Music, Madness & Mayhem

I was born and grew up, well sort of, in the '60s where music was somewhat simple and innocent in comparison to the music scene of today. Yes! they had the odd scandal, threw TV's out of hotel windows and from the mid to late '60s drugs played their part in the psychedelic transformation that music was destined to make; although the survivors that are still with us today, rockin' into their golden years, seemed to emerge from the experience somewhat stronger and more creative which is an achievement in itself.

The 1970's were peppered with some truly timeless and classic hits from so many great artists; the big hitters for me were John Lennon, Paul McCartney & Wings, Elton John, well that was my record collection and certainly there were obviously many others and everyone who lived in that decade will have their own diverse list of 'all time greats'. 

In the mid to late '70s punk rock emerged, upset quite a lot of people, but provided a wake up call to a music scene that often seemed stale and contrived. I remember Johnny Rotten calling Mick Jagger a dinosaur and Mick in reply saying 'their nothing but punk's but I'm sure it contributed to the Rolling Stones 'Miss You' which was quite different for them and maybe a little punk?

 I recently listened to some Sex Pistols tracks and actually it was not as bad as it was originally thought... kind of rock and roll.

Now, the 1980's really gave the world of music a wake up call, the age of digital music was upon us... synths, syn drums and big hair, often worn by quite androgynous looking guys openly showing their feminine side.

The advent of CD's ultimately would replace vinyl records only to be replaced by digital music files; there's still a few CD's being released, I've certainly noticed a big drop in their numbers in stores, but interestingly vinyl is enjoying a resurgence here and there as is analogue recording tape in some studios. I still use my Walkman CD player to play tracks I downloaded much to the amusement of my kids.   

In the '90s rap, reggae, contemporary R&B and urban music were extremely popular and according to Uncle Google the top 10 bands of the '90s were...

  • Green Day
  • Weezer
  • Alice in Chains
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Blink 182
  • Pearl Jam
  • The Smashing Pumpkins
  • No Doubt

Until the 2000's it was extremely hard for artists to get a start in the music business; fat men in suits all claimed to know what was good and I remember a conversation I had with an EMI A&R man in London who said my music wasn't what they were looking for. Fair enough I thought, so I asked what are you looking for? his answer was stunning... he said "I don't know, but I will know when I find it'... Even the thickest person in the business would at least have applied a little BS and come up with an answer that was at best ambiguously unhelpful if not more than likely wrong. I believe it was an A&R man at Decca Records that said The Beatles were crap just a few months before they changed the music world forever.

2001 saw probably the most revolutionary innovation in music with the launch of iTunes and they just about crushed the established recording industry; record companies were at last facing some intelligent competition and that was just the start.

When I first signed a deal with one of many music aggregators iTunes suggested you could actually make money from your music, not much competition from the 'big labels' and I soon formed my own label feeling very empowered in the process.

And then the madness started,  more and more artists signed up, record labels started pouring money into promoting their artists on this new platform and it is fair to say that it didn't take long for the scene to become very crowded.

Add to the mix 'pirates' and sites that had music file sharing which was a polite way of enabling copyright infringements AKA theft. Some of them were wound up, fined etc and some 'went straight' survived and are now working legally in the streaming industry. All those variables once again made it difficult for music artists to make a living from their albums which is so wrong; particularly when streaming sites openly offer unlimited music for as little as $4 a month, including offline listening options, isn't that another way of saying 'free download'? 

Enter mayhem! what was a good area to be working in has been reduced to an artistic slum with far too many people living in it. I'm not suggesting that talented creative people should be denied the opportunities others enjoy but the sheer volume of albums being released has had the same effect on the music business that printing unlimited amounts of cash would have on any buoyant economy... My distributor told me a year or so ago that on one day alone they had released 200+ albums that is an insane number in one day and that's just one distributor... 

So what do artists do from here? it's still possible to make a reasonable living from music if you approach it from the angle of performing ticketed shows and it is possible to build a good fan base through social media; often the amount of people that just follow you on Facebook is far greater than the actual amounts of actual likes you might see on your page meaning your reach is probably bigger than you think...

It will be very interesting to see what replaces iTunes when apple take it down; even my distributor has said nothing as to what may be coming... maybe he doesn't even know; it's all very covert and secretive at the moment or at least that's how it looks at this point in time.

Considering that when Rock and Roll burst onto the world stage in the 1950's it was said that wouldn't last more than a year I am sure we can rely on the resilient nature of creative talented musicians globally to keep the dream alive and continue the journey that seems to have no final destination, at least not yet anyway.

So long as there are people who just won't stop writing, recording and performing and there are people who are equally happy to pay to go to a show or, call me old fashioned, pay for their downloaded albums... then there will be rock!

Article by Craig Payne 2019 ©