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bluegreengold
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21st December 2012
Old 21st December 2012
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Psychology, Advertising, Attention Span, Consumerism Music

There have been a number of threads the past few days, and a general conversation lately, about 'the current state of music' etc etc

I could post this in either

you-not-musician-not-producer-not-artist

or

wasnt-electronic-music-supposed-about-being-innovative-different

But both of those thread have devolved to (or started as) something very negative, and are many pages long, so I wanted to say this someplace new where it's easy to see.

The source of all this friction is that popular music has finally been completely conquered by consumerism and technology.

This little history lesson is simplistic, but it's the general story.

Back in the 1950s when television and consumer culture began, it was common that advertisements would be several minutes long and pitchmen would sell products by describing its real or imaginary merits. However, it wasn't as effective as they'd hoped.

At the same time the science of Psychology was maturing, however there wasn't many areas where psychologist could get jobs. What happened is that that pretty much a whole generation of psychologists were employed by industrial and advertising groups to find ways of persuading people to buy more 'things.'

Developmental psychologists knew that as a natural course of human growth, younger people have a 'instant gratification' reward mechanism. They explained that this at least partly is due to the need to be able to motivate learning the vast and diverse amount of general knowledge that it takes to become a functioning adult.

However, as people became independent adults, it was necessary to acquire long term thinking and planing skills. Well it turns out when you can think about things in the long term, you don't have so much desire for constantly replacing junk and buying every new thing that comes along. Instead you plan for caring for a family, your retirement, and your own personal development and well being. Ie maturing into a functional adult.

It isn't so good for selling more stuff to have people be well you know satisfied, or devoting their energy and money to socially (or personally) productive things. There was also great fear that if they didn't motivate people to create a more heated economy that the west would be overtaken by communism.

Anyhow, what the psychologists suggested was that if one can keep people from developing that long term critical thinking, then you can keep them as dependent consumers, and sell more *stuff.*

And so instead of long rational commercials they switched to shorted *catchier* -- (sexy, vibrant, exciting, juvenile) styles. That's just advertising, but the same pattern took hold all over, due to the *profit* making nature of the psychological manipulation and the greed and disregard of certain groups of individuals.

And it's not all one sided, there is certainly positive aspects to the expansion of consumer culture.

So long as the effects was just on the nature of television and advertising there wasn't much perceived loss. However, it turns out that television and advertising was incredibly influential on the arts. You can see the shift in values and aesthetics happening in the fine art world within a decade of the switch. Someone said that to effect that if you don't like what's happening to music, then you're probably don't appreciate contemporary art. Well, yeah, because they both infused with the same commercial aesthetic that promotes instant gratification, sensationalism, pretense and *slickness.* The Conspiracy of Art

Anyhow, television and Film were the first to go, because these were directly under the control of those in power who were promoting this consumer psychology.

They certainly tried with music too, but musicians are a bit more rebellious, and a bit more independent, so while the mainstream may have succumbed, people maintained an independent and underground structure. And even with the advent of punk music, one still had to spend time developing a degree of skill and a unique aesthetic to qualify as something of interest to anyone outside of mainstream consumer *culture.*

Well, now today the internet has killed off the profitability of independent distribution networks, non consumerist labels, the curators who maintained some degree of quality threshold, are generally no longer profitable.

And now the computer software has advanced enough that not only is it possible for non traditional musicians to make music (this was actually one of the huge positives of the electronic /house / techno explosion of the 80s -- allowing creative individuals without the traditional skills to express themselves in new ways), but it is possible for completely non creative, consumer psychology mind molded people to "make" music that to the unsophisticated is indiscernible with the product of genuinely creative people from 20 or 10 years before, 2 weeks before. 2 hours before...


Of course, this is of zero cultural value. And products that facilitate it are entirely to the benefit of those that sell them.

The idea that playing around with a construction kit is a *good* way of getting started is completely wack. It is the worst way to get started possible. And if the process of using such "tools" isn't completely dissatisfying to the "user" then there is really very little hope.

