Look to the Past Before Looking to the Future
This is a rant of sorts, so I’m not quite sure how to begin or end this. Maybe i’ll leave it open and add to it over time? Don’t take offense to anything I say below, it’s merely a stream of consciousness type of rant-post.
I really have fallen out of love with much of “Christian” music and the industry behind the “hits”. Sure it’s tough to knock it when I’ve clearly been a part of it for so long. Heck, I may have even contributed to the problems in the first place by offering an open community where kids/youth/close minded adults could argue and rip apart bands in a public setting. I think for me, some of the negativity on one side and fake-ness on the other was just too much to handle. Walking this tight rope has been a tricky thing over my almost 20 years involved in this industry. It’s more like traversing a tightrope on fire over a pool filled with blood thirsty sharks who haven’t eaten in weeks. It really is a delicate situation to be in and one that I am still torn up by today. There are people to please, feelings not to hurt, feathers not to ruffle, people not to piss off, and worrying about satisfying the needs of avid music listeners. Add to that the shifting of market shares, demographics, targeted marketing, and watching some in the industry speak as if their numbers would increase rather than worrying about the needs of bands, musicians, and the hurting youth that are tossed to the wayside.
Putting our needs before others really is an all too common occurrence. It’s a sad shape of mind we are in and have been led to believe. Belief in Jesus and the hope that springs from a relationship with God really is far more powerful not to mention life altering, than silly numbers and demographics. How are numbers and demographics going to help you in your twilight years? When you reach that final elderly age next to a family who love and respect you, tell me how demographics will have improved your life?
Yeah I’ve fallen out of love and out of favor with the music industry machine. I hate how it’s run but then again could I have really done anything better? Probably not but at least I tried in whatever insignificant way that may have been. I get that we are now in this age of social media and what a circus it truly has become. From behind computer screens and other media devices, we engage in this anonymity that chases any public interaction and personal responsibility away. No one knows how to write a personal letter any more nor do they even understand how to carefully type words together in coherent sentences to submit to someone on the receiving end that’ll take it to heart. Rather, we’re stuck in this social media circus limbo where you take two steps forward and four behind. It’s just so darn irritating to watch everything you love and appreciate about music and the Faith sector, just slip away.
I have this sort of naive nostalgic yearning for yesteryear. Times that were simpler, people that were easier to interact with. I blame myself for my own shortcomings and for chasing away interactions in favor of close family. I don’t make time for friends and to be honest, not many left beyond the online world that I’ve taken part in. It’s a shame but much of that is due to my own anxiety and bi-polar moods most likely. Anyway, this isn’t about me, or is it?
Some may call me bitter, a nail biter, someone grasping on to that last fleeting piece of fame. A flickering candle about to be extinguished. I am sure in 5-10 years no one will even remember Indie Vision Music let alone some of the bands we’ve all talked about. It’s such a flash in the pan marketplace and everyone is clamoring for their own 15 minutes of fame. Instead of building momentum and cultivating a fan base, everyone is cutting corners and having business meetings before an artist is even launched figuring out how to gauge the market’s interest. Youth are no longer “fans”, they are pawns in this greater game of chess that the music industry is playing. Don’t get me wrong, I am not so naive that I’ve forgotten that things have remained much the same since the mid part of the last century where everyone wanted that next Elvis, or Beach Boys, or Beatles, or Bon Jovi, or Michael Jackson, or Nirvana, Nsync, etc.
It just doesn’t feel natural anymore. The organic element to this whole routine has been replaced with a shiny plastic version (I should probably just say vinyl) not exactly ready for it’s 15 minutes but spit out with the intention to make this year’s next superstars. The cycle of artist development has been shortened as to not lose steam and the excitement built upon hype. Controversy, drama, and scandal now propels some of these artists forward, a social media experiment gone wrong. There will always be another newspaper, another magazine, another dial up internet, another email, another myspace, another facebook, another twitter, another youtube, another instagram, etc. etc. There will always be something newer and cooler around the block, something everyone will grasp on to and claim as their own.
