The End of Music

In response to Anne Elizabeth Moore’s letter “What’s a Sellout?” (April 16):

Any club will have outsiders, or those who don’t fit in to that club. Those outsiders then have the opportunity to refer to or live within that position. Eventually they become a little bit more normal, or are seen as the great piercing light or savior of us all. This cycle has been in place as far back as humankind can be traced. So why worry now, when distribution methods are at their most empowering to the artists that they’ve ever been?

Why worry about the big bad corporations and their cashing in on artistry (never mind all of the corporations building the equipment that many of these so called outsiders need and use)? It will only allow the next wave of outsiders to gain footing—intentionally or not. You can’t possibly believe that in the history of pop music this establishment hasn’t been a perfect setup for someone else to come along and supposedly shake up the establishment?

You really veered off into extreme levels of ridiculousness when analyzing things to the point that you claimed “members will tire of competing in a hostile environment, and stop producing music completely.” Uh oh, look out! The end of music is coming because I can’t make money off of it! And then you back that statement up by stating that the audience wants a variety of things that have little or nothing to do with music. Role models? Wacky fashion tips? It sounds like you’re worried that in the internet era the corporate swindle is clearly obvious to any and everyone and those concepts are no longer easily fit into a profiteering model. Why is that? Do you really think that bars will ever run out of musicians to book on a Monday night?

How about this: making money off of music will be (or perhaps is?) so difficult that people who don’t absolutely love doing it for whatever reason will not bother with it, weeding out a large portion of the swamp of output you’d normally have to wade through if you, say, look anywhere on the internet.

You then use a lot of fancy talk to describe selling out, without referring to its history. A band wants to sell out shows. That means the most people that could possibly be in attendance were. Not a bad thing, but it shouldn’t be a requirement for playing shows, and it isn’t. The term used to be a snide reference to those bands who considered themselves more valuable because they were sell outs. And it stuck for good reason. The other sense of selling out is really simple, it is when a band preys on a concept of being a product of their love for the music, or a product of their fans loving the music, and then they jump ship and enter into the realm of processed package to be coldly managed and marketed by handlers.

If that doesn’t alter the people behind the music, or the music itself, who cares? Why would you think that such a level of management has any impact at all on what anyone is or isn’t doing, or allowed to do?

I’m still unsure why I am supposed to be concerned if I am “granted entrance into the increasingly exclusive club we think of as American arts and culture.” Are you kidding? Well, you’re not, because you end your letter with a warning that you somehow either must be a sellout or you will not do music. It really shows that you have little or no knowledge of what it is like to try and make a living off of music purely, balancing it with having a job —there are so many grey areas involved that it is baffling, and it has been intimidating in large part for many people again, as long as there was music and money. Those cliches of parents dismayed that their kid wants to focus on music are cliches for a reason. I’m not sure which era you’re referring to where someone didn’t have the simple problem of doing something that doesn’t necessarily generate money versus needing money to survive.

To be more cynical, why is music the focus of this and not something else like poetry (be a battle rapper or else starve!), snowboarding, or pottery. Same concept, but no one bats an eye at how you can actually make pottery and do nothing but lose money or spend real job money on it, or you can get picked up by a chain for mass production.

I’m really surprised that people care at all about the monetization of music and refer to it as some sort of cultural destroyer-of-worlds. Spend less time demonizing irrelevant, vapid corporations if that’s the way you feel, and more time supporting the music that you feel worthy of your patronage.

Apparently you feel that a company sponsoring a band is a bad thing, but you have offered absolutely no alternative to where that level of endorsement would come from otherwise. The king’s royal minstrels surely had some other musicians’ envy, but that did nothing to stop the proliferation of other music.

Christopher Bijalba