The truth is that anything of real value takes time and effort to develop.
Concentration, musical ability, any real skill, takes years of practice to mature, and the sooner and more one starts to practice the more likely one will attain real development and satisfaction as a mature human, not a perpetual adolescent.

Anyway, if you had the attentions span to read to the end of this post, it's probably not meant for you.
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21st December 2012
Old 21st December 2012
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Baudrillard just makes me feel stupid.

Yr a psychologist / marketer by trade? There is a lot more to it than instant gratification.

e.g. positive reinforcement and logistics.
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21st December 2012
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Originally Posted by pearlywhites View Post
Baudrillard just makes me feel stupid.
Yeah his writing style is a bit pompous, but very few other people of much renown have been willing to willing to put their career on the line to write about such things.

A friend of mine went to see Werner Herzog when he gave a talk at the Whitney Biennial last year. He explained at first he had decline the offer to be a part of the exhibit, but his wife convinced him that it was a big deal and that he had something important to contribute. During the discussion one of the curators described him as an artist. He cut her off and stated. "No, I am not an artist -- I am a warrior of Cinema." Most everyone in the room looked completely uncomfortable, and there was no press covering what he actually said in his talk which was overtly critical of contemporary art. I only know as my friend waited in line and was one of maybe 50-100 people there.

As for the other aspects -- sure take it where you like, but it's kinda funny to me that the first reply is some kinda of attack on the idea, like "dude you didn't explain everything. You're not a psychologist or marketer" Or perhaps I'm misreading your intentions.

Without the directed attack on peoples attention spans, none of the rest would be possible. Nobody would believe that they too could be rich and famous and beautiful someday by buying this shampoo or that sample pack if their critical thinking skills were not underdeveloped.

Reminds me a lot of that numchucks ninja dude who made a video after training many years to develop real skills.
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21st December 2012
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bluegreengold, very well put. Thanks for that thoughtful post. I don't have the brain energy to add anything equal to it at the moment, but it harmonizes and gives me things to think about.
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21st December 2012
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At last someone who has a clue about the system on GS.
You've touched on bunch of stuff also explained here (some funny material in this too)

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21st December 2012
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An excellent post :D
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21st December 2012
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By the way your thread is going to bomb, there are less than 10 ppl on here who will understand/not be apathetic toward any of what you said...
Maybe you should start a thread about how whenever the minority switched on people have anything intelligent to say, it always lands on deaf ears.... or dead brains more specifically
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21st December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluegreengold View Post
There have been a number of threads ... The truth is that anything of real value takes time and effort ...
You obviously don't work in advertising. The value of something, literally increases with the speed in which it is done. It's quality, or 'value', plays very little. And who is the person deciding on what is 'real' value? Let me guess; you? It's painfully subjective, and not quantifiable without a financial layer, in which to make it worth doing in the first place.

Musicians are NOT more rebellious then film directors. They falsely just seem to think their contributions are more important then others', which is utter bunk. The fact you can play guitar doesn't get people fed, educated, or help society in any way. While they can, when popular enough, support certain causes, the same could definitely be said of television shows, movie directors, governments or even banks. Probably the opposite is more accurate. Music inspires rebellion, a false sense of importance, (especially about musicians, themselves!), and general confusion about what your priorities should be.

Look at the 90's rap; 'caused huge riots, financial turmoil, and overall a false sense of importance, because listening to Ice Cube, (yeah, that Disney, sell out), singing about butt-****ing was not only their right, but a 'cultural identity'. yeah, right. I liked my NWA, back in the day, but it's cultural value now is exactly what? A big fat, black, zero.

Frankly, the current media pioneers, are in videogames. They employ more people, from a broader range of careers, to create a more innovative, competitive edge that directly shows in their products' sales.

