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What can save the music industry?

As noted in other answers here, the music biz is undergoing changes. This is nothing new. The brief moment in history when most rock stars were demigods, selling gold and platinum records, is giving way to something else, something more akin to a previous era.

Before the 1960’s musicians earned most of their money touring.  Major stars would spend months on the road traveling from show to show.  This was true of Country music into the 1970’s until artists like Willie Nelson started selling millions of records.  Live music was the standard in any respectable night spot.  Musicians in theses clubs were unionized and fairly compensated for their work.  Professional live music gave way to DJ’s, disco and scab musicians who were willing to play for tips or perform for free at open mikes.  Many people like me (a former professional) sought employment elsewhere.  After all, musician have to eat like everyone else.

The public’s craving for good live music is stirring once again. Today’s music scene is turning back the clock to more public appearances and interaction with the fan base.  I dare say the money isn’t as lucrative as it once was, but some artists are making a living at it.  They often appear at smaller concerts (300 to 600 people) and sign autographs during intermission.  Some give lessons to adult students at music camps during the summer months.  I’ve taken slide guitar lessons from Steve James at one of these camps.  20 years ago such an opportunity wouldn’t have existed.

Another new venue for live music is house concerts.  I recently saw Roy Bookbinder perform in someone’s living room for about 40 people.  I got to listen to some great country blues and hang out with an artist I’ve admired for years from afar.  Of course, I bought a few CD’s from him too.  House concerts are the best way I know to experience live music up close and personal.  Most major cities have people hosting house concerts.  You just need to seek them out and get on the invitation list.

Jorma Kaukonen is an example of a highly successful rock musician who has adapted to the times.  He was the lead guitarist for the Jefferson Airplane in the 1960’s and 70’s and performed at Woodstock in 1969.  He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Today he tours smaller venues with his lifelong friend and music partner, bassist Jack Casady, as Hot Tuna.  Jorma has a music retreat in southeast Ohio called “Fur Peace Music Ranch” which features live concerts and weekend retreats where you can take lessons from some of the very best musicians on the planet.

The music business can’t go back home.  Home is not there anymore.  It’s faded into history, like most things in life do over time.  If you enjoy good music and want it to continue, please support your favorite artists by purchasing their recordings, merchandise and attending their concerts and other events.  You’ll be rewarded with a rich personal experience and develop a real connection with these folks that wasn’t possible before.