Is anyone else getting the feeling that the world is changing in a big way?
Okay, I know, the world is always in a state of flux. Probably people at every stage of history have thought, “gee, things are really changing around here” at some point. But I feel, especially this year, that people are especially noticing the changes we’re going through. We’re looking back over the past 20 years or so to reflect. Maybe it’s the significance of the year 2012 that’s got everyone a’thinkin, I don’t know. But to put it simply, old systems are noticeably breaking down, and the world seems to be – slowly – moving towards simpler, more grassroots organizations. Just look at what’s happened/happening. Big retailers are crumbling thanks to online stores. The big-bucks music industry model has shattered, and smaller record labels and independent artists have cropped up everywhere. The publishing industry has been fractured thanks to individuals blogging. Religion, something that has had a HUGE stronghold on society since…er…the beginning of civilization…seems to finally be losing its influence. I know in some places *cough, the Middle East, middle America* it remains very popular, but SO much of Western society has become secular. Schools have stopped including religion in the curriculum, less and less people belong to churches. And even religion itself is becoming more accepting of things it previously shunned, like homosexuality and alternative lifestyles. Us Westerners also seem finally to be accepting that doctors, with their pills, drugs and operations, aren’t the be-all and end-all in healthcare. Eastern and natural therapies are becoming more valued, and vegetarianism and veganism are now quite acceptable, if not the norm in some places. Politically, well…we had the ‘Occupy’ and ‘KONY’ movements, which spread worldwide. I’m still not sure if they achieved anything (and that KONY thing seems to have been proven a scam). Nevertheless, it was nice to see so many people mobilised and rallying for change. We’re embracing, more and more, the concept that we are our own “Gods”. We’re remembering the importance of love, connection, and the power of choice (ideas that seemed oh-so-New-Age about 20-30 years ago).
Dude, the world has changed. And it’s kinda awesome. Power to the people. The individual people, not the corporations.
I’ve no idea where we will end up. Maybe there is nowhere to ‘end up’ – after all, life is a process. Time isn’t as linear as history books would have us believe. I can’t predict with any measure of certainty where we’ll be a hundred years from now.
But yes, I’m finding very interesting the current trends in the Western world. Big businesses are crumbling, as I mentioned above. So’s the economy. We got a big hint this was the case with the latest GFC (Global Financial Crisis, for those of you who’ve been stuck on Mars for the past 5 years, in a cave, with your fingers in your ears).
Before all this, though, the music business was hit in a huge way. The advent of the Internet and a now-ancient company called Napster pretty much killed the influence of the ‘big five’ music companies. Now, due to declining record sales and corporate merging, it’s the ‘big three’. Maybe one day there’ll only be the ‘big one’…or (please?) the ‘big nothing’.
The music industry has been hijacked by smaller, more specialised labels, and saavy independent artists. Indie labels are accounting for more and more of the world’s music market sales shares. Sure, we still have pre-packaged pop goods pumped out from major labels, but there is now a very easy-to-explore world online where people can find alternatives to this stuff. Originality in music is held in higher and higher regard these days. I know none of this is probably news to you, reader (this whole music-business-collapsing stuff is old info now). But I think it’s really interesting to see where this fits in the scheme of things, and that the rest of the world is following this move. Essentially, it’s a shift from corporate hollowness back to creativity. And it’s all thanks to the Internet.
Yes, there have been a lot of jobs lost, a lot of people bankrupted, and a lot of changes, not all of them good. But in spite of all this, I truly feel energized and excited by this shift around the world. I think what really has happened on a large scale, is a splintering of large and seemingly inpenetrable power systems into much smaller power systems. The average person has a lot more leverage now. Sure, you still need talent, drive, and perhaps a certain amount of money to start yourself an empire. (Actually, scratch the last part. I can think of a bunch of people off the top of my head who LITERALLY started with nothing in the bank, and now own companies worth millions) It’s much easier to take control of your own destiny, network with people, and create your dreams in the world we live in now.
What does this mean for musicians? Lots of good stuff! No longer are we at the mercy of record company execs and fat A&R guys. (…to be fair, maybe a lot of A&R guys are skinny. I’ve always pictured them overweight and smoking cigars though. Cigars lit with hundred dollar bills) We have so much more power these days. Yes, of course, hard work and talent are still really important. But, by golly, if you really want to, you can run your own career now. There are plenty of artists who started (or remain) entirely independent of outside record labels, and have built their career purely through live shows and Internet connections. And with record companies becoming smaller, more boutique and more niche, they have more time to focus on the music and look after their artists. The music industry is coming back to a focus on music itself, and is not the ruthless money-churning machine it was even 15 years ago. Yes, certain parts of the industry still conform to the old model, but on a grassroots level it is changing.
In my perhaps bold opinion, I think the Internet is a very interesting ‘physical’ representation of mass consciousness. (I put ‘physical’ in quotations because, though it certainly exists, you can’t really see or touch ‘the Internet’ itself, can you?…Contrary to what Jen from The IT Crowd thinks, it’s not a black box you can pick up and show to people). I’m sure that my idea sounds very fruity, but I think all of us are, on some level, aware that there is a connection between all of us humans – that we have, as well as our individual consciousnesses, a ‘mass consciousness’. How else do you explain crazy coincidences? (Come on, we’ve all had them. Your mum comes into your head, and the next minute she randomly rings you. You and your friend blurt out the same sentence at the same time. You dream something and then it happens the next day. Our thoughts all connect). This isn’t as wishy washy as it sounds, anyway. Thoughts are real things. Everyone has them. Thoughts have energy waves, even brain scanning medical equipment can pick up on them. Like a cell phone sending a text, you can’t see your thought, but it definitely exists out there. With all our thoughts flying around together, they form a mass consciousness. A ‘net’ or a ‘web’, if you will.
I just think it’s really interesting that as humans have evolved, we’ve created this amazing ‘net/web’ of invisible information (the Internet). Pretty much every thought, every invention, every piece of art, and every idea of note from history has now been chronicled on the Internet. It’s something you can’t see or touch, but you can access/’visit’ it from pretty much anywhere, if you have a Smartphone or a computer tablet. Pretty darn incredible! Can you imagine someone from the 1800s flashing forward to this time and seeing the Internet? They’d think it was black magic or something. And what has this web of information done? It’s allowed us more power, more choices, more connection. I know some say the Internet is a bad thing, for encouraging social interaction through a screen rather than through ‘real’ life. However, I think it’s ultimately a good thing (as long as you balance it with real life interaction.) My uncle met his wife on the Internet, and they’ve been married over 10 years now! Where would he be without the Internet? Where would Mark Zuckerberg be? If you want to find love, success or empower yourself, I think the net has really helped open up your choices.
And despite the potential for isolation, I think ultimately, the Internet has made us become MORE connected. After all, with retailers going out of business every day thanks to online retailers, which are the physical retailers that will succeed? The ones with exceptional service. The ones that make the experience of coming in face-to-face unparalleled. With the millions of musicians using the Internet, which ones will keep their heads above the crowd? The ones that add value to their consumers, who keep connected online, who play amazing live shows and reward their fans with free stuff, original music and unique merchandise and experiences.
Oh yeah…these are exciting times we’re living in, guys…make the most of it!
By Bec Wolfers