I'm a bit of a luddite, but to say technology has made stuff so easy, it no longer is valid, is a mockery on the limits of music itself. Do scientists stop using new technology, because they're not real scientists without calculators, or higher logic theorems, just because they didn't figure out the math themselves? All that stuff are merely steps for simplification, and are basically what progress is all about in society.

What if a composer merely lacks hand eye coordination, but has a vast understanding of harmonics? Sure, autotune does suck, and although i personally, have never witnessed it, it could be utilized effectively. Synth heads use quantizing, and there really is no difference, yet it makes our oscillators sing correctly. We still have to decide what sounds good to us, what we want to share, and how we market it. The books don't exactly write themselves.

If the technology could really kill all this 'important' stuff, like making/selling music, books, and films, then it's really just saying that those things were falsely elevated in the first place, because they could be so easily replaced. Our attachment to the past makes us think we are losing value, but that won't fly in two generations, when books no longer exist. Then they will probably be talking about how their ipads were so retro.
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21st December 2012
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Language makes complimentary views difficult, but I wish people would at least try when someone else makes a good effort.
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21st December 2012
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Seriously, if people going to criticize my post because I do not work in advertising then I can only laugh.
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21st December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mildheadwound View Post
Musicians are NOT more rebellious then film directors.
There was a window of perhaps 5-10 years in the late 80s to mid nineties when truly independent film makes could get wide distribution for their films. A small team could work together without submitting to the demands of an executive producer, and due to the genuine interesting product they made, could get wide release and everybody make enough money to support themselves and their families for a year and make another film.

Hal Hartley is a good example of a director that worked this way. However, as soon as it was shown that these 'little films' could be profitable, the big players set up "indie divisions" and effectively put an end to it. Under pressure, distributors would not pick up truly independent films, and psuedo indie productions began to be used as "cred vehicles" for established stars.

So while in the past, a $1 million production cost movie that wasn't in the exploitation genres was a viable means of making a living for a production crew, it got the be that you needed to make a $5 million dollar movie, with $3 million going to a star. And along with that out goes all independence.

Now you have have some young directors with little skill or vision making horror movies on DVCAMs or whatever for under $1 million still financed within the system, and getting worldwide DVD distro and perhaps festival circuit, but not theater release, let alone truly independent movies getting wide exposure.
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21st December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mildheadwound View Post
Frankly, the current media pioneers, are in videogames. They employ more people, from a broader range of careers, to create a more innovative, competitive edge that directly shows in their products' sales.
The really creative videogame programmers for the most part dropped out of the industry in the late 80s when the indie units were bought out and developers were pressured into making lame movie/product tie ins.

It may have improved lately, but video game innovations have been incremental and pretty much technology rather than creativity based with exceptions since Doom.
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If we are nitpicking though this sentence makes no sense at all:
It's painfully subjective, and not quantifiable without a financial layer, in which to make it worth doing in the first place.

Gratification is not just getting paid.
Value is not just currency.

Theres different values in anything thats measurable at all.
Money is a scale often imposed upon other scales.

But hey, with a slight rephrase, less ego and bigger borders it aint all that dumb.
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21st December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by szf View Post
At last someone who has a clue about the system on GS.
There are a few more. Even the odd moderator.....
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluegreengold View Post

...but it is possible for completely non creative, consumer psychology mind molded people to "make" music that to the unsophisticated is indiscernible with the product of genuinely creative people from 20 or 10 years before, 2 weeks before. 2 hours before...

Of course, this is of zero cultural value. And products that facilitate it are entirely to the benefit of those that sell them.
That's was an interesting read, thanks for your post!

I was wondering, do you believe that a non creative, non talented individual can *really* make songs in the same calibre of a top producer using loops , construction kits, and samples?

I reckon even that takes a lot of work, and the sort of person you're describing is more likely to be posting photos of their cheese sandwiches on facebook, than making music. But I could be wrong...
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Originally Posted by mildheadwound View Post
The value of something, literally increases with the speed in which it is done.
That's not what she said.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Starspawn View Post
If we are nitpicking though this sentence makes no sense at all:
It's painfully subjective, and not quantifiable without a financial layer, in which to make it worth doing in the first place.

