Call me stubborn, I know I am. Say I’m trapped in some dream world of rainbows and unicorns not looking at reality? Yeah, it’s been said before, but you know what? My hope, love, sunshine and rainbows attitude is wrapped around a spine of steel and a heart made of fire so if you aren’t ready for some hard truth of the positive type, and my own personal brand of a Come-to-Jesus moment about music – this might not be the article for you.
Saying “Music is dead” is a sign of saying you’ve given up because music, quite literally, cannot die. You know how music was born? Emotions. Cave men danced around fires beating on rock walls and stomping their feet in the dirt to create a rhythm far before the days of iTunes. Voices have lifted to imitate the notes of birds, the babbling brooks have inspired entire symphonies. Through the years humans have created instruments of a design those cave men would fear (and yet possibly still rock out to) but we can’t claim rights to music as a whole just because we made it an industry. The first bitter pill we must swallow is that if we let music die, it’s because we died inside. Music is emotion, a cleaning out of the soul. It is in every heartbeat and each breath in all living creatures and the world around us. A scream of frustration, or pain, our hope and love laid naked to the world. If your mind is taking the path of “music is dead” then what you’re feeling is that your passion is dying.
That C-word we’re all hating right now has hit us where we really hurt. Live music has been erased as we know it for the summer of 2020. Where there were once large gatherings for days at a time, music blaring and memories being made there is now nothing. If you’re a casual music fan or not one for modern music this might not seem like a big deal. Back to the Music is Emotions analogy. Music is an emotion meant to be shared, just like any art form. Not playing to people is detrimental to many artists not because of cash flow – let’s face facts that 90% of the bands in the world didn’t form for money and if they did they’re… probably in for a bit of surprise… or about thirteen years old with no family in the music business. When a song is created it becomes a language of emotions that they’ve not only expressed but want to know others have felt too. An audience in front of a stage is connected to the band and the others in the audience through this shared experience. The band plays, conjuring up the emotions of it all and the audience reacts because they’ve been there too. It’s cathartic and cleansing, opening a vault of memories to a time in our past or possibly a hope for time to come. The live performance aspect is one of the most important connections in music and what has died is our normal routes of this action, and this is where we hurt, but music hasn’t left us.
If you prick us, do we not bleed? Yes, and the 2020 time of Covid has been a real prick. I still remember my heart breaking piece by piece as I watched notifications of so many events canceling in a single weekend. It was surreal and it came with a suddenness which caused the sorrow that’s in the industry currently. With most changes in music there has been a curve, a chance for music to acclimate and there has been a kind of map for the road ahead. In Pittsburgh, PA the venues have been silent for about four months now and the road ahead is foggy at best. Our normalcy has been disrupted to a point that what we did to let go of our stress or connect is gone too. Many of us in the industry are not what we appear. We’re homebodies or keep to ourselves, phobic of people and large places filled with them; we’re quiet, disconnected and tend to have our own emotional or mental issues that cause us to gravitate towards this path. We’ve felt lost and alone, and the very first step we need to take is to stand up.
We, as an industry, need to see that we’ve been broken for a while now. At the age of fourteen, standing on the precipice of a new world that connected people everywhere, I remember my friends saying how this may forge a new path for music and lead to bands finally being discovered. There was so much hope that was quickly drown in a sea of modern formats. Online music was the wave of the future, which turned to ash as large corporations found ways to cash in at the cost of the artists. The industry has made fatal flaws resulting in lower attendance to national shows and lower interest in music in general due to greed. There are no easy answers here but if music is dying, then it’s because we’re letting the industry kill it. Maybe rather than having stopped this is a pause that could bring a revolution in music – after all, this has leveled the field for everyone.
My personal story is one of twists and turns that led me to where I am today but the TL/DR version is that music has literally saved my life and my sanity through it’s connection of emotions than I can ever repay. Even now it has given me my friends, those I consider my family, love and support. It has brought people into my life that I will be eternally grateful to have had by my side and it even helped me to find parts of me I never knew existed. To tell me it’s dead, dying or over without even looking at why? That’s unacceptable to me and if you’ve stuck it through this article long enough to read to this part then it should be for you, too. Enough is enough. We’re drowning and refusing to swim, bleeding out and refusing to stem the blood flow. The real question right now isn’t when will live shows come back, it’s what are you doing until they do? How are you adapting to this? Thirty years ago we couldn’t imagine things like YouTube, phones with computers in them tucked inside of our pockets or even conceptualize live streaming, so is it really that hard to believe that we can and will find a way through this? Get yourself out of that corner you think you’ve been placed in and find a new way. Take this time to grow and learn, to reach out in new ways and to forge new paths. We will make it and if the path isn’t easy, well most things in life worth having aren’t. There’s always a price to pay but this is only going to cost you your comfort because it’s time to find a new way to grow. Stand up, stomp your feet into the earth and move forward.
This isn’t the end of music, it’s a time to renew it.
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