The Future (or Lack Thereof) for Bands :: Tomorrow Never Knows :: Vol. 2

2038…. 5ally, now a teenager, asks her mainframe to reveal the author of song she just heard on her earstream. It’s the only song she’s listened to today that she inquires about. Between who wrote it, or co-created it, or mixed it, or mashed it, or [add new thing here], it’s DJ #1 who finally wins her further attention — she buys a ticket to his next concert. It’s a swim-concert…

Are You In a Band? (Zzzzzzzz)
When doing a music presentation at a public school, I asked a group of fifth graders to write down their five favorite musicians or BANDS. One of the kids wrote “Pandora” on his list. Didn’t he know that Pandora isn’t a band? Perhaps he hadn’t yet grasped that, frequently, the songs he likes are created by an actual entity/cesspool/love affair of people, ideas and equipment. Among other things. I remember the day, in a RECORD store, when I had the epiphany that you could purchase a whole LP — with 10 or 12 songs on it — as opposed to a 45 rpm record. Big revelation! Perhaps the “band” epiphany hadn’t happened for this kid yet. But what if…. what if he just doesn’t CARE about who made the music he likes? Not a big revelation. It’s become fairly standard for people to digest music without knowing, or more significantly, caring who created it.
Is There an Animal in your Band Name?

Why don’t you call yourselves ‘The Go Kill Yourselves’Compact-motorcycle.jpg

The future is typically a bad place for things that don’t want to change. Masses of people used to go see opera in Europe. But Opera has seen a tremendous relative decrease in popularity since its Romantic Era (130-year-old) heyday. Chances are (right?), the concept of a “band” will eventually fade away or morph into something we can’t really conceive of yet, as will the “concert.” It’s arguable that DJs still own the music scene of San Francisco and have done so since taking it by storm more than a decade ago. On any given night, many more clubs are paying DJs to spin than are paying bands to shred. Being the proud member of three bands, I flinched as a co-worker and avid dancer informed me that he “doesn’t do bands — only DJs.”
The emergence of the DJ experience was a paradigm shift in the music landscape — a shift away from concert territory. At a dance club, the DJ is facilitating the dance floor experience rather than starring in it; at a concert, the band is starring in the experience. When I go to a dance club, I rarely look at the DJ; I could hardly take my eyes off of the Pixies when I saw them play the Fox in Oakland. The dance floor may be a telling evolutionary step for the “concert” as it moves, potentially, toward greater levels of self-involvement, both physically and emotionally. San Francisco, and subsequently the rest of the country (world?), is hunting for Burning Man-inspired, audience-embellished avenues of entertainment these days. What will a band have to do in the future to gain people’s devotion and cash? How about having bands adopting mascots?

sigur.jpgOur participation isn’t the only thing shifting here: so is our attention. There is plenty of Fandom left to float a band in adoration, popularity, and in many cases, a living. But are the days of the Big Deal bands over? Pitchfork writer Eric Harvey contends that our “star system” is slowly going by the wayside, like the good old LP, cassette, and very shortly, the CD. He poses a question on a lot of people’s minds: in the near future, will any bands be able to “command everyone’s attention at once,” as did the Beatles or Michael Jackson?

Everybody in the Pool
I’d say we’re currently in a band “bubble.” Thanks to the internet, we can and do expose ourselves to a gaZILLION more bands than anyone previous to 1992 ever could have. I’m not sure there are more bands per capita than, say, three decades ago, but there certainly are many, MANY more recorded bands nowadays due to the mass availability of economical and user-friendly recording technology. The masses of musicians no longer need a fancy recording studio to get modest public exposure on MySpace and to leak into the ears of at least one individual’s social network. Has the ease of exposure splintered our devotion to these myriad bands? And will it continue to? Are we at 15 minutes each yet?

…5ally does four flips, then floats for a few moments to watch the effects of her movements in the water, as well as the movements of the hundreds of other swimmers. The motion of the water, in turn, manipulates the music, and the dancers below her respond accordingly…
Michelle A.
(music analyst)


The Pandora Team

14 thoughts on “The Future (or Lack Thereof) for Bands :: Tomorrow Never Knows :: Vol. 2

  1. Some DJs like Deadmau5 have kind of become their own mascots. See also – Daft Punk, Justice. I see this trend growing, as a way for bands or DJs to distinguish and market themselves. Artists will be creating not just music, but an experience. Kind of like opera…? if History tends to move in circular cycles, music and and art should to, as they are reflections of culture. So I’m thinking, DJ operas are not too far down the road.