Gratification is not just getting paid.
Value is not just currency.

Theres different values in anything thats measurable at all.
Money is a scale often imposed upon other scales.
+1
The price of something has very little to do with it's value.
The price of something has very little to do with it's cost.
Defining everything according to it's financial value is at best short sighted, at worst ruinous!
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Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
There are a few more. Even the odd moderator.....
Thats why I said less than 10 in the next post.
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21st December 2012
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god do we really need another state of music thread in this INSTRUMENTS AND PRODUCTION forum
even how do i make skrillex sounds threads are more relevant than this
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21st December 2012
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Quote:
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I was wondering, do you believe that a non creative, non talented individual can *really* make songs in the same calibre of a top producer using loops , construction kits, and samples?
No, but to unsophisticated consumers, it makes no difference, and due to the collapse of profitable distribution channels, there are fewer and fewer brick and motor shops and real world places where people can be exposed to real work that is being created now that is nor already part of the promotional system. So there very little motivation for the independent creators to a) go all in and be the best that they could and b) reach out as much as possible and promote their music because they know it's value.

DIY was very important to me (and still is), but it hardly seems viable today.

Even when one of the few curatorial forces that are still out there expresses approval, it can mean absolutely nothing without a full blown promotional campaign. I know people who've had their music called "timelessly intelligent" in a major music magazine, and the mention did nothing to increase sales or even website hits.

I'm quite sure that there are more people today making interesting music than ever before, but the ability of people to discover it amongst the sea of whatever nonsense, particularly if they don't live in one of a few urban centers or university towns with a strong cultural scene happening.

I mean, I could almost get nostalgic for the golden age of myspace which seems absurd really.

I meant this thread just as a bit of a history lesson really, maybe for those who care, but didn't know this. I don't have anything really to say for advice than the effort to develop your skills either as a creator or listener is 10000% worth it, it is your life you are living, and to keep doing your best irregardless of the dismal situation.

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god do we really need another state of music thread in this INSTRUMENTS AND PRODUCTION forum
even how do i make skrillex sounds threads are more relevant than this
Like I said, I didn't really intend to turn this into another 'state of music thread' but to give a historical perspective of how it got here, without being tacked on the end of a long thread where people call each non musicians or musicians or ass hats or whatever....
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Originally Posted by pearlywhites View Post

A thing that bothers me is where are all the female producers? They are wired up differently from birth.
I doubt that its wiring. There have been female musicians from the beginning of time... I gotta say, as a female technophile, there is a lot of pressure from other women to tow the line, breed, baby sit, attend tupperware parties, sit with the women at parties and discuss nappies etc. You're an outcast if you hang out with the boys talking shop, nothing will get you expelled from a social group faster, at least in my town

And you never quite fit in with the guys, though they try to make you feel welcome. I just think its hard for women to push into male dominated hobbies, for those reasons and others..
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You can make a lot of good stuff with sustained attention regardless of the elements.
Kids doodling in total concentration can make excellent things.
Or taking art, if you imagine a twig or a leaf as a preset, then check the work of andy goldsworthy.
Sustained attention, experimentation, imagination and improvisation.
All can be put to use on presets and such as long as the result isnt set.

As to the kids emulating top producers ... its not really all that hard to follow instructions, its the preffered learning method of most.
A simple process where you get the reward by getting the same result as the example.

Its certainly not a bad trait, and you certainly dont need to be lazy or stupid to enjoy it, many examples are even very hard and require a lot of attention.
Society is largely based on it.
But it is not creation in the same sense as using the other methods of attention to detail mentioned above.
Your imagination is engaged, but fixed.
There is no improvisation.

That doesnt mean its always prefferable, it can even be seen as resulting from defects.
For some its very hard to follow instructions, so they develop more flexible workflows to compensate.
And depending on individuals it can take a lot of time to understand and create order.

