The culture of cool in the music industry is dying. Slowly, quietly, but it’s happening. Suddenly artists are focusing on social issues again and weirdness is downright encouraged. In other words, it looks like, even though the end times may have come and no one is making money off this shit anymore, at least we’re finally getting some good tunes again. The point being – this speaks volumes a to what your band can do now, because not only does it give you more freedom but it also gives you a chance to present your band in totally new ways.
What I need to clarify though is that I’m not saying you need to make distinctly uncool music to be successful (As much as that particular technique might work for Modern Baseball) To some degree rock and roll and music in general will always be cool, Elvis made sure of that for us. What the death of the culture of cool means is that your music, now more than ever, needs to have substance if you want it to be accepted. As we get more and more able to look past the veil of mystique that once cloaked pop stars, the common fan is less and less enamored with the sense of godhood that they represent. We live in a world where famous people are essentially gods, but now little by little those old paradigms are failing.
In the words of Mac Gollehon, renowned for playing on more than a hundred of gold, platinum and double platinum records, “music died in 1972… but now that musicians have nothing to lose it’s coming back around!” To be a musician means nothing these days. We live in a generation where all of our parents grew up playing in bands or just loving rock music and that was what gave them freedom. Now that we’re sixty years into this whole rock and roll thing it’s not enough to just play guitar and be in a rock band. When you look at the sheer quantity of music coming out these days even if your music has substance it’s easy for it to be lost among thousands of equally good records.
But again – the culture of cool is dying, and being image focused is now far less important than focusing on your overall message and what you represent. There is a very real importance to bands that broach social issues these days. For example, regardless of how you feel about him, you have to admire the remarkable web presence that someone like Bernie Sanders has been able to create. By employing an army of young people using non-traditional media he’s been able to make a dude who is decidedly uncool, into a front runner to be the next president of the United States.
Obviously Bernie Sanders isn’t marketing music (Although he actually has a few records under his belt!), but he stands as a perfect example for what can be done with an understanding of what truly riles up this generation. Millennials care more about individuality, perhaps more than any generation that ever came before them – they are the generation that will end up funding thousands of smaller bands rather than just a few big ones. And why? Because the notion of ‘cool’ has fragmented. While a few overall movements and ideas can remain cool (And definitely will for years to come) the notion of having just a handful of generation defining artists becomes more obsolete with every passing day.
We’ve seen this crack the mainstream with artists like Miley Cyrus, who may very well be tone of the only defining artists of this generation. She has been able to perfectly fuse the old and the new. While on the one hand she has gaudy stage shows that make parents mad, she also has received praise for her hard work to hep the poor and her pro-active liberal agenda. Regardless of how you feel about Miley Cyrus and her work, you have to acknowledge that she’s become a veritable juggernaut, and it’s not just because of her past as Hannah Montana. That being said – are her opinions, statements and actions fabricated? Possibly – but that is neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is simply that in the twenty first century if you want to ‘make it’ you’re going to need more than just great tunes.
I would like to clarify – your band does not need to be political to succeed. There are other bands that have been able to inject their music with substance that people care about. For example – the Killers have largely avoided a political message and yet they have achieved success by using music that reflects the American heartland. Even tried and true notions, like Buddhism or the high school experience still resonate with fans these days – there are paths forward, you just need to be ready to embrace each and every one of them.
So I leave you with this dear reader – know that more bands than ever are going to be able to make their livings as musicians in this new climate, they just won’t be making as money as the heroes of yore. We are at a very exciting time in the history of recorded music and there’s a lot riding on how we comport ourselves over the next few years. Remember – in this ultra-democratized music industry we are currently facing you personally have more of an impact on the future of how this whole thing works than ever before That being said – yeah there are always going to be people higher up the food chain than you but the doors have been broken, it’s now just a matter of passing through, pulling them apart and smiling, confident in the realization that the stuff we love has more potential to grow than ever if only we’re willing to give our all and truly go for it.