Where Local Music Ecology Goes When It Dies

image from i2.cdn.turner.com The record industry is dying. That's what we're told.

The corporate behemoths have for too long gouged music fans and screwed over artists.

Thus, the digital revolution is equal parts murder and suicide. 

Major labels shot themselves in the face and everyone else dug their grave. Yet behind the scenes of this tragedy, something much worse looms.

image from www.boxturtlebulletin.com
Our local ecologies of music culture are vanishing. And the landscape has been tilted against their development. This is the natural, living part. 

And unlike the record industry, it can die. 

image from farm1.static.flickr.com

It's important to remember that the fantasy of rock stars and coke-addicted executives isn't the real thing. Our social ecology is the genuine ecosystem.

It exists in real places where people actually live.

image from www.thestranger.com
It's the local record stores, music shops, radio stations, and venues that took decades to develop and grow; they've embed themselves into our communities.

The record industry cultivates and funds talent, but they aren't nature. Musicians emerge from environments. Local ecologies produce real artists and culture.

image from images.travelpod.com
Once dismantled, these ecosystems can't simply re-form from the ground up.

The record industry is just one part of a larger mechanism. If destroyed, no amount of money can bring them back. These local ecologies matter.

image from gwired.gwu.edu
Save them. Or don't. Whatever.

Image Credits: (CNN, Box Turtle, The Stranger, Travelpod, GWU) 

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  1. I agree that these local ecosystems will outlive the larger collapse of major label enterprise. This is the free market at work. The music industry has done what many industries has before, expanded too far and collapsed. The interesting difference is that there is no shortage of demand for music. I feel that you will see the resurgence of local happening again, but online. Local online mysic blogs take the place of record stores and live music lives on.
    The new behemoths are commercialized online news. We are all looking to trash talk the music industry and labels, but now we are worried because there us no one else to hate. How many people ever saw a major label deal anyway? The bigger question is, how do you make a career in music these days and what do you call success?

    Well, DAMN!!! Don’t I sound like a selfish,obsessed,music-consuming fool who is living in digital slavery? (I feel sorry for people like them). Maybe, I sound like Record Label Executives who acted the same way consumers act when the CD WAS SELLING TREMENDOUSLY?!!! Now they think that they reached success by getting their TOES through the door when it comes to digital content. Another VITAL POINT, out of all of this “Digital Hype” that this website FLAUNTS, PROMOTE, AND ENDORSE, an article like this comes about so odd and suddenly. Why the switch, hypebot? why?
    Why is the people don’t get shit like this UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE? This is…pretty damn sad and pathetic.

  3. I don't mean to confuse you or waver in my opinion. I'm a curious writer. I explore things and try to determine if I like the result. I understand, that I, as much as anyone, have promoted ideas contrary to the ones expressed here. However, it's a big question and even I don't have the answer. We're not going to be running campaigns to save indie stores and picketing Wal-Mart, but I felt this piece had a few good points and questions to be raised. Thanks for commenting. 

  4. Local is irrelevant (unless you’re selling tickets to live shows) because of the internet. If you’re living in your mom’s basement in Podunk, Idaho, write a song people like,put the video up on Youtube and can get traffic to it,you can make sales on Itunes, and maybe even interest a major with big bucks to invest for further promotion. I personally prefer cds, but I’m in the minority. This is now a singles driven environment,and very few people are putting up big numbers with cd sales.I don’t like it (I’d rather sell concept cds) but I have to deal with things as they are and not how I’d like them to be.Indie stores are dying because Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target are skimming the hits and selling them as loss leaders, and the mom & pop shops can’t sell their cd’s for as low as the “Big-Box” stores can.I miss Tower Records.I listen to Jazz and Brazilian music,so I have to order what i want from Amazon.I remember in High school (in the early eighties),we’d spend our time at a record store going over stuff we’d never heard,and looking to see what’s new. Kids can’t do that today. Big box shelf space only holds the top Billboard hits,and that’s all. The industry killed itself with too many “one hit and a bunch of sh*t” cds.I don’t have an answer as to how to fix it. I think it’s a done deal,and it’s Itunes or something like Spotify and that’s it.

  5. In Nashville, we have a few great local music spots. Grimey’s is one, but I’d like to mention Third Man Records. The Nashville Scene has a very informative write-up on the ethics and mindset of how Third Man cultivates local music. It’s worth a read: http://www.nashvillescene.com/nashville/jack-whites-third-man-records-tells-the-world-your-music-city-is-not-dead/Content?oid=2171963
    One shared component of success between Grimey’s and Third Man is the performance opportunity. Both stores regularly host live performances and gigs. It’s an effective way of initiating and strengthening customer bonds, as well as making a little cash on the side.

  6. This is an important post. I think the local music scene in any city is far more robust than the major labels though. For one thing, it exists primarily because people want it to, not because there’s profit to be made.
    Secondly, it’s far more agile than the major label framework. It changes in pretty much real time, as local musicians and promoters come up with new ideas and try them out.
    I think the internet has actually helped the local music scene, as it helps people to hook up, promote shows cheaply, and there are blogs like Backstage Vancouver that champion the local scene and the PROPER blog that helps musicians at all levels to make use of the web to raise their profile.
    The real casualties are the independent record stores of course. And that is a total shame. But a few of them soldier on – again, because they want to more than because it is a way to get rich. And a local store with its ear to the ground and an online ecommerce site that stocks amazing new music is still a viable model.

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