It can result in great music

Edit: When mentioning society being based on copying ... I guess thats where the original point comes in, it has been made much easier to follow the examples, as the examples in themselves are easier. I wonder how not only market value but population would map over the same development?
Basically: Regardless of rationalization and financial motivation, what was the necessity of adapting to a larger group?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluegreengold View Post
The idea that playing around with a construction kit is a *good* way of getting started is completely wack. It is the worst way to get started possible. And if the process of using such "tools" isn't completely dissatisfying to the "user" then there is really very little hope.

The truth is that anything of real value takes time and effort to develop.
Concentration, musical ability, any real skill, takes years of practice to mature, and the sooner and more one starts to practice the more likely one will attain real development and satisfaction as a mature human, not a perpetual adolescent.
Couldn't agree more.

Excellent post! All of it.

At this point though, I have to say what really interests me are not the problems (which are clear) but the solutions!

What can we do?

How can we remain positive?

I have pretty much resigned myself to perpetual irrelevance because I have no wish to shout in order to be heard.

I've only put out one commercial pop album in my career. It was a success -- but not a huge one. Everything else I've done has been non-commercial -- that is, work within the performing arts -- non-profit. Earning big money with music has never been a goal. Rather I've only wanted to survive -- to be able to make a living doing what I enjoy most. And so far, that has worked out for me.

So the sky falling down on The Industry has had little effect on me actually, since I was never really a part of it. It's like my great-uncle once said about his small town in the American Deep South "The Great Depression came and went and nobody here even noticed".

There has never been big money in experimental and avant-garde music.

So for me, it's a bit like same as it ever was. I will never forget the shock when I was once on tour with a world famous avant-garde singer and she told me how much she earned in royalties on her music. It was... pathetic. And this woman is at the top of her field with a prestigious recording contract with ECM Records.

So... back to my question. What can we do?

How to remain positive?
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21st December 2012
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I don't really see the attack on attention span, because the musical "problems" you're talking about go away with age. Or, at least it's much more multifaceted than that.

What I see is youth sold the idea that they can become famous millionaires and they don't figure out the truth until they're old, tired, end up with a family, etc.

The other problem I see is that the internet is terrible for culture. Public communities have no safe guards against negativity and those who shoot down the creative impulse. The new star of the internet age is the oblivious and self assured, regardless of talent. Even if they are terrible, people will pay attentions if only to mock.

We have to apply more filters to our interactions online. We need sensitive artists in addition to entertainers. It's so unbalanced now. Can you imagine at the genesis of any real, exciting cultural movement some loser troll jumping in constantly to start an argument for the laughs. The whole point of a scene is to get away from these dullards.
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21st December 2012
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How to remain positive?
By either sticking your head in the sand like most 'positive people' do.
... Or opting out of the system.
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By either sticking your head in the sand like most 'positive people' do.
... Or opting out of the system.
Yep. Which is pretty much what I do. A combination of both these things!
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Originally Posted by maisonvague View Post
How to remain positive?
I think positivity is a choice, a mental attitude. It is stimulated by a sense of gratitude for what we have rather than a desire for what we feel we lack. It needs to be nurtured within the self and excercised regluarly.
I get the greatest pleasure from making music regardless of whether others like what I do. I get pleasure from the simplest improvements in my playing and songwriting. When others recognise my work it is just gravy.
I also feel more positive when I can help others in whatever ways I can, but I accept that my help is not always needed, when it is, again it is just gravy.
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22nd December 2012
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Sounds good! And healthy!

I should clarify my question, though. I'm really wondering more about practical solutions to the problems bluegreengold has brought up in this thread -- not necessarily spiritual or philosophical ways of remaining positive and healthy.

To be honest, I'm happy -- I mean, as happy as anyone might could be in such a depressing world as this!

So my question is how to remain positive AND do something to counter the negative forces working against music (and the arts in general) in a practical way.

Like, e.g. abandoning the recording arts and playing only live music (almost militantly, like the infamous diva in the film DIVA who refused to be recorded).

