and will eventually see in the other electronic arts as well.

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