I don’t write a lot about music on this blog, mainly because I’ve never actually worked in the music industry. I’d like to add some more posts about the music industry though, because it’s part of the entertainment business and much of what is happening in the music end is echoed in the film end, and vice versa.
I have noticed a really interesting trend of late, which I think is going to simultaneously tear the music industry apart, but also help to grow a new and more powerful version of the business. The trend I’m referring to has to do with artists refusing to be locked in to or defined by a genre. The music industry (and film industry for that matter) has a history of essentially being a genre driven industry. Rock albums sell well to the Rock crowd, R&B does well in the R&B groups, Country sells best to country fans–you get the picture.
But lately, I’ve done a couple “Hey, I thought So-and-So was a country band”‘s. I’ve noticed a lot of artists jumping into a completely different genre of music than what they started in, representing several different kinds of genres within an album, or even plain old ignoring genre completely.
Malcolm Gladwell talks about this briefly in his book “Blink.” He references an artist by the name of Kenna. Kenna’s music was outstanding; he had a huge following for his live performances, but record companies still refused to pick up his album. Why? Because the industry could not easily place him into a genre. This is the work of the old music regime–if they can’t pigeon-hole it, they can’t sell it.
However, technology is challenging the way the industry is working as a whole. There’s a whole new world of music that is accessible to anyone with an internet connection. This is exposing music lovers to new artists and new sounds.
We are also fortunate to have some brave artists who are helping to nudge the industry along as well. Take for example the long awaited Guns ‘N’ Roses album “Chinese Democracy”. Take a look at the video of “If The World” below.
Sure, that’s Axl singing, but that’s a much different sound than the Axl from 10 years ago. The new album is a mixture of old school GNR rock, haunting melodies such as “If The World”, and some very hardcore rock sounds.
Another artist breaking free of the music industry mold is Chris Cornell. Check out the title song from his new album “Scream.” The link will take you to Chris’s website where you can watch the video with his introduction, then just click back on your browser to read the rest of this post.
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“Scream” was produced by music veteran Timbaland. This album has a completely different sound than the grunge-based heavy rock we’ve seen from Chris in his work with Soundgarden, Audioslave, or his previous solo records. I actually just purchased the album today and I HIGHLY recommend it. You can purchase directly from Amazon. It’s really set up like a concept record and needs to be listened to top to bottom to fully appreciate it. The new sound is amazing, and another notch for the new regime of the music industry.
So what is to come of the current industry? My guess is that we’re going to see some major changes over the next decade, maybe even over the next few years. The work of some brave artists and that accessibility of the new sounds are going to force the music business to make some major changes in how they play if they want to stay in the game.