I have seen far too many bands and their members lose the Faith that propelled them to stardom in the first place. I am not going to name any names or offer links and “proof”. I am speaking merely from my own point of view and what I’ve experienced, read both online and off. I hear the complaints, I’ve seen the cynicism, the disenfranchisement, and the disconnect so many artists feel after years in the game. I’ve had those same feelings, the moments of doubt during different periods of my life but it doesn’t last too long. I know my God, our God, is an almighty being capable of unconditional love and showed that amazing connection through the death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon that cross over 2000 years ago. This isn’t a “preach brother preach” moment but rather just an example of where i’m coming from and the hope that still resonates in my heart to this day. What I’m trying to say is that it hurts me to think that some of these favorite artists I have looked up to throughout my 3 decades+ of time here on Earth, could just fall away. It hurts me to think that people can be so cruel, a market so blood thirsty that they’d toss out their own in favor of the next best thing. The scars these artists carry must number in the double digits heck maybe even triple digits, for the amount of times they’ve been hurt, misguided, misdirected, and ill informed from their music endeavors.
We must honor our own and lift up past accomplishments rather than brushing everything aside and under the carpet to favor that newest, the latest, the highest selling most popular youngest artist around. You catch my drift? How can we look forward when we can’t even look back. You can’t look through your windshield without first looking in your rear view mirror. Why should music be any different? Sure some stuff might be “old” but don’t be afraid to latch on to it and learn a thing or two from the ones who came before you. Broaden your horizons, branch out, try different things and dabble in other genres when spinning those records (or CDs or cassettes).
The thing I am most frustrated with and just plain bummed out by is the Christian Music Industry’s lack of honoring the legends that have come before. I mean in the general market place, there is a re-release, commemorative release, anniversary release, and heck even awards shows honoring past achievements. All the Christian Market can come up with is “Man we really need a DC Talk reunion” or “How about we put out another Third Day, Skillet, or Jars of Clay release?” Not knocking those bands but how many times can they write the same album and play the same tour/festival dates? What happened to industry recognition for the true innovators, originators, and creative geniuses that have come before? Where is the love for Altar Boys, The Choir, Violet Burning, 77s, LSU, The Prayer Chain, Starflyer 59, Plankeye, Stavesacre, Strongarm, Crucified, Scatered Few, No Innocent Victim, P.O.D., Blindside, Mxpx, Black Eyed Sceva/Model Engine, Dogwood, Craig’s Brother, Beloved, Watashi Wa/Eager Seas, heck even Five Iron Frenzy and OC Supertones have made contributions to the music industry that should be commemorated (and celebrated). It’s a very diverse group of musicians that have spread out for the past 40 years since the jesus movement took root and the Christian music industry was born. A lot of artists have come and gone but one important question remains unanswered: Where is love for the past? (the list of legendary artists above is merely a minuscule list and not definitive. just use it as reference, k thnx).
This isn’t about hero or idol worship, this about an important aspect forgotten by much of the industry, honoring those who have come before us. This is just something that has been on my mind a bit in the past few years and really makes me appreciate the simple joys I have in spinning my own music on the computer and/or media device (and on Vinyl). Anyone who is reading this who happen to be a “Legend” in my book, just know that your music influenced me early on. I am clearly the man I am today because of 1) My Faith in God, 2) My wife and family and 3) the musicians who left an unmistakable mark on my heart. There are far too many artists to list here and would take me weeks to try and compile. My favorites are all over the map especially those bands I felt a special connection with.
The point I am trying to make (and clearly not a great job at it either) is that the art of demographics, targeted marketing and something we call “industry”, isn’t going to save anyone. It isn’t going to change the world until we change ourselves. I am trying to drive home the point that it’s important to honor those legendary musicians of all ages and decades before who have paved the way for where we are today (good or bad). Don’t forget the past while looking towards the future. Stay true to yourself. Hold fast to your Faith and those that can truly call you friend.