Or abandoning all digital media and returning to vinyl... underground tape cassettes... etc.

Or abandoning places like MySpace and simply hosting ones artist profile strictly on a private website. Cut out the middleman. Sure, you can argue, well how would anyone ever find you then? But how often do people go to MySpace and "search" for new music anyway.

It's like if you're destined for irrelevance and insignificance, then why not embrace it ENTIRELY, cut out the middleman, and market yourself precisely as you want to be marketed (if you even want to be marketed). Seize control of the environment in any way you can -- by accepting... rejecting... filtering... shaping -- on every level possible...

I'm only writing my thoughts out loud here... throwing around some ideas... but generally, this is the direction I am heading:

I'm opting out. I still intend to harness the power of the internet anyway I can, but I'm not interested in places like Bandcamp or SoundCloud. I want only my website. And if no one ever goes there, then well...

we're back to same as it ever was.

I'm formulating my own counter-revolution on the grass-roots level. I'm not a Luddite, but I refuse to follow ALL of the trends and embrace every bit of technology -- every bit of change -- imposed on me.

My mission: cut out the middlemen. As many of them as I can. Facebook. MySpace. SoundCloud. Bandcamp.

Cut out the digital distributors -- the "gateway to my dreams". Cut out Spotify.

The only place I kind of enjoy having a presence is YouTube. But they're middlemen, too, of course. And, no, there's no logic at work there. I just like YouTube. But it's gone downhill as well.

Revolt.

Embrace irrelevance.
#29
22nd December 2012
Old 22nd December 2012
  #29
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I recently came out of a long period of depression brought on by the death of my partner which lead me to over use of non-prescription drugs in an attempt to escape from the grief and lack of support and understanding from friends and relatives. I felt so totally irrelevant, and like I was just a waste of space. I wrote literally hundreds of songs about how I was feeling and continued to record them while I was told that my song writing was irrelevant and 'negative'. I entered my 50's alone and became a hermit. All the time I was aware that the world was going to hell in a hand basket and that the ideals by which I had lived my life had become irrelevant. Boy was I in a hole!
Then I began to realise that I could change some things, so I moved to a new country, found a dog, set up a studio in my new home. I met a lot of new people, most of whom turned out to be not the kind of people I wanted to know, I began to get depressed again and started to smoke more to try and subdue my feelings. I continued to make music, working with electronic music artists and doing remixes. I was selling stuff on itunes, getting into big clubs with top DJs, but I was still depressed. I realised that I was at rock bottom emotionally and that in spite of my valiant attempts at using my music to integrate socially I felt like a complete failure.
I withdrew into myself again and felt hurt and injured by life and was totally alone in a new country surrounded by people that I saw as increasingly flakey. When they called for more remixes I said I was not interested and wanted to go back to making music with acoustic instruments and writing my sad songs. They stopped calling.
I gave up smoking. I gave up putting pressure on myself to conform to any expectations. When people said I was mad I just laughed, which seemed to verify their opinions. All the time I was getting happier. I just began to accept things are as they are, and I am as I am and the only thing that I can do is keep on keeping on. The world has not improved, quite the contrary, but I have, and as far as I am concerned so has my art. I can now look at myself and feel that I am OK. I am a success in my own terms and the less I need to seek verification for myself or my creativity from others the happier I become. I see a world of people around me running around like headless chickens looking for their elusive break and prostituting themselves to those who are deemed to be in charge. They do not know what to make of me, but they are intrigued by my lack of interest. I counter any negativity I encounter by being myself and mostly just ignoring it. I believe I am now finding my way after years of feeling lost.
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#30
22nd December 2012
Old 22nd December 2012
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maisonvague View Post
Revolt.

Embrace irrelevance.
How do you stay positive when you admit that you're irrelevant?

Are you talking about the punk rock music attitude? That was about people saying they were so irrelevant that the irrelevant kids actually connected with it.
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