  2. Without bands and other artists DJ’s don’t have anything to play, so I don’t think they’ll ever replace bands. Also I consider going to a club with a band and going to a club with a DJ as two different things. For me DJ’s are tied to dancing whereas bands are tied to watching. I generally don’t care to dance, so I generally don’t frequent clubs with DJ’s.
    Interestingly enough one of the big draws at Burning Man is The Mutaytor which combines a band, circus style performances and dancing. Their music is extremely dancable, so even someone like me who generally doesn’t dance gets into the groove. Having the perfoming artists share the stage adds interest to the overall event, so maybe that’s the way bands will have to go to maintain their club appeal.
    But adding performance beyond the scope of music isn’t new. As you pointed out Opera has been losing audience, but its a very early example of a combination of musical and theatrical performance. The same can be said for ballet although the performers don’t add to the musical component. Alice Cooper had a great combination of music and theater in their performances of the 70’s.
    I yearn for more opportunities to watch the bands I love play. Unfortunately I’m down in San Jose and my work schedule makes getting up to San Francisco for a show (because most bands I love skip San Jose) and getting up the next day for work is difficult. We’ve got too few live music venues down here for the size of the city (we’re bigger than San Francisco.) So I just enjoy the recordings I acquire and hope the stars align for me to see them when they come through the area.

  3. @Michael- Thanks for the comments. Is there already a DJ opera? I bet there is. And mascots! Yay! Maybe I’ll be my own personal mascot. Maybe I’ll get a free cup of coffee in the mornings if I truss up.
    -michelle a.

  4. I had a teenager hand me a book once and ask if I want to “watch this”. Rhapsody in Blue no longer belongs to George Gershwin but United Airlines. Despite the move forward to the Semantic Web I see less interest in displaying the 6 degrees (clicks) of separation than to use the meta-data to drive fantastic product like Pandora.

  5. I’m always amazed at the difference in how kids look at music, musicians, etc as compared to when some of us were kids 20+ years ago. I remember how excited I was whenever one of my favorite bands came out with a new album and I would go to the local record store to buy it. Holding the new album, reading the jacket, the lyrics, etc was exciting. Kids today don’t think in terms of albums, but quick gimmicky new songs. Everything is here and then gone. I think they are in for many problems in their older years when they realize how always expecting instant gratification isn’t the most successful way to live their lives. I hope our young people begin to see life in a more meaningful way, and you know what, I think they will.

  6. Sorry to hear about your co-worker’s DJ versus band statement. Great comment. The Devo picture and the point of view it alludes to sums up all there is to say.

  7. @Brian – I so agree with you. My parents tell me about music/songs when they were kids. Even now, we listen to old songs almost every night and they are so soothing. Totally different from what we have today. Today’s songs last probably a week maximum (personal) for me and then they disappear into thin air. Old songs stay forever. Even after listening to them non-stop for more than 50 times (oh yea, I have the habit of listening to my fav. song non-stop :D ), I am not bored.

  8. @Brian (and Chris) – I think that the differences between the music are not TOTALLY to do with the music itself. Admittidly, a lot of new music won’t be around in a year, or ten, but the same is true of the ‘old’ music. It seems, to me, that a certain number of songs – say, ten thousand – stand the test of time from each generation. it’s just that there’s a lot more crap now and no one remembers the crap from previus generations.

  9. I think the relationship that a person holds with music is primarily in the emotions that it raises in each of us. In order to do so, we MUST find a meaningful intellectual or purposeful connection in the music.
    For example, we associate with friends who share similar ideas and beliefs. Similarly, we look for this in our music. Usually more often than not, we feel a kinship bond with the “creators” of our music, and historically most music was produced by “bands,” and as such, these relationships were with bands, and it was all its members that contributed to the whole of their works of art.
    By comparison, today much of the distributed music is created in studio lab settings, where often the person who performs it did not write it, and where by way of these practices, the music would seem to offer “less meaning and purpose” to the listener, seemingly even less of a committment to the listener. With the bond being less, so then is the listener’s committment back to the artist. As a result, today, much of music is like “one night stands.” Less meaning, more immediate pleasure!
    Of significance to my own work and experiences today as a world percussionist, neuroscientist, and drum circle facilitator, I find that drumming strokes my “primal being” as would food, sex, and basic communication. But by contrast, when I perform or listen to rock music I grew up with, this is more like “story telling,” where the songs have meaning to me and often elicit lots of burried memories of a different time period. The latter effect is a “high brain” function. Both primal and higher brain functions are meaningful, but in different ways. We actually need both forms of stimulation!
    In light of the above, I wonder how possible it is for a one-man DJ or studio performer to create meaning in a song for a listener, and also perform it as a “story” – so that years later it will still be meaningful.

  10. I find not only the article but also the comments very telling. I agree that how kids today listen is different – but then my folks felt that way too.
    yoga accessories

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