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The Future of Our Music

Enslaved in my mind, I have been going in circles, questioning, what’s our and future generation’s music identity? Dating back to the roaring jazz 20’s, groupies at Woodstock in the 60’s, disco ball dancers in the 70’s, power ballads synthesizers of the 80’s and pop boy bands and the ‘hit me baby one more time’ of the 90’s, we have seen each decade hold their own uniqueness. Come 2000, decades no longer had an identity classifying the musical era; instead genres became sub genres, classifying artists deeper and deeper into a select sound. You never hear people say ‘the 00’s or the 10’s were such a great time for music.’ Why is that?  For the past twenty years, I believe generations have become hungry and are yearning for what’s next with music.

I have worked in the music business for about two years and I live and breathe music as both a singer/songwriter and working within the dance music industry. With technology rampaging and taking over the world, it has changed everything with music. Now with a click of a finger, you can get any record for free, which drove record sales to plummet. Labels started cutting 360 deals with artists, staying alive by making profit not only off recorded music, but live tours and merchandise. Is money in the music industry solely on live performance, selling out venues to keep labels going? With social media readily available to everyone, artists have begun to promote themselves via Youtube, Facebook, Soundcloud, Twitter, blogs and so forth. Artists began to realize, they didn’t need a major label as much. Yes, having the backing money helps, but when labels aren’t driving records to sell and making a significant profit the way it use to be, they don’t have as much money to dish out on artists. My question is, in the next decade, will labels still exist by reinventing themselves or die out like Blockbuster movies did with the film industry?

I always looked at the A&R position as the king on the throne. Guys such as Jerry Wexler, Clive Davis, and Tommy Mottola have shaped the music industry forever, with their sharp ears to spot a hit record. Now, an A&R position is extremely cutthroat, for the next hit is imperative to their career. Labels use to have huge sums of money to take chances on acts because eventually one would stick, making a huge profit in return. Now, A&R guys have big gambles whether a record let alone an album is good enough. I question, as technology explodes rapidly more and more with social media, will the A&R position become less imperative and eventually not even be a job on the market, or is it everything to find the next trend that will change our generation forever?

This generation and the ones trailing behind are born into worlds with high tech computers. When a kid comes home from school, instead of picking up a guitar, they go on the computer and now have access to make music via Protools, Ableton Live and so on. This has caused dance/electronic music to flourish and begin to merge into the sounds of top 40 artists. When you look at Avicii, Hardwell, Porter Robinson, etc., they’re all so young because that is what this generation grew up using, computers. Through each year, I’m watching dance music stomp like a stampeded of raging animals throughout the world, taking it by storm. I question though, is electronic music the next biggest thing, is this the future generation of music? Or, do Americans need a face, an image to idolize, watch and develop or is it a DJ in a booth? If it is a DJ that will take over, will it become so popular that it’s no longer cool anymore? Will a subgenre such as dubstep, have a record break through to top 40 or will the youth get over it in the next few years? Will major labels want to grab onto electronic music while it’s hot and begin dishing out so much money to produce mass quantities for records to be distributed, that the quality  becomes lost? If quality isn’t imperative, and dance music lovers become tired of the products being released, what’s next? 

Music has changed so many lives including my own in every aspect. I have many questions on what path music is leading us on and where we think it will end up. The first man I had ever worked for in the industry, a big mentor of mine and notorious as one of the top label owners/ A&R professionals for many decades, once said to me, ‘The music industry is dead, but music is and will always be very much alive.’ Taking that with me, I wonder what does the future of the industry entail and what will be the sound for music, taking us on a quest and giving us hope for the future?

Would be great to hear your thoughts and opinions, as this is a topic I would love to discuss and learn from!

By Brooke Forman

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