Music is Life

Thoughts on Music

Music, Marketing, and Mind Control

I heard on the radio today in Oklahoma a skit that went like this:

“What does it mean when the radio station plays a pop song next to a rock song? It means you have two DJ’s that hate each other. Don’t worry, you’ll know what side of the fence we’re on ‘cause we only play rock!”

A few weeks ago I read something about some children’s cartoons being cancelled because their target demographic shifted. This in itself wasn’t an issue however the executives line of reasoning was that the new audience wasn’t as likely to purchase related merchandise as much as the previous audience. This logic dictates that to maximize profit consumers must be divided into groups that can be manipulated.

Divide and conquer, it’s brilliant. Unfortunately it sucks for us in terms of humanity. I mean, I like rock AND pop music and I don’t feel that they’re mutually exclusive. These divisive lines drawn by those in power are meant to control us, our thoughts, and ultimately our dollar flow. I have no problems with selling a product nor programming a radio station to play exclusive genres of music but to employ the “us vs. them” mentality reflects the sad collective mental state we live in especially when that logic is extrapolated to the political arena.

As Jack Kornfield said you have to program your own mind or the world will program it for you.

I hate hip-hop

Actually I love hip-hop. Here’s what I hate about it though: I frequently get hip-hop artists in my studio who want to record or master some tracks. They show me their demos where they’re talking about spending and making money and they’ve got a girl in their video who’s splashing money around like it’s raining from the sky.

Then they ask me how much does my services costs and that’s when the record stops.

I get the CraigsList treatment, “How low will you go?” Really? Do you do that when you shop at WalMart? I don’t mind looking for a deal or trying to save money, in fact I offer discounts for sizable projects, but how you gonna rap about a lifestyle that you obviously don’t live? FOH.

Where were the "naturally gifted pianists" before the piano?

This article has been stewing in the back of my mind for a while and now that Google’s doodle today showcases the inventor of the piano, Bartolomeo Cristofori, I thought it would be a perfect time to finally put pen to paper, or finger to keystroke.

I’ve heard this many times, “Don’t you have to be born with an innate talent to be a pianist/musician/mixing engineer/artist.” While I certainly believe that there are those who are seemingly gifted with divine talent I think that for the rest of us it takes hard work, practice, and focused effort. Yes, some potential has to be there from the beginning. In some letters to his father (May 14, 1778), Mozart wrote about one of his composition students who just could not write any music to save her life. She most certainly had musical talent as she was masterful at her instrument and could play about 200 pieces from memory yet this did not transfer whatsoever to the field of composing music.

I feel as if talent is like soil, it has to be ready to give life yet needs to be worked. Seed needs to be planted, water needs to rain, the sun needs to shine, and hands need to harvest the fruit. Of course some soil is extremely fertile whereas some just won’t grow anything. Most musicians or artists put in an incredible amount of time to master their craft and even continue to refine their technique even though they’ve reached mythic levels of craftsmanship.

Another thing to consider is this: when people throw out a statement such as, “They’re a naturally born pianist” I instantly think, “Where were the naturally born pianists before the 18th century (the first appearance of the piano)?” This leads me to believe in something even bigger than music: there must be certain ways of thinking at which people are adept. These processes of thought probably cause people to become skillful at certain tasks or behavior. I consider myself an extremely musical person but I can’t throw or catch a ball to save my life. I am very uncoordinated with coarse motor skills, I can’t even dance Sad But put a piano or guitar in front of me and I can perform as if the instrument was an extension of my body. Before the advent of the piano people who are born with a “natural gift for piano” probably excelled at some other parallel processes of thought and motor skill.

The bottom line? Maybe 2% of us artists are “divinely gifted” but for the other 98% of us we work our asses off.

Is it worth it?

At my studio I tend to get a lot of the same questions from clients; “Is it worth it?” is one of them.

What they’re really asking is if spending a few dollars to record their own music is worth it. I think it’s best to start with another question: What does worth mean to you? Typically we use the word in regard to the world of finance. In this case ‘worth’ would really mean ROI—return of investment. If I spend a few hundred dollars making my own music is will I make my money back?

To others, including myself, worth means a bit more. In fact it originates from an internal source. It starts from a sense of self-accomplishment, of knowing that I’m good at doing a particular thing. Then it grows into receiving feedback from others who share that they too like my creation, or receiving a warm applause after a live performance.

This isn’t to say that I don’t want to earn a living from my craft, in fact I believe I am worth some discrete dollar amount for my work, time, and services. You too should want the same but the important thing to take into account is that the financial return cannot be the foundation of a motive for creating music. Walt Disney put it best, “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.” The same should go for your music.


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