Last weekend I attended the Music Expo in the nearby city of Mississauga. Advertised as ‘Connecting & Inspiring Music Lovers in the GTA’ – the Greater Toronto Area, where I live. I expected this to be and event on a rather larger scale. The reality proved different though.
In the past I had a chance to attend, participate, or co-organize many music trade-shows and exhibitions, including the Canadian Music Week, PopKOMM and MusikMesse in Germany, or MIDEM in Cannes, France. So I know very well how much work does it require to put together such an event.
I also know how many great contacts you can establish and how much you can learn in such a gathering of the music industry leading minds and power-brokers. Especially if you do your homework and prepare.
Therefore I was quite surprised, when I walked into the venue about an hour after the official beginning. There were less then a dozen exhibitor booths. And literally a handful of people in the audience. The hall was almost empty, as documents the photo above.
The program – speakers and performing musicians were interesting. It included the Mississauga Music Award celebration and the evening concert of the winners. Mississauga is the 6th largest city in Canada and right next to Toronto, which is the largest.
So what happened? How come there were so many empty seats? Why had it been so hard to ‘get butts into those seats’, as one co-organizer acknowledged wryly?
I believe, this is a picture of the current situation in the music world. Majority of music, and that what goes around it, happens in the virtual world. Internet is where the audience finds information about music and where music resides. It is also the place where the money exchange now happens, whether it is through purchasing a song from an online vendor like Apple Music, or a physical album from Amazon, or through streaming from Spotify. Music fans gather on the Facebook or Instagram. They watch videos on YouTube. Musicians build their reputation on Twitter … and so on.
The human contact is not necessary anymore. For some music artists it is even not appreciated, as their whole musical existence is built online. And they would have a hard time to recreate and perform their music in a real-life setting.
With time, the exhibition hall had been slowly filling up. In particular for the keynote speaker Alan Cross. He is an internationally known broadcaster, speaker, writer and consultant, who has been exploring the relationships between music, technology and social networking. (His website)
In the keynote he walked the audience through the history of the sound carriers, from Edison’s phonograph to Spotify. And in a way it was a perfect explanation of the current state of affairs in the music world.
In the last 150 years of the technological development, music has become a consumable product. Also the music industry had been born and a few people got extremely rich throughout the process.
In the 21st century the internet changed the music world landscape. The music industry revenue tanked. One of the casualties has been the ‘musical middle class’ – or midlevel musicians and bands. With the online accessibility, what remains are super rich music superstars, ‘music kings and queens’, influential managers and powerful publishers on one side. On the other side there is a majority of other music businesses and musicians, who suffer to survive in the music world. These are the people who often endure their daytime annoying jobs (or unemployment support) to be able to play in their spare time and to dream about music success in the future.
… This may explain the presence of one of the exhibitors – the employment portal TorontoJobs.ca at the music trade-show? To help discouraged musicians find a ‘real’ job and thus help them to make ends meet?
There was one other interesting remark from Alan Cross, answering a question from the audience about the sound quality of music. Alan responded, that although in the past the music industry has made a lot of money when switching from one format (vinyl/cassette) to other (CD), they cannot rely on the same with spreading the new Hi-Res (high resolution) audio, or other new technologies. Apparently, these days young people just don’t care about the sound quality that much. He quoted a girl who ‘is happy with listening to music she grabs from the YouTube’.
No sophisticated algorithms, special DAC converters, complicated sound recording techniques, or music distribution methods, can supersede a simple music experience. If a sound technology is capable to transfer emotions included in music, for the upcoming Generation Z this seems to be enough.
This last point makes me cautiously optimistic.
If a growing part of the population starts realizing, that music doesn’t represent just money and stardom. That music is more than a filler of an empty space and time. If more people start using music not only for entertainment, but also again for enriching their lives, for improving their wellbeing, their mental health, their relationships. Then we may be at the beginning of yet another musical era. Maybe even a revolution. A revolution, which will allow people to mindfully decide how will be their interaction with music, so that to gain all potential benefits.
In this scenario Musicably is ready to help everyone interested to improve their lives through the mindful music making.
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